Health Nutrition Urban

Hay Fever

Are you suffering from hay fever at the moment? Maybe you are not sniveling and sneezing but still feeling brackish? The pollution load in the city can make matters even worse.

Rather than reaching for an anti-histamine tablet, try taking Vitamin C. It’s extremely effective as an anti-histamine. Right away you will notice a radical improvement in your symptoms. You are also doing yourself a lot of good.

I like these NaturesPlus tablets. They’re food-based. I just take 250mg which is very low. Any Vitamin C tablets would probably be as good. Honestly, try it!

Community Ecology Growing Health Urban

Grey Cat

Black and Grey cats together.

This is the second part of the Sick Veg cat series. The first being dedicated to the Black Cat. This to her older frenemy the Grey Cat. I know I shouldn’t really post pictures of my cats. I’m sure it represents some kind of degeneration. I ought to be more preoccupied with my perception of other people’s perception of me.

The cats are my garden helpers. They like nothing more than to hang out with me when I water the plants in the morning. In the case of the Black Cat she also likes it when I am killing slugs by torch light. So exciting. They both love chasing hoverflies.

The Black Cat likes to clamber all over everything. The Grey Cat, who is a lot older, likes to lie in the sun. Also to watch water from the tap. She will come and get me, lead me to the hosepipe, and sit and watch the water trickling over the roof totally transfixed until I turn it off. She might do this two or three times in an afternoon. In the summer they both take as much delight in the garden as me.

Agriculture Food Growing Urban

June Harvest

It’s been a disappointing year for my broad beans. These were my own kept beans, that much was exciting, but I believe I sowed them in too shallow a container for them to really thrive. It also felt like the slugs and snails weakened them in April. Rather than limp on I decided to pull the plug now and plant something else shortly.

That’s a nice heap of stalks for the compost. And the troughs, no doubt full of leguminous nitrogen, will be good for something else.

I was able to thin out the beetroot a lot. These were multi-sown so I twisted out the larger roots from the clusters of three.

This year I’m going to eat the tops. I’m slightly ashamed that last I threw them away. I’ll chop them up, steam them, and fry them in garlic like I do with kale and cavallo nero.

Here’s everything tidied up before it went into the fridge. We had the broad beans steamed with some basmati rice yesterday for lunch.

At night on the same day I went back for the chamomile. This had grown unruly and the leaves had dipped which meant apparently they were ready for cropping.

You don’t have to wait for them to be dry to turn them into tea. You can just go right on ahead and steep them in boiling water when they are fresh.

Real purty.

Community Ecology Practice Wilderness


I’m deadly serious about making home for insects in my roof garden. All of the flowers I’ve planted I have chosen because bugs love them. Over the past couple of months I have been taking (bad) photos of these, my tiny friends, with my cellphone.

Baby spiders.
Mating fruit flies.
A bee.
A Bumblebee.
A blue moth.
Another Bumblebee.
Moth unknown to me.
Another bee.
I am the Fly.
Ecology Growing Practice Spirituality Therapy Urban Wilderness

May Flowers

All together now.
Food Growing Practice Soil Urban


This morning I was repotting oak seedlings. These were grown from acorns I picked up on Hampstead Heath. Cosmos, and in the foreground courgette, also felt the love.

My own compost is fine for established plants and, well, filler – but you need something proper if you’re cherishing something.

So few of these courgette seedlings survived. I’m not taking any chances with them.

Ecology Growing Organic Practice Soil Urban


I don’t like to get into the whole G.A.S. thing with growing like I did around music. Of buying stuff. I have enough. Too much in fact.

Horticulture and agriculture are the same as the music business to some extent. Make no mistake, there’s no end of accessories and toys that are marketed to growers and farmers. To say nothing of the cost of land itself. But nowadays I’m a bit weary of being a consumer, and wary of being targeted as one.

Some products, however, are justifiable purchases. I couldn’t simply heap a load of rotting mulch into a corner of my roof garden. It would be exposed to the elements, stink, and be a magnet for pests. So in October 2022 I bought a Hotbin Mini so as to start my own composting. Here is the inside of the pristine bin which is starting to see a lot of wear and tear now.

It’s an ingenious system which drains leachate to a tank beneath it, is insulated by design (accentuating the thermal generation of the composting process), and it doesn’t require turning. The first thing you do is layer a bunch of sticks into the bottom.

Then you load, in layers, green and brown waste.

As I understand it green waste is: food scraps (uncooked vegetables, no meat) and garden waste (weeds are fine). Brown waste is: cardboard, paper and woodchip. This layering of the two kinds of material means that you preserve aeration. If you are just using green waste it tends to coalesce into a sludge. The technical term for this latter effect is anaerobic composting and it generates a lot of foul-smelling methane.

Your aim is to establish aerobic composting which is seen as being the way to get a superior compost. It evidently wasn’t always so, however, as I have recently been reading some sixties’ gardening books which, suggest t’other over the one.

Here’s a rather fetching full bin at the end of last year. [I don’t think those are flowers I grew actually.]

At the top of the bin there is a thermometer. I have never managed to get my heap to the heady heights of 50 degrees centigrade, but when everything is steaming away I have reached 40 degrees. A compost heap is, essentially, a bonfire…

After a straight sixty days last year, just as we were heading into winter, I pulled the plug on the process so as to download my black gold. [A note in passing: you can see the blue leachate cap here at the bottom. I emptied this liquid out and used it as a plant feed a lot last year – but I wasn’t convinced of its efficacy so this year I haven’t bothered.]

I believe that 2022’s compost broke down anaerobically a lot. Looking at it, it does appear a bit putrid. I had a few bad smells out in the garden which this year I have totally avoided.

However, I still got three large pots of excellent compost out of it. I dressed the surface with a good commercial compost to create a tilth and planted in them. Today these pots have an Ash Tree, a Dahlia, and Amaranth growing in them.

To solve the issue of the anaerobic effect I was having, I reasoned that I needed to get more aeration through the Hotbin. This March I went to a hardware store and bought a measure of plumber’s copper pipe.

This I drilled regularly-spaced holes in.

And sunk it down the middle of my new burgeoning heap.

This must have made a difference to the aeration. There are many accounts of people creating this style of chimney in compost heaps. However, the ones I have read of are created by building heaps around pipes (without holes in them) and then removing the pipe once the heap has reached its summit so as to create a natural cavity. Of course, it is highly unlikely I have pioneered a new technique.

Here is the pipe in situ. Towards the end of March I needed some more compost so I opened the bin up to see what was cooking.

To me this looked like a less noxious concoction than my previous batch. No, it doesn’t have that fine, chocolatey, crumbly, look of professional compost. However, mine is not ground up in any way or dried.

I have looked at grinders but reason that’s just another gadget that would sit on a shelf and only be used twice a year. What counts is its richness and biological liveliness – of which I have no way of measuring.

This time I needed to fill two pots to plant on Calendula seedlings that I had started indoors at the end of winter.

Again, the surface is dressed with commercial compost. Here are the Calendula seedlings, or Marigold as they are sometime called, moved onto my own compost.

This time I only emptied half the Hotbin with a view to keeping it running like a perpetual stew.

Here it is again, more recently, running at full capacity.

The Calendula is thriving off it.


Black Cat

[Updated] There were complaints that the Black Cat didn’t get any written spiel. The black cat is, unfortunately, a bit of a pest in the garden. By nature much wilder than her frenemy the Grey Cat, she hasn’t yet acquired her elder’s manners.

She will clamber all over seedlings, dig holes, and eat plants. Still, it’s important to note that she enjoys herself outdoors in the garden. I wish they both had more space on offer to them – but sadly, for the time being at least, this is as much as I can offer them.

Food Growing Urban

Beetroot Update

My beetroot laid out ready to plant on March 18th.

I can never get over the miraculousness of plants growing. Look how scrawny these beetroot seedlings looked just two months ago. And look at them now!

My beetroot on May 18th.

I’m well on my way to a bumper crop. Those worms can’t have done any harm.

Community Ecology Growing Practice Urban

Peter Saville’s CMYK Flower Beds

Peter Saville, the legendary designer best known for his work for Factory records, is our most-esteemed EC1 local luminary. In the past I had the opportunity to briefly meet and work with Peter at his studio on this Colorcalm DVD in 2005. He’s extremely charming and has a particularly inspired working method. At the time I took the opportunity to get a copy of “Closer” signed for my friend Mark Fisher which present I gave to Mark. I think in due course Mark went on to interview him. I see Peter around our neighborhood or down the shops from time to time, sometimes stopping to say hi to him. I don’t think he really knows who I am, which is no problem really. I hardly know who I am myself.

In 2006 it happened that our local St Luke’s Gardens were renovated. Seeing as how he was a local resident, the planners asked Saville to design something for the space. Inspired by the area’s traditional role as a centre of printmaking the idea was for beds with Cyan/Yellow/Magenta/Key (Black) plantings of flowers. Nice concept.

Fast forward eighteen years. As with these things so often the execution hasn’t kept up with the vision.

The first thing is that a slightly unsightly bird feeder has been installed in the middle of the centre “puck”.

I don’t really mind this so much, because I happen to like birds, but it’s a bit of a car crash.

Easier to address is that the planting has gone awry. I can see Magenta, Yellow, and Black here – but the Cyan definitely needed a hand. This would be so simple for Islington council to rectify but quicker to fix myself.

I ordered a small pack of Blue Cornflower seeds from the reliable Tamar Organics (Centauria cyanus should anyone accuse me of messing with the concept). This is a flower that bugs love.

These are the most remarkable seeds I have ever seen, like miniature shaving brushes.

I put a little seed compost down, because these guys wouldn’t survive just dumped into the parched flowerbed, and gave them a generous watering.

Yeah, no worries, you’re welcome.