The gardening season opened this year with a lot of gush about appreciating the dandelion for what is – a fine flower, much loved by bees.
Here in The Shed, we tried love and tolerance for about a week. But give a dandelion an inch and it takes a mile. It is the rat of the weeds world.
The Shed is located in the middle of about a million acres of the buggers and there is no way of stopping them. But the point of a garden is to divide off a space from the wilderness and improve it, surely. And nothing blurs the lines worse than those cocky yellow blighters. They say Empty Property Or Deadbeat Gardener like a neon sign.
We have tried taking off all the heads before they seed, try and hold the position a bit. But every flower up and out has a buddy waiting in reserve and wanting only a few hours of sun to activate
This year, we have been on hands and knees, almost daily for a month, starting just before St George’s Day, which is the traditional date to pick for dandelion wine, when they are just getting into their pomp.
In loose ground, you just gotta dig. In tight turf, you have to compromise. Best we can do, after experimenting with all kinds of tools, is to use the flower as a guide back to the heart of the plant, then nick in under that fleshy centre with a pointed trowel or a knife and try to pluck out everything above the ground in one go. If you are lucky, you might get an inch of root with the vegetation. Yeah the root will be back. But at least it will not come back tonight. It’s a firebreak.
The next plan is to try at a few dozen at a time with a spike through the heart and a teaspoon of salt down the hole. An old market gardener once told us salty water was a defoliant so effective you probably couldn’t get it licensed if you had just invented it.
The Shed is big on border theory this summer.
Chas Hodges, one half of the skiffle duo Chas & Dave, wrote a geezer’s guide to gardening which included the tip that you never go onto the patch without a sharp straight hoe, so you can do a bit of work while taking a look around, and The Shed has taken that one up. We are doing a lot of simple scraping and weed cutting along the paths, on the basis that there is no point laying down stone and then letting it overgrow. It is a barrier to easy communications from slug and mouse world and you might as well have it as bare as possible.
In between the lawn and the veg beds, we are trying a natural barbed wire – lengths of bramble, pinned against the border with sticks of hazel from the hedge. Quite easy to do when the ground is soft and two or three strands of bramble tamped together look like some sort of deterrent.- and likely to be longer lasting than that stick-on copper fringing from the garden centre.
A recent copy of The Week magazine had an interesting extract from a book by a couple called Isabella and Charles Tree, who inherited a rough farm in Sussex and stopped farming it, because a book about what would happen looked like a better bet than trying to run a dairy herd.
The book says: “With breathtaking speed, thickets of 3-ft-high thistles were advancing, engulfing acre after acre. The neighbours complained it was an immoral waste of land. And now the great thistle invasion seemed to be proving them right.
“Just when all seemed lost, out of a clear blue sky came a very different invasion.That warm Sunday morning in May 2009, we woke to see painted lady butterflies streaming past our bedroom window. Outside thousands upon thousands of them had descended. A few weeks later, spiky black caterpillars were swarming over the thistles, spinning silken webs like tents. By autumn, the caterpillars had wolfed down the leaves, pupated and flown away. The next year, 60 acres of thistle had vanished entirely.”
There were other paybacks for living with nature a bit, including longhorn cattle doing so well foraging that they turned into a useful beef herd, doing their own calving and without any winter feeding.
The book is called Wilding: The Return Of Nature To A British Farm.
Looks interesting. But as The Painted Lady is to the thistle, The Shed surely has a right to be to the dandelion.
Today’s music slot investigation started with a radio on the front line of the dandelion wars, playing Dad Gum Ya Hide, Boy, a hit in 1954 for Louis Jordan, master of musical comedy. The Shed looked it up once before and was reminded that Dad Gum was a polite alternative to God Dam in old American comics, and apparently in common useage too.
In the notes to the musical Five Guys Named Moe, which majored on Louis Jordan’s songs, Dad Gum Ya is credited to Browley Guy Junior, who had some success with the doowop bands The Skyscrapers and the Guy Brothers. Google Browley and Watermelon for the Skyscrapers’ best hit, Watermelon Man.
In the course of searching for versions of Dad Gum Ya, we came across Elvin Bishop, born 1942, founder member of the Butterfield Blues Band, and author of his own great hit song, Fooled Around And Fell In Love, a soul hit in 1976.
Elvin has done a lot of good recycling of old bar blues material and after hearing his Dad Gum Ya we nearly settled for his version of Beer Drinkin Woman as today’s track. Certainly we want some Elvin Bishop in our collection.
But in the end, for today’s music slot, we preferred the original version of Beer Drinkin Woman, recorded by Memphis Slim in 1940. Far as we can find out, it was written by Slim, probably in partnership with Willie Dixon, later the top songwriter at Chess Records.
Google Memphis Slim Beer to find this …