Sunday, 6 December 2009

King Ken of Essex

Yesterday, I was with King Ken, Ken Crowther whose BBC Essex gardening programme won The Garden Media Guild Local Radio Broadcast of the Year Award on Thursday's Awards Lunch in London. It's a great programme, with wonderful listening figures and a worthy winner of the Award. Well done Ken.
As usual, we had a wealth of gardening questions to answer - despite the lure of Christmas shopping and other weekend delights.
Winter-flowering pansies were a hot topic. One listener, keen to be infected with the gardening bug, had sown his own from seed, but wondered why the plants were so small and hadn't flowered. Sadly, he hadn't sown the seed until August, so the plants hadn't had time to develop into large enough, flowering plants.
Similarly, another listener had grown Brussels sprouts from seed, but again the plants were small with no delicious sprouts. Again, late seed sowing - and possibly using a late-cropping variety - was to blame.
This question initiated the Great Sprout Debate - do you love them or hate them? What's the best way of cooking them to get an edible sprout, rather than a pile of mush? Personally, I steam them.
Other grow your own questions followed. How best to overwinter an olive?; why were pears soft and mushy on the inside?; what to do with a sweet potato plant that someone had just been given (and how to keep it alive until planting out time in June)? But the best question of the day went to Trevor who wanted to know if he could use an old bath to grow mushrooms! We suggested using it to cover the manure to keep it warm and exclude light for the mushrooms to grow. Trevor promised to let us know how he got on - and bring us some mushrooms to eat if it worked. To quote the great Ian Dury (the Essex boy of The Blockheads fame) - 'Clever Trevor'!