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Wendy Shillam
London
An urbanist by profession and a lover of city living by temperament.
Interests: Coffee in any square or friendly coffee shop, eco-living, DIY, vegetable growing on my roof garden, cooking for friends, I write fiction as a serious hobby, Out and about I love walking, sailing, sightseeing, Give me a sunny beach and a thick paperback and I'm a happy sandgirl.
Recent Activity
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Saturday 25th March It's been a lovely day in the garden today. Everything seems fresh-minted. In the greenhouse I already have nasturtiums, Empress of India, flowering profusely. Their green young leaves are at their best now. As the summer progresses nasturtium leaves can become rough and too peppery in anything but the most feisty of salads. Their smaller, fresh, young leaves taste subtler. As they grow the flavour develops, but in many cases older leaves can be too powerful. I try to get leaf crops to grow fast. If they slow up, that means to me it is time to harvest and re-sow! The early potatoes in the greenhouse are looking fantastic. They've now been earthed up twice. This year I'm using my own compost, not a purchased mix, so I'm being a little more careful to feed them. (Though I'm not sure that my home made compost mix isn't... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Hi Julianne, I think that wild strawberries are meant to taste sweeter. Perhaps it is worth trying again. Not sure what would make them taste bitter. Perhaps more water is all I can think of? Best wishes Wendy
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2017 on Going Wild at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Garden strawberries in the pot last year. This year I'm planting wild! We are all aware of government advice to eat five portions of fruit and veg every day. But round here, I live right in the centre of London, you can count on the fingers of one hand the shops that sell fresh produce. When it comes to fruit and veg - fresh is best. Freshly picked fruit and veg contains more nutrients than stuff that's been sitting on the supermarket shelf. Where chemicals are pumped into the package it is done so to improve shelf appeal, not to conserve flavour or nutrients. If you are buying from a supermarket, the chances are that as well as coming from a very long way away, your 'fresh' produce will have been grown using chemicals. Pesticides are a form of nerve gas - they can freak out our brains as well... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Thanks. Yes! With Old Handedness comes a certain chilled out demeanour.
Toggle Commented Feb 27, 2017 on What Old Hands Know About GYO at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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The end of an unseasonably sunny day in the veg plot. If you are struggling to fit gardening into a busy life, juggling family and work commitments around the needs of seedlings and pruning regimes, then this blogpost is for you. People ask me how I manage such a (seemingly) labour intensive garden. Until this weekend I never could answer their question. But something happened that has raised the shades from my eyes. I now know and can share with you how I do it and I hope that this insight will help you to enjoy your vegplotting more and more. The thinking about it takes longer than the doing I used to feel guilty reading gardening books rather than getting on with it. But recently I've learned that gardening is a bit like carpentry, where they say, 'measure three times and cut once'. Now I treat my reading with... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2017 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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At this time of year we are all eager to start planting. There are a lot of good reasons to start early - not least the prospect of an early crop. But sometimes early sowing can simply result in spindly and weakened specimens. Those elongated specimens are suffering from a syndrome called 'etiolation'. WHAT IT IS? Etiolation is a lengthening of the first shoot. When a seed sprouts it sends out a sturdy shoot which pushes its way up through the soil. This shoot gets its energy from nutrients within the seed and by directly absorbed water. As yet the seed won't have developed a root system. So nutrients that may or may not be present in the soil are of no use to the shoot. The shoot is seeking sunlight. Once it breaks through the soil the first leaves will unfurl and photosynthesis can take place. WHAT GOES WRONG?... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2017 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Lean how to grow well, eat well and keep well. *Two more dates added as part of Chelsea Fringe. This spring I'll be running a series of workshops, sharing urban gardening skills and growing tips. I'm a great believer that organic, fresh produce should become the basis of every diet, so not only will I be sharing cultivation skills, I'll be showing work-shoppers how to incorporate these delicious crops into a healthy and varied diet. Maximum 6 persons per workshop. Tastings and refreshments included. Sunday May 21st*, Sunday June 4th* 2.00-5.00pm Leaf Lore The simplest of all to grow are leaves for salads. They take up very small space and can be grown all year round. You can’t eat enough of them for health and vigour. May and June dates are part of Chelsea Fringe - a proportion of your workshop fee goes to the Chelsea Fringe Charity. Monday April... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2017 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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The Soil Association are using the catchy title ''tis the season to be organic' and have a nice selection of organic products on their website. It got me thinking about why we give presents at this time of year and to whom the giving should ultimately be addressed. It's a lovely gesture to give a gift, but so many of us are actually overburdened with possessions. Yet another gift is often an embarrassment. Life's greatest pleasures like a beautiful sunset, growing your own, being creative or enjoying the company of friends are free. It is those pleasures that are precious. The Soil Association makes a good point in the Christmas advert. It's not we who need gifts but the planet. And in 'gifting' the environment we actually ensure that we, as well as those who follow us, will also be able to enjoy the bounty of the earth. With that... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Don't forget to compost the pods once the beans have been liberated. I'm a great fan of thrift shops. Of course they save money, but they are also a source of old fashioned items that have now been replaced by plastic. Quite by chance I've discovered another product I can add to my thrift shop search list - spice jars. In researching this week's blog I looked up spice jars with ground glass stoppers, assuming that they would be easily sourced from John Lewis, or a similar store. Imagine my horror to discover that the simple spice jar, of which my kitchen is thankfully well stocked, is now an item of antiquity and only available from secondhand sites like Ebay and Etsy. It is possible to purchase new ones, by special order from laboratory suppliers, but they are expensive and look on the website to be a little more flimsy... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Once November starts to wane , once the harvest moon has set and we start to have log fires and light candles in the evening, I tend to forget the rooftopvegplot. But because I've been so ill all summer, I still have a load of tidying up to do.* Today was sunny and though not particularly warm, I was tempted to start the much needed autumn clear-up. I'm not super tidy in the garden, being mindful of the needs of precious wildlife in London W1 where I live. But, I don't want the decking to decay over winter or to find too many surprises in the raised beds come the spring. The job I've been really dreading has been to clear up the compost heap. Some time after midsummer I noticed some potato shoots sticking out of the top of the compost bin, which is a huge timber school trunk.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Abigail Willis, who wrote the original London Garden Book has now updated her work in a new revised edition that is a delight to read. As the weather draws into winter we get less and time in the garden. For me withdrawal symptoms definitely start to kick in. I know it when it happens, because I resort to reading books about gardening. So, I was delighted the other day when Abigail Willis' new updated edition of the London Garden Book dropped into the letterbox. Though it's an A-Z, don't expect an exhaustive list of every single garden and park in London. Abigail is more selective than that. Instead she highlights the best examples of garden squares, allotments, stately homes and private gardens right across the capital. She seeks out the unusual. For example I'd never heard of The Brunel Museum Garden, which has its own circular potager, nor yet of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Dear Julienne, Thanks for your lovely long response. I'll certainly try sorrel - I love it, but hadn't found room for it up to now. Spinach and other leafs haven't been a great success over winter on the rooftopvegplot - so I shall be pleased to try something else. So sorry to hear that you are suffering. I found an activity tracker really helped me get back into the habit of exercise. I don't believe in the gym, but instead I had been slowly curtailing the daily dog walk, until I got so ill I didn't do it at all. Now I do 10,000 steps per day - pretty well every day. But I've found that its not actually the doggy walk that makes the difference. It's the daily activity in the house, getting up from my chair to offer to make the tea, or doing the ironing, popping round the corner or offering to push Mum in her wheelchair that all add up. One just slowly becomes more active. I'm sorry to hear about your ME. I don't know too much about it, but I'd check up on metabolic matters. Your diet sounds quite gentle - you might find that ME responds to the very low calorie diet, just as diabetes does - but you ought to discuss it with your doctor I guess. I have just finished reading a good book by Tim Spector, The Diet Myth, which has some interesting insights regarding the connection between ME and gut bacteria. He also demolished quite a few of the old fad diets like Atkins, Keto, Paleo etc. Not sure about crowd funding - as I really feel I need an editorial sounding board and whip cracker! Best wishes Wendy
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2016 on A new lease of life at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Thanks Mark, Thanks for your comments. I did loads of research and certainly know as much, if not more than my GP (who is a very good doctor). I've been talking to another friend and it seems that many doctors vilify sugar if you have diabetes. However the current thinking is that the culprit is internal fat, particularly fat that blocks the insulin ducts in the pancreas and liver. So it is not a matter of limiting how much sugar gets into your blood, its how efficient your body is at metabolising it. So the secret is not a low sugar diet, not even a low GI diet (though cutting out refined grains has other nutritional advantages) The secret is a low calorie diet. At the moment the NHS doesn't recommend these low calorie diets because he large scale field trials have not been completed. But my guess is that merely keeping sugar levels down and watching what you eat isn't enough. My diet (which wasn't as draconian as the Newcastle diet) delivered a short sharp shock to my system. And it did the trick in a very few weeks. Your wife will probably tell you that she knows when her blood sugar levels are high. I've also learned that to maintain a low metabolism, which is one of the side effects of a very low calorie diet, has real long term advantages. Some people say its the secret to longevity! Happy to speak more with your wife off line if she's interested. DM me on twitter and I'll give you my phone number. All the best, Wendy
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2016 on A new lease of life at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Credit Brenda http://www.budgarden.co.uk/ I haven’t been a good correspondent this year. The blog has been a little thin. I can now admit that haven’t been doing a whole lot of gardening this year. I was finding the work too taxing. When I look back I realise that was curious. I always tell people that my rooftop garden is hardly a labour at all. Why was I finding so little time to give the garden the tending that most years I find to be a pleasure? I wondered if I’d lost enthusiasm for the garden. It seemed like too much ‘bother’ to climb the extra flight of stairs to the top of the house. At the beginning of the year, just when I should have been planting seeds, I was struck down with a terrible chest infection that almost hospitalised me. I was ill for weeks. Eventually after a late spring... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
In effect the low heat version is Kefir, a yogurt drink and delicious too. Do you add salt to yours? I must say I prefer the fresh taste.
Posted May 19, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Easy grapevine pruning advice How to prune a grapevine Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Thanks Mark for that info. I have no idea how well they will grow, but I like to try a few new things. Wendy
Toggle Commented Apr 10, 2016 on Now is the Season at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Is it better to plant early or late? Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2016 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Gardens as Art, Urban Gardening, Royal Academy, Artists Gardens, Contemporary Urban Gardens Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2015 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Thanks Mark, Gardening is all about doing a lot of little things to make a grand difference. Careful pruning of twenty rose trees in one bed, or careful weeding around twenty street trees is perhaps more similar than we might think. Keep reading the blog. Wendy
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2015 on Greening the Grey at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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This week I have been thinking about the environmental benefit of roof gardens and edible gardens in particular. My thoughts have been driven by two very different events. The first is that the West End Partnership have been adding flesh to the bones of their plans for London’s West End. As a member of their Peoples Task Group, I needed to consider, among other topics, what their emerging greening strategies might mean for people who work here, live here or visit Fitzrovia. And in another, completely unconnected event, my own rooftop garden features in this month’s Garden Magazine, the organ of the Royal Horticultural Society(RHS). It is a special issue devoted to urban gardens. My own rooftopvegplot. Open by appointment April – September If you are not a member of the RHS then this might be a good time to join. The organisation is slowly becoming a little more progressive... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2015 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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Continuing the story of our first EV holiday in a new BMWi3 electric vehicle. Part 2 - London to Aldeburgh. Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2015 at The Author's Song
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Our first long journey in the BMWi3 - will we make it? Part 1 - the preparation Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2015 at The Author's Song
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Harry Becks original 1933 Underground Map What has Brentford Ikea, Primrose Hill and Hendon Motorway Services in common? If I were to ask you this question you might reply that they have very little in common, except that they are all places in London. Boil a shop, a park and a service station down to the very simplest of notions and you may say, at least I can mark them all on a map. They are landmarks of a sort. For me they are new venues on my mental map of London that a few weeks ago seemed insignificant and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2015 at The Author's Song