A handy guide to companion planting

This is a post I wrote for Bothwell Community Garden’s blog a couple of years ago. The garden have since made the decision to create a new website and chose not to transfer across many of my pieces from the blog as they felt they weren’t relevant enough to the garden; but I get asked a lot about companion planting a lot, so thought it might be worth adding to my personal blog in case anyone needs a bit of help growing without chemicals and making the most of nature’s own partnerships.


Did you have resounding success in the past with certain crops without doing anything ‘special’? Did others fail, but you didn’t know why?

Companion planting could be the answer. Plants have always lived side by side; and sometimes they have benefited from this partnership. Sometimes it hasn’t worked out quite so well.
Companion planting involves growing a combination of plants that are of mutual benefit. Some have obvious benefits – growing carrots next to members of the allium family (onions, leeks, garlic etc) confuses and deters both the onion and the carrot root fly because the plants are so strongly scented. Herbs also have their uses – tarragon repels pests and is said to improve the flavour of most vegetables.

Here is a brief guide to companion planting – wherever possible, ‘bad matches’ should be planted as far away from each other as is feasible within your raised bed.

Love: Squash, sweetcorn, cucumbers, potatoes (dwarf beans only), celery, rosemary, sage, tarragon
Hate: Onions, leeks, garlic, chives

Broccoli / Calabrese
Love: Chamomile, peppermint*, dill, sage, rosemary, chives, tarragon
Hate: Strawberries, tomatoes, climbing beans

Cabbages / Kale
Love: Celery, onions, mint*, nasturtiums, dill, rosemary, oregano, chives, chamomile, sage, thyme
Hate: Strawberries, tomatoes, climbing beans

Love: Lettuces, radishes, onions, tomatoes, garlic, leeks, chives, sage, tarragon
Hate: Dill

Love: Sweetcorn, beans, garlic, nasturtiums, oregano, chamomile, tarragon
Hate: Sage

Love: Tarragon
Hate: Coriander

Love: Carrots, onions, tomatoes, tarragon
Hate: Beans

Onions, Leeks, Spring Onions
Love: Tomatoes, carrots, chamomile, tarragon
Hate: Beans

Love: Beans, carrots, celery, chicory, sweetcorn, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, radishes, spinach, turnips, parsley, rosemary, tarragon
Hate: Onions, chives, garlic, leeks

Love: Basil, oregano, tarragon, peas

Love: Dwarf beans, brassicas, coriander, oregano
Hate: Rosemary, tomatoes

Pumpkins and Squash
Love: Sweetcorn, beans, cucumbers, oregano, tarragon
Hate: Sage

Love: Peas, cucumbers, tarragon

Love: Onions, basil, mint, parsley, petunias, French marigolds, chives, oregano
Hate: Potatoes, sweetcorn, kohlrabi, dill

*If you are growing mint, please grow it in a submerged pot in your bed, unless you fancy a raised bed full of rampant mint!

Alys Fowler, The Edible Garden (BBC Books)
Dave and Andy Hamilton, The Self Sufficient-ish Bible (Hodder and Stoughton)
Brenda Little, Companion Planting (New Holland)


A Guest Post – ‘See Me’, about B and Bipolar

Following on from my blog post about Borderline Personality Disorder / Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder; I was thrilled to bits when a good friend, B, offered to write a companion piece.  If anyone would like to contribute a guest post on mental health, I would be absolutely delighted to publish them here.

Over to B…..





Hello there. I’m B, and this was written as a companion piece for J for World Mental Health Day. J threw out a suggestion that others might want to write down their experiences. Here are mine, and I hope it will help others to perhaps share their own/ relate to someone they know dealing with a mental health issue.

My diagnosis is bipolar. Actually it is bipolar and anxiety, with a few random characteristics of OCD, BPD and Asperger’s thrown in for good measure, which just goes to show that people cannot be neatly packaged, but for today I’m just going to talk bipolar.

Bipolar is one of those diagnoses that people think is hideously over-diagnosed. Have a few mood swings, bingo, you’re bipolar. It’s trendy, a cool status to have. It’s a side effect of being a bit creative, and when it becomes a bother pop a few pills and you’ll be fine dear.

It isn’t like that. Really it isn’t. Admittedly, bipolar is vastly more common in creative types. Mild manias and even mild depressions can be fantastic muses. Highs come with increased energy, channelled this can make for fantastic productivity. Sounds great, doesn’t it, and in all honesty I do enjoy this aspect of it. But the death rate for bipolar is 15-20%, a statistic which is no less scary when you remember it is death by suicide. Several people I have met since diagnosis are no longer around today. Suddenly it starts to sound a bit more serious.

It can be elusive, hard to diagnose. Despite two spells in day hospital and multiple crushing depressions throughout my teens and twenties, I was only diagnosed accurately because one of my three-monthly psychiatric appointments happened to coincide with an elevated mood. I sat in the poor man’s office laughing and talking non-stop at three times my normal speed. I couldn’t stand, or sit, still. I then walked home, singing, stopping to have a long and rambly discussion with a complete stranger about trees. I was on about three hours sleep a night. Deep depressions often follow highs, the body is totally worn out. It has to be observed though, and be rather more than just a wobble. It was only chance I got my diagnosis, over 15 years after I first received psychiatric attention. This is common.

The most intrusive part for me personally, hardest to deal with, are the elements of psychosis that so often accompany depression. That’s a scary word isn’t it, psychosis? It’s little talked about, and it isn’t the same psychosis, in some ways, as in, say, schizophrenia. When I am deeply depressed, even at its worst, I know logically that my bed isn’t filled with spiders and if I move they will bite, I know there aren’t zombies in the hall waiting to jump at me when I go to the toilet, but nevertheless they are real in my mind at that point. I can’t see them, I can’t hear them, there’s no hallucination but… still. I do, however, truly believe I am bad and hated and people would be better off without me, in pretty much the way Jac describes in her piece. All of that, including the self injury, something I haven’t done for several years now.

When not actively ill, the psychosis settles to a quiet annoyance. ‘Oh, do shut up’ I say, to the voice in my head telling me to drive very fast at the barrier in the multi storey car park and plunge five floors to certain death because I’m so wicked I don’t deserve to live and wouldn’t it be better for everyone if I was dead?, and it subsides, but it’s there, it’s always there popping its ugly head up at the most inopportune of moments, even when, actually, I’m feeling OK. It sucks the joy out of everything, or it tries to, happy events, treats, compliments are swiftly repackaged in my mind to mean something quite different. These days, after many years of therapy and practicing CBT and so on, I’m quite adept at sitting on such nonsense and reasoning it out but bloody hell it’s hard, constant, weary work. Solitary work too, given I’ve been a freelance loon for several years now, after cuts to the local budget decreed even my three-monthly appointment would be no more.

Psychosis can happen with mania too, but I am fortunate in that I have bipolar type 2, characterised by the same crushing depressions as type 1, but only mild, or ‘hypo’ mania. Mild is of course relative, but I am spared, at least, the disruption and chaos a bad manic phase can leave behind, although I have got into debt before. And slept with the next door neighbour. Despite depression being the usual phase in which people take their own life, mania remains the most feared, for me. Even when deeply depressed, I am in some kind of control, when manic I’m not, and that scares me.

I take pills, of course. Mind-corralling medications mean I can function from day to day but with a certain level of exhaustion. They are, after all, highly sedative, and in calming the mind they also calm the body- one medication I was on I slept for 16 hours a day and was only half awake the rest, amazingly I managed to work part time from home during this period! I have no idea how, I have very few memories from that 18 months, they are lost.

On medication, motivation- for anything- is hard. Pills cause weight gain and make it very hard to lose it again, I have just lost a stone and I have had to fight it every inch of the way. They have other side effects, often bizarre ones.  I now have regular unpleasant bouts of IBS and stomach issues; at higher doses my hair started coming out. I take them, It’s still better than being unmedicated, but it’s not the cure-all solution people think it is.

So yes. Bipolar. As an old teacher of mine used to say, it’s not big and it’s not clever. But it’s me.

See Me.

This should have been posted yesterday….about me, and BPD.




Today is World Mental Health Day (and this, unsurprisingly, is Scottish Mental Health Week).

So, as they say, See Me.

I am J and I have Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and I have been asked to write this as a task by my Community Psychiatric Nurse, and to share it – if I wish – with people that I love and care about and to take along to therapy sessions.

It seems quite apt that today is World Mental Health Day, really, so I wanted to bite the bullet and post this here. To show that I am not ashamed to talk about it, however hard it can be. Because, together, we need to break down the social stigma surrounding mental health.

And maybe, just maybe, me speaking out will give someone else the courage to seek help, or just have a chat with someone. Maybe you want to think about writing your own experiences, or think twice about that friend you want to ignore because they are acting a bit weird right now.

See me? See the smiley, happy girl that you may have met at the school gates or the pub; the mouthy, snarky, occassionally amusing muppet that fills your Facebook feed with crap? I’m not always like that.

I am, thanks to help from some wonderfully supportive agencies, pretty well balanced – far more balanced than I would have been if I hadn’t sought help. And when you read this, this is what you need to bear in mind. I certainly wouldn’t want to upset someone newly diagnosed with BPD/EUPD by making them think this is how it is all the time. But, equally, I want people to understand how frightening it can be when you are in a crisis.

Like all things, people will have the same diagnosis but very different symptoms. This is my story, and mine alone. Many will empathise and see themselves, many will not.

I am very fortunate in that I can mostly manage to keep it under control using techniques that I learned in therapy; and I will usually notice hints that mean that I may be heading for a wobble. Such indications can include paranoia, neurotic thoughts such as something terrible but extremely unlikely happening to loved ones, and becoming obsessed with something – a hobby, a particular cause etc (usually something political or some great injustice) which encompasses me completely for a relatively short time until I have ranted and raved and driven everyone daft with it. When I notice these things in good time, I have the opportunity to use the coping mechanisms I learnt to pull myself back on track. 95% of the time it works.

Sometimes, however, I have a crisis that I honestly wasn’t expecting. Looking back, I can now see that these usually come on in times of stress. (Though that is not to say that I will always have a crisis in times of stress). Perhaps the hints mentioned above are actually there, but I am so preoccupied by whatever is stressing me out that I just don’t notice them; and by the time I do, it’s too late.

How can I describe a crisis? I can’t, very easily, because it doesn’t feel like me. Although I can carry on doing routine tasks, and I can look and sound just like the normal J, inside me is some kind of maelstrom that is so disconcerting that I can’t really put it into words very well.

It’s like being taken away suddenly by a shock tidal wave. You can’t put your feet down onto the ground, and you’re powerless to do anything but try and ride it out until you reach the land, or drown.

A BPD crisis has been described as ‘the emotional equivalent of someone with third degree burns being touched’, and I can relate very much to that. I recoil, and lash out, at those closest to me, to the people I love and who love me. It’s as though I am possessed by some demon inside my head who takes every single facet of someone I love and twists it, makes it bad, makes it something to be suspicious and untrusting of; all the while also telling me that I am bad, I am worthless, I am not deserving of love or happiness, and that those closest to me have sinister ulterior motives for their behaviour towards me.

And these thoughts, these voices in my head are constant, during a crisis. They don’t come and go a few times a day. They gnaw at me, they whisper in my ears twenty four hours a day. Even when I dream. They twist everything I read, everything I write, everything I say, everything I hear so that the mildest criticism will feel, to me, like the end of the world, like my whole life is falling apart and I physically ache inside with it, this sense of terrified dread and horror combined with this kind of howling in my head.
It makes me want to hurt myself, to get the pain out. I bite the skin around my fingers until they bleed, or I jab myself with pins over and over to get some relief. Sometimes I just sit and stare into space, because that is safer than moving. Sometimes I drink myself to sleep so I at least won’t remember the dreams. These are negative strategies, I know that, but when I need to function and plaster on a false happy face, they are the best I have to hand.

That Is what happens. That is why I explode, why I lash out and push everyone away. Because, for a short time, I am a possessed person and as much as I want to, this power is stronger than me and I just cannot stop it, however hard I try.

I – as in the one you know, the everyday J- I am not being spiteful. I am not being angry. I am not being callous, however well I may still speak or write. My ‘good’ brain is being shut down and I am petrified and confused and screaming for help.

This black dog that descends on me turns my whole life, and everything in it, into something frightening and sinister. It smashes relationships to pieces. It hurts the people I love most in all the world. And all the while, the little voice in my head keeps repeating ‘You’re mad, you’re mad, you’re mad and it’s all your own fault’.

And knowing that it is my own mind doing this, and not some demon, is the most frightening thing of all.



The mystery of the great yellow ball in the sky, or Scotland’s first summer since 1976…


Yes. You read that correctly. After a winter that seemed to drag on for years, and a seriously bad start to the food-growing year; a very strange thing happened. I was forced to buy a bottle of sunscreen. I also removed my denim jacket for around twenty minutes before I got a bit of a draught at put it back on again.

No, seriously. Scotland got a summer. The first decent summer since 2006. I remember that summer well, Ellis was a few months old and I, crippled with post-natal depression, was too scared to take him outside in case he spontaneously combusted. I spent most of the summer gazing through the window whilst furiously dusting and tidying up all the things that didn’t need tidying whilst awaiting my latest interrogation session with my health visitor.

We have had great fun. There have been picnics (with my proper, grown-up, terribly middle class wicker picnic hamper); and plenty of visits to the community garden, where our little raised bed is thriving and providing us with plenty of fresh organic food, some of which the children even eat. We have been to the seaside, even venturing as far afield as Fife where nobody hit us with pointy sticks or chased us with flaming torches, disappointingly. The boys went to Nature Explorers at the David Livingstone Centre, which I reviewed for the Community Garden blog.

Look! See?

Look! See?

In my quest to have children who love nature and the outdoors as much as I do; it became quite the norm to kick them out of the house a 8.00am each sunny morning to let them play on the scheme’s field on their bikes with their friends whilst I conveniently forgot about the enormous pile of ironing threatening to take over the kitchen and just plonked my gargantuan backside in a deckchair with a coffee and a good book.

I did have a momentary parental ‘failing my kids’ crisis whilst listening to the insufferable Carol Vorderman on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ rabbiting on about the need to continue giving children ‘homework’ throughout the long summer break. Then I realised how much better Fin’s speech had become; and how his confidence had grown. I heard Ellis identify trees, birds and butterflies he’d recognised from his I-Spy books. I saw them run around, playing happily, building relationships (and occassionally having conflicts) with their friends. When we were out walking and they asked a question about where we were, or what they could see or hear, I would answer them as best I could. Even ‘how to internal combustion engines work?’, ‘why is Bothwell stone red?’ and ‘Would the castle still have been standing if it had been attacked by the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars’.

Dear Mrs Vorderman. Please shove your Oxford Reading Tree books and your fifteen minutes a day maths homework where the sun don’t shine. There’s more to successful, enthusiastic learning than that. Our summers are so scarce, I was determined that the children wouldn’t miss a minute of it.

(Expect a flurry of blog posts from me over the next fews days. I have another hare-brained scheme afoot. You, dear reader, have been duly warned).

And then there were four

Because, for the briefest of times – just a few weeks, it seems, and unbeknownst to us, there were five in our family.

And now, once again, there are four.

An ‘early’ period. A huge amount of blood, very quickly lost. Faintness and shaking led to the Sunday morning call to NHS24, given my precarious health.

The blood slowed, I felt better. NHS24 called back to check on me. ‘It’s probably your age, you’re getting on, your periods will get more irregular given your family history of early 40s menopause. Plus you’re on warfarin and your blood is very thin at the moment’.

Arrangements were made for me to go to my GP today for a blood test and an internal just to check everything was OK.

The thought of a baby didn’t cross my mind, I laughed when she asked me to pee in one of those ridiculous little pots.

And then I cried.

Because this is the kick in the head. I had been warned not to have any more children, that my illness – that wreaked havoc on my body throughout my last pregnancy – would probably finish us both off and leave two small boys without their mummy. Even if, by some miracle, we made full-term, the effects of my medication on a foetus can be pretty horrific, and not something you would wish on a child. The NHS do a wonderful job, but they tell it like it is; that the best, kindest and most sensible option for everyone (including themselves) would have been a termination.

Spontaneous abortion is a term I have loathed for many years, having suffered several heartbreaking miscarriages before my sons were born. I still hate it, but must bregrudgingly admit that, in this instance, it is more apt and, in a way – and I despise myself for this – I am oddly relieved that this was sudden and spontaneous, and that that massive decision was taken away from me.

But I am far from absolved from guilt.

I am numb. I am lost. I am dealing with feelings I have never encountered before. I am trying to put on my big, brave girl mask for my boys, and my friends, and all the people who don’t really understand what’s going on with my health; but inside I am a mash-up of emotions. I am rational, and calm, and objective; I am aching, and mourning and cursing this fucked up body of mine that tries to claim not just my life, by that life within me too.

I am staring at walls.

I miss you, little Fifth. I never knew you were with us, and I understand you wouldn’t have been with us for long, but I miss you now you’re gone. And I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry that I couldn’t be your mummy.


There are no photos, and no tags in this post.



Until their backs are broken and their dreams are stolen…

It has been a strange few weeks. Many, many things have made me want to write, however I seem to be having some kind of temporary brain-freeze.

I really want to say something about Margaret Thatcher. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter will have seen me foaming (or, at least, retweeting other people’s foamings) over the cost of the funeral whilst the rest of us are suffering benefit cuts, tax credit cuts, loss of public services and seeing funding to vital community projects slashed in the name of ‘austerity’. But, you know what? I’m out of words. Everything that could be said, has been said far, far better than I could say it. So, here are some pictures of two people who deserve a million times more respect than the Iron Lady. Also, a song.


The The’s ‘Heartland’

Released 27 years ago, this song is still as relevant today as it was back then.

Beneath the old iron bridges, across the Victorian parks,
and all the frightened people running home before dark,
Past the Saturday morning cinema–
that lies crumbling to the ground,
and the piss stinking shopping centre in the new side of town.
I’ve come to smell the seasons change, and watch the city,
as the sun goes down again.

Here comes another winter, of long shadows & high hopes,
Here comes another winter, waiting for utopia,
Waiting for hell to freeze over.

This is the land, where nothing changes,
the land of red buses & blue blooded babies,
This is the place, where pensioners are raped,
and the hearts are being cut, from the welfare state,
Let the poor drink the milk, while the rich eat the honey,
Let the bums count their blessings, while they count the money.

So many people, can’t express what’s on their minds,
Nobody knows them & nobody ever will,
Until their backs are broken & their dreams are stolen,
and they can’t get what they want, then they’re gonna get angry..
Well it ain’t written in the papers, but its written on the walls
The way this country is divided to fall,
So the cranes are moving on the skyline–
Trying to knock down this town
But the stains on the heartland, can never be removed,
from this country, that’s sick, sad, and confused.

The ammunition’s being passed, and the lords been praised,
But the wars on the televisions will never be explained,
All the bankers gettin sweaty, beneath their white collars,
As the pound in our pocket, turns into a dollar.

This is the 51st state–of the U. S. A.