Friday, May 30, 2008

From strawberries to Potato blight!

I begged some hay from the livery stables to put under the strawberries to raise them off the ground.There is quite a good crop of them this year.We did not buy any plants, the ones we have were growing all over plot.I moved them up into one bed and cut back any runners to strengthen the plants and to let them concentrate on just growing.They should be naturalised by now to our site.
Bought 10 cauliflower plants and 10 Brussels Sprout plants in Atkins on the Carrigrohane rd and a Pumpkin!
We attended a meeting last night about allotments and community gardens ( more on this later) and discovered Potato Blight has reared its ugly head already, not on our allotments Thank God. I am told it should not appear until after 15th June but we have been having very humid and warm(ish) weather and the conditions are right for it. We were told to get Bordeaux mixture to spray. I thought Bordeaux only came in the red and white variety! This is mixed with water and sprayed at intervals. I bought a bright red watering can so no one will use it for watering!
I only sprayed the early potatoes as they have blossoms on them. We have done too much hard work to lose them to blight.
For any of you who might be interested it was consecutive years of potato blight that caused the Great Famine in Ireland.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

2/ June 2007

1/April 2007 What a difference a year Makes!!

3/ May 2008

28th May 2008

A Shed has appeared in the allotment beside us, the lads there have done trojan work on 3 adjacent allotments just this year alone!
This is the bed that Kevin did the preliminary work on, I put down swede turnip plants bought in a garden centre. I also set seeds of Beetroot and parsnips.I was not a lover of beetroot for years as I can remember one year when I was quite young getting fed on the stuff for what seemed like the whole summer! My late aunt Peggie in Tipperary started growing it.
To me looking back there must have been acres of it, as it was boiling on the open fire in big pots day after day. We had it hot and cold with every meal and I can remember us children checking each others teeth to see if they were red as our hands and clothes were! I developed an aversion to the look and taste of beetroot for most of my life.As I grew older I did try the beetroot sold in jars as a salad accompaniment but never liked it. So last year we grew some and picked it small and the difference ! I dont know what is in the jars but the taste is totally different.

Digging for Victory!

Kevin, doing what he does best......digging! We are finally getting towards the end of the allotment and the hard, back breaking work.This year Kevin has his own set of tools , so he is quite independent! This photo was taken on Sunday 18th May.

To the left is our cabbage and some broccoli, protected from the ravages of the rabbits and the cabbage fly under wire and netting! This allotment business is all out war! Last year the rabbits munched their way through stuff as fast as we put it down. They must have thought they were in fast food heaven! This year ,I have been told, a lot of the surrounding land has been set with barley and they have enough to eat down there. We are still taking precautions they are a wily lot those furry rabbits!

May 2008

A picture tells a thousand words! Compare to same time last year, (first post allotments) Fruit bed in foreground, early potatoes (earthed up) in next one.Then onions and Asparagus in next one. 4th bed is main crop potatoes, red onions and garlic. carrots in 2 blue bins to right, and our deck chairs and bits and pieces in other bins.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lollo Rosso!

This is another photo from last year. This was the very first piece of produce we had from the allotment! Who was more deserving than Kevin to be photographed with it!
Last year we had a great 3 weeks in April, we thought there would be a drought by June it was so hot.Lots of veg. grew apace but the weather changed dramatically and anything that was not protected died a death or did not recover sufficiently .
The lettuce grew huge!! and one of the drawbacks if we can not get out there every day is that some veg just grows to seed!
This year we have not set any lettuce out there, I have set salad leaves in a window box at home .This way I don't have to pull up a whole head at a time. I can just pull off the amount of leaves I need. I will sow seeds in succession for the summer and the plan is to have fresh salad leaves until the end of Sept at least!

Summer 2008 is looking to be a non runner at the moment. Temperatures are down and its windy most days and wet some days. We Irish are very optimistic about the weather, the first thing we do every morning is open the curtains to check if it is sunny or wet! That is if we hav'nt been woken by the sound of the rain beating off the window!
So yes, one swallow does make a summer and one hot day does mean a heatwave!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Carrots from the barrel!

It was not all work and no play last year. We had some success's, maybe more by accident than design! This is Sinead ( one of Stephen's sisters) and of course Kevin pulling the last of the carrots from the barrel. We had about 3 lots like this from it. Watching the gardening programmes on UK,TV style, the carrot fly seemed to be a very resourceful pest but cannot fly too high!

We filled the barrel with a layer of stones, plenty of manure ,just to bring up the level a bit and 2 bags of Westland multi purpose compost with added John Innes. Seemingly it does not dry out too fast as it is a soil based compost. The carrots grew no problem. The taste was unbelievable compared to the shop bought ones

Clearing and planning

Stephen, taken last April '07. he did the back breaking work on weekends and evenings.Our plot is behind him here, we pulled up the black covering which was only nurturing the dreaded bindweed ! This bed now has raspberries,blueberries, strawberries, a gooseberry and a blackcurrant bush. I also have a few Lavender plants.It is going to remain a permanent fruit bed.
This year the raspberry canes have been cut back and some of the new growth as well , because they were starting to take over the ground.The strawberries are covered with plastic tunnels...Thank God as there are lots of blossoms on them and the weather has changed back to cold and wet again.
Lots of blossoms on the Blueberries , they had too last year but I think the birds got the fruit before we did! We will be ready for them this year.
We have a bumper crop of gooseberries, the bush is covered in them.

Nearly There

This is the most up to date photo I have.As you can see we brought in the heavy guns this year.That is my partner Ed with gardener in chief Kevin in attendance as always.
The bed in the foreground (black triangular bit to the left) was dug for the first time this year in February. We left an old carpet over it for the winter to kill off the grass and weeds...ED is actually standing on it in the photo as it was doing service on that bed then.
There are second early potatoes planted there now. Mike one of the more experienced members on the allotments advised me to dig out the potato beds and line drills with manure before the winter set in, we have an everlasting supply of the stuff as there is a livery stables on the land also. That was another job we did not get around to, so we were out in the cold in february doing it.
The next bed has onions and the asparagus is in the left side of it.
Again Mike said to get in the onions and garlic before the winter and they would settle in and grow away as soon as the ground heated up in Spring. Again we did not do it and even though we got them in fairly early, you should see the difference betwwen Mike's onions and ours!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008



May be a funny title for a blog, but it will be very boring for me and anyone reading this if it is going to be a day by day account of our doings on the allotment! Anyway it is cold and wet here in Cork on today 21st May!

What better product of our short Irish summer than asparagus ,which has nearly a shorter season! I know it is available all the year round now from the southern hemisphere but I like mine less travelled, with just a short jaunt from plot to pot.
A gardener needs to have patience to sow seeds and wait for them to grow,but for the most part this is done in one season. If it is biennial it takes slightly longer but asparagus is what separates the potterers from the gardeners and really tests the patience! It takes 3, yes 3 long years to harvest your first crop! Last year when we started I went looking for seeds and some information and found both equally hard to come by. I phoned our local radio programme C103 fm which has a gardening slot every Wednesday.The questions are put to Peter Dowdall who runs a very good garden centre. He not alone had information but had 1 year old plants for sale
So I hot footed down there and bought 4 plants. I know...only 4 ,but last year we did not have enough ground prepared as we had a lot of clearing to do

  1. It was to be planted in ground which had not been fertilized for at least a year.

  2. I bought 4 pots with wavy fronds in them, which were to be allowed to die back.

  3. They in no WAY resembled asparagus

  4. Thank God I had the good sense to mark where they were before they died back.

  5. I have been told by Zwenia our allotment owner, who looked it up in her plant bible for me ,that it is originally a seaside plant and loves a mulch of seaweed !
  6. I thought it had failed for some reason this year as there was no sign of it, in the space of 4 days the spears were up about 6 ins. and they actually look like asparagus this year. At the moment there is only one spear per plant which is not a very good return.

  7. I still have to buy to eat this year and leave our own plants it die back again.

  8. I am going to buy more plants this year and make that a permanent bed as we have rhubarb at the other end so there will be no unnecessary digging to disturb the babies!
  9. Availability ; supermarkets, if you must but I would head for the nearest Farmer's market. They are held here in Ireland around the country towns and are gaining in popularity even in and near cities.
  10. More later I will get a list of local ones.


There are quite a few available at the moment in various magazines, but I think simple and fast is the secret to cooking and eating asparagus.

The best way for me is in the 'baby george' or any health grill. Lay the spears side by side and give about 4 mins. Serve with butter ( salted) like Kerrygold not any of those imposters of 'dairy' spreads.

Put the spears in a pan of boiling water for about 3 to 4 mins and drain. Serve as above. Sea salt is the best to season lightly probably a throw back to its seaside origins!

Any other recipes or advice on growing would be welcome.Leave in 'comments'

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


How do I start Blogging?!

Well, the idea was to hopefully get in contact with people who are engaged in or even have an interest in organic gardening or allotments. I am fairly new to it so all advice or ideas will be welcome.Allotments are a fairly new concept in Ireland, they have been encouraged in England since the second world war when the people were asked to 'Dig for Victory' and be self sufficient. There is growing concern about the amount of 'foodmiles' our food clocks up before it gets to our tables. Surely food cannot travel thousands of miles and still be edible without a hefty input of preservatives?!

How did I start an Allotment?

Well, both of my parents, now deceased RIP, came from the country. My father came from Johnstown, Co.Kilkenny and my mother came from Gortnahoe, Co.Tipperary, they would both have had farming backgrounds. They moved to Cork city because thats where employment was available back in the 50's. They lived in flats until eventually we got a house with a garden. My father grew vegetables such as potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, lettuce and outdoor tomatoes which lined the window sills and filled the shelf in the hotpress to ripen! There was nothing exotic but we would have been fed for a good part of the year from it. I can remember when money was scarce, my mother would pick and wash maybe 6 heads of lettuce and send me down to the local shop where I had the job of asking the shopkeeper to buy it. I know I was paid 6d per head in 'old' money but he sold it for 1/6d!
In time I married and had my own garden where I in turn grew veg and flowers. As time went on I had a growing family, 8 in all, and went to work fulltime so it became easier to buy my veg in the local supermarket. My father retired and grew lettuce,tomatoes and plants in a small greenhouse he built at the back of the house. My own children would remember this phase of our lives and spent time in and out of the greenhouse as they grew. They now have their own gardens which they tend and spend their time and money on, and I like to think its something that is part of their heritage and is a family tradition they have absorbed over the years.
What has this to do with starting an allotment you are probably asking.......EVERYTHING!
My father was dead 13 years when my mother passed away with cancer in 2006. The family home was gone then, my 2 sisters, my brother and I had to clear the house etc for sale. The big things like furniture and the smaller personal items can be easily decided on ,but unless you have actually been faced with this situation there are a lot of things you absolutely don't know what to do with ie; you don't want to discard or give away but they have no value other than memories. Going through the shed I came across some items in this catagory, I moved them down to my own shed rather than throw them out and there they stayed for some time unused and forgotten.
I found to come home from work and to go out into the garden helped me to remember my parents and get over my mothers painful death, as we as a family had cared for her at the end. Bit by bit I dug more and more , so what had been a fairly small flower bed became a bigger and bigger vegetable patch,aided and abetted by my grandson, Kevin who would dig and water for Ireland! I used my fathers garden fork rescued from growing cobwebs in the shed ,for this work. It is of the long handled, old fashioned four prong type, it must be all of 49 years old, the handle worn smooth by time and years of use.That year I grew lettuce, sweet corn,peas and tried growing a pumpkin whose stalk and leaves romped all over the garden, I reckon it was about 12 feet long but NO pumpkin!
The following year,one of my daughters, Kathryn, saw an advert for organic allotments near where she is living and the 2 of us went up to have a look. We paid our money and got a fairly overgrown plot and then the fun and the backbreaking work began!!