Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gone to seed

Zwena, our allotment owner is a great believer in the natural order of things and some plants are allowed to go to seed just for the beauty of them, to add interest to the overall picture. These are some leeks with seed heads in various shades of purple next to some sweet peas.

My Coriander plant went to seed! Not very easy to see in the photo, it is the tall brownish spindly plant in the centre! It just bolted upwards producing lovely white flowers and it is now covered in seed heads which have a wonderful smell. I will save some of the seeds and see what happens.

Liam's Gladioli bunches just coming into bloom! There are a lot of flowers planted around the allotment also which I will photograph and post later.

Potty Blooms

Flowers need not be regimented in flower pots, anything can be recycled and planted up with colourful annuals to brighten up a dark or uninteresting corner. I revamped my bathroom last year and repositioned the loo! I had the bath dumped but on reading scarecrows garden blog recently I realised I could have made a substantial aquatic garden with it grr..... .

The watering can was returned to the store where I worked last year as it was leaking at the joints. It was going to be put in the dumper for disposal when I made a reasonable offer for it! The blue flower pot was broken on one side so now it is turned on that side and the small alpine plant looks as if it is spilling out of it on to the plate.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I usually have a plant or two of lavender growing at home but have never done anything with it, I just leave the flowers on until they die off. I would break off a flower in passing and crush it in my hand to release the perfume. The sight and smell and the sound of bees humming through it is one of those memorable signs of summer so badly needed here this horrible wet year.
Last year I planted 4 plants out in the allotment, this year the plants had grown huge with lots of stems. After cutting off all the stems I realised I did not have any photos of the lavender in bloom so I had to go through nearly all my photos to find one that had them in one corner! I cropped the photo and it actually looks quite 'arty'. As if I posed the blue shovel handle to accentuate the lavender flowers!!

This year the plants had grown fairly big and I thought it was a shame to just leave the flowers to be blown down by the wind or leave them to fade on the plant.
Aisling ( the lady still in waiting as I write) volunteered to surf the web to find out how to dry or do something with the flowers. As usual she came up with the goods on
All you need to know about growing, drying and crafting with Lavender. I followed the directions on the site to make a lavender wand. Photo shows a wand with some of the dried lavender, but the wands should really be made straight from the plant as it is easier when the stems are pliable. The buds then dry in the wand, and it lasts for years in a linen cupboard or drawer.There are links to other sites there and more crafty ideas too.
I have 5 bunches of lavender stems which are drying in a wardrobe as per instructions on the site, it should take about 2 weeks to dry then they can be used in sachets etc. I would love to try making soap with it, but all directions I've come across seem very scientific and messy!!
I found this simple method of using lavender in
QUICK-MAKE BATH BAG Use an old handkerchief or piece of thin cotton fabric, six to eight inches square. Place a quarter cup of dried lavender blooms in the center, gather the corners together and secure the bundle with a piece of twelve-inch ribbon, tied it in a knot. Then tie the ends of the ribbon together in bow or knot, to form a loop by which to hang the bag. Slip this over the bathtap, positioned so the water will run through it as the tub fills. It may be used for several baths, the lavender should then be replaced.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Of Potatoes, Blight and Pumpkins

The last of our second early potatoes! We had a very good crop of all sizes and shapes, but at least we did not lose any to blight, which was a worry for a while. Anyone I gave some to and our own verdict was 'Great balls of Flour'!

Ben, one of my grandsons picking out the last one! I had cut back the stalks to stop the blight going down to the tubers. Ben like the others was fascinated to see the potatoes in the ground.

This is our main crop of potatoes towards the middle of July. They have been sprayed with 'bluestone'. The Bordeaux Mixture is a commercial product of this old time spray for potato blight. While the Bordeaux mixture
is convenient there is not much coverage in one box. It only mixes 7litrs for approx 5.95e. The Bluestone can be bought in the farmers co ops. It is bought loose and mixed with washing soda.The ratio is; 10lbs washing soda to 8 lb bluestone to make 44gallons.

I used 2 1/2 lbs washing soda to 2 lbs of bluestone. It made 10 gallons for approx 7.00e! You also get free advice as there is always a few old timers around and the staff know what they are talking about too. We bought ours in a farmer's co op in a place called Inchy Bridge in West Cork. (I hope my spelling is right).

This is the bed of main crop potatoes now. I have cut away the stalks ( haulm) and left the pops in the ground. Zwena our allotment owner said this was a way of saving the crop.

Potato blight forms spores on the underside of the leaves which then drop down in to the ground and so affecting the potatoes underneath. Spraying the foliage stops the blight spores from forming and dropping on to the ground.

Hopefully this will allow the pops to continue growing, I will leave them in and see what happens. Note to self for next year ; check for blight resistant types of potatoes, one old farmer asked me what type of spuds we had in, I said british queens and he said ' they're hoors for the blight'!!

Our courgette has been moved out of the greenhouse and is now by the scarecrows feet. We have lost a lot of courgettes, it may have been the heat and humidity in the greenhouse. Rosie harvested an armfull of marrows from one out door plant on her plot after being away for a week, which she generously shared with us. I stir fried it with some of our new pops and it was lovely! I have been very conservative with veg over the years as, trying to feed 8 children it was a case of the lowest common denominator, carrots, turnips, parsnips broccoli, because anything else and it was a case of 'I hate them'!

This year thanks to our fellow allotmenteers I have sampled Spinach, marrows, globe artichokes, white turnips and swiss chard! That is definitely a big plus for allotments as we may not ever have tried growing them, convinced we would not eat them. So anyone just thinking about growing your own try an allotment its a social, healthy outdoor lifestyle. It does not have to be every day either,a few hours during the week and maybe some at the weekend.

In front of the scarecrow is the white turnips put in on 16th June to replace our red onions which went to seed.

Behind him are our onions, with tops bent over to dry out. After about 10 days according to Christy, (on the allotments for years and our gardening guru)! I can pull them up and dry them off. I need the bed anyway to put out our purple sprouting broccoli which is coming on at a great rate, but needs to go out now.

The pumpkins growing on top of the heap of horse manure on 24th July. (See last photo taken on 18th July) They have grown quite a bit and some long tendrils are moving down the bank. There are lots of flowers visible too.

We have lost our baby pumpkin which was in previous photo too!! There is another one coming on and lots of sterile ( male ) flowers. It may have been due to replanting it from the pot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shade Loving plants

Noreen, a friend of mine went to Crete on holidays recently and took this photo! I thought it is an ingenious way of shading the hydrangeas from the heat of the sun. I think it is a terrific holiday snap, I can almost feel the heat!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Random Photos July

One of the overfed fat rabbits at the entrance to the cornfield, we were in the car about 6 ft away and it just stared at us! They seem to have no fear of cars or people coming and going.

Peppers growing in the greenhouse, we seem to have a glut of these but we will just have to wait and see if we get a glut of peppers! The large one in the black pot has a lot of flowers on it.

Not a great crop of tomatoes but they are improving! They are being watered regularly this week and there is a big difference. They have been sprayed for blight and are being fed once a week. I am religously removing side shoots since I discovered what they are, they seem to be the fastest growing part of the plant!
I also pinched off the growing tips as there are enough trusses on each plant now. Notice how I am throwing in the gardener speak there!
The courgette in the greenhouse.These 2 seem to be doing OK but we have lost about 4 to what I think is blossom end rot?! They get a discoloured soft patch at the tip and we have to throw them away. From reading about it, it may be caused by erratic watering...! I have been out nearly every day this week and watered and Kathryn has been up some evenings so regular watering seems to be working.

Kevin picking potatoes, enjoying getting up to his knees in dirt!

Our broccoli, this is actually on the 'master plan' as brussels sprouts, because some of the labels on the seed trays got mixed up. All of the brassicas look alike ( maybe not to more experienced gardeners) until they develop their own characteristics. We are not complaining as it is growing well and the florets are developing fast. It is the first time I have seen Broccoli growing, even Kevin was impressed when he saw it !

These are our leeks, they may not look much but they are coming on! Kathryn thinned them out during the week to give them a bit of room and they are doing better.They will be ready to plant into their winter bed by the end of July. See Daves allotment in links

Friday, July 18, 2008


A couple of years ago I planted a pumpkin in the flower bed at home. I knew nothing about them and had no idea how they actually grew. I thought they would be a novelty for the grandchildren and even had ambitions to have it for Halloween! It grew to about 12ft long, romped through the flower bed and produced ONE tennis ball sized pumpkin! Needless to say I did not go near them again, until this year when I saw some for sale. I succumbed and bought one tiny one at the end of May. This is it 2 weeks later on the 13th June when I potted it on. The intention was to keep it in the pot at home and when we dig out our second early potatoes to move it out to a permanent bed in the allotment where it will have room to grow.

This is the second potting on, there is a kind of silver 'bloom' on the leaves I'm not sure if it is fungal or not but it does not seem to be hindering its growth. There are a few flowers developing on it now.

This is our pumpkin moved out to its allotment bed on 16th July to continue growing (hopefully) in solitary splendour . It has one small pumpkin behind a female flower. The male flowers are sterile and die off. It is quite easy to recognise the male and female flowers and I have no intention of going into the sex life of pumpkins here ! I only hope it is self pollinating as I have no intention of becoming an A.I. facilitator for a pumpkin! It will get regular feeding and watering and if it develops about 2 or 3 fruits then the growing tip should be pinched off to allow the plant to concentrate on those fruits. If we had a few plants then we could allow one pumpkin only per plant to see what happens.
I suppose if we were growing them for eating then smaller pumpkins and more of them would be the way to go.

These are a colony of pumpkins growing on top of the pile of horse manure in the allotment. Zwena our allotment owner said they will eventually reach down to the gate and two years ago she had a monster one! Watch this space for updates!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Salad leaves

I have not posted for a week, obviously the weather in Southern Ireland has improved! We have done quite a bit of work in the allotment but I must remember to take out the camera to take some photos.

One thing I can take a photo of here at home is the window box of salad leaves. I thought big heads of lettuce were a waste last year as they either went to seed out in the allotment or were not used if brought in. So this year I decided to plant seeds in this. I must admit I was a bit puzzled as to how the salad leaves would keep coming but they are!
I have been using these and the new ones can be seen coming up around the edge of the pot again. There will not be an endless supply so I will start a new pot today.
It is a good idea for anyone who likes salad leaves but may not use a whole head at a time, and the mixed leaves are nice to look at too! A bigger pot with some edible nasturtiums would make a colourfull and usefull window box.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Devon cream tea with an Irish Twist

I made the Gooseberry jam last night, 1Lb berries ( photo on Tues July 8th post) to 1 Lb of sugar, no liquid just a knob of butter. I must say it is the easiest jam I have tried. Those quantities made 1 and a half lbs of jam. I paid 89c in Aldi for 1kg of sugar, any home made jams are selling for around 3e at markets etc so I got a very good return!

Homemade sweet white scones and a dollop of cream to off set the tart taste of the gooseberries. It would also be good on morning toast instead of marmalade.

The scone recipe is roughly, 1lb of cream flour; 4ozs of margerine; 2ozs of castor sugar; 2 eggs beaten in enough milk to bind the dough together, keep back a small amount to brush the tops of the scones before baking.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dave's advice

While browsing through gardening blogs I came across 'Dave's allotment' (see blog links). He seems to have grown just about everything and has photos of the various stages.I went to his blog archive for June 2007 to see what we could (or should) be doing and came across these nifty paper pots to replace peat pots. I got the girls working on them on one of our frequent rainy days. I planted Broccoli seeds 'Claret' on 29th June.

These are the plants on 9/7/08. They are about a week old now and will be ready to plant out in the allotment by the end of the month for cropping in March/April of next year. We are doing some forward planning! The paper pots have survived being out in torrential rain and the plants can be planted on without disrurbing the roots.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mini fruit harvest

We went out to the allotment this morning, the rain held off for most of the morning so we got some work done.

We had some fruits to harvest too! There were a few raspberries 1/4 lb (150grms) and some pencil thin sticks of rhubarb. I thought if I pulled them they might thicken up for next year?! I combined the two in a fruit tart, as there was not enough of either to do anything with on their own.
I made a sweet pastry base, softened the rhubarb with sugar first and added the raspberries and covered them with a sponge ( 4ozs marge, 4ozs sugar,2 eggs , 6ozs flour). the two tastes complemented each other nicely!
One of our gooseberry bushes had lots of berries nice deep red and ripe. We picked all of these 1lb (500grms). The second bush had 3 berries ! Bigger and pale green, almost white so we pulled these too.Have been looking up UKTV/Food for Gooseberry jam recipe. Got one, it is 1 lb berries plus 1 lb sugar and a knob of butter. Hopefully will get it done tomorrow. Have topped and tailed them in readiness.
I watered everything in the greenhouse, there are a few tomatoes on our plants but they are disappointing, hopefully a few more will appear. I pinched out the tops of the plants to stop any more growth and to let the plants concentrate on what is there.
The peppers are coming on but no sign of anything on them yet.
The courgette/cucumber plants in the small greenhouse are doing OK too
Our first courgette plant is producing at last! There were 3 little ones and one bigger one but the end of it was soft and discoloured so I discarded it. I think that happened the week of heavy rain when no one went out to water what was in the greenhouse!
I potted up the strawberry runners into small pots, I left them attached to the parent plant for the time being. I brought out compost in a bag to fill the pots, I weighted them in the pots with a few small stones as that was all I had to hand. I got 9 new plants in all and there will be a few more soon.

The British Queens second earlies look a bit yellowed and blighted despite being sprayed regularly. I dug up 3 tubers and the pops looked fine underneath the blight does not seem to have affected them so far. The girls were fascinated picking out the pops from the ground! I did not have my camera with me so could not take photos. There were tiny marble sized ones and a some normal ones. The smaller ones can be used as baby salad potaotes. Altogether there were 3lbs under the 3 stalks.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Random photos

We tried growing carrots in a barrel last year and they turned out OK.This year we got a second one and said we would try it again. The barrels have stones at the bottom for drainage and haved been filled with manure just to bring up the soil level. The compost is a soil based one ( not supposed to dry out as much as peat based)! This is barrel 1, not too many carrots showing, I think they dried out at the start, I had not been out for a few days so they got no water during one of the few dry spells we got.

This is barrel 2, slightly better. They have improved a lot over the last week so maybe the rain has done some good for them.

The asparagus has lovely fronds blowing in the wind, they may as well enjoy because they wont be around long enough next year! We must bring up some bags of sea weed to mulch them. This is the second year we have left them go to seed and die back so I am looking forward to next years harvest. They are much bigger and stronger this year and all of the plants have produced 2 spears. So hopefully there will be even more by next year.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

I wondered what the plastic bottles were doing on the strawberry patch on the next plot? William told me they were like mini greenhouses for the fruit and also kept the berries clean and off the ground! I had went to the trouble of putting hay under all of mine. These also make weeding easy as all you have to do is lift the bottle and weed underneath it, without disturbing the fruit! I am putting them down on any plant that is still fruiting or in flower. They need some protection from the rain and unseasonal cold weather.

After using the botttom half it is a shame to throw away the top. Then I remembered reading somewhere about making individual funnels to water or feed directly to the roots of a plant. This is the top of the bottle ( minus the cap) in situ in the top of one of my tomato plants. I can now
water and feed the plant directly to the roots without getting any on the foliage.

This is Kevin and Aoife demonstrating the 2 halves of a recycled bottle. we are going to make a few more to cover any plants that are still producing. There is never any shortage of plastic
drinking bottles when the kids are around!

Wet& Windy Irish Summer

Well July has arrived with no let up in the bad weather! Some areas of the country have had the wettest June in 50 years, other areas have had the highest rainfall in years. Temperatures are away down which is not helping anything outside to grow.

I have added a layout map of what is growing where on the allotment on the end of the page, as much for our own benefit as anything else. The plot is approx 30 feet long by 20 feet wide, not including paths. There is still another bed to be dug out which will not be used for anything this year. By next year it will all be ready for planting early in the year so we can get a head start hopefully.

The red onions went to seed and white turnips seeds were planted instead on 16th June. They have nearly all germinated by now and little rows of green are visible.

The Swede turnips also went to seed! Some of them grew about 18ins tall with a seed head. I pulled one or two just to investigate and the turnip was just tiny so they got pulled out as well. I bought them as a tray of plants but they were left in the boot of the car for about 3 weeks as I completely forgot about them so I don't think that did them any good!

I transplanted out Brussel Sprout plants into the space which Kathryn had sown as seeds directly into the ground.

The lady in the next plot had extra plants in the greenhouse which she passed on to me. I put them in around the scarecrow. They could be Melons but I am not sure! We will just wait and see what develops!

Everything is growing and the plot is looking very green and productive. If the rain does not stop the soft fruit on the bushes will rot instead of ripening .

The carrots in the barrel are doing OK too, not all of them germinated so not a very big crop there. I was reading the seed packets and we can still plant seeds directly in to the ground for an early winter crop.