Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Peas Out

Today is slightly warmer but a heavy mist of rain which may dry off if the sun comes out. It is what we in Ireland call 'a soft day'. This type of rain is great for the ground as it soaks through instead of running off and the ground is very dry at the moment.
Yesterday I had an hour to spare before collecting the girls from school so as it is in the same area I went out to the plot.I took out the peas, both sowings of them and put them into their bed. This stale bed idea is a good one, I had prepared this bed about 3 weeks ago and when I went to plant, a lot of small weeds were easy to hoe from the surface, there were a few bigger weeds just developing tap roots, easy enough to remove now but if they came up through the peas would be impossible to dig out. There are 28 seedlings planted out and about 6 more in the greenhouse for filling in gaps if needed.

The seeds were planted in loo rolls and newspaper pots and were planted out in them also.I leave the ends open for the roots to grow down and in the photo you can see the length of the root system.They are easier to handle in planting out too as I could hold the plant and fill in around the roots without any disturbance. I watered them in and covered the whole bed with the fleece tunnels again to help them acclimatize to the great outdoors.I will leave them in the tunnels until they need the support of pea sticks.

My new wonder compost additives! Garden lime,blood ,fish and bone and the seaweed extract.The lime would not be used for everything and very sparingly.

I had read about Seaweed extract on the down under blogs, they seem to use it a lot so when I saw this I decided to try it. I have used it diluted for watering the seedlings and I am sure they are responding with growth spurts!It is recommended for germinating, propagating,transplanting and even mature plants and lawns! It is organic and as the amount used is minimal, 1 to 2 inner capfulls in 2 gallons of water it should last all year.

Monday, March 30, 2009

First Harvest of 2009

I cannot believe I have not had time to be on here for a few days! I must get around to see what everyone has been doing on their blogs. Every morning and a couple of afternoons have been spent on the allotment and I actually forgot to take my camera and when I did I forgot to use it, I had so much to catch up on.Yesterday I did remember, while Ed was putting down the boards for the paths I removed the netting from the Purple sprouting broccoli which had been in place since last August when it was planted out.The ground had become quite compacted over the winter and it was very dry underneath.The mulch of horse manure had smothered all but a few weeds, most of them were at the edges growing up from the path. I had read that loosening up the soil and piling it up around them would help so that is what I did also removing yellowed leaves and generally tidying them up and gave them a good soaking with the hose.

A few of them have little purple hearts developing but I will leave them for another week or so before cutting. I am looking forward to eating our first meal of them! The leaves look healthy and I did cover them again with the netting as they are the only brassica on the plots at the moment so the pigeons would have had a field day with them.

Our first cutting of the rhubarb, I was not sure when to harvest but decided to try some anyway. These are about 6 sticks ready to become a rhubarb crumble. It was delicious as the rhubarb had quite a mild flavour. There are a number of other stalks coming on and lots of new ones, again I put it down to mulching with the horse manure.We only have the one stool but I am going to put in a few more as we all use rhubarb.

I spent most of one day digging out at the back of the greenhouse which was overgrown and probably had not seen a spade for years it was so compacted and weed infested.I pulled out roots of thistles and the teasels which I did a post about here which also has a photo of the overgrown site around the greenhouse, and various bits and pieces which had become buried over the years. I put a barrow load of well rotted horse manure on it and dug it in.
There was one big Globe artichoke at the edge of the new plot growing over the path so I dug it out and got 3 offshoots from it. I put them in here as they will provide some shade for the greenhouse when (if) they grow and they look impressive too. We will not have anything to eat from them this year as the flowers are pinched off the first year to let the plant develop and produce the globes the second year. The original plant must have been years old as the roots were huge! They should be dug up and split every 3 years or take the offshoots from them.
Other jobs done this week:
Strawberry plants put out and new ones bought in Aldi added to the runners we had saved from our own last year.The whole fruit bed was covered in grass cuttings as a mulch to keep down weeds.
All the brassicas in the mini greenhouse ( summer cabbage, brussels sprouts & red cabbage) were repotted into individual pots to develop their roots before putting out. I was watching a gardening programme and a man who was blind but had a fabulous allotment had his own recipe for compost so I tried it. Compost,a handfull of lime to protect against clubroot, some fish ,blood and bone and some egg shells, I cracked half a dozen eggs for the shells and we had scrambled egg for breakfast Sun morning! I bought the ingredients and potted them up in the compost 2 days ago and I think they are showing signs of growth already.
I planted seeds of antirrhinums (snap dragons) in seed trays at home.
Sinead, Aoife and Kevin have their own beds in the allotment and have onions, strawberries and flowers in already.
Hardening off in the greenhouse on the allotment are the runner beans which will go out towards the end of the week if the weather improves as the forecast tells us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth Hour

The title applies to everyone all over the world switching off power if possible at Earth Hour 8.30pm March 28th.Hopefully up to 1 billion people in cities all over the world will participate.To take part does not require any signing up just switch off lights for one hour to reduce your carbon footprint.In Ireland government and heritage buildings are taking part by dimming or switching off lighting.
A great excuse to have a candlelight dinner!
In praising Michelle Obama for making an organic garden in the White House, I was unaware until reading a snippet in a paper that our own First Lady, President Mary McAleese was way ahead of her! The President has not only a vegetable garden in Arus an Uachtaran ( our presidential residence) but also has hens there! I tried to Google it to get some more information but to no avail so if anyone can come up with anything further on it please share!

The first photo is of the peas, about 35 plants waiting to go out to the allotment but the weather has taken a turn for the worst with temps dropping towards the weekend down to 2% or lower at night.
Second photo is the purple and white Borage plants.They are supposed to be an excellent companion plant for all veg,as well as providing colour they also attract beneficial insects.We need all the help we can get!

The Tomato plants are holding their own, the best performers are the Incas and Moneymaker the worst are the Berner Rose,only 3 have survived and one of them is on the critical list.

Red cabbage, Sprouts and red baron onions doing fine again waiting their turn to go out to the plot.

Summer cabbage Derby day coming on strongly, enough for our cabbage needs in the summer.
Seed Update
I planted herbs in seed trays on 17th March and so far the Thyme, Marjoram,Basil and the Dill are showing, there is no sign of the parsley or sage up to today. I also have a tray of french marigolds showing through, again thought of as a bit of a wonder plant on allotments for colour and attracting or repelling insects.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Organic First Lady

Did anyone see the piece on the paper about Michelle Obama planning an organic garden in the White House?! They are planning on digging it out soon and she is encouraging children to become involved as it is through the children the parents will be involved. That is one smart Lady. The full story can be read here
Our Purple Sprouting Broccoli has finally put in an appearance! I though we should be eating it by now but maybe like a lot of things last year it went in late. This little flash of purple is the size of a golf ball and there is another one on a second plant.

Colleen second earlies, sprouting before they took their trip out to the allotment this morning.The weather is supposed to take a turn for the worst tomorrow so I hope to get them in today.

We are down to the wire. Two drill of first earlies, Orla, 4 drills of second earlies Colleen and one drill of first early Home guard seed donated by Zwena. I finished digging out the trench along the wire and burying the fence wire under a scaffold board. There is room at the end for 2 drills of Kerr's Pinks sprouting in the greenhouse,another donation from Zwena. Someone gave her a bag of seed potatoes which she kindly left in the tea room for the gardeners to take from.This is one of the huge benefits of a communal allotment, surplus gets shared out.
I have British Queens, main crop, sprouting in the shed but as everyone says they are prone to blight I am not going to put them in here but will hold off until we get a bed ready in the new plot.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Works in Progress

I gained a second Lidl mini greenhouse, son B. has new baby in the house and does not have time to garden so it was passed on to me. I was able to move everything around as space was getting scarce in the first one. Second sowing of peas was moved down from the windowsill and everything else is coming on too. I sowed herbs which are still on the windowsill but all of them have put in an appearance so will be moved out in a few days as it is sunny and warming up a little.

Ed and I put down scaffolding boards which Zwena got for us to make permanent pathways. it is not finished as we need to cut some boards to finish.The weed membrane will be covered with wood chips so soon we will have less muddy paths.

Two rows of Orla first earlies, the fencing has to be finished before the next lot of seed go in. Another first early Colleen is chitting and hopefully will be in, in the next few days.

The bamboo frame for the beans which Kathryn has nearly ready, they are growing but need to be hardened off before transplanting outdoors

Sinead and Aoife have a bed each, which they helped to dig out, they planted onions and a strawberry plant each and one of the plotters gave them a gladioli bulb each as well. They have spring onions and lettuce planted at home ready to bring up. Kevin has to plan his plot soon and start planting.Along the side of the greenhouse I planted lavender and gladioli, I have a square of carpet covering some of the new plot so bit by bit it will be licked in to shape!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mothers Day

I haven't been online for a couple of days, the days were not just long enough.A lot of time was spent on the allotment but the two days I was there I had forgotten to take the camera so that will be rectified hopefully tomorrow.
Sunday 22nd March ( third Sunday) is Mothers day here in Ireland,and I think in the UK but I am not sure about any other area. Photo is of some of the flowers and cards not to mention chocs and of course Books which I have received from children and grand children for the occasion.They all have families now and get treated by their own offspring for the day.
I do not envy them breakfast in bed when I think of the soggy toast and cold tea I smiled and tried to look impressed by and grateful for over the years when they as young children decided to treat me to breakfast in bed, and waited smiling beatifically until I had finished every morsel! Thanks lads, I know your hearts were in the right place but you know my saying 'what goes around ,comes around'!
D.Linda wrote this poem for me for Mothers day a few years ago, I have it framed in the porch and thought it would be nice to share it with other mothers for the day.


For all the little things you've done,
For all the advice throughout the years,
For all the laughter and the tears,
For being my friend when I needed one,
......I thank you.

For letting me learn from my mistakes,
For all the encouragement,the freedom of choice,
For giving me strength to put my thoughts into voice,
For widening my understanding and all my beliefs,
.......I thank you.

For loving me through all my faults,
For protecting me from harm,
For keeping me out of mischief,
For being my Mother and not giving up,
.......I love you.

My own Mother died 3 years ago from cancer and we can only visit her grave with flowers tomorrow, I wrote a post about her in nannies which you might like to read also

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bags of Style

I was reminded tonight that this was a post I meant to do, I was browsing blogs and Calico and Cards had a post on reusable bags.Photo is of Aoife with the recycled feed bag bought on Etsy from Pam on Life on a Southern Farm Its waterproof and hard wearing it is now my allotment bag because if I leave it on the damp ground its contents remain dry. I have also used it for bringing veg home from the shops and it is a conversation piece!

How many of you have heard of Anna Hindmarch? She designs bags which cost thousands of dollars and sell on Ebay for hundreds! This particular bag was designed to make recycling and not using plastic bags fashionable, a quote from the designer in New York Times reads; "To create awareness, you have to create scarcity by producing a limited edition," she said. "I hate the idea of making the enviornment trendy, but you need to make it cool and then it becomes a habit." You can read the story of the bag here
A store here in Cork got in some of them and people queued all night to get one of the bags retailing at 12e.

There was a blue and brown version made and all over the world people queued and almost killed to get their hands on one.There were videos on Youtube showing the pandemonium in stores with customers pushing and pulling to get one of them.One good thing to come from this recession hopefully will be a return to some sanity about designer labels.Designer bags and clothing are seen on so called celebrities who get most of this stuff free to endorse it and gullible people melt their credit cards to pay an exorbitant price just to be seen with the same!

This is one I made earlier! When the Anna Hindmarch bags went on sale I bought this cotton bag in Aldi for 37 cent and used fabric paint to write the message on it. Two years later after washing and using it is now being used to transport my crochet around. I have only seen one person actually carrying one of the designer bags, they are probably packed away safely in dust bags hoping they will increase in price and become priceless.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Big Dig Begins

We have started work on the second plot.It was a beautifull warm and sunny St Patrick's Day so I took myself out to the plot intending to erect the bamboo canes on the bean bed.Grandaughter Gemma was sent up to help me and I was a bit sceptical as Gemma is a very girlie girl.Can this girl can move some sods! I was amazed at the way she attacked the overgrown bed and very soon had cleared it. Top photo is the finished bed.

Action snap of Gemma in digging mode, note the white boots!

Stephen her brother was also dispatched later and as I told him Gemma would be a hard act to follow he set to and cleared another large bed.

While the lads were digging on the new plot I attempted to dig the side of the new potato bed to dislodge some weeds and discovered that wire netting which had originally been along the side fence had over the years fallen down and become entangled with weeds and now was about 2 feet out through the bed.I had to dig a trench and pull the wire free of some roots that looked like tree branches they were so big. Instead of being out in the bed it will now be buried down the side of the trench and buried far enough down to deter our furry rabbit friends.I pulled out as much weed roots as I could get my hands on and we have gained about 2 feet of productive ground in the process.It will take another few days digging to complete it so the potatoes wont be going in for a week or two.
Today being a leaf day in the biodynamic calender I sowed seeds of some herbs,Parsley, Thyme, Basil,Marjoram, Dill,Sage and summer cabbage in trays on the bedroom windowsill.
I took the baby sprouts out from the plastic cover as they are strong enough, I dont want them getting too spindly like the other ones. The peas are strong and growing much faster than the earlier crop. I wonder is it really any benefit to sow too early as the seedlings take a while to develop into strong plants maybe due to lack of sunlight.
I opened the mini greenhouse to let the air and sunshine to the plants there and they are all doing fine. One of these days there will be mass planting on the allotment!
We had baby Callum's christening on Saturday and Ryan's Confirmation tomorrow so I will put up photos of both occasions soon.
I also brought one of the blue bins from the allotment as kevin wants to grow carrots at home this year.

Monday, March 16, 2009

La Feile Padraig

Happy St Patrick's Day to everyone far and near. It is our national Saints day tomorrow 17th March. It is a Bank Holiday in Ireland with all the schools off. Parades will be held in villages and towns all over the country with the biggest and most spectacular being held in Dublin our capital city.
Our parade here in Cork has American astronaut Dan Tani as our Grand Marshall,his wife is an Irish girl from Kinsale in Co Cork.
It looks like being one of the best days weather wise for years! Sunshine and temps of up to 13% Celsius are being forecast.I remember being at the parade for the Cork
800 in 1988, this was the celebration of the 800th anniversary of our city getting its charter and it snowed ! It is usually windy,wet and/or freezing cold and the little children marching are blue with the cold.
A link here you can check out the myths and legends of St Patrick.If you see a picture of the Saint he usually has a sprig of shamrock in his hand and he is standing on a serpent (snake), did he or did'nt he banish the snakes from Ireland? We don't have snakes here so it is as good as any reason for it. I hate the way science can explain all of our mysteries and bring this one down to mere geographical location. They do say the snakes in Dublin Zoo get very tetchy and unpredictable on St Patricks Day!

I remember as a child for the season of lent ( the 7 weeks prior to Easter)we would give up sweets (not too hard,as we did'nt get too many of them!) a lot of men would give up drink for Lent and as St Patricks day fell in the middle of Lent it was seen as an excuse to break out and celebrate for one day. We went to Mass in the morning festooned in shamrock, green badges and big green ribbons in our hair, thank God there are no surviving photos! I don't know if the shamrock is only indigenous to Ireland or if it grows in any other country? Legend has it that St Patrick was trying to explain the Trinity to the pagans (us) and used the shamrock to illustrate the three leaves growing from one stem.We scoured the fields and gardens the previous day looking for sprigs of shamrock but now it is mostly sold on the streets.
There are parades all over the world to mark the day but usually held on the Sunday nearest as it is not a holiday in other countries. One of the biggest if not the biggest parade is held in New York every year and a bowl of shamrock is presented to the President by an Irish representative.
The photos are of Gran Canaria 2006, I am not in any of them or know any of the people, they were just taken randomly throughout the day.
On the gardening front most people would try to get the early potatoes in the ground before St Patricks day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Manna from Heaven

This morning was foggy with a light mist of rain. I took myself down to B&Q to get bamboo canes for the bean bed.They were quite reasonably priced at 5.00e for 10 x 2.5 mtr thick canes. I returned and found all of these had been put through my letterbox! One of my sisters had been and made me a present of all of these organic seeds which are recommended by the one and only Alan Titchmarsh no less.Lots of interesting seeds for planning and reading about.
I bought the rest of the seed onions to finish the onion bed and when I collected the girls from school we went to the allotment and put them down. It was the last bag of seed onions in Ravens Court garden centre, the lady serving me said there had been a big run on them and the seed potatoes this year, everyone is trying their hand at growing their own.

Baby sprouts are up! They look like tiny shamrocks at the moment. The peas and the salad onions are also after putting in an appearance, but are so minute I don't think the camera would pick them up.The only thing not showing are the leeks.
Yesterday and today were root days according to the moon planting guide, so the onions should be off to a good start. I had not checked yesterday before planting and when I checked the book last night I heaved a sigh of relief!
Saturday and Sunday are flower days so flower seeds should be sown or something like Globe artichoke as it is the flower of that which is eaten.Monday through to Wed morning at 10.00am are leaf days so things like herbs could be started in the greenhouse.Thurs and Friday are fruit days and then it changes back to root days again for Sat and Sun. Weather permitting I may put in our root crops like carrots, beetroot, parsnips and turnips next week.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More beds

I spent the morning in the allotment again as it was a lovely mild morning and we have a lot to get going.The onions took a battering over the winter whether from the birds or the weather. I howed between the rows of onions and garlic loosening up the soil a little.I transplanted some of the remaining onions from the end of the bed to fill in the gaps, I moved them with a trowel and taking some surrounding soil so as not to disturb them too much as I am not sure if onions like moving! I dug over the end of the bed and planted some Spring sown onions but I will need about 50 more to complete the sowing. It will be interesting to see if the winter sown ones take off or if the ones sown now catch up on them. Scarecrow watched with interest I hope he remembers to shoo the birds away!!

Before I went out to the plot I removed the bubble wrap from the mini greenhouse and put out the peas, borage and sunflowers to harden off a little. All of the seedlings have come on producing lots of new leaves so they did not suffer too much from the move outside.

Under the fleece I have some volunteer pops which were uncovered while digging. They have good shoots up and I buried them in the compost but covered them with the fleece in case they come through and get burned with frost which we can still get for some time.I am not sure which varieties they are so they are kept to the end of the bed.Another experiment!

I emptied some of the compost from the bins at home and took it out with me this morning. I lined half of the bean trench with newspaper on top of what I had put in yesterday. I wet the newspaper and put the well rotted compost down on top of it and covered in that half of the trench, depending on the weather I may be able to fill in the other half of the trench tomorrow.That will be the bean bed ready to go then

The pea bed I had dug out yesterday was covered with fleece over the remains of the cloches since last year. This is to heat up the ground a little before the peas go out which they will soon be ready to do. I also dug out the third bed in this section where the red onions are to go. Red onions bolted on us last year,we may have put them in too late and it warmed up too quickly for them.We will try again this year with them.
That just leaves the 4th bed here for brassicas and some horse manure will be added to that in the next few days.
Potatoes will go into the end bed near the fence and this year for the first time the whole plot will be productive! Then we can turn our attention to the new plot .

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I spent a few hours on the allotment this morning, I had the place to myself until it was nearly time for me to go.In the autumn we dug a trench for the beans to which we added compost over the winter,but I decided today it was in the wrong place! If it was left running across the width of the plot the beans would shade any plants behind them so now I will have 4 smaller beds in this area. The photo above is the new bean bed which I dug over and then dug out a deep trench which to which I added yellowed PBS leaves and any of the compost which I dug up from the previous trench which would have been running at right angles to the end of this bed.I will bring out some compost from the bins at home to fill it up.The whole idea is to provide moisture retention for the beans in the summer and they do not like animal manure.

The edge of the new bean bed in the foreground with the new pea bed at the other end, there is room for two more good sized beds here now.Today I just marked them out and will dig them during the week if the weather holds. I was not sure if I could dig when I went out today but the ground was fine, I think friable is the word!

The garlic is growing apart from some yellowed leaves. It is in a raised bed to help drainage as garlic does not like getting its feet wet, which is what happens in this country.

The autumn sown onions are looking a bit sorry for themselves and most of them have disappeared! We will have to set more soon so I don't think the winter sowing was good from the onion point of view.

Our tea room on the plots,Zwena has provided a kettle a micro wave and a farmhouse style table and chairs for us.It is nice if there is a sudden shower to retire and have a cuppa!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Link Within

Just a short post today on the Link Within gadget! I saw this on Catherine's blog Dispatches from the Deise and Lynda's Blog Foodfunfarm. I followed the link and got it on my own blog I was actually seeing posts I had completely forgotten about!
When I changed the background the link within did not change so the writing was unreadable. I went back to the site and emailed them thinking I may never receive a reply or it will be too technical, but no! A couple of hours later I got a lovely email saying they had visited my blog and it was now updated, which it was! I think that is excellent service in this day and age and deserves a mention.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

St Patrick's Day

The photo was taken in Gran canaria on St Patrick's day 2006,
I have changed my layout and header pic as we are coming up to celebrating our national saint's day soon. When we were in Gran Canaria, I have to say it was the best St Patrick's Day I have had! The sun shone from a cloudless sky, there was a parade, I think their first out there and there was singing and dancing in the streets.A group of friends and ourselves met up out there I have lots of photos which I will put up nearer the day.
Post update!! Anyone who logged on last night or this morning saw a different background to my blog. I had to change it because those floating shamrocks were driving me crazy. I changed the header pic to one of the allotment taken in May of last year.

Peas to go

I had intended to go out to the allotment today and spend some hours out there as my students are now gone and I am not tied to meal times! The day dawned cold and sunny but it is now wet and gale force winds, we even had a hail shower.
I planted my seeds of Karina second early peas instead, they have been soaking overnight in warm water to soften them and hopefully speed up the germination process.I got these from seedaholic and they are also organic. I used recycled loo rolls and newspaper pots This may seem a bit fiddly and time consuming before planting seeds but when it comes to planting out it does not disturb the roots as the pots are planted in to the ground and saves so much time at that point.When I am making the pots I leave the end open so the roots can grow through. There is also the problem of mice eating the seeds when they are planted directly in to the ground, so a bit of time spent at this point can save an awful lot of time and effort later. The kids could make up these pots on a rainy day too.
I think the remainder of the day is for knitting curled up in the warm indoors!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More seed sowing

I sowed more seeds today, in this container are a tray of Mussleburg Leeks, we are going to try successional sowing with them this year. They were late going in last year so we are getting in a bit earlier with them now.Some sown in modules so no root disturbance and others sown directly outdoors late in the month.The second tray in here are modules of brussels sprouts,if they all germinate there will be more than enough for our use.I read somewhere about putting tinfoil behind the seed trays to reflect light on to the seedlings so I decided to give it a try it, may stop them getting long and spindly like the earlier sowings.It is just tinfoil wrapped over cardboard and attached to the lid with duct tape.

Peas soaking in warm water for sowing tomorrow, the first seedlings are quite strong now and seem to have survived the move outside, as soon as the weather improves a bit they will be put in to their bed on the allotment.

Red salad onion seeds in their modules again they will be planted out without too much root disturbance and later sowings should keep a supply of them going throughout the summer.They were covered with a clear plastic lid and got the tinfoil treatment also.

" Hi, missus you do realise those feeders are empty"! This cheeky robin sat on the hazel staring in at me yesterday. I have wild bird feeders outside the front of the house, I knew they were empty at this point until I bought more food in the afternoon.He did not move even though he could see me and even waited until I got the camera and focused on him!