Thursday, April 30, 2009

Potting on

I have not been blogging for a few days, so much to do! The tomato plants in the mini greenhouse were almost screaming for attention to be repotted as they were up to the roof of it.
I repotted most of them and also the dill which is growing strongly.They were repotted into larger pots with John Innes soil based compost mixed with some fish,blood and bone. I had to remove one shelf as they were up to that which leaves me seriously short of space.
The ousted plants around the patio table,Sweetcorn,cauliflower,red cabbage, brussel Sprouts,spring onions and marigolds, can you imagine the tete a tete?! These do not need the protection of the mini greenhouse any longer and they will be out on the plot in a few days.
Our communal greenhouse had only one old table and we needed some new shelving, a very good blogging friend and gardener relocated some and delivered it to the plot on Monday morning.This is the before view of the greenhouse.
All dickyed up with the new shelving in place, thanks Liam not only a good gardener but a great recycler as well!
On Monday I dug over another new bed as we will need it soon, the ground is nice and soft with all the rain so I got quite a bit done.The first and second earlies are up over ground and hopefully the danger of frost is past but I know the first week in May is usually our last frost date.
This evening I will have time to go around my favourtie blogs to see what everyone has been up to recently.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Allotments

It is a cold wintry wet morning here so no gardening outside! In response to a comment by Latane wondering what allotments are I decided to post about it for the uninitiated.
Allotments have a long and chequered history which I won't go into too much ,suffice to say they began as far back as the 17th century in England.There had been common land available up to then where poor peasant farmers and labourers could graze some animals and grow food to feed their families but even back then land was becoming valuable and wealthy landowners began enclosing this common land.
Around the mid 1800s the government passed the first Allotments Act. It was felt it would give the poor some self respect and alleviate some of their misery. The allotments were introduced around cities as most of the poor lived in squalid conditions in tenements without any gardens or green areas.
During the war years the Dig for Victory campaign meant every available green area was given over to food production and there were 1,500,00 allotment plots which produced up to one fifth of the country's food. Allotments then became open to everyone not just the poor.
In England they became a way of life for a lot of people, mostly a male preserve!As well as feeding their families the plot holders were able to sell produce at markets.Allotments holders became recycling concious long before it became fashionable, nothing was thrown out if it could be used in any way on the plot, as in greenhouses which served for many years, being made from old windows and panes of glass!
They have never been a huge undertaking in Ireland as we were a more agricultural based economy. After we became a republic the great estates were divided up and the County Councils began a building programme giving cottages with one acre of land to the working people. Up to this time a lot of country people were migrant workers following the work from place to place in their locality as the bigger farmers needed help with ploughing and harvesting.
My own Grandparents became the proud owners of one of these cottages and my main memories of my Grandfather are of him outdoors digging in the garden where enough food was grown to feed the household. They also kept 2 pigs which were bought as baby bonhams and fattened to sell on. I remember as a child sitting up beside him
in the donkey cart taking the pigs to sell in the town and bringing home the months supply of flour and grain which were their only bought purchases!My own parents always had a productive garden both for veg and flowers so I suppose this was passed on to us.
This generation passed on and the price of land went through the roof, we became more affluent and convenience foods came into vogue and for the most part we forgot how real food tasted.
In Cork city allotments or market gardens as they were called had a long tradition but as land got more and more expensive and the city needed more building land the allotments were built on without too much fuss.
In the last number of years with all the processed food scares and we want a return to food without chemicals the allotment movement has gained momentum again.
Our allotments took shape about 10 years ago as Zwena who owns the land became more aware of how lonely the once busy farms were now with all the machines doing the work and she started the Hydro gardening project in Blarney, she was very forward thinking and now can give advice to others in the same position who want to set up allotments on their land as more and more people look to grow their own veg.
The plots are rented out on a yearly basis to the plot holders, the plots can be any size but around 20x 30 feet are more or less the norm it can look small until you start digging! Our city councils are being inundated with requests from people looking for land to be designated as allotments now. So great is the interest in them that our national TV station has got involved with chef Richard Corrigan in setting up allotments on two sites in Cork City where he has 24 volunteers to begin growing their own veg and keeping pigs and hens.
When my daughter Kathryn and myself became involved 3 years ago we were both working fulltime so it took us most of that time to get fully up and running but now that I am retired from gainfull employment we have taken on the second plot this year. When we started I went online looking for advice and information and set up my blog with this in mind. I found no allotment bloggers from Ireland but lots in England and the UK where I gleaned lots of information.Recently Irish gardeners are coming online and one such is Sharon who with 3 young friends has just taken on a plot in Co Wicklow (The garden of Ireland) and has started blogging about their adventure on plot 103Some have no garden just a balcony like eight square metres who veg grows on every inch of the balcony! Liam's blog is about both veg and flowers which he grows from seed, lots of them!
This is a bit long winded but I hope it answers your question Latane and clarifies the allotments for anyone reading my blog and wondering what I am talking about.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hydro Allotments 1

The forecast for yesterday was not great with rain moving in over the country but I was sitting here reading some blogs when I realised the sun was shining so I took myself out to the allotment.I promised an update on the Hydro farm so here it is but in 2 posts as I cannot upload more than 5 pics at a time.I went out around 10.00am and stayed until 2.00pm and the rain arrived about 2.30 and it has been more or less raining since! When I arrived out the only other person was Rhoda tending her very neat plot, she was in the process of making mini cloches from plastic drinks bottles for the seedlings.
Another pic of the enterprising allotment ingenuity! Mike's plot with recycled clothes horses set up for peas and beans!
The first lot of 5 new plots which were opened early in the year. They are all looking very neat and have been divided into beds and paths with lots growing.
The second lot of new plots just opened a couple of weeks ago.They were all snapped up immediately and the plot holders have been working hard on them. I know they have in their potatoes and some brassicas already!
Another lot of new plots in the making, due to continued demand Zwena decided to open some more so as not to disappoint people who are really keen to start growing their own this year, I think there are 9 new plots here and only 5 are up for grabs as of yesterday!The interest in growing is phenomenal this year, the recession may have something to do with it but I also notice a lot of young families around so it is also a novel way of getting fresh air and exercise and spending fun family time together.The tea room is getting a big make over also with more tables and a fridge has been added to the micro wave and electric kettle maybe because we are spending more and more time out there! Zwena is planning on having a spectacular Open Day this year following on from the success of last years hugely successful one.

Hydro Allotments 2

I was digging out the sweetcorn bed again, taking up a barrow load of weeds etc and bringing back a barrow load of manure. I had a light bulb moment! We were wondering what to put in to the other part of the old cold frame if you remember Kathryn is trying the mushroom experiment ( she put in horse manure sowed the seeds and must leave it covered with newspaper and the plastic for ten days )in one part of it which leaves about 2 thirds of it free. I thought the very place to put our courgettes so began filling it up with manure which was a slow job.Zwena came on the scene and immediately got Scotty to bring down a load in the digger, photo shows Zwena directing operations and in fairness Scotty dropped it neatly in to the frame.
Why was Scotty using the digger? He is moving the straggling heap of rotting horse manure into a nice high bank, Zwena does this on a regular basis, firstly to tidy it up but it also exposes the well rotted centre of the pile.At this time of year it is done for a specific purpose it is nearly pumpkin sowing time!
If you have been a reader of this blog for some time you will remember Zwena with some of our pumpkin harvest from last year from what was growing on the bank.If not you can read about it here or follow the pumpkin label lower on the side bar for all posts on them
Our Spinach is up and there are tiny rows of green where the carrots and beetroot are sown they cannot be weeds because they are in a straight line!
A view of the refurbished cold frame with the mushroom project under the black plastic and full of compost in the other part waiting for the courgette seeds in a couple of weeks.They should have a nice hot bed by then.In the foreground is the sweetcorn bed, I put in lots of manure and it will be dug over again in about a week incorporating the manure into the soil and hopefully any annual weeds will come up in the meantime and we can get those out before sowing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Herbs

This is the Dill which was repotted last week and put outdoors in the mini greenhouse.It is growing upwards quickly.I have heard of the herb but not used it before I think it is supposed to go well with potato salad ,I will have to read up on its uses as it looks as if we will have quite a bit of it.The Basil which again was repotted into individual pots but quite a lot more of it!Basil is also a good companion plant for tomatoes and asparagus, it has a lot of culinary uses as well and I think is used to make pesto.I will have to google how to do that if these all survive.
Herbs still on the windowsill indoors. The sage is slow but coming on,marjoram doing well and also the thyme after a slow start.The parsley has now reduced to 2 minuscule seedlings ,for such a popular herb I did not think it would be a problem to grow from seed!
The anthirrinum (snapdragons)are doing well but only on one side of the tray!Calabrese are showing and another sowing of lettuce this one is butterhead.
Squash has to be the star performer and a little scary the way it shoots up! These were sown on the 16th, 8 days ago and one of them is about 2ins high already.
I have been out on the plot nearly every day but have not had time to take photos as I am usually running for the school! Lots of what we can call cosmetic work done and it is starting to look good. I will do an update on that tomorrow as we have lots of new plot holders who are working up a storm.
We have had a seed swap going in the tearoom with seeds and seed potatoes so the newcomers can try a little of everything, we may have a plant swap soon as we will all have lots of extra plants.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Edible Bouquet

Another bunch of PSB which I cut yesterday, I was late coming home and almost had it in the pot when I remembered to take a photo which is why it is a bit blurred I just aimed the camera and clicked! It is nice to have something to bring home at this time of the year.It can be steamed with the leaves and stalks on it is so tender.
It is all systems go trying to get the new plot underway as we have so much to get out, the peas are flying up on their pea sticks but something was having a nibble on one or two of them so I put this netting around them temporarily until I take out stakes to cordon them off properly, I have some spares in the greenhouse to replace them
This is going to be the bed for the Sweetcorn when we finish digging it out. Stephen was dispatched up with the pick axe to break up the sods of scutch grass which is as tough as old boots and all the decaying planks of timber which are buried in the ground, another couple of days digging should do it and the corn is ready to go as it is in pots in the mini greenhouse waiting for its turn to go.The bed behind the greenhouse has the off shoots of the Globe Artichoke. The remains of a cold frame were revealed in the high grass behind the greenhouse, Kathryn and Gemma cleared it out last week and put in fresh compost and the section under black plastic is for Kathryn's mushroom growing expiriment!
This bed now has 2 more rows of onions,Carrots which Kathryn grew in peat pots, I broke off the end of the pots as the carrots dont like their roots disturbed.I have seeds of the beetroot Chiogga to go in here as well, the girls put in lettuce plants which they had grown from seed in their beds and they were delighted to see their onions pushing up green shoots!
The early potatoes, Orla, Colleen and Charlotte are pushing up over the soil but I covered them up as we can still get some frost and some of the pops on the plots have got a touch of frost a few nights.
More new plots are being dug out as more and more people are enquiring about them, there are lots of new faces and now there is nearly always someone working on a plot anytime I go out.These will bring our total to about 41 and there are a few families with children coming out too.Big changes on the Hydro Alottments this year it is growing into quite a community.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Faux Stone Trough

The word faux is a really nice word,somehow it does not seem to mean false, just a kind of copy! I had read about making these stone looking troughs or flower pots and again it was on my list of things to try.With my supply of donated flower pots I decided this was as good a time as any.The first pic is of the completed trough or tub filled with compost waiting on plants.
I began with a plain white plastic tub, it does not have to be white it can be any colour.Glue ,I used PVA which was painted on thickly and left to get tacky and either sand or I used a mix of small stones and sand, sold in the builders suppliers as 'filling'.
It is not a quick job to do as each side is pasted, shake on the sand thickly and press down to dry, I also did the opposite inside edge. I left it overnight each time but if it was sunny and warm it would probably dry faster.The first side drying, when it is dry shake off the excess leaving a thin covering.
The final application and it is completed only to wait for it to dry out.
I have not been gardening or blogging for the weekend, busy catching up on housework and on Sunday my student who is from land locked Switzerland wanted to go sea kayaking so I made arrangements for him to go to Sandycove near Kinsale on Sunday. This is the class of beginners coming up the river after spending 3 hours out.We drove back around some of the coast from Kinsale to Roberts Cove to Fountainstown and Crosshaven.It was a lovely sunny afternoon and there were a lot of people taking advantage of the time to walk or sit in the sunshine.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Old plants and new


I have a new link on the side bar to a Gardening by Letter project started by Anna of flowergardengirl blog.Those of us who have joined send her a card a month for 12 months with little gardening gifts included, Anna then sends them out to the recipient for that month. I am Dec so I am looking forward to my cards arriving. The project began in march, you can read about it by clicking on the photo.
More of the past weeks back garden make over. There is one central flower bed which I have kept in the middle of the gravel. This is a patch I have tried to grow vegetables on by bringing in top soil and emptying compost on over the years.I gave that up when we started on the allotment. It had got overgrown and neglected last year so this year I redug it and added new compost. These are two of my old faithfulls which come up ever year through thick and thin and a blanket of weeds! A variegated Hosta and an old fashioned Peony Rose.

In the clearout I came across this which I thought was a grass but its plant tag was buried in the ground next to it, it is actually a red hot poker which I had bought early last year plonked in the ground and forgot about. I apologised profusely to it while cutting back and tidying it up and hopefully it will forgive the oversight and bloom this year.

Another donated flower trough ,it has been backed with a trellis and there is an ivy and sweet pea planted in it to cover the bins at the back. I have also put in some lettuce as it can be functional as well as decorative!

The trellis in place with the sweet pea just in last sat.I bought these in Atlantic Homecare, they were crowded into little pots with about 12 plants for 1.99e

The original view of the water barrel and compost bins which I am trying to beautify before D.Michelle gets married in late August.It is a time of year when most things are past their best so any ideas for blooms for August would be more than welcome.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hodge Podge Weekend


I spent some time last week clearing my back garden of overgrown grass and spread 1 and half tons of gravel around after covering the whole area with weed block membrane. During the weekend I planted up various pots and put in plants, photos still in camera so I am going with the Tomato transplanting ones instead.First I cleared out both mini greenhouses as they were developing a bit of a 'lean'.I levelled out the gravel underneath and righted them.Then I checked all the tomato plants which are all coming on great, fed everything and rearranged the shelves.I had to remove one of the lower shelves as the sunflowers are getting too tall ,they are on the bottom with the red cabbage plants. The second one on the right has 3 Pumpkins on the bottom,Kathryn had started these from seed, these are the ones that made it this far so they have been repotted into individual pots with compost,blood fish and bone and fed with seaweed extract.
In one of them I came across this tray of Golden Sunrise Tomatoes, I had forgotten about. When I was repotting the other ones I had left these to see if there really was much benefit in replanting up to half the stem or up to the the bottom leaves. I think it speaks for itself. They were all tangled and toppled over so I thought I would repot the lot of them into individual pots with the compost mix,adding some crushed eggshells as well.On the top shelf to the right are the 2 Berner Rose brought back down from the ICU and they are bigger than the others which have been out here since early March.I hope they can adjust to the cooler temps out here.

The repotted Golden Sunrise which I now have 39 of!They are much smaller in size than the ones which were repotted in March

On Sat I thought I would bake something for Easter Sunday, forgetting my food mixer has gone to its happy hunting ground after about 15 years of use.Once I had made the decision to bake I was trying to make up my mind when I thought of Lyndas blog Food, fun and farm life in Africa. I turned on the computer and found these lemon muffins with the aid of the Linkwithin gadget.If you do not already have this on your blog get it! I have been reading posts of my own which I had forgotten about.These are a batter mixture so no Mixer required.

I had no lemon or yellow food colouring so instead made butter icing which was the right colour much more lemon than the photo shows,put a wodge on top and spread it with a knife ,added sprinkles and hey presto ,lemon Muffins, they did not last long by Sunday evening all that remains is the photo! There are lots of other flavours, I am going to try the banana next. Thanks Lynda ,never stuck for a recipe with your blog online.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Getting the Spuds in


The British Queens which have been sprouting in the shed at home are now ready to go out to the plot.We spent most of Saturday afternoon digging out a new bed on the new plot,and putting these in. I had been out myself on Friday and began the digging.Stephen had already turned the sods on this bed so I was really just re digging. It was slow going until Mike came down to have a look and told me I was doing a lot of work I did not have to. I had been digging over the soil and pulling out roots etc.He said I should just dig trenches, fill them with the composted manure ,put in the spuds and fill the soil in on top.Earthing up and harvesting the potatoes will ensure the soil is turned for the next crop.

I got on so well with the trenches right across the width of the plot that I began up the side of the plot with more. These are truly Lazy Beds as I dug the trenches and just turned the sods in on the potatoes. The bed across the width has the British Queens and the ones up the side of the plot has 3 trenches each of Kerr's Pinks, main crop and Golden Wonders late main crop.These were last minute arrivals as they were left in the tea room as surplus to requirements by other growers, there is getting to be quite a collection on the table now between seeds and potatoes!

Kathryn and Gemma admiring their handiwork! While I was doing the potatoes they were digging out a new bed. The soil on this side is crumbly and very black we think much better than on our first plot.Some of it has not been turned for years.

Stephen filling the wheelbarrow with the sods then taking them up to the compost heap and bringing back a barrow full of composted manure to us.

A view of work done on the new plot, the girls and Kevin have their beds near the greenhouse, Kathryn and Gemma continued down from them with the new bed.The potatoe bed runs across the plot next to them and the Lazy Beds up the side of the plot.This now leaves two squares one at each end to dig out but these are for summer planting in May so little and often over the next few weeks should see the whole plot dug over.
I found Primrose plants in amongst the weeds and scutch grass and moved them down to the bed at the back of the greenhouse with the Globe Artichokes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Greetings to all.

Easter is a time of new beginnings and new life so I thought I would share the photos of baby Callum's Christening.The big occasion was on the 14th of march so he is bigger and cuter now at 12 weeks today.

The proud parents Janice and son Billy, Callum slept all the way through the ceremony just woke for the photos later

Family photo of Janice's family , Callum's big brother Alex was so proud when he realised that the Christening gown was the one he had worn for his,it made his day!

Baby Callum posing, D.Kathryn had been knitting and made the matinee coat,bonnet and boots for him/
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The 2 Nannies posing! Myself and Janice's mother Mary.
I hope everyone has a lovely Easter and enjoys some family time.