Monday, August 25, 2014

Between the Showers

There was nothing done on the plot since Friday due to the worsening weather over the weekend.The greenhouse needed watering so I went out this evening. I intended pulling the remainder of the beetroot and the carrots and clearing the bed for the winter.The carrots had been very slow germinating and I thought not a great return from them, until I removed the Enviromesh which has sheltered them all summer.
The beetroot has been fantastic  all year, all from one sowing ,I have been using the thinnings as baby beetroot in Balsamic vinegar but they have now grown tennis ball size, I think they like being under the mesh the same as the carrots.
 I had pulled some carrots  to thin them out and I didn't think they were doing at all well, did I get a shock?!
 I began pulling them but then found that some were in bunches and it would be better to thin them out and leave the others grow on a bit longer.There is a bunch of baby carrots, a bunch of full grown carrots and a bunch of the purple skinned ones and as much more still in the bed.
 I thought I may have over done the sand mix in the bed as it seemed to dry out very quickly in the hot weather, it did help to grow straight ( for the most part) well shaped carrots.
Sweetcorn, tomatoes and more Sugar snap peas completed the harvest.

I weeded the bed ,cleaned it up and recovered it with the enviromesh as there is a second wave of carrot fly due in September I think?
 The carrots are clean and unmarked from carrot fly or slugs so hopefully the remainder will escape too.
The onion bed put to sleep for next season. I covered the bed with old mushroom compost, cardboard and today finished off with Mypex to keep nutrients in and have the bed ready to go next year as soon as the ground warms up.

The seaweed is amazing after all the rain, the two lots which I had put down early in the week had completely dried out and shrunk but I was surprised to see today that it is all back to its original bulk as it seems to have soaked up the rain?!
 There was a programme on RTE1 this evening called Gliondar about unusual hobbies and this episode was about growing potatoes!
A competition was underway in Co Kerry called Spud Off to see who would grow the best potato. They were using sea weed as a mulch and digging it in with the seed potato also. I had missed some of it when I turned on the TV so now I must check on the RTE player to see if its on there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting a Headstart on Next Year!


We have finally dug out the last corner of the plot, its been sitting under plastic sheeting for months to break down the high grass.The plastic was removed and the dead grass could be easily pulled away making it possible for a fellow plotter to come in with a rotavator to break up the ground.
 We then dug it over thoroughly and removed the scutch grass roots and the stones.
 I went on a road trip near Kinsale on Mon and brought back 4 bags of seaweed in the boot of the car!
Wellie boots are compulsory for this task. I did'nt want to get seaweed from the harbour area as it is possibly polluted with diesel from boats and various other unmentionables.
The seaweed was not loose at the waters edge so it meant  collecting it at low tide, and taking conservation into account. I took a large scissors and  cut approx half of each plant leaving the roots still attached to the rocks.The 4 bags only covered about 1/3 of the proposed potato patch for next year so at least 2 more  foraging trips are necessary.
It is thickly covered with the seaweed which will act as a mulch over winter and is good for potatoes also, the ground will be ready for planting seed potatoes instead of playing catch up as we have been doing all of this season.
I had covered some of it with this large cardboard box but this evening that was removed to cover the cleared onion bed. The onions have been drying over the past weeks and are now plaited to hang in storage.
The bed has been cleared and covered with old mushroom compost and covered now with the cardboard so that is one more bed ready for next season, we are clearing and readying as we go.

The brassica cage which is in the corner of the above pics. Brussels Sprouts , Kale and cabbage are doing well but the netting has served its time and a few holes have appeared through which the white cabbage butterfly got in so some caterpillar damage is visible on the sprouts and cabbage. We are not pulling the Kale just cutting leaves  carefully from each plant and trying to make them last as long as possible.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer on the Plot


I have been on holidays abroad, enjoying the summer sunshine here at home, spending days on the plot  and while taking some photos did not turn on the computer to upload so, not to bore anyone, collages are the way to go.
Various harvests, you will notice courgettes feature in all of them, but getting more colourful as the season progresses!
Beetroot,carrots, courgettes,cucumber, chillis,Kale,lettuce,Mange Tout,onions,sweet peppers,sweetcorn and potatoes, not bad for such a late start on a new plot!

The onions drying in the sunshine.Chilli peppers (our first attempt ever at growing these)!Tomatoes reddening on the vines at last, our first red pepper is in there too! I love how colourful the harvest gets as the season unfolds.
The  story of our pumpkins. they were started off in pots at home and repotted as needed, they were  finally planted out on the plot in early June.Clockwise from top left is their progress, it was slow until we got some heavy downpours of rain and then they just took off!
These are Rouges Vif d'Etampes "a large, flat, heavy ribbed pumpkin with bright orange red skin.The fruit can weigh 10kg and stores well, very unusual variety. The kids just want some to hollow out and light candles in for Hallow'een!

Some edibles I remembered to take photos of! Top left, Ginger, Lemon & Courgette jam. Roasted Beetroot in Red (Ruosso)Balsamic Vinegar. Chocolate & Courgette Cupcakes.
The final pic maybe should have gotten its own space but however!
This is Jim Mc Namara of the Organic College in Dromcolliher who featured regularly on my favourite gardening programme Garrai Glas. A down to earth programme which gave the warts and all stories and film of real people gardening , the slugs ate their veg, blight got their spuds and they all got their hands dirty kind of programme.The programme was presented by Sile Nic Chonaonaigh, I had all 4 series recorded on my TV box but then had to get a replacement and lost all of them! They can be viewed on Youtube if anyone is interested.
I was at the Charleville Agricultural Show and bumped into this lovely gentleman and he posed quite happily  for his very first selfie, I was not letting him go anyway!
The Organic College website
That is the story of the summer so far as we continue to enjoy sunny days with the odd thunder shower in between

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pumpkins & Pests

The Pumpkin patch after the recent heavy rains. There are 4 plants here and at the moment romping all over 'their' patch.I have usually planted pumpkins where I would have dug up the first early potatoes but this year we didn't have any earlies so seconds and main crop are still in the ground and the pumpkins needed their space out of the pots.
This is a patch which was under plastic to kill off the overgrown grass, it has just been roughly dug to loosen the earth and some compost from the Municipal site put down.
Some of the grass is beginning to come through again but hopefully the pumpkin foliage will keep most of it down.
They are stretching out at least 4 to 5 feet now from where they were planted with loads of flowers and small pumpkins along their length.
This is the largest at the moment, about tennis ball size, the rest are less than golf ball size. We are now wondering how many to leave on the stalk to mature and will we cut the stalks at a manageable length?
According to the seed catalogue they are;
Pumpkin Rouge Vif D'Etampes,
a large ,flat, heavy ribbed pumpkin with bright orange-red skin.The fruit can weigh up to 10 kg.A very unusual variety



As for the pests, I put down the organic Slug Gone fibre (see previous post)  not on the peas as I said originally but at the end of the Brassica bed where the first 4 Brussels Sprout plants were being nibbled.
The length here is approx 4 feet by about 1 inch deep, after the rain it has hardened into a crust and we will see if it deters the slugs from going munch in the night!
 It was €5 for the smallest pack which did stretch but if it lasts all season and works then it is value for money.
Major drawback is the smell of sheep, not for using close to the house I would imagine!
The very heavy rain has improved the soil considerably because no amount of watering was wetting it enough in the continued warm dry weather.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Green, Irish and Organic

The best thing about garden shows is you can see any new developments and ask questions, these are some I saw while browsing around the Mallow Garden festival.They are also interesting as 2 of them are completely Irish made and even further recommendation is they are based in Cork!
     The first one is Wormcast,  I have not  used but intend to use it soon.It is 100% pure wormcast and a natural organic fertiliser.It is also child and pet safe, very important if you are using it around the garden at home.
 They are on Facebook (who isn't these days)?! www.facebook.com/gsfertiliser
Their website for more info is www.gsfertiliser.ie




I have mentioned this before and have also used it, its a bit pricey but I have to say an excellent product. it was also available at Mallow at a special show price but it is also in all good garden centres. I was not aware this was manufactured in Cork and is owned by a cooperative of about 30 farming families in West Cork, based in Bantry.It is a probiotic fertiliser and soil improver.
They also have a website with a rather romantic title!
www.celticworm.com
 Both of these products are totally organic and as I said made in Cork!
The third one does not have that distinction but I found it fascinating all the same.Its a product called SlugGone, contains no chemicals and is totally safe for organic gardening,is environmentally friendly and is pet safe.It is actually made from wool as it is a byproduct of the wool textile industry.
 It is a slow release fertiliser, forming a mat when wet which suppresses weeds and the fibres make it 'uncomfortable' for slugs to wander around on it!
It does not kill them so presumably they live to munch somewhere else, it is not new to the market in the UK as some of the recommendations mention using it for 30 years. The only Irish supplier was in attendance at Mallow and was very informative about his product.
I did buy this and as yet have not used it but on Sat on the allotment I noticed a few big black slugs around so it will be put out in the next few days.
 Contact for this is Mr David Brennan, email  slug.gone@hotmail.com
For something completely different, our harvest on Sat. The radishes were gift grub from a fellow plotter, baby beetroot thinnings which were roasted, cooled and pickled in Balsamic vinegar. Spinach, mange tout, the first of the courgettes and some of our Charlotte second earlies. We have had a glut of lettuce of all things as the plants outside caught up with the ones indoors in the polytunnel the weather has been so warm!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mallow Homes & Gardens Show 2014



 Mallow is unique as a show as it has 25 permanent gardens since the very first show back in 1999 and they have been maintained and improved each year as different  companies take over a garden for the show but the basic structure remains intact.
 My moan which I may as well get out of the way now is the almost complete lack of vegetables on show or on sale throughout the show!

There were 5 million plants on sale this year ( I wonder who counted)?! , the Show gardens, various garden furniture & landscaping companies, pets were well catered for with pet shows and retail outlets plus all the usual stalls.
 The best things are, the number of specialist plant nurseries who all bring along their plants, who are immensely knowledgeable and will advise and talk about their plants they are not just employed to stand there all day and sell.
 There are a number of free hour long talks by well known gardening experts, who live and grow here in the South and are fully conversant with any problems which may arise.
Two of our best, Peter Dowdall, who is a well known author on gardens and all aspects of gardening and Charlie Wilkins who is the well known Irish Examiner gardening columnist for many years.

 I did not get to any of Charlie's talks but I did get an hour of Peter, on shape and structure in the herbaceous border.Passionate about plants would best describe him!
Some recycling!

 I would love a secluded corner like this
Primrose Vialli, we bought these at Bloom last year as they seemed to be the 'must have' plant, sadly none of ours performed like this!
Nice way to cover an old pipe or tree trunk

 My shopping, for another day!



Friday, June 27, 2014

Pumpkins & Courgettes



A short post, we have had much needed rain for the past two days and the sun has come back out this evening. A visit to the plot was on the cards, while it was raining lightly when I went out , by the time I came home the sun was shining from a clear blue sky.
 The Courgette and salad bed is becoming a jungle as the plants jostle for space, the inter planted lettuce has come on as much as the lettuce planted in the polytunnel.
There are 5 courgette plants but so far this yellow one is the only one bearing fruit. This one is Parador F1, recommended as probably the best yellow courgette available, high yielding with a nutty flavour. Its a first for us so not sure how large they will grow or even how large to allow them to grow?
 The green courgettes plants are reliable Defender but no fruit or even flowers to report as yet despite the hot weather!
We have a Pumpkin patch! These 4 are Rouge Vif d'Etampes.Bright orange skin and can grow up to 10kgs and can be used for soups, pies etc, even the seeds can be toasted and eaten. They  were growing in pots but were about 4 foot long and needed their space. We didn't have a fully cultivated spot for them or wouldn't for another week or so by which time they would huge and cramped in the pots.
 This evening I removed the square of plastic which has been covering this ground for a number of weeks, the skutch grass had died off  and I was able to pull it up quite easily but the roots are another matter. I cleared the surface vegetation and covered the ground with bags of Bord na Mona farmyard manure. I dug quite deep holes and added the Celtic Gold soil enricher as they are very hungry plants. It was easier to plant them this large as I could see which direction they were growing in and was able to plant them with the trailing stem going the way I wanted them to grow, the stems are about 4 foot long at the moment!
Baby Pumpkin at the base of the flower, each plant has at least one of these.We will have to decide how big to let the plants grow and how many pumpkins to allow grow to full size, quality or quantity?! It may all be decided for us by the weather,the  slugs and all the other predators and pests!
 Lots of pumpkins have been brought home from schools in tiny pots and I wonder how many of them will make it to October? They are sitting on kitchen windowsills drying up in the heat!
 Pumpkins are big plants and will need space to grow as they romp through the flowerbeds!
They need watering and repotting as they grow very fast under the right conditions.My rule of thumb is ,when  the roots are visible through the end of the pot it is time to repot meaning a larger size pot with fresh compost without disturbing the rootball .These were in large 12 ins pots before planting out today.
 It will be an interesting experiment to see how they grow where the skutch grass is bound to come through soon, or will they keep it down if they are strong enough plants?!
Watch this space!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bits & Bobs

The weather has suddenly become glorious, sunny days with temps up in the late teens and forecasting early 20s! It brings its own problems  with watering young  plants, especially in the polytunnel or greenhouse.
The tomatoes have found their permanent home at last, I think they are smaller than they should be for this time of the season, they are setting blossom and have only one truss to each plant?!

This Celtic Gold is being touted as the new wonder compost, guaranteeing stupendous growth !It has been enriched with worm cast, a bit pricey at €17 for 2 bags. I bought 2  at The Pavilion Garden centre in Ballygarvan and added it around the tomato plants and lettuce in the tunnel. I will be expecting a huge improvement immediately!
After the Blight scare of last week the potatoes actually have recovered and grown new foliage and there has been no further discolouring of the leaves. The Charlotte have sprouted  lovely lilac flowers so heres hoping it was just a scare.

Lettuce and Spinach takes up the other side of the tunnel, lettuce is being sown every two weeks to keep a supply going over the season. I have planted some outside also to slow down the growth as we don't want all of them maturing together.
A pleasant surprise this evening in the tunnel, strawberries turning red almost overnight!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blight?!





We had been warned of possible Blight conditions on last Sat and the optimum day for spraying was thurs but as we had a yellow weather alert for up to 30 mls of rain on fri that did not seem to be a good idea.
 I bought the mix for Bluestone, which is what is in the off the shelf spray Bordeaux mixture which is a recommended organic remedy.

Ravenscourt garden centre supplies the ingredients  ( Washing crystals & the blue Copper sulphate) and the mix ratio, it suited me as we only have a small amount of potatoes and of them only the Pink Fir Apple are not Blight resistant. The rain stopped on fri evening and I thought I would go out and spray as the weather had turned humid and misty, ideal blight conditions.
I was stopped in my tracks as soon as I reached the plot as the leaves on the Sarpo Axona were discoloured and seemed to be getting worse as I was looking at them! The worst affected were at the right hand side of the potato patch, a few were affected on the other rows and the Pink Fir Apple seemed relatively unaffected?!
 I had dissolved the washing crystals in hot water  and allowed to cool at home, I added the bluestone and sprayed the whole plot of potatoes.
We were out early on sat morning and I was amazed to find they did not look any worse than they did the previous night, I thought they would be wiped out!
A couple of others arrived with the same intention of spraying, all plots had some slight damage but none as bad as our Sarpo Axona?I was told by someone who always grows the blight resistant varieties that their foliage may get damaged but they grow new leaves and the tubers remain unaffected!
Close up of some leaves.
The courgettes seemed to be damaged also but as far as I know they don't get blight?
2 Sweetcorn plants had leaf damage, again I don't  think they should be affected by blight but I would love to know if anyone else had the same problem.
 The rain on fri was absolutely torrential and quite cold for this time of year and may have caused the blackening but then is it blight on the spuds or not?!
While I was cutting off damaged leaves and clearing them Billy was moving down the perimeter with the fork and turned over a fair amount of ground, 3 corners of the plot are now cleared which leaves around 1 third to be cultivated.
The weather has continued changeable and wet but summer is supposed to begin on wed!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sweetcorn & Salads






Another photo to compare to the header pic, taken from roughly the same angle!there are now 4 raised beds completed and in use plus the potato section and the polytunnel.
 Son Billy made the bed for the sweetcorn on Sat morning and filled with compost. I have discovered an organic local compost supplier, our local City Council !`I took my own bags and you fill yourself and pay €2 per bag. It is composted completely from green waste brought to the recycling centre, still affectionately known as 'The Dump' on the outskirts of the city.
 I topped it up today with 2 bags of Farmyard manure  ( bought prepacked).
The Sweetcorn was sown in seed trays then potted  on into 3" pots then into 6" pots, if the bed had not been ready in the next few days then they would have been repotted into even larger pots.My rule of thumb for repotting is, if any of the roots are visible through the end of the pot then it is time to move on as it holds back the plant.
Sweetcorn is recommended to be sown in a square formation to aid pollination. Ours are sown in a staggered rectangle which hopefully will work too!There is a fleece barrier around the bed as sweetcorn does not like wind and our new allotment is definitely windy, they got a good soaking with an organic seaweed feed and now we just wait!
The Pea & Courgette bed also got a makeover, it has been covered with fleece up to now so I think its time to harden them up a little.There is a pea support netting behind the row of peas, kind of hard to see here, they need horizontal as well as vertical support. The whole bed has been encased with netting to deter the rabbits, only one plant was nibbled down so far and we want to keep it that way.
The Courgettes are growing slowly, but I don't think we will be having a courgette glut anytime soon !
A panoramic view into the polytunnel, the sweetcorn bed, courgette bed and in the polytunnel itself there are lettuce and Spinach to the left. Tomato plants are still in pots on the right with sunflowers and pumpkins all in pots as yet.
 I removed the cover from the carrot bed temporarily to weed the bed.The beetroot is definitely well up and easy to see to weed but the carrots are almost invisible so far!
I was at Kilmallock mart & market yesterday and found a lady selling herbs and I was delighted to find she had Comfrey so I bought a plant off of her, she assured me it is not the one that takes over the garden!
The weather began beautiful and sunny this morning but a very heavy thunder shower changed that to dull and sporadic showers for the remainder of the day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Filling the Beds





The onions were moved out to a bed and were covered with plastic for a night or two but are now facing the elements but its not too bad as the weather has really  improved . We don't have a lot of onions this year as they were planted in modules awaiting a plot!I left a bed of autumn sown onions on the old allotment, I am sure the new owner will appreciate them.
Another bed up and running!The onions went into what was going to be the courgette bed but at Billy's suggestion we made yet another bed and popped in the courgettes, sugar snap peas and random lettuces as they were all in pots in the polytunnel and needed their own space.They are draped with fleece overnight and left to enjoy the sun for a few hours during the day.
They were planted out yesterday morning and this morning one of the peas was nibbled down despite the fleece and netting around the back of the bed, definitely rabbit damage!
There are 6 courgette plants, 3 green and 3 yellow. We did not have any luck with the yellow ones last year they just died off after producing a few  tiny fruits.
The base for another bed dug out, this one is for the sweetcorn as they are overdue to go out. Skutch grass is a nightmare and stones and more stones!This will be raised bed number 4 and that will  take the pressure off the polytunnel
We planted 24 Sweetcorn seeds of which only 17 have germinated, they were planted into seed trays and then into 3" pots and then into these larger pots. The remaining plants are strong and ready to be planted out. I put them out in the sunshine today measuring them up in their  bed. The seeds could have been planted directly into the 3" pots and saved on some of the work but at that stage the bedroom windowsill couldn't cope with any more pots!
The victim of all that skutch grass and stones! This is a very cheap fork bought for €5.99 in Woodies DIY, it has done trojan work, bending but not breaking, Billy can straighten it out again and it will live to dig another day.
 We are heading off on our annual visit to Bloom in Phoenix Park in Dublin, it begins tomorrow and runs until Monday.