June 2019 update: Getting hungry

As a Spring to Autumn gardener, I’m used to a ‘hungry gap’, but this one feels very long. So far we’ve had just herbs and strawberries.  Thankfully, though it continues cloudy and rainy, the overall temperature looks to have lifted, so hopefully growth will speed up.

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The potatoes are thriving and first earlies will be ready to start eating soon (earlies in bags and pots, Kerr’s pink in raised bed for later harvesting)
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Tomatoes with marigolds taking their time in pots, garlic nearly ready to harvest
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The first little courgettes are starting to show
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Sweet peas, mange tout and green beans have a long way to go yet
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Cucumber, tomato, aubergine and chillies in little glass house. Not optimistic about aubergine, they got off to a very slow start
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It’s all happening in this front rockery: rosemary and sage thriving, wildflowers and roses starting to bloom. Soft fruits aren’t doing well though. No sign of flowers on the two current bushes which are already quite tall and leafy, new gooseberry has a lot to contend with, and only one of three raspberry canes is showing growth. Suspect there’s an overcrowding issue!
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Madge’s roses getting ready to burst forth
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Strawberries at least are delicious and plentiful
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Mint from potted plant had gone woody and tough, so I have dispatched with it in favour of new plants. Drying out the last leaves for tea.

 

 

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Sunshine after the rain

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While it has inconvenienced us humans the last few weeks, the weather has provided ideal growing conditions for our gardens. Good drownings of rain, followed by generous doses of sunshine. Though by mid-May it still feels like things are behind given the slow start we got off to following the delayed then drawn-out winter and inclement early spring.

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One of the three raspberry canes I planted is showing leaves. I was delayed planting these by early spring deluges, so am delighted to see at least one of them coming to life.

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Mange tout tendrils are starting to reaching out toward their climbing frame.

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And the green beans have finally joined the party. I was starting to fret about them.

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Strawberries coming along nicely.

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Potatoes recently earthed up and looking healthy.

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Tomato seedlings are on a go slow in the greenhouse, and no sign of the aubergines germinating yet (I’ve put down another batch and crossed my fingers it’ll stay warm enough to encourage them out).

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The ever expanding rosemary needs a good prune.

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Madge’s roses are getting ready to burst forth in the coming weeks.

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Our little bee sanctuary at the back of the garden is coming along nicely.

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First day of summer 2019…

…according to some people in Ireland anyway (we don’t want to wait till June).

The garden is starting to take shape after a little growth spurt, and most of our big jobs are done (bar new fencing, painting etc etc etc).

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Garlic patch
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Potatoes
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Mange tout seedlings
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Chives and spring onions
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Rosemary and sage in rockery 1 (former coal bunker) are thriving. Currant bushes starting to put on more leaves.
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Frame for peas, mange tout and green beans
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Rockery 2 (former shed) with new plants including lavender, curry, heather and flowers including lupins
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Succulent patch getting juicier daily
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The liberated laburnum is starting to fill out and flower
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Carrot seedlings
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Glasshouse goodies

The waiting game

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I haven’t had much to say here over the past two months on the garden front, as I’ve been doing more waiting than working.

Waiting first for the weather to warm enough to start seedlings and direct planting (garlic and potatoes are down, various seedlings now started in the glasshouse but a ways off being ready for their next phase). Then we decided to knock down the old brick shed at the bottom of the garden, a sixty-year-old structure that was becoming increasingly death-trap like. (Upon knocking it down we realised that the bottom bricks –some extra heavy precursor to the breeze block – had turned almost to soil). Then the rain started again, turning a three/four day exercise into a three week one (which is still ongoing at time of writing).

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The shed turned brickery

Sifting through the wet detritus has been a thankless, backbreaking job – as we try to fashion the heavy blocks of the shed into a ‘brickery’ in the style of our coal shed brickery towards the front of the garden – which we hope will be a bee paradise filled with lavenders and hyssops and rosemary and all sorts of lovely bushy flowering plants. 

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The garden transformed: April 2018

This time last year, we had transformed our garden from the plant and muck heap jungle we found on moving in, to an ivy-free orderly growing space with raised beds, a little glass house and new bamboo screening to take the edge off the hodgepodge fencing behind. We were delighted with ourselves. And then, after the unnervingly hot summer, storm after storm battered the place, ripping away the screening, soaking the soil built up around the shed and making it ever more precarious.

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A work in progress, again: April 2019

Hopefully in a month or so, a [brief] harmony will be restored and we can focus on the lovely business of watching new things grow. But who knows what the weather will bring. My money’s on ever more extremes.

 

New Year compost resolutions

I’m starting a new batch of compost. And I’m going to do it right this time, layering my greens and browns, chopping up the plant waste nice and small, keeping the teabags, egg shells and hard to break-down bits to a minimum.

I’ve been using a wheelie bin with a makeshift door cut into the bottom for my compost. It’s not ideal as there’s no drainage in the bottom, but I don’t have an area of ground suitable for an open bottom bin or a heap, so it’s the best solution currently.

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About two-thirds of the contents of the compost bin was ready for use (though the lowest parts were very heavy on the egg shells and tea bags), so I’ve transferred that into the largest of my raised beds (which needed a soil top up). I mixed the compost with fresh veg peelings and cuttings, and covered it all with layers of cardboard for the plentiful worms to work their magic on over the next couple of months.

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I’ve lined the empty compost bin with cardboard for extra insulation during the cold months ahead, and laid a base brown layer of shredded cardboard and autumn leaves taken from my leaf mould stash.

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My brown layer concoction of cardboard and sodden autumn leaves.

On top of that, I added some soil from last season’s grow pots, then a well-chopped up fruit and veg waste green layer, another brown layer, soil and more fresh material bringing the bin up to half way full.

I was less conscientious last year which led to unpleasant smelling and slow-to-break-down compost which wasn’t properly layered or aerated.

This year, I’ll do better!

 

New seeds have arrived!

My favoured seed suppliers, the Organic Centre in Leitrim, sent out their seed catalogue the other day, and I dutifully went through my seed box to see what I have and what I’d like and placed my first order of 2019.

Already the anticipation of the new year’s growing is upon me!

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Including the seeds above, the list for this year’s growing includes:

Aubergines*
Beetroots
Black and red currants
Carrots
Chillies
Chives*
Coriander
Courgettes
Cucumbers
Dill*
French beans*
Garlic
Gooseberries*
Kale (as a sacrificial feast for the insects)
Leeks*
Mange tout*
New mints varieties*
Parsley
Parsnips
Peas
Potatoes
Raspberries*
Salad leaves
Spring onions
Sprouts
Strawberries
Tomatoes

And maybe more…

*new for 2019

Winter wonderland for worms

I’ve covered our three raised beds with vegetable peelings and other organic detritus and a couple of layers of cardboard (one for eating, one for cover), converting them into wormy paradises for the winter time. I’ll add peelings and lighter vegetation every now and then so the worms have something fresh to munch on. Hopefully this will lead to both rich soil and healthy worms for the spring planting.

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Worms galore gorging themselves on and under cardboard. January 2019.

Keeping soil fed and healthy

In a corner of the garden I’ve leaves slowly turning into leaf mould for enriching the beds and help the growth along in April/May.

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And I plan to make excessive amounts of nettle tea over the coming weeks (just need the nettles to grow first) to use as feed throughout the growing season. I’ll need to invest in a face mask to avoid the stench. It is truly foul.

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Super smelly nettle tea. Last brewed in Spring 2017.