The darling buds… of March

rosemary 3-18
Rosemary flowers.

Though the weather is due to take yet another turn for the worse this weekend, Spring growth is in full swing. The daffodils and crocuses are out, and there is much budding and shooting going on in the garden and all around us.

There’s such excitement in all the new life arriving, and the reawakening of plants, trees and flowers after the long winter. The birds are energised in their search for food and nest materials.

It’s my absolute favourite time of the year.

currant 3-18
A currant bush waking up from its winter slumber.
mint 3-18
Last year’s mint plant is making a comeback with lots of new shoots.
rosebuds 3-18
Buds appearing on one of the rose bushes we’ve conserved from the garden’s previous owner.
garlic shoots 3-18
The garlic is on an upward trajectory.
shallots 3-18
I feared the worst after the two rounds of snow – but the first shallot shoots have made an appearance. They were my favourite growers last year.
oregano 3-18
New leaves on a repotted oregano.
cloche 3-18
One of three sweaty cloches. This one contains reliable radishes which are currently flourishing. The other pots have been recently seeded with carrots and beetroot.
radishes 3-18
Radish – reliable and fast growing. They’ll be the first new crop of the year on the dinner table – lovely in a Japanese style salad with seaweed and rice white vinegar.

 

Advertisements

Sowing my first potatoes

potatoes 15 march

I bought my seed potatoes in early February from Mr Middleton’s shop on Mary Street.

I didn’t know much about varieties – and there were a dazzling array on sale – so I was went with ‘Rocket’ because they promised to yield early spuds (10-11 weeks after planting).

I’ve since read that though they’re good for earlies, Rocket potatoes aren’t the most flavoursome, are sensitive to blight and don’t store well!

We shall see…

Chitting / sprouting

It is recommended to start chitting potatoes from mid-February for planting mid to late March (in Ireland the tradition is on or after Saint Patrick’s Day – 17th March). Mine went into the ground on the 24th.

Chitting allows the potatoes to grow shoots in advance of planting, and shaves a week or so off growing time. Though apparently it’s not strictly necessary, and seed potatoes can be planted without chitting. The main thing is to ensure that shoots and leaves don’t appear above ground level before the last frost.

A warmer soil is ideal for starting your spuds.

Chitting is a simple process, potatoes should be stored in a light, dry and cool place (in the absence of a potting shed, I used my kitchen counter). Ideally the spuds shouldn’t be in contact with each other (I used egg cartons to separate them). And while potatoes can produce a number of shoots, you should cultivate one per spud so the plant’s energy isn’t too stretched.

I planted nine chitted potatoes in a raised bed at a depth of around 15cm, ensuring the shoots were completely covered. I also plants some in bags (turned down at the edges to let sunshine in, and so I can earth up the soil and raise the sides of the bag as required later), and additionally in an unwanted bucket (with a hole in the bottom for drainage) and a pot. If you’re using bags, pots or other containers, be sure to leave room for the soil to be ‘earthed up’ around the plant as it grows (a blog on that to follow in a few weeks!).

The new RTÉ show ‘Grow, Cook, Eat’ dedicated its first programme to growing potatoes. It provides a handy, if superficial, step-by-step guide, plus tips on dealing with blight.

I also came across this useful in-depth guide to potato-growing from GardenFocused.co.uk, which includes detailed reviews of the different varieties.

potato-in-hole
Potatoes should be sown in 15cm deep drills, 25cm or more apart with shoots upward.
sowing-potatoes
Potatoes sown in raised beds, bags and pots.
extra-potatoes
I shared my surplus seeds potatoes with a local community garden.

Spring 2018 has sprung

crocus 15 march
This slightly nibbled lone crocus made an appearance yesterday.

Winter 2017–2018 has been a long haul, albeit one interspersed with some lovely sunny days.

Then, when it looked to be over, we had our extended visit from the unpredictable Beast from the East, a relative of whose is threatening another unwelcome visit this weekend.

garlic 15 march

The Beast was no match for my Cristo garlic, however, whose shoots made a convincing appearance this week.

No sign of the shallot shoots yet, but I checked a few of the bulbs and they look in good condition. Hopefully, they’re just taking their time coming out.

Today I moved my first lettuce seedlings outside under fleece, joining the first potted radishes, which are growing nicely under a cloche.

radishes
First radishes of 2018 coming along nicely

I also planted a pot of Early Nantes carrots under a cloche, and some Rodelika variety carrots under a cold frame in one of the raised beds.

Inside, I’ve some Calabrese Broccoli seedings at secondary leaf stage, and coriander and flat leaf parsley soaking up with sunshine on a south-facing windowsill. In a month or so, I’ll introduce them to the outside world.

calabrese 15 march 18
Calabrese seedlings
coriander and parsley 15 march
Flat leat parsley and coriander seedings. The parsley is particularly hardy, a small pot of it survived the winter outside and still looks fresh and delicious.

On the subject of broccoli, my one remaining purple sprouting broccoli plant continues against the odds in a pot. I had removed it from the bed and isolated it as it was overcome by caterpillars. It’s made a remarkable recovery, and unlike the other broccoli plants, has never bolted – presumably this is to do with the limitations on its growth imposed by life in a pot.

Our youngest dog Pip, is a big fan of this plant, and regularly likes to munch a floret or leaf.

pip broccoli 15 march
Pip chewing on a purple broccoli floret.

Also making a welcome post-winter recovery is the potted lemon balm.

lemon balm 15 march

And finally, our potatoes are ready to go out, I just want to wait till we’ve seen the back of the snow risk before taking them outside.

It’s all very happy-making.

potatoes 15 march

 

 

 

Starting again: 2018 growing season begins

As the last of the late snow thaws, the tiny shoots of my recently sown garlic and shallots have reappeared, sodden, but hopefully not defeated.

I’m a couple of weeks behind schedule in embarking on the next phase of my ambitious 2018 garden plan. And there’s still quite a lot of heavy lifting to do – a lean-to glasshouse to install, fencing to put up, a couple of tonnes of soil to be sifted through, and countless jobs to improve the aesthetics of the garden. But, we have also made great progress in re-shaping the garden and getting it ready for this year’s planting.

Garden in July 2016
The garden was an impassable jungle of thorny roses, ivy, overgrown shrubs, and countless weeds (including multiple fledgling sycamore trees) when we moved in in July 2016. We could neither see or access the shed at the back!

 

View of Aug 2016 garden
September 2016. The garden after its first major haircut. We uncovered the foundations of an old glasshouse, which I used as a raised bed for the 2017 crop.  In this image it is covered with old carpet to rot down green waste and nourish the soil underneath over the winter of 2016 into early 2017.

 

Garden April 2017
The garden slowly taking shape in April 2017.

 

Garden in February 2018
The garden in February 2018. We shifted the soil from the centre into three raised beds and a rockery. The rockery itself was made using bricks from the old glasshouse foundation and the coal bunker. As the house is terraced, we need to do as much as we can with what’s already in the garden, rather than trying to hump tonnes of soil, bricks and other waste through the house. Now we have a clear walkway through the garden and space for the dogs to run around.
Snow in March 2018
The dogs enjoying the early March snow

2018 is going to be an epic gardening year. I’m going to plant lots of new crops: potatoes, beans, peas, cucumber, courgette, squash, parsnips, sprouts, pak choi, spring onion… and try to stay productive throughout the year. Watch this space!

chitting
Chitting potatoes for imminent planting.
seedlings
Broccoli, lettuce, coriander and parsley seedlings starting on the windowsill. We’ll keep these inside for another while yet till things warm up a bit more out there…