Making leaf mould


Having inadvertently killed I don’t know how many unfortunate worms in my prefabricated wormery, I decided to throw it out and look for alternative nutrition sources for next year.

To that end, I’ve been to my nearest park today to bag up some autumn leaves to make my first batch of leaf mould, which I’ll spread around the base of next year’s plants as they grow. I think I’ll also make nettle tea in the Spring to supplement the nutrient rich liquid worm castings of the past. (I’ve made it successfully before, so will just up the quantity for 2019).

The wormery had gotten off to a successful start in the shed, but when I moved it outside I soon learned that the design let a lot of rain in – drowning the worm inhabitants. I bought replacement worms and covered the wormery, though continued to leave it outside. I can’t be sure what happened to the next batch, but they all died too. This type of wormery definitely belongs indoors or at least well sheltered.

Leaf mould should be relatively risk free and low maintenance.

I’ve filled four bin-liners with dry leaves (they are currently open in the garden to allow the rain in, they need to be wetted to start the moulding process). Once the leaves are wet I’ll close up the bags, give them a good shake to distributed the water, pierce them around the sides and bottom, put them in a shady place and leave them through the winter, probably five to six months.


If you let the leaves rot for longer (around 18 months) you’ll get a good soil conditioner.

Larger gardens than mine may have a big leaf pile or leaf mould cage on the go to generate a generous quantity of leaf mould for the year(s) ahead. I may gather more leaves over the next couple of weeks to make sure I’ve a useful quantity as I imagine my four bags will yield relatively little when they’ve broken down.

According to one website I looked at, most leaves can be turned into leaf mould, but some take longer to compost than others. Oak, alder and hornbeam will soon rot down, while sycamore, beech, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut take a little longer. Leaves from conifers and evergreen plants will take between two and three years to compost and are best added in small quantities only, shredding them first to help speed up composting.


A fair weather garden blogger

My blogging quiet of the last two months is a reflection of two things: work busyness, and the annual downturn of gardening enthusiasm, which slows as the garden’s productiveness does.

Looking back to last year, I similarly fell silent for the month of September.

Throughout that month, however, the garden continued to give us plenty of its three best growers of the year: tomatoes, spring onions and courgettes. So they’re definitely back on the list for 2019.

I’ve learned a lot this year about soil and yields, conditions and care, and what we will and won’t actually use from the garden. Next year the focus will be on potatoes, tomatoes, courgette, trying aubergines, more chilies, different bean varieties and peas, and of course the compulsory beetroots and carrots. Other things tried this year, will not make the list for 2019. And maybe a couple of experiments will creep in too, particularly lettuces, and different herbs.

Great yields from our five tomato plants (which still have more fruit to give before they’re done). I made my first tomato chutneys and some delicious pasta sauces.
We enjoyed a glut of massive courgettes from two plants, and lots of interesting recipes resulted.
While the squashes were technically a success, the plants grow so huge (and my enthusiasm for using the actual squashes is relatively so small) that I don’t think I’ll bother again.
Think we had six heads of broccoli in total. After a huge amount of time, and water, it seems inefficient to grow broccoli in the garden. I tried a couple of varieties of purple sprouting last year, which bolted very quickly. So I think my broccoli growing days may be over for now.
Spring onions have grown well, and are still looking good, ditto runner beans (though I’ll try different varieties next year, and more peas), the chilis were small but have a good kick, and the beetroot was reliable, if a little on the small side.

Squash and cucumber harvest time

Hoikkaido squashes. The squash plants were a first-time experiment for me, and they quickly took over the garden. 
Lemon crystal cucumbers (and Patch). Delicious served cold from the fridge with a little rice wine vinegar/soy sauce/sesame seed combo. A delicate lemon flavour and crisp flesh.
Mystery potatoes. These are the children of some spontaneous potato plants that grew from our not-fully-broken-down compost.

August 2018 update

The courgette glut continues apace. We’ve had massive fruits from our two main plants, and looks like plenty more to come. Still working on perfecting the courgette fritter (with mint, feta, garlic, egg and flour).
We’re growing two varieties of tomato: Gardeners’ Delight (a cherry variety) and Douglas F1 (medium fruits). We’ve started eating the cherries (deliciously sweet), haven’t had a fully ripened Douglas as yet.
Our two crystal lemon cucumber plants are starting to fruit. They’re not ideally positioned (outside the greenhouse, in a slightly shady spot) so we’ll see how they turn out.
The sprouts are growing slowly but steadily.
I’ve counted nine squashes growing, and many more little fruits showing on our ever-extending plants. We harvested one last week, but far too early. It was not a pleasant eating experience!
Our runner beans have run amok. Many are now harbouring full size beans that I’ll leave on the vine and harvest later in the year for drying. The younger beans coming through are very tender and pleasant when steamed and served with a little oil or butter, sea salt and black pepper.
Late-sown spinach is doing well, with regular monitoring for eggs and leaf miners.
Lamb’s lettuce, strong chervil and rocket courtesy of LIDL’s seed pots!
Another LIDL seed pot experiment – outdoor aubergine. Their success will depend on the hot weather keeping up. No sign of any fruit yet.
The root vegetable patch (where first potatoes, beetroot, carrots and parsnips were grown) is now home to an odd assortment of veg including broccoli, courgette, compost-borne potato plants and more beetroot. Potted carrots doing well too.
Our little wildflower wilderness is doing well, and the borage in particular is very popular with the bees.
Time to deadhead some of Madge’s roses (so named as they were planted by the garden’s former owner). These old roses have a beautiful sherbet scent.
Coriander flowers. I’ve planted lots coriander but have had very little to use as the plants bolt so quickly.
One of our many bee visitors investigating the oregano flowers.
Radish flowers and seed pods.
Patch and Pip supervising garden activity.
Pip’s tennis balls keep disappearing into the squash leaf jungle.

Necessary sacrifice

Our asparagus and nero kale plants are the focus of attention for hungry insects, taking some of the pressure of their neighbouring plants.

The garden has been inundated with insect predators, though I’m delighted to see so many bees bumbling around.

Various species of flies are attaching themselves to things and nibbling away, and their maggot babies mining the leaf chlorophyll. Then there are little spiders, cabbage butterfly larvae/caterpillars and other moth/butterfly offspring, and a whole range of additional creepy crawlies I can’t identify helping themselves too.

It’s amazing to see so many different species finding their way into our little corner of Ballyfermot. However, their appetites are becoming a little problematic.

I’m trying to do my ‘pest’ control conservatively and all by hand (especially given scary reports of the massive depletion of insect life being recorded in our neighbouring UK, Germany and elsewhere. There don’t appear to be comparable studies underway here in Ireland, but one can assume the situation is much the same – perhaps with the exception of my garden!).

This year I haven’t been able to put netting over my brassicas because of the planting positions I chose and it’s fair to say they’re getting savaged as a consequence.

The kales seem to be favoured (though the sprout leaves are becoming more popular), and I’m checking the leaves of my broccoli plants daily to remove would-be attackers.

I’ve decided to let the insects have their way with a kale as a necessary sacrifice to draw attention away from plants that are more valuable to me.

The kale isn’t positioned on the outside of the bed, which would have been ideal if I’d planned to use them as an insect distraction.

It’s a strategy I’ve seen employed minimally. Most gardeners seem to favour a combination of netting and interplanting with distracting flowers etc.

I think though, that I may plant some sacrificial kale in a planned way in future to protect other plants (including other kale plants). But I’d definitely like a bit of netting next growing season too!

Round two

So we’ve eaten all of our first round of beetroot, are steadily making our way through the carrots, potatoes, shallots and garlic, have stripped the pea plants (hoping for more to come), and have a good supply of courgettes coming through…

What’s next?

Our mystery potatoes (from compost-borne plants) have flowered and are growing away nicely in a planter.
The first little Hokkaido squashes have started to show from our derangedly overgrown plants (four in total that are speedily taking over the garden).
Cute little sproutlets are showing on three of our four brussells sprout plants.
The runner bean glut is upon us. Going to leave maybe half on the plants to grow full beans for drying, and eat the rest in pods over the coming weeks.
Our chilli plant is starting to flower in the greenhouse, so fingers crossed we’ll get some peppers from it before the sun abandons us.
The second round of beetroots are coming along nicely. This stony, and now rather dry, soil worked well for the last crop of beetroot, despite other plants (carrot, parsnip, broccoli, courgette) struggling a little in it.
The parsnips aren’t doing so well in this soil. I pulled the eldest batch earlier today and they were very skinny with orange spotting. Also, very dry to the taste when cooked. They’re also under attack from an assortment of insect predators. 
Our crystal cucumbers are flowering nicely. No sign of any fruit yet. Very curious to see how these turn out.
The growth of the tomato fruit has slowed down (though there’s already lots of it across our six plants, and lots more flowers yet). We pruned them a couple of weeks ago, and there’s been lots of foliage regrowth but the fruit seems static. I’ll give them extra feed and water and see if the situation changes.
I came into some aubergine seeds, and not having space in our little greenhouse, I decided to try them outside, under fleece. Who knows how they’ll turn out!


Momentous occasion: First ever courgettes!

Introducing our very first courgettes!

With gardening and growing your own, it’s amazing how something seemingly small (like two little courgettes) can represent so much, and feel like a huge triumph.

This is my first time to grow courgettes, and I’ve been nurturing these babies from seed for months. And these are the very first that we will eat (with garden-grown peas – also a first for me).

So today is a big day.

Baby plant