Feeling the heat

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The dry weather (and dried-out soil) stunted the growth of my first crop of carrots. The ones on the left are from a pot, the ones on the right from a too-stoney bed, hence the forking.
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I harvested the remaining potatoes from the first crop planted in beds as they were coming under attack from insects (there are small holes in the majority of the bed crop, I wanted them out before too much damage was done). The skin on several of the potatoes shows scabbing – a symptom of not having enough water in this hot weather.
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Watering wisely in the hot weather

With a hosepipe ban in place in Ireland at the moment and the sun beating down, smashing all recorded temperatures EVER… it’s really important to be cautious with your water use, as it’s simply not going to get replenished with rainfall any time soon.

The below video has ten great tips for watering your garden smartly. The only one I can think to add, is not to throw out vegetable cooking water – but instead use it to water your garden instead, delivering the nutrients from your cooked veg back into the soil.

Pre-harvest anticipation

So much growing… so little to eat. We’re watching all the plants starting to fruit with a hungry belly. Hopefully there won’t be too much longer to wait.

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We’ve six thriving tomato plants all starting to show fruit (five in the glasshouse, one outside – a mixture of Douglas F1s and ‘Gardeners Delight’).
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The ‘progress’ pea pods are coming along nicely.
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Two of our three courgettes are starting to produce.
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I planted four hokkaido squash plants (probably should have just planted one) – they’ve taken over the bed and are spreading their tendrils around the garden. I’m not sure where this is going to lead… hopefully to a bumper harvest of squash!
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The runner beans are starting to show their first pods.
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The mystery potatoes (plants that started to grow from compost) are thriving in their new planter home.

Shallot and garlic harvest

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2018 shallots drying

So, this year I’m taking extra care to cure the shallots properly to avoid spoilage. We lost about half the crop last year due to insufficient curing and poor storage.

After a brief period drying outdoors, I moved them into the shed and a slatted shelf has made in ideal drying device, allowing the bulbs to sit separately and the air to circulate. They’ve been drying in the shed for about three weeks, but I’m going to leave them a while longer before trimming and storing – to be sure to be sure. In the meantime, I’ll keep checking them regularly for any signs of mould. Obviously, during this time we can eat them too.

This year’s shallot harvest totalled about six to seven dozen bulbs, which we will make short work of in the coming weeks. Given the amount of space these take up in our small growing area of three raised beds, I think they’ll have to be off the menu for the next growing season. As tasty as they are.

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2018 garlic drying in the sun

I harvested the garlic the other day too. The bulbs are a mixture of sizes. The largest are larger than last year’s crop. I’m going to attempt my first garlic plaits with these lads in the coming days. Watch this space…

Plait update

In my defence this was done while drinking beer in the sun. My mind was not totally on the task at hand.

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Mid-summer check in

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As mid-summer and the longest day of the year approaches, all is growing well in the garden.

Successes so far include:

Strawberries – a small patch of year-old and new plants (all shop-bought as seedlings) is producing high yields of tasty fruit.

Potatoes – I planted early Rocket potatoes and have harvested a few plants (from beds pots and bags). The new potatoes have been lovely, though not that high yielding, as the plants could do with a few more weeks of growing yet. Storm Hector’s winds last week did some damage to the potato plant stalks, but thankfully on closer inspection and with a bit of trimming and tying it looks like there’s enough undamaged foliage to help them continue to grow a while longer.

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Potato plants after Storm Hector, June 2018

Shallots – as they were bursting from the ground, I harvested the shallots before the stalks yellowed and flopped (the classic signs of readiness). Shallots and garlic were the first crops in the ground again this year, though they were planted later than I’d have liked because of the bad spring weather.

I think I like growing them because they provide some of the earliest signs of growth in spring, helping build excitement for the season ahead. However, given the size constraints of the garden, I wonder if I might forgo the shallots next year for something more exotic/higher yielding. Now I have some space back in the allium bed, I’ll plant more spring onions, and start some pak choi and other fast growers.

Rosemary – having spent its first year in a pot, the rosemary got off to a shaky start after being transplanted to the rockery, but it has started to flourish in recent weeks, and will provide us with some much-needed year-round greenery.

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Rosemary starting to look nice and bushy, June 2018

Broccoli – I tried a couple of varieties of purple sprouting broccoli last year with disappointing results (huge, fast-bolting plants), so I decided not to bother this year, except to try a few heads of traditional calabrese broccoli in pots (in the hope of reducing the chance of bolting). So far, so surprisingly good. I’m not sure how big they’ll get, but I will give them another few weeks before harvesting, unless flowering looks imminent.

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Calabrese broccoli, June 2018

Kales, sprouts, courgette, squash, beans, peas… – the tallest of the beds so far is a roaring success and I’m hoping to get a good yield of sprouts, courgette, beans and peas. There’s already plenty of nero and asparagus kale to harvest.

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The tallest of the raised beds is packed with the green leaves of burgeoning brussels sprout plants, nero and asparagus kales, courgette and hoikkaido squash, runner beans and ‘progress’ peas.

Glasshouse – the recently installed little lean-to glasshouse is home to five thriving tomato plants, a chilli plant and some cucumber seedlings. The tomatoes already dominate the small space, so I may have to take my chances outside with perhaps two of the four cucumber plants currently in there. I also have some aubergine seedlings in there that will need a new home soon, but for now there’s nowhere for them. Again, I think I’ll have to take my chances with them outside and see what happens, with the initial aid of some cloches perhaps.

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Lean to glasshouse, June 2018

Things that haven’t gone so well are:

Garlic – I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt, but the garlic took a knock in the recent storm, plus the leaves are starting to yellow, despite the fact that the bulbs are still very small.

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Garlic, June 2018.

Carrots and beetroot (and presumably parsnips) – I was dubious about whether the quality of the soil would support a carrot crop and it’s becoming clear that the answer is no. Ditto the beetroot which looks very small and presumably the parsnips – whose leaves look very healthy, but I doubt that will translate into good-sized vegetables. These root vegetables, particularly the carrots, need a much finer soil than I’ve provided for them.

The carrots and beetroots in pots seem to be fairing better thankfully. So I’ll focus on producing more of them instead.

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Pip inspects the first two small and gnarly carrots from the bed.
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Don’t be fooled by the foliage, many seeds failed to germinate in soil that was both too dry and stony for these fussy roots.

Currants – I transplanted two, year-old currant bushes to the rockery bed. But only one flowered. Hopefully the second recovers for next year.

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Fruit ripening on the black currant bush.

Lettuce – last year I was inundated with lettuce following some zealous over-planting (see pics below – most of the lettuce ended up in the compost bin). So far this year I’ve been really conservative – and seem to have found the sweet spot with six heads of lettuce (three different cut-and-come-again varieties) in pots so they don’t get too big.

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Three of our six heads of the lettuce that have been more than sufficient so far.

Herbs – I transferred oregano, thyme and sage from a shared planter into individual pots earlier this year and they each filled out nicely into their new space. The dry, hot weather however, has taken its toll – especially to the herbs in terracotta pots (which soak up the moisture, depriving the plants of the full benefit of rain or watering).

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My thyme, oregano, sage, mint (not pictured) and lemon balm have all dried out in the recent weather, despite frequent watering.

Wormery – I now think of this as a fly-ery, as I’m pretty sure the worms (my second batch) are all deceased. The flies are doing an admirable job breaking down the food waste and producing plant food however. Ideally a pre-fabricated wormery like the one I have should be kept indoors. I initially kept it in the shed, but then need the space for storing wood so the worms got booted out, and the wormery was easily breached by rain, drowning the first generation of inhabitants. I fashioned a cover and got a new batch of worms, but I fear they’ve gone the way of their predecessors – possibly because of the recent heat.

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The wormery when first in use in 2017