The garden becomes a place to have breakfast this week as the weather is warm if a little overcast. The cabbages, kale and broccoli are under attack however. The cabbage white butterfly has become very active. The advantage of having a small garden is I can easily enough inspect the leaf undersides for eggs and caterpillars. A quick rub with the thumb puts a halt to their gallop. Last year I had netting over the brassicas at this stage so I’ll be comparing whether caterpillar damage will be controllable this year or not.
Apart from the caterpillars the plants need watering and mulching to conserve moisture. Strong plants withstand attacks from predators so watering in the morning is like preventative health care for the plants.
Great weather if you like watering and if you have access to water. Luckily I find early morning watering with my 8 watering cans quite therapeutic and a good time to think about what the day ahead has in store.
This being the longest day, I am set upon harvesting the patch growing onions, shallots and garlic. If garlic is best harvested on the longest day, then I am bang on! Each crop is being lifted with the help of my garden fork. The waft of garlic aroma bodes well for flavoursome meals in the months to come. I lay out the garlic, onion and shallots on the warm dry pavements to dry off the soil so I can brush off any loose soil before hanging the produce to dry in a cool dry location.
In the middle of the empty patch after clearing young weeds I left only cosmos which will flower and keep the bees happy later in the summer. I plant 8 courgette plants in ring around the cosmos which have been well watered in. I will mulch the soil around these plants with newspaper and cover the paper with grass clippings. The sooner the leaf cover grows the less chance weeds have to grow too. Covered soil will slow down evaporation further which means less watering needed as well. Mulching also results in less blemished and cleaner courgettes which won’t be lying on bare soil as they ripen.
The potatoes, both early (Colleen) and second early (Carlingford) have been growing away in strong bags. The earlies are ready so out they come. I tip over the grow bags to collect the lovely new potatoes. Once boxed for short term stortage, (earlies are not as good as main crop for long term storage), I put back the compost and soil mix in each growing bag. These bags are now ready to have a pumpkin seedling planted into each bag. I must remember to keep the pumpkins well watered as those bags can easily dry out if not watched each morning especially in this halcyon heat. You may notice me trying not to squint in the early morning sunshine during the Youtube video clip about all this posted below!
Arthur the cat keeping an eye on the seedlings
With more legumes and brassicas planted and the alliums looking a bit dry, there is a need for a watering schedule. With below normal rainfall, I’m watering before breakfast each morning this week. I find a ‘scuaine’ of six watering cans lined up under a garden bench works in my 20′ by 40′ garden. No hose pipe means I waste less water hopefully. I fill the water cans before going to bed. This allows the chlorine to evaporate overnight. Before watering at dawn, I add comfrey tea as a liquid feed to each container. Just a dollop makes for a very diluted solution. Two litres between six watering cans is the rate which works for me.
In the morning I also take out the 12 seedtrays from greenhouse and lay outdoors on path to harden off ready for planting out as each plant is big enough to withstand slug attacks hopefully. When the more seasonally warm temperatures return, I’ll leave hardy seedling in trays outside apart from the more cold sensitive plants like basil, coriander and tomatoes which will fill out in the greenhouse over the summer.
What a scorcher of a holiday weekend with temperatures in the mid twenties! Thanks to Bord Bia and their key sponsors, Bloom in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, did a great service in encouraging armchair gardeners to have a go at growing some of their own food. I had the honour of opening the Michelle Obama garden or more officially the ‘White House Garden’. This opening took place in the presence of the Acting-Ambassador from the USA, Mr Robert J Faucher. The Acting-Ambassador graciously accepted a bag of fresh radish from my garden in appreciation for the help from the USA Embassy in establishing this iconic garden at Bloom. It is the first time an ‘Obama Garden’ has been replicated outside the USA.
Meanwhile back at the ‘ranch’ in my own garden, the blackfly colonised the growing tips of my broad beans. Solution? A hand held mist sprayer filled with water and a drop of washing-up liquid. Find a jet setting by twisting the nozzle. A strong jet from the sprayer dislodges these black little aphids. Those I miss will hopefully be eaten by ladybirds and hover flies. This has now become an early morning routine along with hoeing and watering.
The tomato, potato and strawberries are flowering as are broad beans. Blackcurrants, raspberries and apples are growing their fruits now also. So I am putting a dollop of comfrey feed in each watering can I fill. The comfrey leaves when cut back are covered with water in a barrel with a tap. This ‘Comfrey Tea’ once diluted is a common organic feed used to help plants when they are coming in to fruit. Don’t mind the smell, it disappears as nature takes up the goodness within a few hours I find.
Now is the time to feed and water growing plants, fruit trees especially. We need to balance the necessity for watering our plants with the need to avoid wasting water, such a precious resource. In the video you’ll see some techniques I use, including making that famous ‘comfrey tea’.