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!
Got a thoughtful Christmas present (thank you, Paula!) of a book called ‘WASTE NOT, WANT NOT – BEATING THE RECESSION IN THE HOME‘ by Rosemary Ryan, printed in Ireland by Gemini International. Great value at €7.99. It is full of useful cost-saving advice and wholesome straightforward recipes.
One suited me very well to use up the remainder of the stored onions in the shed which are beginning to grow as air temperatures rise. Unlike the few professional farmers in Ireland still growing onions, I do not have access to the refrigerated storehouses which stored onions need to check their inclination to grow when spring arrives. Likewise I had some of last years potatoes left in store too and they had gone too soft to be used for mash but as an ingredient in soup, they were grand.
So nothing for it but to turn the lot into a big pot of ‘Potato and Onion Soup’. I adapted this recipe to use larger quantities.
Ingredients: 8oz or 220g potatoes (diced). 4 onions (finely chopped). 1 litre stock (I used water saved from steaming veg plus a stock cube). Handful of chopped parsley (I have plenty still growing outside). 2oz or 60g of butter. Salt and pepper to taste.
Method: Put the butter nin a saucepan on a low heat. Add the onions and sweat until clear. Add the potatoes and season to taste. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley and ‘voila’.
Very tasty, even if I do say so myself! Most of this batch is now conveniently stored away labelled and dated in the freezer. No need to waste those old onions and potatoes when Rosemary Ryan’s book shows how they can become useful and flavoursome. This is one way of filling the proverbial ‘hungry gap’ in the kichen garden.
The ‘Indian summer’ has arrived and high pressure from mid-week on is good news for harvesting and sowing. I open up the seed catalogues therefore and order seeds for autumn sowing such as: 1. Radar – autumn onion sets, 2. autumn shallots, 3. garlic, 4. Aquadulce – broad beans, 5. cress, 6. mustard.
Seeing these sets and seeds becoming established before winter will ensure the spring growth will begin sooner and give me garden produce earlier in 2010. I’m experimenting with growing radish and lettuce in the ‘telephone box’ sized greenhouse by placing window boxes on shelves against a south facing wall under glass. I know David Langan in Rush as a professional grower is able to produce Irish butterhead lettuce for 52 weeks of the year growing under glass, so we’ll see what I can produce in a 2 foot square glass ‘telephone box’.
I hope this spell of fine weather will encourage gardeners with lawns to turn the sod and put in a few onion sets as a start to a new kitchen garden. To further encourage food growing at the Electric Picnic last weekend in Stradbally, Co. Laois, I was speaking on a panels with other growers and Bord Bia about appreciating Irish fresh produce and supporting Irish farmers in the interests of Irish food security. I also handed out a few Radar autumn onion sets to anyone who undertook to sow them when they got home.
Next weekend, I’ll have some time on Sunday hopefully to lift the remainder of my own few mature onions which I will then leave lying on paper indoors to dry before tying them and hanging them in the shed for use over the winter. Juicing garden apples continues and I am giving away bottles as I fill them. An apple juice connoisseur I work with in the Dept of Ag tells me this year the juice is not as sweet as last year which he prefers. Nature provides, I just dispense!
With the onions lifted, I will compost that area, cover it with old carpet and have it ready to sow the broad bean seeds in November. Where the beetroot was will also be enriched with compost and some wood ash in readiness for the new onion sets and shallot sets to be planted in September. I’ll leave the garlic cloves until early December before sowing in colder weather which they seem to like to get started.
Meanwhile, off to Waterford Institute of Technology on Saturday to launch a fantastic new initiative to organise, help and develop kitchen gardens in homes, schools and institutions throughout Ireland. Michael Kelly, the writer and Irish Times journalist the man who planted the seed of what I hope will become as well known as the GAA in every county in Ireland. Michael who wrote ‘Trading Paces’ also has a good website worth checking out if you Google his name.
The garden is full of lif right now. It’s fantastic to see how much growth there has been in the last month. The weather has been almost ideal, with lots of bright sunny days and the occassional shower to keep things moist. The video gives a quick tour of the garden and it’s interesting to compare it with the overview taken in May. It’s geting difficult for the camerman to find a place to stand!