Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

DIRECT SOWING OF CARROT AND RADISH SEEDS – THIRD WEEK IN APRIL 2012

Every garden needs a gaffer - Arthur the cat supervises seed sowing from the comfort of his bed atop a bag of old leaves.

Last week I mentioned that with a small garden, sowing most seeds in small pots or seed trays with a view to transplanting the seedlings to open soil in a few weeks is my preference. However, some vegetable seedlings do not thrive if transplanted. Root vegetables especially prefer to be sown directly where they are to grow to maturity.

A terracotta large pot suits my garden as a place to grow carrots. I use my largest pot which is about 50cm across and 50 cm high. Placing it in the middle of the brassica patch, I put a few stones in the base to help water to drain out at the bottom. Then I fill it with the finest soil I have. This soil grew beetroot last year so there is no fresh compost in it and hardly any large stones. Once almost full, I scatter a couple of dozen seeds spaced about 3 -4 cm across the soil surface. I cover the seedbed with a skim of soil, pat it down with the palm of my hand and then water through the rose spout of a watering can.

The carrot variety I used this year was ‘Amsterdam Forcing 2’. March to August is the period to sow this variety. In August, I might try sowing some seeds in the greenhouse for a late harvest. With 800 in the average packet, I will not run out of carrot seed in my small garden for a while.

RADISH SEED SOWING

Meanwhile, the radish seedbeds are windowboxes each filled with soil from the patch growing cabbage and kale this year, as radish is also a brassica like them. Only growing the brassica family in the same soil once every 4 years hopefully will prevent me having to deal with the bane of the brassica vegetables, clubroot disease. Rotating each veg family around a 4 year rotation has spared me any serious plant diseases so far, buíochas le Dia.

Last year, I sowed a well known radish variety ‘French Breakfast’ from Madeleine Mc Keever, the West Cork  organic seed producer www.brownenvelopeseeds.com. This year, I am trying a heritage radish variety which originated in the 1890’s ‘Scarlet Globe‘ which I bought from www.irishseedsavers.ie in Scarriff, Co. Clare.

Each week from now to October, I will make a sowing of a couple of dozen radish seeds in a vacant window box each week. In about 5 weeks, the seed I sowed today will have become mature radish. Once those radish are harvested that week and their windowbox seedbed is cleared, I can handfork the soil over and sow, with fresh radish seed’ that windowbox anew – and so on week by week. The peppery crunchiness of a freshly harvested radish is impossible to find in a shop bought radish which was probably Dutch grown. One more reason to G.I.Y.  ( Grow It Yourself) and get involved with www.giyireland.com.

GREEN SHOOTS AND LEAVES – FIRST WEEK IN FEBRUARY 2011

Snowdrops and daffodils about to burst into flower out in the shady front garden. I like to think they see it as the next best thing to woodland! Out front also the rhubarb and comfrey have awoken and the new greenery bodes well for another productive year.

Out in the back garden, the garlic cloves from Fruit Hill Farm near Bantry, planted in November last, are now sprouting forth, in spite of the severe ice and snow.

Got to cut wood for tinder using dried prunings from blackcurrant bushes and apple tree which were in storage over the summer. May not get much time in garden between now and the General Election. Wildlife on the garden may well be pleased to be undisturbed for the next few weeks. Must remember to feed the birds at least.

BEETROOT BOTTLED TO MAKE SPACE TO SOW OVER-WINTERING GARLIC – SECOND WEEK IN NOVEMBER 2010

The Beetroot patch

Last Sunday was calm, cool with a bright blue sky. After a busy spell, I at last found a couple of hours to dig up the beetroot crop, better late than never. Not a big patch (7 by 3 feet) but enough to keep me in beetroot for the year. My only worry was that it might be turning a bit woody the way radish goes if left in the ground too long but I need not have worried.

The crop when boiled for 45 minutes was then easy to top and tail and the skin was easily scraped off the warm red roots. While waiting for the roots to cook, the pickling mixture was prepared. Two pints of vinegar, black pepper, sprinkling of root ginger and allspice, two dessert spoons of brown sugar, 4 bay leaves and 4 crushed cloves of garlic and a few finely chopped shallots. Ideally, this would have been left to mature for a week but I needed to get the bottling done quickly so I boiled it up, simmering for a few minutes (an hour is recommended) and left to cool.

Now to chop up the skinned shiney beetroot and fill up the jars. I filled 15, three up on last years harvest. Kept back a couple of raw beetroot which tasted earthy and delicious grated with a salad. I bottled the bulk of the crop, however, as it is quick, nothing goes to waste and the bottled beetroot adds a great flavour to sandwiches in work during the year.

The pickling mixture was poured in to half fill each jar of beetroot. I used the reddened water from cooking the crop to top up each jar. Last year I made the mistake of filling each jar with the pickling mixture and the excessive vinegar was a bit overpowering, so more beetroot, less vinegar this year!

Garlic cloves and bulbs

Meanwhile, enough daylight left to separate the garlic cloves out from the bulbs ordered on line from www.fruithillfarm.com based in Bantry, Co Cork. Very impressive overnight dispatch by post. The cloves were spaced 6 inches apart and sown 1 inch below the surface. Hopefully the crop from these cloves will be ready to add to next years batch of bottled beetroot.

A good book on beetroot I would recommend is ‘Beetroot, the Vitality Plant and its Medicinal Benefits’ by Margaret Briggs published in 2007 by Abbeydale Press.

LAST APPLE JUICED AND HONEY POTTED, TIME TO CLEAR GARDEN FOR AUTUMN PLANTING – SECOND WEEK IN OCTOBER 2010.

Made a start on clearing the spent pea and bean stalks and haulms. I did not dig them out, just chopped them at ground level so their roots remained in the soil. These legume roots have nodules of nitrogen fixed from the air during their growing season. I’m told this is valuable for the cabbage plants I hope to plant in this patch shortly as all the brassica family are hungry for nitrogen.

Still have beetroot to dig up and bottle for storage over the winter. Before long I will need to spread the mature compost from the composter around the garden and make a new batch by layering the compost tumbler contents with the greenery from spent veg and hedge clipping. However I’ll need to set aside a Sunday sometime soon to get a good run at that job which comes around every 6 months, autumn and spring.

THANKS TO ST TERESA’S SCHOOL VISIT, THE KITCHEN GARDEN GETS A SLOT ON TV3 – FIRST WEEK IN AUGUST 2010.

Got a call from TV3 to come on the Morning Show programme on Tuesday 3rd August to discuss this website. The spark of interest was

On the set of The Morning Show with hosts Brian Daly and Sybil Mulcahy

lit by the impromptu visit by pupils from St Teresa’s National School and the al fresco recording of ‘The Garden Song’, I think. So a big thank you again to Ms. Lee and her young vegetable growing and singing students. The number of visitors to the website after the TV3 broadcast would have filled the garden itself many times over! Take a look here.

Meanwhile the Mammoth Russian sunflowers are flowering one by one. They are the skyscrapers of the garden and the bees love them. The lavender also is in full bloom and festooned with bumblebees and honey bees. The bees are not in the least bit bothered by me or any other mammal moving about the garden. It saddens me to hear about the phobia people mention about bees and wasps. I would be more cautious about wasps as they can sting and sting again later. However a bee will not sting unless the hive is threatened. After all, a bee dies in a gruesome way once it has stung, laying down its life for the hive.

Bees enjoying the Sunflower

This is the time of year to enjoy the fruits of earlier labour in the garden. However, the forward thinking gardener will be preparing to sow Spring Cabbage, Pak Choi and other salads, Radish every week or two and even Potatoes with harvest at Christmas in mind. Myself, I’ve put in a few more radish seeds and in a tub of soil, some lettuce seeds. Not very confident with the lettuce however as the packet says ‘ will not germinate over 18 degrees’. So fingers crossed. I’m not too worried as the garden is full of leafy plants which when mixed together make very interesting salads, such as chard, cabbage, nasturtium, dandelion, lettuces and various herbs. Even rose petals grown organically make an exotic addition to a salad bowl. As the person who said it said, variety is the spice of life (in as salad bowl).

WEATHER TURNS TROPICAL SO VIGILANT WATERING NEEDED – FOURTH WEEK IN JULY 2010

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.

TIME OUT TO CELEBRATE WITH THE ORGANIC CENTRE, CO LEITRIM – THIRD WEEK IN JULY 2010

The garden at home is bursting with produce right now. The peas and beans, kale and cabbage, chard Swiss and Rainbow are all featuring in the kitchen. Courgettes and pumpkins are in flowers. The raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants often don’t make it as far as the kitchen. The tomatoes are ripening and the sunflowers are reaching for the sky. However, one sunflower succumbed to a slug attack. They chewed all around the base, ‘ring-barking’ the plant so it wilted. It is now unable to take up water and nutrients from the roots. The wasps then feasted on the sweet sap exposed , but ‘it wuz the slugs wot dunnit’. So copper anti-slug tape has been wrapped around the healthy tall sunflower nearby so fingers crossed I have thwarted another sneaky slug attack.

Slugs or no slugs, this weekend was a great time to gather at The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim for the annual Garden Party on Sunday 18th July,  for growers and eaters of home-grown garden produce. Neven Maguire, the legendary chef from Blacklion in nearby Co. Cavan kept a huge audience enthralled by mouth-watering ways of preparing chard, tomatoes and hake. He made pesto making look really easy. I could see tongues (almost) hanging out as he prepared a delicious tiramisu.

Then  famous vegetable gardening author, Joy Larkcom and her husband Don from West Cork did a fascinating presentation on growing salads of the cut and come again varieties, with good handouts and illustrations on PowerPoint.

The team at the Organic Centre, many of whom are volunteers, provided delicious soups and lunches, teas and coffees, cakes and all manner of refreshments for the 500 or so who came for a great day out in dry warm ‘Lovely Leitrim’.

Hans and Gaby Wieland and Andy Hallewell and all the Organic Centre team were thanked by me at the end of the day just before I pulled the raffle tickets for the Castlebaldwin Donkey Sanctuary. The Centre and the Sanctuary raised a few bob and need to raise much more, I have no doubt both people and donkeys went home happy.

The Organic Centre has some great courses coming up and other events. I learned a huge amount there about picking and preparing mushrooms. Check out their website at www.theorganiccentre.ie and go visit them, they need your support.