Archive for the ‘Courgette’ Category

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.

Advertisements

SOWING RADISH AS A CATCH CROP WITH ANTI-SLUG DEFENCES – SECOND WEEK IN JULY 2010

My 8 courgette plants are growing, but not as fast as I expected which leaves some areas of bare soil. Nature does not ‘do’ bare soil unless we’re talking earthquake aftermath or mudslides. I’ll have a go at sowing a few radish seeds to use this vacant space but the slug threat needs a response.

Recently I got a present of a role of copper tape which the packet claims will halt advancing slugs and snails. (Thanks Zoe.) Like Sellotape it needs a pot or something rigid to stick on to. Laying it in the soil would not be very effective I’d say. So what I need is the proverbial ring of steel. The next best thing I have in the shed is a riddle, but placed up-side-down on the soil it becomes a ‘ring of steel’ with a wire netting across its top.

I wrapped the copper tape around the edge of the riddle, sowed the seed and covered the round patch of seed-bed with the copper clad ring of steel. Little did I realise the first wrecker to arrive was not a slug but Arthur the cat as the picture  shows. Thankfully, he soon got bored with the novel high-security seed bed and moved on to let the sun warm the newly sown radish.

The variety I sowed are an heirloom variety which are for sale on the Irish Seed Saver website. Called German Beer or Beer Garden, they are a white radish, which I’m told can grow as big as a small turnip. Time will tell.

SUNNY GROWING CONDITIONS ENCOURAGE ME TO HARVEST ALLIUMS AND POTATOES EARLY AND TO USE THE FREE SPACE TO GROW ON COURGETTE AND PUMPKIN PLANTS – FOURTH WEEK IN JUNE 2010

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!

BOTTLING BEETROOT AND FREEZING COURGETTE SOUP – FIRST WEEK IN SEPTEMBER 2009

Last chance before political work takes over to store up the beetroot and courgette crop. I need the ground where the beetroot has been growing to plant autumn onion sets. It suits me therefore to harvest the lot, boil and bottle them in vinegar with some onion and herbs from the garden in each jar. After giving away some beetroots at the Cool Earth exhibition in Dun Laoghaire last weekend, I have enough to make 14 jars full. I shall see how they keep in the cool athmosphere of the attic in the months ahead.

The glut of courgettes growing on my patio requires them to be cooked and stored also. The simplest thing for me to do was just make soup. Again the onions from the garden came in handy and the soup is tasty. The bulk I will freeze for re-heating during the colder days of winter ahead.

Even though the days are drawing in, there is still good light for sowing  my weekly few radish seeds alongside the autumn lettuce I planted out. Meanwhile, I’m on the look out for the Radar variety of onion sets which are specifically for autumn planting. I have covered the former beetroot patch with old carpet to keep the soil weed free and warm in readiness for the trusty Radar sets when I can get some.

HARVESTING EARLY SPUDS TO MAKE WAY FOR TENDER COURGETTE PLANTS – THIRD WEEK IN JUNE 2009

Primary schools all around the country have been harvesting the crop from the two ‘Colleen’ seed potatoes which Agriaware and I sent to each school in February last, thanks to Bord Bia, An Post, Safefood Ireland and many generous fruit & vegetable company sponsors. I sowed a couple of the same seed potatoes in the standard black plastic grow bags at home and they are now ready to harvest this Monday.

How do I know they are ready to harvest? I watch out to see when the potato plants flower. When the flowers fade and wilt, the plant is finished growing and the potatoes are as ready as they will ever be to be dug up.

As these plants are in grow bags, they can simply be turned on their side and emptied out. Before I do this, I lay out old carpet on the patio on which to rummage through the soil for all the new potatoes, big and small. The small ones are set aside for boiling up whole as salad potatoes whereas the bigger ones will be served hot with butter and a sprig of mint – delish!

If I can manage to preserve the grow bags and the rich contents of soil and compost, I can plant up the same bags on the patio to grow on the courgette plants which were sown in early May in pots. The pots were left on the kitchen windowsill until germination. Then they went to the telephone box sized greenhouse to grow on. In the last week, I have put the pots outside during the day and taken them in at night, to harden the plants off in readiness for their final outdoor but sheltered and hopefully sunny patio location.

I love courgettes and it is rare to find Irish grown courgettes in the shops. In previous years, I’ve grown long green ones and yellow ones. This year I’m going for a round variety called ‘Tondo de Nizza’. The Organic Centre seed packet instructions tell me it germinates at about 20c. As the Italian name suggests, the courgette is a bit of a sun worshipper. The forecast this week in Ireland shows about 18c daytime temperatures. My courgettes may feel a bit like a Roman centurion in Chester dreaming of a sunny villa in Sicily. Nonetheless, my south facing  patio with a bit of TLC may just be enough to give me a good yield of promised ‘small round fruits with a green mottled skin and fine flavour’! If I pick the fruit regularly, I hope to be harvesting from July to September.