Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

SETTING UP GREENHOUSE FOR WINTER – SECOND WEEK IN OCTOBER 2009

Spare time has been in short supply. Any couple of hours free on a Sunday afternoon has been spent in the garden. With the dry mild weather and the wish to be outdoors, the Trevor’s Kitchen Garden.ie  site has been neglected. You could say I was saving the blog update work for a rainy day.

This week was ideal for clearing out the spent tomato plants from the greenhouse. The grow boxes of soil which had given a good crop of cherry and brandywine tomatoes were emptied onto the bare patch of soil from where the onions had just been harvested.

Having swept the floor and washed down the glass, I then put back the removeable shelving in the greenhouse. These shelves are now stocked with pots of winter lettuce and basil. Another pot is growing shamrock as an experiment. The floor space is now filled with a three tier strawberry planter which will go outdoors in Spring when next years two tomato plants need their space again. The lettuce pots will also give way to next Spring’s seed trays in due course but not until I have had my fair share of salad sandwiches.

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TALKING ABOUT GROWING MORE TIME CONSUMING THAN GROWING – THIRD WEEK IN SEPTEMBER 2009

The garden is beginning to look neglected but is nonetheless very productive with apples, courgettes, tomatoes, parsley, runner beans, cavello nero kale, perpetual spinach and carrots looking and tasting well.

I’m lucky to get time just to keep the grass cut, under glass plants and potted plants watered. Most garden work these days is done late at night indoors juicing the prolific crop of large James Grieve apples. Some juice is frozen for thawing out to drink in months to come. Most is bottled and GIVEN to friends who have dropped a hint that a bottle would go down well. No complaints so far!

However this interest in growing fruit and veg is gathering momentum. As a result, I was invited to speak about ‘getting started’ at the Electric Picnic and just last weekend I was honoured to open the first  national Grow It Yourself conference  held in Waterford Institute of Technology. My home town of Balbriggan was well represented there so I am hopeful GIY Balbriggan will soon be up and running. A network of GIY groups around the country will be a significant way of empowering communities. Even if it does cause me to neglect my own garden, this is a part of the important work which needs to be done to make us a self reliant and resiliant country where healthy diets will reduce obesity related sickness which is wasting 4 billion euro a year and causing otherwise avoidable stress and grief for many.

Visit the GIY Website at www.GIYIreland.com

ORDERING SEEDS FOR AUTUMN PLANTING – SECOND WEEK IN SEPTEMBER 2009

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.

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.

CUTTING BACK ON RASPBERRY CANES AND BLACKBERRY BUSHES – THIRD WEEK IN AUGUST 2009

This is now the week to look towards the jobs that come around each autumn. Cutting back of raspberry canes and blackcurrant bushes marks the beginning of autumn.

I’m glad to report another good year for the blackcurrant bushes. The raspberry canes were new so I did not expect a bumper crop but hope for great things next year. Cutting back the canes is going to encourage new growth but also in a small garden keeps things tidy enough for myself and visitors to walk around.

The blackcurrant pruning involves taking out branches which fruited this year and this also de-clutters the bush which helps air to circulate and keeps any disease at bay. The cuttings also serve as useful sticks which can be used again for climbing plants next year, or if dried can be used to help start a fire in the winter. The ash from the fire will return to the compost heap, keeping the cycle of life going full circle.

AFTER THE HARVEST, MULCHING – SECOND WEEK IN AUGUST 2009

Mulching space where crops have been harvested and cleared. Sowing green manure.

As I remove plants following a harvest, for example, of broad beans and peas, I am left with very good bare soil. Nature does not do bare soil, so it is good to cover it with a mulch of grass clippings or even cardboard.

Another good option is to sow a suitable green manure, which really just means a quick growing crop that is to be dug in and added to the organic matter and improve the soil structure for another crop to be sown either in the autumn or in the following spring. One thing I’ve discovered is that soil likes to have something growing in it as the roots of any plant, even what we call weeds, encourage soil microbes which would not be encouraged if there were no plant roots.

TIME TO TAKE CUTTINGS – FIRST WEEK IN AUGUST 2009

This is a good week for taking cuttings of any herbs in your own garden or the garden of someone else, provided they don’t mind having cuttings taken! Ask first! Taking cuttings is a very economical way of increasing your plant stock.

Rosemary or sage, or  indeed ivy in my case, are easily propogated from cuttings. Where I’ve cleared mange tout peas leaves me with good space for pots to be located  outdoors and with soil in which I can leave cuttings to root over the next few weeks.

Take a look back at a post from February, where I demonstrate how to propogate some everlasting cabbage.