Posts Tagged ‘Everlasting cabbage’


It makes sense to spread the time of harvest to have something fresh every month if possible. This is a tall order more difficult  if the temperature goes below freezing for any long period in the winter. Mind you, some crops don’t mind eg parsnips, the everlasting cabbage is pretty robust too.  However, Ireland is known for its temperate climate which suits the sowing of some seeds in the autumn to over-winter, as well as sowing in spring. The broad bean, autumn sown onion eg Radar, and most garlic varieties do well if sown in the autumn and give earlier crops than such crops sown in springtime.

Peas, like beans, have big seeds. They should be possible to sow in the autumn too as they have the reserves of energy to get by when there is little light or heat in the depths of winter. We have sown  (against expert advice!) Kelvedon Wonder pea seeds and a mixed variety of sweet pea in early November. Perhaps, they could have gone in a little earlier in October to be stronger  going in to the depths of winter. However, it is a bit of an experiment. We might even leave some of the pea plants

Áine tending some of the pea plants currently in the greenhouse to make the most of low light levels in winter.

Áine tending some of the pea plants currently in the greenhouse to make the most of low light levels in winter.

in the greenhouse to get an early crop. Spring sowing of peas in March or April is the norm. Successional sowing, at least from March to June, makes sense to have a continuous harvest over a few months. Hopefully we will be able to buy a larger freezer sometime so that we will not be short of a frozen pea at least, any time of the year.



Some of the eclectic family gardeners, allotmenteers & GIYers who dropped in on Trevor's Kitchen Garden recently.

Some of the eclectic family gardeners, allotmenteers & GIYers who dropped in on Trevor’s Kitchen Garden recently.

There are pros and cons to a small garden when a visit by fellow gardeners takes place. The downside can be congestion, but on a wet evening, the comfort of a cup of tea and the shelter of the kitchen is on the doorstep. Eleonor Turner from Cuidiú, the Malahide based family support group initiated the visit to ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’. Soon word got around and a few GIY groups heard about the appointment. In the end the group was quite cosmopolitan, but all Fingal based.

It was a win win for me as I could offload some spare everlasting cabbage cuttings and black peppermint plants, so my very friendly guests went home happy. I was grateful for a gift of a jar of plum jam and some currant buns to go with my couple of pots of hot tea and coffee. I also gleaned some advice on how not to propagate aloe vera. It is really a house plant in Ireland and is not happy in direct sunlight. This might explain why it died in my greenhouse! You live and learn. Having visitors drop in to the garden is an enjoyable way of picking up tips in return for giving away cuttings.


Perennial 'everlasting cabbage' protected from the cabbage white butterfly by garden netting over a frame of canes, bottles and pegs alongside a pot of mixed lettuce.

Perennial ‘everlasting cabbage’ protected from the cabbage white butterfly by garden netting over a frame of canes, bottles and pegs alongside a pot of mixed lettuce.

Last year I thought I would save time netting my cabbages and just inspect the underside of my brassica plants for cabbage white butterfly eggs. They are easy enough to spot, I thought, being a bright yellow colour in clumps against the cabbage green leaves. Lack of inspection time and too many leaves to inspect meant enough eggs hatched out to render my cabbage a skeleton of stalks!

Over winter, however, my trusty everlasting cabbage plants and purple sprouting broccoli recovered and grew new leaves. Now they are big and bushy once more. To prevent the tragedy of caterpillars devouring the leaves again, I have taken protective action and the cabbage is now covered with netting to keep out the cabbage white butterfly. The broccoli has recently finished and has been removed to make way for beetroot and chard.

For less than 5 euro, I bought green garden netting. First I constructed a frame of bamboos with upturned plastic bottles on top of each cane. This prevents the netting from being ripped when it is draped over the structure all around the cabbage plants. Any leaves that were in contact with the edge of the netting, I harvested. If any leaf surface is accessible to the butterfly, she will lay. If even the slightest gap in the netting exists, she will get in to the cabbage plants also. The length of netting was first draped over the cabbage from north to south. When this was secured to the ground on each side, another length of netting was draped over the bush from east to west. Again, by threading the base of the netting through a bamboo cane on the ground, the base of the netting could be pegged at the bottom to prevent any gaps being created. Clothes pegs were then handy to close off any gaps at the corners. The pegs attached easily to the bamboo uprights. I hope the photograph makes all this reasonably clear.

The cabbage white butterfly lays eggs in May/June this year. In a normal year laying could start in April. During August / September, she lays again, so don’t be caught out in the autumn! More details in the book Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, pages 49, 110, 113, 212. I’ve seen the book in many good garden centres and bookshops recently including the Book Centre in Wexford. To check where the book is available, contact the publisher


Murrayfield is unlikely to become allotments for growing fruit and veg anytime soon. That does not mean there are not comparisons between Irish rugby players being good at kicking and crops being ripe for picking. The older players ripened last summer and autumn in gardening terms, and the younger lads have a little time to go yet before they are fully ripe. For growers of fruit and veg, this conundrum of ‘too old or too young’ is known as the ‘hungry gap’.

In the case of my small garden, the chard is hanging in to give me and guests fine leaves for tasty meals. (See picture.) However the yield is becoming patchier as the plant is past its prime. The garlic cloves planted last November are about 10cm high but will not be ripe until late July this year. Fearing a ‘hungry gap’, I can see that the purple sprouting broccoli and everlasting cabbage are looking good for the next couple of months. However, June and July will be sparse for harvesting anything substantial, apart from rhubarb under the rowan trees and the early spuds now growing in bags inside the sliding door of the breakfast room. Those spuds should be ready to harvest in June.

The bounty of Nature can be useful during the ‘hungry gap’. For example, the spring growth  of stinging nettles makes handy ingredients for delicious soups, steamed as a veg or fried and tossed in spaghetti. (Nettle recipe on p.33 of ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’, Lamb’s lettuce seeds itself each year in the garden and is prolific for the next couple of months. However, the hungry period is a challenge in the garden as the leaves available tend to be small and fiddly requiring more preparation time picking and cooking.

Irish rugby seems to be in a bit of a ‘hungry gap’ too, at the moment. Hopefully a few proverbial ‘green stinging nettles’ can be selected for the next match against the old warm weather loving

Pat O'Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, ( cutting chard for dinner while a guest in 'Trevor's Kitchen Garden' before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (

Pat O’Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, ( cutting chard for dinner while a guest in ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (

‘French beans’!


Early Monday 9th November, before the phones start ringing, I steel an hour in the garden to start a new generation of everlasting cabbage plants. (This is a perennial hardy kale-like heritage cabbage variety obtained from Irish Seedsavers in Scarriff, Co. Clare.)  Last spring I put up a video clip of cuttings being taken from the previous years cabbage plants. However I want to experiment and see if the cuttings will root and survive if I plant them now before winter sets in instead of waiting until next spring.

Last spring, I molly-coddled the cuttings by planting them in pots of soil and bringing them on in the glasshouse before planting out in late March. This time I’ll try putting them directly into their newly prepared growing patch. This patch provided a good crop of beans and peas in the summer just gone by. The withered legume vines have gone for composting, the soil levelled and some well broken down compost dug in. The nitrogen nodules on the remaining roots of the old legume plants will, I hope, feed the newly planted cabbage cuttings in the year ahead.

All I need to do now is to pull off the ready-to-use side shoots from the parent everlasting cabbage plant. I tidy up the base of each cutting with a sharp knife. A diagonal cut gives the cutting a sharp point. This point  is pushed gently in to the soft soil. I firm in the cuttings one by one and water – voila!