Posts Tagged ‘greenhouse’


The mild weather threw open the possibility of firing up the cob oven when friends and parents travelled from Counties Meath and Dublin for a visit to Tacumshin, Co. Wexford. The weather was not warm, however, so the wood fired oven gave off some welcome heat as the pizzas were cooking. Admittedly, most of the pizza toppings were bought in, but the bell peppers were grown in the greenhouse and some of the wood was a remnant of boughs that broke of in the storms of last February.

Lighting up a cob oven takes over an hour before the cooking heat is just right, so no point cooking just one pizza after all that trouble. Having a few guests makes it all very sociable and worthwhile. Each pizza cooks in three minutes so nobody is left waiting too long. Roll on the spring and milder weather for more cob oven cuisine

Enjoying rapidly cooked made to order pizzas from the cob oven are Áine, Barbara, Brendan and their sons with my Dad.

Enjoying rapidly cooked made to order pizzas from the cob oven are Áine, Barbara, Brendan and their sons, Ferdia and Cillian, with my Dad.

– baking bread is the next challenge!



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.


Where do you start with three overgrown acres in Tacumshin, near Carnsore Point, Co Wexford. All around us is the home of early potatoes and rare migrant birds? A birdwatcher’s paradise.  As mentioned last week, moving from Balbriggan was not easy. Carrying a greenhouse to which I have become sentimentally attached, did not make it any easier! However it was a 50th birthday present from my Fingal Green friends and I would miss the greenhouse, as I will miss them too. However, my friends may be more inclined to visit IF ‘their’ greenhouse is here in Wexford to greet them!

Thanks to Eoin Hurley, the disassembly and assembly of the glass and metal structure was very efficiently carried out. Eoin bought cement at Maguire’s Builders’ Provider Store in Rosslare Harbour to secure

The Balbriggan greenhouse Tacumshin, Co Wexford. Step 1 in making a meadow into a kitchen garden.

The Balbriggan greenhouse Tacumshin, Co Wexford. Step 1 in making a meadow into a kitchen garden.

the greenhouse legs in place. The greenhouse is now ready to grow our winter greens and nurture early sowings of peas in pots etc for planting out next spring. Cuttings of hedging like box and herbs like curry plant are also cossetted under glass, until they root. The greenhouse is like a little Fingal embassy in the heart of County Wexford, and like me, it has been made very welcome!

Next week, the lay out of the outside vegetable beds will start to take shape. At present, we are waiting for a delivery of horse manure from stables nearby in Killinick. After that let the barrowing of numerous loads begin!


‘Irish weather apologises for the late running of this season’, could well be a headline to sum up the weather at present. However, there is more to gardening than sowing and growing, rooting and fruiting. There are the maintenance jobs too. Fixing gates, clearing shed and sharpening shears, etc. One of these wintry jobs is removing any green algae and dirt which is clinging to the glass outside and inside the greenhouse.

First: Clear out the greenhouse as much as possible. Remove the withered remains of last year’s annual crops if not already removed. The old cape gooseberries’ growth, runner bean and tomato stalks etc. I still have lots of flat parsley growing so the spring clean will be good news for the over-wintered parsley plants.

Second: With the help of a steady stepladder, brush away all the cobwebs and loose grim from glass and frames inside and out.

Third: Fill a bucket with warm soapy water. Find an old dish clothe or sponge and a window clearing rubber blade.

Fourth: Starting on the outside from the apex of the greenhouse roof, scrub and clean each pane of glass from top to bottom. Then do the same on the inside.

Fifth: Take a seat with a cup of tea and observe the increased light levels now in the greenhouse.

Cleaning a polytunnel is really a two person job. A rolled up old bed sheet soaked in warm soapy water is held at each end by the two person team. With this ‘sheet rope’ over the polytunnel at one end, each person in turn pulls the sheet to simulate a soapy sawing action until they reach the far end of the polytunnel. The lower parts of the polytunnel are OK to clean single-handedly with  a sponge and some warm soapy water.

Washing a greenhouse. Not good to be in a hurry, as you don't want to fall off the stepladder through a glass roof! Keep one hand free to hold on to the frame all the time.

Washing a greenhouse. Not good to be in a hurry, as you don’t want to fall off the stepladder through a glass roof! Keep one hand free to hold on to the frame all the time.

One week on from the greenhouse spring clean, the flat parsley, under glass, is brighter, bushier and evidently growing faster, making the bit of elbow grease and effort all the more worthwhile.


About those lettuce seeds I mentioned sowing recently, they did germinate fine. It is a good thing I was not dissuaded from sowing by the message on the seed packet, ‘will not germinate when temperatures are above 18c’. I remind myself again that seeds WANT to grow, given a reasonable start and half a chance. However the better the conditions, the more vigorous the growth.

Thanks to the generosity of Green colleagues in Fingal, I recently celebrated a ‘significant birthday’ with a tantalizing voucher for a small 8′ by 6′ greenhouse which they ordered from The Botanic Greenhouse Company in Swords. (Thank you one and all in the Fingal Greens). It will be winter time when I get to clear a space for this new addition to the kitchen garden, but in the meantime I’m on a learning curve. Suppose you could say I’m studying the ‘greenhouse effect’ in miniature! In farming, the term for growing under glass or in a polytunnel is ‘protected cropping’.

I was delighted to visit Nicky Kyle in Ballyboughal, Fingal, to get her advice on getting the best from a polytunnel or greenhouse. Nicky has been growing organically  for a few decades and her diverse produce sells well at Balbriggan Fish and Farmers’ Market every Friday morning.

The diversity of plants in just one polytunnel we visited was impressive. Even more impressive was the range of varieties of each species.

Here are a few examples:

CHERRY TOMATO; Variety ‘ROSADA’, a very sweet and tasty mini-plum shape available from Simpson Seeds. A lovely smack cut in halves with some hummus.

CHERRY TOMATO: Variety ‘SUNGOLD”, round and bright yellow when ripe and explodes with flavour in the mouth.

BEEF TOMATO: Variety ‘BLACK CRIM’, this year with the good summer, almost size of decent pumpkin, but struggles normally at this latitude, much prefers Sardinia probably!

ALPINE STRAWBERRIES: Variety ‘REUGEN’ good continuous cropper over summer months. Quite soft so need eating soon after picking. (I can live with that!) Grown from seed and bought by mail order from Chiltern Seeds.

FRENCH BEAN: Variety ‘COBRA’ excellent flavour and large pod size when ripe. French beans can be encouraged to crop again following first harvest if leaves are stripped off after cropping which triggers more fruiting I am told.

COURGETTE: Variety ‘Atena’ yield healthy and tasty yellow courgettes and does well as tunnel crop.

GRAPE: Variety ‘LAKEMONT’ seedless white grape which I saw growing well in a bucket sized pot. Mobile enough to put out in warmest weater and lifted back in again to be wintered under cover.