Posts Tagged ‘July’


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.



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 and go visit them, they need your support.


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.


Fellow kitchen gardener Cathy Gaffney from down the road and her daughter Jenny helped this year to pick and share blackcurrants while the weather was dry.

I get a generous crop from just two blackcurrant bushes – or ‘Ribes Nigrum’ as the Romans (or Michael Palin in ‘The Life of Brian’) might have said! A GIY friend was saying how the birds devour her blackcurrants and she needs to net the bushes. Maybe the variety I use is not so palatable to birds – but I certainly like it, as a dessert, on porridge or as a drink when juiced. I do not have time to make jam from it so I freeze any surplus in batches to use during the year.

I did not know much about fruit bushes when I bought and planted these two bushes in 1996. As luck would have it however, I accidentally gave them ideal conditions. A well manured deep soil and moisture during the summer, a regular mulch of lawn clippings and a pH of around 6.2 . The bushes are planted on the moist banks of the small garden pond so the roots never dry out.

The only snag is the fruit is difficult to reach with all the growth nearby. So I cut out and take away the stems using a secuteurs. I can then pick the mature fruit at the kitchen table. This makes the harvest an easier and more sociable activity. At the table a kitchen fork can also be used to remove the bulk of the fruit which speeds up the operation.

One drink using balckcurrants I have not yet tried is Cassis – apparently it is made from the juice mixed with a dry white wine and I’m told it goes down a treat on a hot day. Let me know if you can vouch for this or if you have other useful tips about  the beautiful blackcurrant.


The growing of Duke of York in car tyres and Carlingford in large 2 foot diameter pots has yielded a reasonable harvest. Both varieties are second-early potatoes. However the tyre grown Duke of York produced larger tubers and a heavier crop overall. It seems the tyres retained moisture better than the pots. The tyres were sitting on the open soil too which helped with moisture coming from below.

Apart from the crop, the emptying of pots and tyres has given me a lovely supply of spare friable soil. I also cleared the mange-tout plants away as that crop was well eaten and enjoyed. This gives me a little clearing amongst the profuse vegetation.

This clearing and the supply of friable soil means it is easy now to pot up the strawberry runners I wrote about last week. I also want to propogate ivy plants as ground cover in my shady front garden. Having  retrieved enough empty plant pots, all I need now are ivy cuttings to plant up.

Ivy is growing well on my wild flower garden shed roof. In fact it needs to be cut back. I’m having friends and neighbours around on Saturday evening and need to cut back any overhanging obstacles. The ivy I cut back, instead of going into the compost bin,  this time gets a second chance as cuttings.

With Ryan Tubridy at the Tubridy Show

Minister Sargent presents Ryan Tubridy with some home-grown goodies. Ryan looks bemused at the Dutch Hoe he's holding!

There is satisfaction in getting timing right in a small garden. Gardeners generally appreciate this. I hope Ryan Tubridy appreciates the hamper of fresh veg and fruit I gave him at the end of our short chat on his last radio show before the summer break. I certainly appreciate the publicity the radio show gave to this website. The hits shot up dramatically following the broadcast. The power of radio, even more powerful than comfrey tea! HEALTH WARNING: Comfrey tea is a strong smelling plant feed, good for fruiting tomatoes but not for human consumption. The Irish Times please note!


Rush and District Horticultural Show was held at St Maur’s GAA Centre, Rush, 2009_RushandLusk01Co Dublin, on Saturday 11 July. I chanced my arm and entered a 3 pod set of Enorma broad beans, 8 strings of blackcurrants and a 6 pod set of Rondo peas. Considering there were 11 other pea class entries I was delighted to see a ‘first prize’ sticker beside my plate of peas. A little praise goes a long way, just like the smell of comfrey tea!

Meanwhile, the three strawberry plants are continuing to generously yield delicious fruit. Each day I pick a couple of freshly ripened strawberries to take in a lunchbox to my Department pof Agriculture office. I notice the plants are also sending forth runners in the hope they will land on fertile soil to form new plants. Now is the time to help the runners to root and grow into new plants which will fruit along with their parents next summer.

All I need to do is collect a few plant pots, fill them with good soil and place them in the vicinity of the sprawling runners. Then I, gently using a ‘wish-bone’ shaped twig, pin the runners in the pots of soil. As long as they are not let dry out, the new plants should grow away happily and develop a good root system. Once the plants are growing well in their pots, I will transplant them to their final position when they are to fruit next summer.


Image: C.Finn

Image: C.Finn

When the only chance to cook is a Saturday or Sunday, the harvest from even a small garden can be more than enough at this time of year.  Thank goodness therefore that the weekly  Balbriggan Fish and Farmers’ Market has a Garden Produce Stall where surplus produce can be sold. In my case, the income from my small amount of produce goes to the local Marine Conservation Centre Building Fund which has a site beside the Martello tower in Balbriggan.

Image: C.Finn

Image: C.Finn

Kitchen gardeners like myself,  if we have a surplus of beans, peas, salad leaves, herbs, cut flowers or whatever, can hire a wicker basket at the Garden Produce Stall for €2 (plus a refundable €5 deposit). This allows any small scale producer to fill the basket and sell the contents.

I use freezer bags to measure out and present the herbs, salad leaf mixes and kale. Sold some blackcurrants also.  Have some broad beans, mange tout and sugar snap peas ready for next time.  Meanwhile, next Saturday, 11 July, Rush Horticultural Show is on again. I may as well enter a couple of categories. I do not expect to win in this the horticultural capital of Ireland, but I’m pretty sure I will pick up a few tips from one or two of the veteran growers who keep the standards so high.

Balbriggan Fish and Farmers market operates every Friday from 10:00am to 3:00pm in The Square, Balbriggan.