Posts Tagged ‘May’

‘Making earthy good looking, sweet smelling compost is easy, once you know how – 2nd week of May 2012

Compost rejuvenates the soil in the garden every six months.

The oldest occupation in the world is not what you might think, it is (as far as I am concerned), composting! Before humans fashioned forks, moulded plastic composters, or constructed wooden, brick or straw compost containers, Nature has recruited myriads of micro-organisms to turn un-used food, fallen leaves, seaweed etc in to friable soil-like compost. Worms then mix this with the existing soil, returning nutrients to the roots of new plants, which later die, get composted, and the cycle goes on.

In my garden, I allow one year for converting vegetable waste in to friable soil-like compost. During the first 6 months the vegetable waste is collected from the kitchen and stored and partially composted in a plastic compost tumbler. Turning the tumbler helps aerate the mixture preventing any bad odours. Before the next 6 months, that tumbler mixture is transferred to the brick compost maker, a 1 cubic metre box. This mixture is interlayered with hedge clippings and coarser garden waste. This compost box is closed off and opened in 6 months time, when the mixture will have become proper compost, ready for digging in around the garden

I hope you enjoy this short video which Lorcan and I made the other day. The benefits of composting are many but include, (1). tidying the garden, (2). getting some good exercise (3). improving soil structure and (4). making food for healthy plants. Two things I forgot to mention in the video (a) place on old piece of carpet or even cardboard on top of the compost mix before replacing the lid to keep off rain. This ensures the composting making bugs are happier in this dry, dark and warmer environment. (b) Some people (discreetly) add a high nitrogen activator to the compost mix in liquid or in powdered form. The composting bugs tend to like it as it speeds up their work. They won ‘t really mind if you buy it in powdered form in the garden centre or otherwise!

APPRECIATING THE ROLE WEEDS PLAY AND TRYING TO SEE WEEDING AS A SORT OF THERAPY – FOURTH WEEK IN MAY 2010

I have just finished making a DVD (with friends from Glasnevin, Balbriggan and Lusk Tidy Towns Association,)  called ‘The Wildflowers of Fingal’. As a result I have a new perspective on what we gardeners call ‘weeds’. The dandelion flower for example is an important food source for bees. Humans need bees not just for honey but more critically to pollinate many of our food plants, whether courgette and tomato flowers or clover which in turn creates meat and dairy products.

So it is good to know weeds are doing some good next time someone casts a disapproving look at your ‘wilderness’. Mind you I do like a fairly tidy garden so I can see what I need to see growing and so I can reach plants, water them and pick crops as they ripen. So I weed as necessary.

It is good to hear some agricultural advisors speak well of some deep-rooted weeds. Plants such as dock and dandelion take up  and make available again nutrients which have been washed down out of reach of shallow rooting grasses and clovers etc. Dr Charles Merfield, Organic Agriculture Research Scientist when he worked in Johnstown Castle for Teagasc spoke in detail about the biological feed back systems at work in fertile soil. Roots excrete  what soil needs to make food for roots. So while weeds may be a problem in one way, in another they are helping maintain a healthy soil for the plants you actually want to grow strong, tall and tasty.

Not so tall but very tasty are the radishes which I have begun to sample this week. The crisp bite and peppery flavour is undoubtably best when picked , washed and eaten fresh from fertile soil. However if I had let the weeds go unchecked, I may not have seen these new season radishes.

While I will not panic if I see a few weeds, I am geared up to keep the kitchen garden manageable and as tidy as it needs to be. I have between now and the 10th June 2010 to put my words into practice and I invite you to come then and see if I have succeeded or not.

ON THURSDAY 10th JUNE AT 7pm, THE GROW IT YOURSELF NAUL GROUP AND SOME GIY-ers FROM SWORDS AND DUBLIN  ALONG WITH NEIGHBOURS ARE DROPPING IN TO SEE THE GARDEN. I’LL BE TAKING BETS ON THE NUMBER OF VISITORS WHO SAY ‘IT IS SMALLER THAN IT LOOKS ON THE U-TUBE VIDEO CLIPS’! IF I HAVE ENOUGH CUPS YOU ARE WELCOME TO A CUP OF ‘REAL TEA’ (AS PEOPLE SAY) OR SAMPLE AN AROMATIC BREW MADE FROM FRESH PEPPERMINT WHICH IS GROWING PROFUSELY  UNDER THE APPLE TREE BETTER THAN ANY WEED I KNOW RIGHT NOW!  CALL THE CONSTITUENCY OFFICE IN SWORDS ON (01) 89 00 360 FOR MORE DETAILS AND DIRECTIONS.

TIME TO PLANT UP WINDOW BOX AND POTS, THUS CLEARING GREENHOUSE OF SEEDTRAYS TO GIVE TOMATOES SPACE TO GROW – THIRD WEEK IN MAY 2010

The growing season is moving up a gear, temperatures are rising, daylight hours are stretching and growing rates are accelerating. The seedtrays have done their job. Now is the time to plant out those seedlings in their potting compost modules. This means the least possible disturbance of the young root balls.

The seedlings have been hardened off. Pots and windowbox are lined up filled with good soil. Watering can, trowel and small fork are at hand.  I am planting the salad rocket plants side by side with the not so edible flowering plants. The likes of Nicotiana (Affinis), Night-Scented Stock, Calendula, Nasturtium and Gypsophilia will add pleasant aromas, a splash of colour  and welcome food for the pollinating insects, including the honey bees I have been minding up the road in a friend’s orchard.

Some of these plants also have interesting backgrounds. Nicotiana, for example, was named after Jean Nicot, a French consul in Portugal, who introduced the tobacco plant to Portugal and France in the 16th century. Although related to the big tobacco leaf plant, the variety ‘Affinis’ looks more like a rockery plant but I’ll see how it grows in the weeks ahead.

DRY COLD WEATHER REQUIRES WATERING CANS AT DAWN PLUS PROTECTING SEEDTRAYS AT NIGHT – SECOND WEEK IN MAY 2010

Arthur the cat keeping an eye on the seedlings

With more legumes and brassicas planted and the alliums looking a bit dry, there is a need for a watering schedule. With below normal rainfall, I’m watering before breakfast each morning this week. I find a ‘scuaine’ of six watering cans lined up under a garden bench works in my 20′ by 40′ garden. No hose pipe means I waste less water hopefully. I fill the water cans before going to bed. This allows the chlorine to evaporate overnight. Before watering at dawn, I add comfrey tea as a liquid feed to each container. Just a dollop makes for a very diluted solution. Two litres between six watering cans is the rate which works for me.

In the morning I also take out the 12 seedtrays from greenhouse and lay outdoors on path to harden off ready for planting out as each plant is big enough to withstand slug attacks hopefully. When the more seasonally warm temperatures return, I’ll leave hardy seedling in trays outside apart from the more cold sensitive plants like basil, coriander and tomatoes which will fill out in the greenhouse over the summer.

LIFT REMAINING LEEKS TO CLEAR SPACE FOR YOUNG PEA PLANTS – FIRST WEEK IN MAY 2010

Had a visit from Síle and the TG4 ‘criú’ to record an item for the new series of ‘Garraí Glas’. The garden was like a moulting bird with some summer plumage but a lot of older feathers still showing. The remaining 2009 leeks, 2009 cabbage etc. were still visible but some  2010 young pretenders will now be needing their spaces as the seeds have grown into healthy young mange tout,  sugar snap and sweet pea plants.

So the job this week is to lift the remaining leeks before they go to seed and clear the patch to make space for the 2010 legume family. I was surprised how many leeks were left when gathered together in a bucket (see picture of former allium patch now legume patch plus bucket of leeks). Too many leeks for a meal so they must be stored somehow.

Having cleared the ground, dug in some well rotted garden compost and erected the supports so peas can indulge their penchant to climb up in search of the best light, it is time to plant out the seedlings  from the confines of their seed trays. You may recall the peas and bean seeds are planted in empty toilet rolls filled with damp seed compost. This allows 24 plants per seedtray. The depth of each roll has enough space for a good root system to develop. I use an old scissors to cut and peel off the cardboard sleeve and the cylindrical root ‘ball’ is planted intact so roots are hardly disturbed in the Continue reading

FOURTH WEEK IN MAY – LEAF BEET AND BEETROOT PLANTED OUT

Warmest day of 2009 so far on Sunday 24th with 18c in Balbriggan. Planted out beetroot and leaf beet seedlings in the final plot of the four to be set with this years crop. With the bright dawn so early now, it is a real pleasure to get up and out before breakfast to hand hoe between rows just to savour the optimism of a vegetable garden beginning to fill out with growing plants.

The week has been an interesting one too, visiting a community garden in Rosscarbery in West Cork with Green Party / Comhaontas Glas candidate from Clonakilty, Bernie Connolly. Called in on a number of school gardens in the area including Gaelscoil Chloch na Coillte. Thug leanai rang a haon pictiur alainn dom. Taim an-bhroduil as!

Tuesday, I helped launch a Grow Your Own free seed project sponsored by Glenisk, the organic dairy business. The free seed project is to be run by The Organic Centre in Co Leitrim. Had a good chat with Andy and Hans from the Centre afterwards.

Back in Fingal, called in to Trinity House, Oberstown near Lusk to see their wonderful new fruit and vegetable garden. The youngsters are driving this development and I was delighted to plant a ‘James Grieve’ apple tree, the same variety as my solitary apple tree at home which gives me a great supply of juice to last a whole year. The Trinity House garden also has two other very tasty dessert varieties, ‘Katie’ and my favourite, ‘Elstar’.

Other garden jobs done during the week include weeding the front garden, cutting the grass. I used the clippings to mulch around the raspberries this time. Harvested comfrey and added leaves to comfrey liquid feed. Quare smell but great stuff or so organic growers tell me. I know about the smell and I’ll know more about the growing effects of the feed in due course after I’ve diluted it to water and feed my tomato and courgette plants.

THIRD WEEK IN MAY – NEW PEAR TREE

Biodiversity Week from 17 – 24 May 2009 is feeling more like brrr-diversity week in the garden. My advisor in the Department of Agriculture keeps my spirits up however telling me, ‘Wet and windy month of May fills the barns with corn and hay’!

To be honest, I’m too busy canvassing and attending to the day job for much garden work anyway.  At least with the rain I need not worry about watering, just keep slugs and snails at bay.

I needed a second pear tree to pollinate the ‘Conference’ variety I have been growing for about 10 years, so I ordered one from the Irish Seed Savers Association in Scariff, Co. Clare. Last Saturday the ISSA had a stand at the Irish Environmental Network exhibition in the Botanic Gardens, Dublin, where I launched Biodiversity Week, so happy day – I got to take my new pear tree home. I look forward to wholesome fruit and maybe even ‘holy fruit’ as the variety is called ‘John Wesley’, first recorded in Co. Limerick and apparently planted by the famous preacher when he was in the area.

Last Monday, I was electioneering in Galway and had a chance to see some fantastic kitchen gardens. First I visited Mr. Farrell’s Galway Educate Together School attended by Ex-Mayor Cllr Niall O Brolochain’s children. Their organic school garden had a great variety planted in rotation including Elephant Garlic. I was impressed, as I was with Shantalla N.S. where their organic garden had to be moved to make way for a pre-fab. However the new garden was going to be even better. I gave a small dig out laying a path at the construction phase of their new polytunnel. I particularly loved their willow dome classroom.

Before I left Galway, I dropped in on NUIG’s organic garden under construction on the university campus guided along by Organic Matters’ editor Cait Curran of IOFGA. Colm O’Dwyer along with staff, students and local neighbours are turning a neglected space into an organic 4 plot rotation. I hope other universities follow where Galway leads once again!