Thursday, June 26, 2008


My garlic went in on on Dec 24th, but with all the construction in the garden, I had to move a few, and the others that are left behind are not terribly well tended. So a recent harvest showed fairly small bulbs. However, they are staring flowering, so I think a pizza with scrapes is called for.

I will harvest them end July, sort out the raised bed they are in, and sow some Daikon in there for the winter.

Planted a full raised bed of red onions - they are all going to seed now without getting terribly big, so next year I think I should plant them a bit later, in better quality soil, and not all red ones. Probably need to make a call on harvesting them, and backfill with some autumn/winter veg - probably a better use of the space. But maybe I need to wait thill the stalks die off - anyone have any ideas?

The leeks are doing great. After last years successful crop of 10 :-) (one of the few successes of last year) I planted lots. I now have maybe 50 scattered around the various beds, doing well. And more seedings coming on. I have seen mention of mid-summer leeks, but I don't think any of these will be ready in time. September would do fine, though.

Have some Japanese onions (ishikura) to grow from seed - should put a few of these in too - they seem indestructible...

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Gardening with kids

When you first have children, it seems like your gardening days at over for ever - a few moments snatched after bed, during naptime. But then they start to walk, and once they get over being grossed out by slugs and bugs, gardening with children can be quite enjoyable.

I have 2 boys - Dara and Leo, age 3 and 6. That's Dara above, with his fine potato plant. This year, we put in raised beds, and I set up one of the beds for the boys. Thay have planted potatoes, tomatoes, some flowers - Sunflower, french marigold. Dara grew the flowers from seeds.

As I have mentioned before, they get good mileage out of collecting slugs to feed to the tadpoles - a real win-win. They love looking at the worms in the wormery. This year Dara has become proficient at repotting seedlings, which is no mean feet for a 6 year old. He's very gentle. I guess that since they have been out with me from a young age that they have a sense of the plants. I'm very happy that they can now recognise some of the plants from the leaves, and they love spotting beans and tomoatoes in need of harvesting.

Potatoes are a really good thing for them to grow - you can just use sprouting tubers from your shop bought potatoes. WE used a big plastinc bag that had held potting compost. I did this with the junior infants class (age 4-5) in Dara's school, and they worked out very well. Last week we harvested, and got about 1.5 kilos from one bag. Harvesting was fun - I split the bag open in a wheelbarrow, and let them all root away - it was like buried treasure. then we cooked them and ate them with butter and herbs. Yum!
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Here's a section of the boys raised bed - Not bad! Hope that they will eat the tomatoes - the only thing that they have knowingly eaten from the garden is potatoes. Tomato sauce hides a multitude.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Solstice!

Yesterday we harvested the first scallop squash, a courgette, a red onion, and had a wonderful garden Pizza. I was congratulating myself that we were ahead of the game compared to last year, as we had no courgettes last year worth speaking of - maybe one or two squash in September.

Last night the wind picked up, accompanied by torrential rain, and today, I'm left wondering if the first courgette will also be the last. I planted out quite a bit yesterday morning, the wind is inclined to catch the big leaves, and if they are not well rooted in, wreak havoc with the lower stem. Fingers crossed I'll still have some courgettes when the sun comes back out...

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Friday, June 20, 2008


Meitheal is an old Irish concept that involves neighbours helping each other on the understanding that it's mutual, and won't be taken advantage of. In the days before mechanisation, you needed a lot of hands to save hay, to harvest wheat, to feed the workers - helping out was being part of the community.

In Dublin, my neighbour and I swapped seedling, plants and produce. But none of my neighbours here are crazy vegetable gardeners. And invariably I have too many plants - I always grow some spares in case of collapsing greenhouses, slug attacks, and other garden disasters.

However through teaching gardening to the kids at the school and Montessori, I am starting to build a gardening community. L. from Leo's creche is going to trade me an Indian head massage in return for all the plants we have given her, M. from the school is going to owe me some emergency child minding. I would gladly give the plants away just to know they have good homes, but to be offered something in return makes me realise how much they are appreciated - and that feels really good!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Worm castings

Today I picked up a worm bin from a generous freecycler. It's for the school, but since end of term is nigh, I'll be minding it till September. She gave it to me full - but not of partly rotting food - but full of the most beautiful worm castings I had ever seen. More than generous - though I think she thoght I was a bit strange when I kept saying how beautiful it was...

I have seen what they are supposed to look like in books, but between being careless about what goes in, and too impatient to wait, I had never seen a full tray of the beautiful brown stuff that worms will make if they are let get on with it. Leo and I had a great time spreading bits of it near al the hungry plants - making sure most of the worms were out of it first. Now that I have seen what they can do, I'm going to have to try to let them do it more often.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Back from a week away, and everything took off in my absence. The beans (borlotti and runner) flew up the stakes. Lettuces growing, turnips ready for harvest, carrots needing thinning. Courgettes are tiny but all there - first should be ready in a few days. The ones in planters doing better than the ones in the soil.

Also, we have froglets! The tadpoles have front and back legs, and some of the tails are gone. They are much less shy, and very lively - we fed them loads of slugs, so they should be growing well.

The slugs ate the flowers that Dara planted on our dear departed cat Bitsy's grave. So now we're on a mission to find slugs, and feed them to the frogs....

Lazy beds update

Back in March, I proposed a method for growing potatoes which required minimal work to accomplish, and which in theory would prepare a plot of land for further vegetable growing. So how is this working out? For me, not wonderfully – partly because I reused bits of plastic from silage, and partly because the slugs got a lot of the spuds. A lot of the seed spuds I got from seedsavers were very small too, which might have been a factor.

However, Martin (from tried out the lazy method with better quality plastic and here is the result!


It will be interesting to see how his yields are, and how the bed works for growing something else next year.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Americans growing their own food

Interesting Article in the NY times about people reacting to food price increases by growing their own.