Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January starts

On January 25th, I sowed quite a few seeds - Broccoli, Lettuce, Leeks, onions, Cabbage, spinach. I mixed cabbages, lettuces and onions in my reliable vegetable boxes - I didn't want a full box of anything. And I thought by mixing, I woudln't get varieties mixed up. And Iput them in a warm place that is not terribly well lit.

However, now the broccoli and Cabbage are germinating (already - 3 days!), so either I need to move them to a better lit place, and reduce the germinating chances of the other plants, or leave them where they are, and have leggy cabbage seedlings. I'm going to pick the latter option, mainly because I don't really care about the cabbages, and it would be good to show my class some leggy seedlings.

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Broad Beans and Peas

I planted two types of Broad Bean (the sutton, and aquadulce claudia), and some peas (Kelvedon wonder) on New Years eve. They germinated quickly - in a warm place - and then moved them to the shelf at the patio window. Soon they started to develop a bit of a lean, so got put outside for the day to get more light.

Last Friday (Jan 23rd) I erected a Lidl mini greenhouse/cloche/cold frame, and put it over one of my raised beds. One batch of the braad beans went in, and then a severe frost set in. I wasn't expecting the beans to survive -they are frost hardy, but they were pretty tender. But survive they did, so the peas followed today.

We collected a branch suitable for turning into pea sticks while on a bike ride by the canal - the council had been pruning, so we took some ready to go alder.

Also in the cold frame are some chives in pots, and some divided artichokes - we are having a good few sunny days, so it's getting nice and steamy in there.

Spring is coming!!!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Spring planner

An excellent guide to when to plant stuff - Print it out, fill out the dates for your area, and you will know when to plant what.

You need to know the last frost for your area- Just spoke with Met Eireann, and except for 2001, when it was May 7th, mid April seems to be a good bet - for Mullingar. I think it's related to the full moon - full moons in 2009 are April 9th, and May 9th - I'm going to take a chance on April 9th, and work from there.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Comparing Animal Manure

One of the questions I get asked a lot in class is which animal's manure is better. So I did a little research, and here is an excellent article comparing different types of manures. A little US biased, but helpful nonetheless.

It says the chicken manure is the richest in nutrients, and without any NPK analysis, my mother told me the exact same thing last year, and saved the cleanings from my brothers chicken shed for me. There is a lot of folk knowledge flying around that is very valuable, ir seems....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Last night was my first Tuesday evening gardening class. I was nervous about it, but excited too to meet all these people who were so keen to learn to garden. Unusually for me I had heartburn for a day beforehand, which I can only attribute to nerves.

So I worked in Dublin all day before the course, and drove back to Mullingar directly to the school. I was listening to very mellow music to recharge my batteries on the drive. Amazingly, I got several calls on the way home for people interested in the course, but sadly it had been full since the previous Thursday.

Got to the school early- the Mullingar Harriers were using the car park, so the gate was open. Got the school open and set up, and had a few moments to calm myself before the students arrived.

The first few minutes were a bit messy - getting students registered, waiting for the latecomers, and no one really talking among themselves. But then we got going, and a good interaction started. Things got a bit more relaxed once they started cutting and pasting covers for their diaries, and the questions were fast and furious.

My favourite part was when someone asked me if I bought Lidl's compost activator, and I said that I preferred to use 'wee'. There was a pause while this was digested, and someone said - do you mean 'urine'. And then lots of joking about quality of such after a few drinks. We also had a lot of discussion on types and quality of manure too. So they are starting to think about things differently, I think.

Overall, a pretty successful class, I am encouraged that I can do it. I was pretty buzzed when I got home, so am exhausted today, though I'm sure that will get easier. Quite looking forward to next weeks class, and to the Saturday class on the 24th.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Saturday Class

I'm going ahead with a Saturday class, there seems to be enough interest to fill that class also.

I'll be starting Jan 24th, at Mullingar Educate Together, at 10:00am

Here's the schedules for both of the classes:

Tuesday Class
Introduction 13/01/2009
Tools & composting 20/01/2009
Garden planning 27/01/2009
Seeds 03/02/2009
Pests and diseases 10/02/2009
Vegetables 24/02/2009
Fruit 03/03/2009
Herbs 10/03/2009

Saturday class
Introduction 24/01/2009
Tools & composting 31/01/2009
Garden planning 14/02/2009
Seeds 28/02/2009
Pests and diseases 07/03/2009
Vegetables 14/03/2009
Fruit 21/03/2009
Herbs 28/03/2009

I may cancel the 14/03 class if some of the students are away for St. Patricks weekend. Then we would run into April.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gardening class

The Tuesday evening gardening class is full! So I will also be running a Saturday morning class, which is already half full. This will run between 10am and 12 on a Saturday, probably starting Jan 24th. If you have already given me your details, I'll be in touch, if you are interested in the Saturday class or in any further classes, leave me a comment with your email address - I won't publish it.

If you have come here not knowing much about the gardening course - it's designed to help you begin to grow your own food. Here's what we'll cover:

Keeping a gardening diary
Tools , Compost, Soil prep
Garden planning
Seeds – choosing, ordering, planting, reading a packet
Pests and diseases
Organic methods

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Welcome Examiner Readers

If you have come here by following the link in the Westmeath Examiner, Welcome! Have a look around, I hope you like it, and leave me a comment either way.

Thanks to Elis for the great write up, and please contact me (annambrowne at gmaildot com) if you are interested in the gardening course - there are a few places left! And if I get lots of takers, I may run a second one on a Saturday. So if Tuesday evening doesn't suit you, let me know.

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Beautiful Frosty Morning



It's a beautiful fresh frosty morning here - the leaves are well decorated. This is the coldest that it's been since we moved back here in 2006, and my laissez-faire attitute to the root veg may backfire on me. For the past 2 winters I have left the beets, turnips and daikon in the ground through the winter, harvesting them as needed.

But since we didn't have much frost, this was a fairly safe strategy. This year, my fennel has already taken some damage from the frost, we covered it with fleece on Monday, but I have more or less written it off. It's not really supposed to overwinter. I was hoping for a few more Beet and Daikon harvests, though - I'm hoping that only the surface is frozen, and that they will be ok. The leeks are looking a bit limp, and some of them are going to seed, so probably time to use them up too. If things thaw in the afternoon, I'll go out and harvest a few to assess the damage.

Lesson learned - get in some straw in the autumn for tucking in the root veg!

On the positive side, this frost will break down the bed I prepared at the weekend, and will do a good job of killing the pests, it's a necessary part of the cycle, and welcome as such.




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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's been a good Christmas for me and the garden - We have had lots of visitors all through December, and we were able to serve up lovely Beet and Lentil Vinaigrette, Fennel and Orange Salad and Leek and Feta tart.

Also, we had our own home grown carrots and Brussles sprouts for Christmas Day. that was one of my objectives for the 2008 garden year, and I'm delighted that it worked out.

And there are still lots of leeks, beetroot and fennel in the garden. Not to mention daikon, chard, kale and cabbage. And thyme, parsley and rosemary. Though the fennel is taking some frost damage.

Yesterday I sorted out all my seeds - organised by the time of the year when they need to be planted. So I have grouped them buy month. I only have a few to buy - onion sets, shallot seeds, potatoes, and purple and rainbow carrots.

I planted about 30 broad beans - to start inside, and then move outside. Probably worth while starting some outside too. From my notes, I didn't get a great harvest from last years crop - and they are a lovely early veg. So will have to try for more this year.

My gardening class starts in less than 2 weeks - I'm having fun preparing, hoping that we will attract some students from outside the school community. The more the merrier!

For the first class, I'm planning to get all the participants to make a garden diary - in looking at this blog and my written notes, it's incredibly helpful to be able to look back and see what was going on, weather and plant wise, and what my ideas were to improve things in the future.

Also, divided some artichokes, and planted calendula, and I would hope to pass on some of these plants to the students. The dry weather over Christmas has been great for getting outside, although it has been very cold.

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