Thursday, 28 June 2012

Fantastic fungi

Fantastic! but I'd never attempt to eat it!
Look at these enormous fungi I met this morning on my way through Ballycahill. They were growing out of a tree on the side of the road-I nearly crashed the van when I saw them! I have much more value in fungi since I was at a Compost training day organised by NOTS (National Organic Training Skillnet) where a young Australian scientist called Joel Williams working at laverstokepark, an Organic and Biodynamic farm and research station in the UK gave us the best rundown on soil ecology I have ever had, placing huge emphesis on the value of fungi and the benefits of making compost for the health of the soil. If you are interested in getting a better understanding of the soil and how to look after it you can start here;


In the meantime treasure your fungi, and let them flower, thats what the bit is that sticks up above the ground!

Flash floods and torrential rain-Weather to improve!

Road becomes a river; gear down, keep going-dont stop!
Well what an interesting Summer it's proving to be. Blistering sunshine one minute, monsoon season the next. All very localised too. Met a stream flowing on the road this morning near Hospital, a brutal downpour near Herbertstown and then dry roads and fine sunshine at Old Pallas. All within a few miles of each other! Anyway better weather is on the way, good for picking blackcurrants, making sileage and visiting Yanks-all the important stuff!

Heres what you can look forward to over the next few days; (from met eireann )

Mostly cloudy this afternoon and evening with only brief sunny spells and occasional showers. Some of the showers will be very heavy - especially across the midlands, Leinster and Ulster with the chance of thunderstorms and hail, along with the risk of further spot flooding. Highest temperatures of 17 to 21 degrees.


Tonight will be cloudy and misty with further outbreaks of rain. The rain will be heavy again across Munster and Leinster with a chance of thundery downpours and further flooding in the far south. Good dry spells in the north and west. Extensive low cloud with fog on hills. Mild. Lowest temperatures of 11 to 14 degrees with fresh southerly winds.


Tomorrow Friday will be fresher and less humid with occasional showers. The showers will be passing in nature and good dry spells will occur everywhere though sunny breaks will be short lived. Southwest winds will be fresh and gusty. Top temperatures of 16 to 19 degrees.


Friday night: A fresh, windy night with a mixture of clear spells and passing heavy showers, frequent in western Atlantic counties. Lowest temperatures 9 or 10 degrees.

Saturday: A bright, fresh day with sunny spells. Passing heavy showers of rain or hail also. Quite a chilly day for the last day in June with maximum temperatures predicted to be only 12 to 15 degrees in fresh and gusty northwesterly winds. And pretty cool Saturday night with minima of 7 to 10 degrees.

Sunday; First of July: Quite a nice day. ….. It will be mostly dry with sunny spells; just the chance of some well scattered light showers. Rather cool with highest temperatures still only in the mid-teens. Fresh northwesterly winds will drop light.
Clear skies Sunday night and light breezes will lead to mist/fog formation and rather chilly conditions despite the time of year with air temperatures falling to between 3 and 8 degrees.

Next week: Milder weather is forecast (high teens) with some pleasant sunny intervals and although not completely dry and settled a big improvement all round with just occasional showers likely.

Plant out courgettes and pumpkins

Pumpkin in place with first earlies
As gaps have begun to open up in the first Early bed I have started to plant out my pumpkins and courgettes. Every year I sow far too many and have the problem of where to put them, I cant give them away because its usually one plant of each variety and I'm always experimenting with new types to see what cooks and tastes best! O the stress of it all!!

Both pumpkins and courgettes are hungry, thirsty plants and neither will do well unless you offer them plenty of food and water. For each plant I dig out a hole bigger than the pot the plant is in and as deep as possible, lorry in lots of horse manure to completely backfill the hole and add in a measure of chicken pellets for extra nitrogen( for the pumpkins I make it two measures of chicken pellets). I pull this nice mixture aside to just fit the plant using the extra horse manure to fill in around the top and sides, making a nice mulching material around the surface of the soil near the stem. This helps conserve moisture as well as feeding the plant.

Most importantly for pumpkins you must put a large cane or bamboo close to the central stem of the plant. It's not for support, it's for watering later on.Pumpkins grow like vines on the surface of the ground which means after a few weeks you wont have a clue where the original planting hole is-it will be one massive jungle of giant leaves! They need lots of water when the fruit is setting so its handy to be able to find instantly where you should be watering.

Ring fort around the pumpkin to hold water

Help your pumpkins and your courgettes retain as much water as possible by building a ring fort around them (by using the soil you originally dug out to make the planting hole). A ring fort is basically a little circular wall with the area around the plant lower inside the wall, and lower than it, so water flows towards the stem of the plant and into the ground closest to the root.

Success with pumpkins

When I started growing pumpkins I knew as much about them as a pig looking into a Honda but over the years I figured out a few things, so for what it's worth here goes;

1. Frost, slugs and wind will destroy them, mind them seriously from all of the above
2. There is a short window to set fruit-it must happen in July. Plant flowers with them to make sure they get pollinated within the month.
3. Put flat stones under baby fruit to keep them from rotting on wet ground and being attacked by slugs.
4. Two fruit is enough for each plant to bear, allow two fruit to set, have two backups, get rid of the backups when the first two get to a decent size.
5. Cut away un-necessary growth to get the plant to put all its efforts into making the two fruit get to full size.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Geranium/Pelargonium cuttings

Elizas lovely  plant
Many thanks to Eliza who brought a beautiful, unusual and wonderfully scented Geranium on Sunday for everyone to share cuttings. Get yourself rich in geraniums by taking cuttings now. Here's how courtesy of BBC Gardeners world;


Bedding geraniums are actually members of the genus Pelargonium. Many varieties of pelargonium are used as bedding or house plants.
Unlike most annual bedding plants, geraniums are easily propagated by cuttings, so you don't have to fork out for more plants the following summer. Kept on a warm windowsill over winter, your cuttings will quickly develop roots and leaves. They'll be ready to plant out in spring, and will flower all summer.

How to do it

Taking geranium cuttings
Select healthy, squat and fat shoots. Remove them from the parent plant by cutting immediately above a bud.

Removing flower buds from the cuttings
Remove flower buds and lower leaves from the bottom half of each cutting and cut the stem just below a node, where there is a concentration of the plant's own hormones.

Dipping the cutting in growth hormone
To improve success rates, dip the base of each cutting in a small amount of rooting hormone to stimulate root growth.

Inserting the cuttings in compost
Fill pots with seed compost mixed with sharp sand to aid drainage. Insert two or three cuttings around the edge of each pot. Water the compost and stand pots in a well-lit position, indoors. Do not cover the pots, as this can encourage mildew to develop on the leaves.

Rooted geranium cuttings
After a few weeks, a corky callus will develop over the cut end of the stem and roots will begin to grow. A good root system will have developed within six to eight weeks.

Potted geranium cuttings
In March or April, knock each cutting out of the pot and transplant into individual pots of multi-purpose compost. Keep well-watered and plant out in spring, after all risk of frost has passed.

Adam's tip

Stand cuttings on an east- or west-facing windowsill, as they need a good source of light but not direct sun.
Water sparingly if the compost feels dry, but don't overwater. Remove flower buds and brown leaves.
Remove black or wilted cuttings as these may harbour a disease, which could spread to other plants.

Blackhill farm garden party & Graduation

Last years gang celebrating their graduation
You have no idea of the prayers and offerings that were made in an attempt to get the sun to actually shine for Sundays garden party. Headless child's of Prague's were dusted off and stuck out, people put money in church collections, some of us even prayed to the earth, four winds, moon, and the Sun itself (or "great fire God in the heavens" if you want to address it correctly) in an attempt to at least guarantee dry weather if nothing else. In the end it certainly paid off. And we can all take credit for it-no matter which "God" delivered! After torrential showers the day before, Sunday dawned clear, bright and unbelievably sunny.By 1pm it was a balmy 19c!!!!

let the tasting begin!
Myself and Heather arrived just after 1pm when the stalls were half way through getting set up. Mary McGrath had brought all sorts of wonderful garden Nick nacks to sell, Jean a neighbour of Eileen's brought her range of gorgeously presented and displayed organic home made soaps, a wonderful German couple Jean and Hans brought home-made sausages and pork burgers (all gluten free yay!)and particularly delicious coffee. Rosemary was there with some delicious edibles and non edibles from her Sonas shop in Newcastle west and Aoibheann Hogan brought buns, tarts, breads and cakes.

Hans fed the masses
People arrived in dribs and drabs and we began garden tours as soon as we amassed any quantity of bodies.Rose was travelling down from Dublin so we refused to do the awards ceremony for last years horticulture graduates without her and this actually worked in our favour as people were happy to sit, chat and generally loiter around in the lovely sunshine.

Marie and Janine with a very chilled out Dog
 Neighbours came, friends came, gardening fanatics came and of course all the past and present students came. Eileen had a lovely musician hired to play in the background on the violin, Fiona and Mary took out crackers and samples of everything from elderflower cordial to cucumber relish to beetroot and orange chutney to rhubarb and ginger jam. Hungry customers flocked to the pork sausage and burger tent where word of mouth quickly spread about how delicious it all was so I think they ended up having a very good day!

Heather, Miriam and Sarah

 By 4.30pm Rose appeared like a vision before me, hallelujah! we could start the awards. I made my speech, Eimear made hers and we presented everyone with their certs. It was a lovely moment, doing it out in the open, under a blue sky and in the garden where so many of them had learnt so much exactly what I had been hoping for. Far better than a stuffy long winded affair indoors in wintertime!

Tom, Mary, Lady who's name I forgot-sorry! and Ron
After the ceremony we took out the beautifully made biscuits, scones and buns from Eileen's kitchen that this years students had made in honour of the occasion. Everyone was happily munching and congratulating each other as the evening wound down.

Jean and a young customer discuss lip balm
Eileen has been working towards this for months so I was thrilled for her that it all came together so beautifully yesterday. It was lovely for me to see three years worth of students talking to each other and making new friendships, (though not so much the banding together to collectively slag me off!).And I hope we get to make an annual event of this lovely party, so all my favourite gardeners are together in the same place at the same time.Next year we will be trying to make it even bigger and even better!

Chris Paudi and Roger, untied in slagging off their poor teacher...
A huge thank you is due to this years gang of students who took visitors and past pupils on tours around Eileen's garden which everyone really enjoyed. Mary J also brought beautiful home made bunting which added such a lovely touch to the festive party atmosphere. She may retire on bunting commissions after this! Maudie wheeled and dealed in the plant sales shed, giving people good bargains and selling off plants at the end of the day-she was born to sell-that's for sure!!! All of the lads brought beautiful cakes, scones, buns and biscuits as a treat for after the graduation ceremony, so everyone went home stuffed and happy.

Army of this years students who helped out in every way-thanks lads!

Edlerflower cordial

pretty and highly scented elderflower heads
One thing everyone enjoyed yesterday at Eileen's Garden party, apart from the outstanding hot weather, was the delicious elderflower cordial mixed with sparkling water and distributed to all and sundry. It's been impossible to think of making it in the last week with all the heavy rain but today is the perfect day to go off and gather your flower heads to make the base. I just picked some on my way home from my morning walk( and I have the nettle welts to prove it). Anytime you pick fruit or flowers you need at least two consecutive dry days if you are preserving them in jams, jellies or cordials. I make this every year for BB Q's, it goes down well with the outlaws! Nabbed the recipe from uktv food

Elderflower Cordial
Prep time:20 min, plus overnight infusing
Cook time:5 min
Serves:Makes 1.5 litres


20 heads of elderflower(as fully opened as possible)
1.8 kg granulated sugar, or caster sugar
1.2 litres water
2 unwaxed lemons 

75 g citric acid(you will get it at the chemists)


1. Shake the elder flowers to expel any lingering insects, and then place in a large bowl.

2. Put the sugar into a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.

3. While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest of the lemons off in wide strips and toss into the bowl with the elder flowers. Slice the lemons, discard the ends, and add the slices to the bowl. Pour over the boiling syrup, and then stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and then leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

4. Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with muslin (or a new j-cloth rinsed out in boiling water), and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles. Screw on the lids and pop into the cupboard ready to use.

Cooks Tips...

To serve Elderflower Cordial: Dilute the elderflower cordial to taste with fizzy water, and serve over ice with a slice or two of lemon, or a sprig of mint floating on top.
cute pic nabbed from
For something a touch more sprightly, add a shot of gin or vodka and a lemon slice, or add it to white wine and sparkling water to make an elderflower spritzer.  
Elderflower cordial is also brilliant in recipes such as gooseberry fool, and in vinaigrette - mix with wine vinegar, a touch of mustard, salt, pepper and a light olive oil (surprisingly good with a courgette, lettuce and broad bean salad). You might even try adding it to a marinade for chicken breasts. Try it in sorbets, or ice-creams, or just spooned over scoops of vanilla ice-cream, or use it to sweeten and flavour the fruit for a crumble.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Terra Nova Garden Visit

Thai hut at Terra Nova
On Thursday after two failed attempts I finally got the Gardening class at Fedamore to Terra Nova near Bruff for a visit. The day had been promised diabolical, you might not have noticed but that's three diabolical Thursdays in a row.We were extremely lucky though -our umbrellas went unused and we even had warm sunshine by 5 o clock. Everything in the garden looked amazing (as always) and Martin, along with a ridiculously friendly white cat and a funny little dog who seems to have no lower lip so you can see all his teeth (you know the type I'm taking about, small posh dogs, the likes of which celebs cant live without) gave us a great welcome.

For anyone who is a beginner, living on a site about half an acre or less battling with winds, drainage problems and heavy clay soil (and even more so if there is only yourself gardening, maybe with a reluctant other half, and you are trying to garden whilst working and rearing kids/dogs/cats) then this is the garden for you. Especially if you say things like;

 "nothing grows around here"
 "I have bad soil" or more hilariously "my garden is too old"(!!!) I was told this once, it cracked me up)
"It's too windy"
"I haven't got the time"
"I cant afford to hire the help I need " and all the other bullshit excuses you can come up with.

The Fedamore girls blocking a view of the pond!!

Deborah and Martin couldn't grow anything when they started. And by the way didn't know anything either, they had no formal training. Trees rotted in the waterlogged soil, plants were thrashed by the wind, it was all very disheartening.
Over time they improved the drainage. They learnt which trees would tolerate heavy wet clay and put in a shelter belt which lost them their lovely view but gained them a warmer more agreeable micro climate in which to grow the plants that they most wanted. Plants failed and were dumped in the ditch, others were tried out and moved around to find the best spot-it was all just trial and error.

Martin made those bricks by hand!
They were sensible with their projects, one a year, start to finish, before moving on to the next one. Can Irish people really do that? I think we have the attention span of houseflies when it comes to seeing a job out to the end. Motivation flags in the middle, fed-upness sets in and we get a great idea about another project we could do! and off we go, job half done....

They built the pond first and took it from there. My favourite feature is the bridge that Martin built from the ruins of an old stone cottage. Its so sweet and so beautifully done with the pond below it. The photo album in the tea house shows the progression of the projects from year to year. This years project was a remake of the Southern corner to a fab raised bed near a seating area. The irony of this garden, and many others is that the people who do all the work are rarely the ones who get to sit down and enjoy it.

Hoblins and fairies hide in the garden

Deborah and Martin are doing a series of Public open days this summer if you want to go visit. You don't need an appointment on these days, just show up. Entry is a fiver, bring more than that as they have a tiny little nursery with cool and unusual plants, and you might want to pay a visit to the cosy tea house while you're there. The next Public day is Saturday 30 June. For more info check out this link;

and on facebook

Sow at the Summer solstice

Carrowkeel roof box at summer solstice read more here at
The longest day of the year has just past which always makes me a bit sad thinking of nights drawing in slowly but surely from here to September. You might not feel so despondent if you could be out on these long evenings but the opportunities are few and far between with wind and rain battering the country (again!) and evening temperatures dropping down low enough to warrant lighting a fire. Please weather, pull it together for July and August! I have plans for BBQ's and hammocks and eating apples in September!

Midsummer marks an important point in the sowing calendar for us gardeners. It's the time when we sow what some people call "follow on crops". These crops follow on from the first harvested vegetables and extend the season into Autumn and winter. So if you want to be eating Kale in December you sow it now. Biodynamically speaking Today and tomorrow are leaf days (but at 2pm tomorrow their is a fruit window until 9pm tomorrow night) Sunday and Monday are fruit days, Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday are root days, while Friday and Saturday are flower days.As the slugs are particularly bad at the moment I'm only sowing root crops directly into the ground, I'm sowing all the rest in seed trays to be transplanted out when they reach a decent size.

What you can be sowing now;

Climbing beans
herbs; chervil, dill, coriander and parsley
lettuce and salad leaves like Mizuna, Mibuna
autumn carrots, parsnips and swedes
beetroot to store overwinter
calabrese(broccoli from the supermarkets with the big head)
Perpetual spinach
Brussels sprouts
Florence fennel
Kohl rabi

If you have a tunnel and you plan on doing new potatoes for christmas remember to keep some of the first earlies you dig up and put them in storage until August when you can chit them. You will be sowing them in September in the tunnel.

Slug gone

In Eileen's garden slug-gone is protecting climbing beans
Slugs are staging a comeback. After two hard winters that decimated their populations dramatically they have not only recovered but actually tripled in quantity and this wet weather means the slug party is going on non-stop day and night. I was talking about this last night with Chris at the Croagh GIY. I was telling him about something I had seen in Eileen's garden on Tuesday that looked like cat shit.Its actually a biodegradable barrier against slugs made from wool pellets.Eileen is trialling it and finding it really works! Chris was telling me it's expensive but maybe its worth it if you have a particular thing that you are minding and your slug patrols are leaving you with urges to do violent things! If you're interested here is the website, but you will probably find it in most garden centres.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Out of date seeds-Peas

Healthy out of date peas-transplanted yesterday to the garden
I think I have a seed fetish, particularly for peas.The pea and bean tin is ridiculously overloaded, I cant put the lid on anymore! Last year I had 15 varieties growing in the garden and to be totally honest apart from the Irish peas which are too small to be really useful and the purple podded ones which stand out because they are purple I'd be hard pressed to tell you the difference between them, not in terms of taste anyway. This year for a cure I decided to sown out of date packs just to get rid of them and found a vintage 2008 pack(Magnum Bonum) from seed savers that had 30 peas left.I figured I'd sow that pack plus one other that was out of date and if 50% of both germinated that should be perfect for the one bed I have left.

You know what happened don't you? all 30 came up! Mind you the other seeds (Hurst Green Shaft), out of date since 2007 produced only 7 seedlings so far so the two will balance each other out in the end. If you are keeping pea and bean seeds from year to year I have found the quickest ones to go off are the dwarf french beans. Germination drops off dramatically each year so they are not ones to keep long term. Even Eileen who keeps her own seeds from climbing runner beans finds they go off after three years and must be replaced.If you have out of date pea seeds its worth giving them a go. And you are still ok to sow peas this month.I sowed mine in seed trays, covered them with plastic and left them outside the door where they germinated after about a week.

Spuds finally on the plate

Delicious new Charlottes
At Johnny's party on Saturday night I was talking to Frank and his wife Kay who are farming in Cork. Frank was complaining that Kay is spud mad, she has to eat spuds everyday. Kay told me when she was growing up on the farm at home they begged their parents to wake them up when they got home with the first potatoes, no matter how late at night so they could share the enjoyment of the first cooked spuds with butter and salt, sometimes at midnight!! My kind of lunatic. I invited her over for a plate of new spuds straight away.

I have been keen since last week to get my hands on some of my first Earlie's, thinking non-stop about having a big plate of them with butter and salt just as Kay remembered.After all the blight warnings I'm a bit paranoid. I have been walking past the potato beds looking for signs of blight which would normally be easy to spot...... except that all the high winds we have had have thrashed the leaves leaving burnt brown tips on leaves and stalks making me even more paranoid, if that's possible!

Saturday I spotted a stalk going yellow and looking miserable in the middle of the second Earlie's. Turned out to be a Charlotte. I pulled up the stems and didn't expect much underneath but to my big surprise I found a lovely cluster of decent sized spuds, long and cream in colour with perfect flesh. Woo hoo! The first spuds of the year! I took them in, cooked them up and devoured them with a lovely home grown salad. God I love this time of the year. Let the eating begin!

Yes! it was as delicious as it looks!

Celery gets planted out

Celery seedling
Lads did ye know that celery is not frost hardy? I was a bit shocked when I read it on the seed packet as I always imagined it standing through the winter with the Kale and Brussels sprouts. Anyway it means I might as well plan a detox for September/October cause it will have to be out of the ground before the cold sets in.

It should be a crime to be talking about frost in the middle of June (rapidly approaching the longest day of the year) but last night horror of horrors the weather forecast after the 9pm news promised ground frost for last night and tonight! What the feck is going on with this Summer?

An 8x4 bed can take about 45 celery seedlings

So maybe instead of being shockingly late planting out Celery it looks like I'm actually holding my breath in case the frost gets them tonight. If you want to give Celery a go you need to sow seeds in March and April, transplant them out in May into individual pots (that part is a major pain in the arse). You grow them on until they have 5 leaves and are hardened off before planting them out when all chance of frost has passed.Old celery types had to be trenched up (another major pain in the arse, bad enough earthing up spuds) but the modern varieties are all self-blanching, I'm trying out Sutton's Golden Self-Blanching 3, not the most romantic name for celery plants but so far I have had excellent seed germination, good strong young plants and hopefully a bit of flavour and good size at harvest. I'll keep ye posted.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Home sweet home

Dads yellow tractor towing a load of turf
It's turf season at home. Joe and Dace have had their day in the Bog, Tony brought home a load yesterday, next week its Seamus's and my turn. I cant wait -I love the Bog, something about the emptyness, the birds, the bogcotton and the sky, it just touches you.

I was driving home yesterday evening for an old school friends funeral. Not the happiest reason to be driving West, but it got me and Sheila two hours in O Loughlins pub talking and catching up on old times after a trip to the funeral parlour. Our friend committed suicide and none of us can understand it. His poor family are in shock, their grief so big you could drive a train through their hearts.

It seems to me at moments like that that we have lost everything sweet and innocent from childhood and only the crashing reality of life as an adult remains. There is something very comforting about going home on days like that and finding yourself back in the pub of your teenage years laughing at the stupid things we did and said and the plonkers we went out with! We talked about Patrick and his brother, they were the giggliest pair in national school, always in trouble! There was the infamous sixth class photo that captured Michael making a crazy face at our lethal headmaster, did he get into trouble over that!!! I still have the photo and it makes me laugh to this day.I told Sheila I'm advancing into old age at speed wanting to spend all my time in the garden, all I need now is a blue rinse and about 10 more cats. She made me laugh talking about her father coming out in her when she deals with her kids. Sometimes I wish I was eight again- Sometimes I hate being the grown-up.


Out back at the cottage in Fedamore
June-month of the Rose and prime time to obtain "free" rose bushes if you keep your eyes peeled and a secateurs in the car handy....

Today the fine ladies of Fedamore took me to the pub for our class. I must say when Cathryn cryptically said "we have a surprise for you and you're going to like it!" I never in a million years thought they meant a bar! It turns out Frances, one of the other ladies, actually owns the pub. She is also a dab hand at scones, jam and cream, and fresh rhubarb tart. Outside the pub we had the satisfaction of seeing her hanging baskets that she had done in class looking really beautiful while inside we battened down the hatches against the awful wind and rain, dining in style and having a very civilised gardening class! It's at moments like these that I say to myself..I LOVE MY JOB!

Anna's old cottage about to be raided!
Anyway when we got down to the nitty gritty Kathleen produced a bag with a beautiful stem of tiny pink sweetly scented roses and asked me where she was going wrong in constantly failing in her efforts to root slips of it. Turns out she was doing it very late in the year-October. This is not the best time for taking rose cuttings-now is. Someone else passed a comment on the beautiful thatched cottage we had passed on our way to the pub with white roses spilling out over its front wall. It turned out that Anna, another class member knew the owner ( her son, isn't the world tiny?)and gave us her blessing to take whatever cuttings we wanted. So off we went to do a quick practical on how to take rose cuttings.

Rose no1. Anna's Pink cottage rose
We got out of the cars in blustery nasty rain making a dash for the small porch at the door. The cottage itself is a lovely old thatched building with a cute pedestrian gate from the roadway, if it was in Adare it would be choc-o-block with souvenirs or maybe it would be a tiny tea shop. Here on a random road its just another old building, with no-one at home. The garden was awash with pink and white roses, all of them throwing out strong healthy arching growth, they would probably make good climbing or trailing roses trained over a nice structure. Round the back were more roses. Whoever lived here had mastered the art of taking cuttings, the same roses were repeated everywhere.

Rose no2. Anna's White cottage rose
If you are out and you spot a rose you like here's what to do. Choose a piece of new growth as long and straight as possible, trim off the top with a slanted cut, and strip the bottom third of leaves cutting straight across below a node(the bumpy bit on the stem). Put that bottom third into the ground and leave it there.Label it! You wont remember what rose it is otherwise! I find the raised beds in the veg garden the business for this job. The more cuttings you take the better chance you have of rooting them. Leave them in the same place for at least a year if you can to get them well rooted. Prune them the winter of the second year and move them to where you want them to grow. Everyone left the cottage with two cuttings of each rose and instructions to get them into the ground asap. The longer the cutting travels the bigger a chance it will dry out. If you're really ruthless carry plastic bags, tissue and water in the car at all times!!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Day of work for Dace

Dace watering in the sweetcorn this evening
Dace tells me that in Latvia people are under the impression that poor Latvians have the arses worked off them here in Ireland. After today we both agree it's true, and now we have the photos to prove it!

The day began with a quick jaunt around the Milk Market. We bought chocolate and fudge, haggled over an old high Nelly bike, talked to Martin about gates and fairies(I'm not joking, he told me some woman wanted him to come to a fairy fort with him, apparently she believes in fairies, I reckon it wasn't fairies she was after!!) I told him Mary J about your gate!! bought Ballysteen new potatoes, ate a hearty vegetarian Indian dinner for lunch and hit Ellen street for sea-mun-gus, netting and mypex.

There is something very cool about this scene!
After town we headed to the recycling centre in Mungret where while looking for a bike we found this cool and perfect rocking chair that some ape threw out. Its amazing what some people consider rubbish. We took turns trying it out, much to the amusement of the staff and passersby. In the end we agreed, it was worthy of rescue, a new coat of paint and I will have an outdoor rocking chair to watch the world go by.Dace told me her current landlord in Cork kitted out his whole house from carefully chosen recycled pieces of furniture. She says it looks lovely.

Working hard at Jimmy's stables
By the time we got back home we were gasping with the thirst but instead of sensibly getting a drink of water we rounded up Seamus who was wrecked from excavating the patio and opened three bottles of Kopparberg strawberry and lime cider-delicious! Fearing we might end up on the hammered end of a slippery slope we took to garden work. First we weeded two beds, emptied the compost heap, filled the pea bed with the compost , put in the support posts and wire and transplanted in three trays of broad beans. Then we hi-tailed it back to Jimmy's stables for horse manure, filled a van load of horse manure into bags, came home, filled the planting holes with the manure and sea-mun-gus and transplanted out the sweet corn.

My glamorous assistant
By now it was getting late. We just had time to tie in the mange tout and peas before we gathered up tools and went in to cook dinner. Courtesy of Green saffron Spices and Dace we had a delicious Subzi Sensation Veggie dinner with new potatoes, the last pumpkin from stores and cauliflower, the recipe's  here at green saffron recipes. We are now crashed in front of the TV mindlessly watching something about lady boys!, bodies worn out, brains fried.

So yes, Latvians do have the arses worked off of them, and here are the photos to prove it! Thank you Dace for your great company and hard work all day. Any other Latvians interested in hard work right this way.....

Friday, 8 June 2012

Bloody wind

weather chart for today, not Good!
Only if you have been unconscious for the last 12 hours could you fail to notice the gales thrashing everything outside the door. I am currently watching my foxgloves being beaten to death out the back while the broad beans and spuds are takin the pounding out front. Tie yourselves down and batten the hatches!
from Met Eireann;

The persistent and often heavy rain will continue today over much of the country, with the risk of some further localised flooding. However, in the southwest, the rain will be more showery, with some good dry and bright spells. Elsewhere, the rain will be persistent and heavy, but the rain will gradually turn lighter and more intermittent towards evening time. A rather windy day as well with fresh to strong and gusty west to northwest winds. Highest temperatures of 12 to 15 degrees.

The rain will ease further early tonight and later in the night it will be mainly dry. Westerly winds will be fresh to strong at first, but wind will moderate later in the night and some mist or fog might form. Lowest temperatures of 8 to 10 degrees.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Comments now enabled for anyone to use

Turks cap lillies blooming at Eileens
Sorry guys! commenting on this blog was tied up in red tape and I didnt realise it! I have changed the settings so anyone can comment. Be nice!

Cabbage root fly? worms up to no good!

look at the carnage!
I was transplanting out a tray of french beans when I realised they were very lopsided in the tray, kind of loose, footless-hard to describe really. Anyway when I got them out I found each had its roots and lower stems mowed down to wisps by gangs of clear tiny worms. The upper part looked fine, healthy green and growing well, what the?

click on the photo to get the bigger version, this pic is for scale really

I have no idea what these guys are, I have not seen them before in my garden. I know baby earthworms can start off as small clear worms but I have never seen them attack roots of plants before. Ive been looking up websites and consulting books to no avail. I thought they were cabbage root fly but they are described as white, and photographed on line as much large whiter worms. And anyway Cabbage root fly shouldn't be eating dwarf french beans surely??? If you have seen and know who these feckers are please post in the comments!! thanks

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Bloom in the park

Couldnt resist! what a crazy garden
Did ye got to Bloom?

I was there last Thursday on the first day of the festival with a rowdy bus load of students, not teenagers, adults-definitely more trouble! At least no one got arrested or drunk and we only lost 2 out of 18 so not bad going for my first "school tour".

Anyway it was great craic. We met celebs, ate our way around the food village, perused the crafts, watched cookery demos and talks, checked out the show gardens and finished up in the craft beer tent (where else!) at the end of the day. This is the sort of festival that with good support will go from strength to strength. It's improving greatly every year, and with a broader scope than hardcore gardening shows like the Chelsea flower show it will appeal to more people.

Seafood sausages! (you're not seeing things) delicious!
In fact the gardens are almost a side line. Even for me, enamoured as I am with the world of gardening the first place I went to was the artisan food tents in the food village to eat the best food the country has to offer by tasting free samples at every stall! Bord Bia are really stepping up to the mark when it comes to promoting Irish food at these kinds of festivals. If they could get their arse in gear the rest of the time it would be great.

One of the best areas outside of the food village was the Veggie section. The Organic school gardens tent had a lovely raised bed vegetable garden built outside and the peppy Kitty Scully chatting to people and handing out leaflets, dispensing advise and sharing tips.I had a great chat with the guy website here about spud varieties, he had an amazing wall chart with models of spuds native to South America on it. Mad stuff! the likes of which I have never seen before.

one of the super pretty organic school garden beds
The GIY tent was awash with seeds and tools(if you are interested in the seeds I did a posting about them a few days ago) but no Klaus, it was an accident I met him last year, ironic when you consider I had no clue who he was then and this time I was after him to autograph another book for me! There was a strange tent where kids could paint a spud, why exactly I'm not sure, stranger still when they were giving out leaflets across the way on kids and food waste! Some times the things they do to educate kids about food just baffles me!! This is where defencive parents pull the old "you're not a parent you don't understand" and I say "b*""$%^& my friend I was a child once!!!" That goes down very well I can tell you.

What a load of ..
The show gardens themselves were lovely but nothing I'd walk away from wowed about. The only one that got a strong reaction from me was the biggest pile of s*&%$ (garden wise) I have ever seen. It was a pile of bales, with pictures on printed cloth and headphones. Something about immigration, you picked up the headphones to listen to the stories of the people pictured on the cloth who had to immigrate. This did not belong here, even Fiona an art graduate agreed, it was an art installation not a fecking garden! It turned out later that this is a space left to artists-doesn't look like they understood the garden concept very well-or my fathers hay barn is the fecking Louvre!

On the other hand I have high regard for the actual Irish art which was being sold in the craft village. After a funny totally accidental reunion with the ladies group from Herbertstown in Fan Regans tent I bought one of her lovely prints for my wall. She has a website and a facebook page if you like lino prints here it is Fan Regan, she will be doing textiles at the end of this year too. I love this kind of unassuming home grown talent. Its a tough business though, you'd have to love it to do it.

ye old tools of gardening past
The walled garden in the Phoenix Park deserves a post of its own, it was the star of the show, beautifully kept, fully productive, everything looking super healthy. On display were old garden implements and the herbaceous garden is just coming into bloom to light up the central walkway. This year they have a tonne of sweet peas planted against an army of wicker obelisks, it will be quite a sight, and smell, later in the summer when the are all in bloom. Wouldn't fancy the job cutting the flowers though!

I have an army of photos from the show gardens and interesting stuff around the bigger Bloom show. If I can I will post just a gallery later in the week.Finally just to say I didn't notice last year but there were lots of animals at bloom. Pigs, hens, sheep calves and cows. Ursula's son was in charge of milking the cow later in the day to show the lads from the big smoke that milk actually comes from a cow-not a carton! Would have loved to have seen the expressions on the city kids faces but I was too busy eating. Came home with mostly food-surprise surprise.The fruit "creche" was particularly helpful! (dont worry Jude there was a nice ration of chocolate too).So thumbs up to Bloom-and hopefully onward and upward from here.

What the peck are you looking at?