|unripe on the left, ripe on the right|
Thursday, 27 September 2012
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
|Digging out the Tibets|
|eel worms dining in a spud|
|Black Bog-like priests socks only blacker!|
Inspired by the fine warm day last Friday I took to clearing the main crop potato beds. If nothing else I was curious about the yields from the different varieties that I had as yet untouched; Tibet, Toluca and Black Bog. One long bed had black bog, Tibet's, Maris pipers and King Edwards planted in allotments. The tolucas had their own bed. I started on the black bogs and ran into trouble straight away. They were so black I literally couldn't see them in the soil! ridiculous but true and very frustrating as well. I ended up digging the same ground several times more than necessary just to check in case I missed any. Either way I'm expecting plenty of volunteers next year-it was impossible to find them all.The spuds themselves were small and extremely squashed looking with deep eyes. The yields were small too. Once I wiped the soil off them their true delicious deep purple colour came through. After growing and loving Edzell blues last year I couldn't wait to try out these guys.
|one stalk of Tibets on the left V's|
FIVE of Black Bog on the right!
Down in the Toluca bed things were not good, the stench of rotting spuds hit me every where I dug, and the yields were incredibly poor. When I was finished one 8x4 bed had only yielded one third of a bucket of spuds, and despite some of the tubers being a really good size I could see plenty of blemishes, signs of blight and slugs in equal measure. Not the results I had been hoping for when I planted them months ago, but again maybe that's all you can expect in such a difficult growing season.
|Spuds drying off in the afternoon sun|
Last year I bought some Hessian sacks and had been trying them out during the summer, storing first Earlie's for weeks at a time in the utility to see if they went green. The results were great-no green spuds! so next morning I lined up my sacks, sat at the back door in the sun and began the incredibly tedious job of cleaning(you must take all the excess soil off the skins), inspecting each spud and organising them into three categories; "for storage", "slightly damaged" and "for the compost heap". There really is no escaping this job. If I learnt one thing from my mother in law and her apple picking each autumn it's that you never store anything damaged long term, it only serves to rot the rest. So only the most perfect spuds can make the Hessian sack. All imperfect spuds go into the kitchen bucket to be used or given away in the coming weeks. While those blighted, rotting or tunnelled into oblivion must be cut up for the compost heap. Its funny I never remember doing this job at home, but in some shape or form we must have.
|compost, keep and store long term-the processing plant|
PS; tried the black bogs, yes a fantastic purple colour with lovely markings on the inside, but sadly lacking really great flavour.
|in the kitchen Black bog shows its true colour|
|beautiful white flesh on the inside|
|Worlds smallest yield of potatoes-King Edwards|
I'm more of a fan of the type of experiment you can conduct yourself at home, no special equipment required. So today I tested the notion(that I keep seeing and reading everywhere) that the King Edward is the worlds best baking spud.
Result; No it's not.
How easy was that?!
As a crop of potatoes to grow the King Edwards did very poorly, caught blight early and had tiny yields when dug. The spuds themselves in common with a lot of other main crops this year were beset by tunnelling slugs, eel worms and in a very few cases rot brought on by blight. It's hard to judge a whole spud variety by an exceptionally bad year but then in fairness spuds that did better must be better spuds right? otherwise the point of trying out lots of different varieties is lost. I mean how many times should you grow the same variety of spud to figure out if its worth growing again or not? Life is just too short.
|Pretty when the soil came off|
When they came out the outsides were lovely and golden, the insides soft and a little fluffy. They could be fluffier and maybe I should have left them in longer but they were actually done. I ate the lot, without anything other than some butter to compliment their skins covered in sea salt. Yes they were tasty, but worlds best baking spud?- I don't think so. If it's about their flavour-there was no amazing potato taste to report. If its about how they technically bake in their skins-yes they do look lovely but I'm not planning to look at them I want to eat them!
|looking nice and golden in the plate|
By the way there is a really thorough baking spuds experiment done on this blog if you have the time to read it word of mouth blog
Friday, 21 September 2012
|the sun sets on climbing beans|
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
|Get yer wellies on|
|Callaloo from www.suttons.co.uk|
more info here
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
|Its looks all sweet and innocent but dont be fooled|
|hot weird blisters|
|It's height is the main identifying factor|
Nettles can cause rash, sometimes people can have an adverse reaction to the fine hairs on the comfrey leaves and stems, even rhubarb leaves can cause photo sensitivity (they are also poisonous-don't eat them!) but I have never had anything like this with any of these plants in the 6 years I have had a garden here. Mind you since I moved to this part of Limerick I have heard several horror stories of people getting "attacked" by Giant hogweed, especially along the banks of the Mulcair river (echos of the flesh eating plant in "Little shop of horrors"). It is one of the only plants Tara pointed out to me one day walking with the dogs and told me to give a wide berth to. Another person told me it was, and I quote, "deadly" for children. I didn't believe them-until now.
|not my idea! but it made me laugh!|
more info here; Giant Hogweed
funny mock movie poster by happy russia at www.deviantart.com
PS; although it produces a dramatic skin reaction Catherine tells me it usually clears up without scarring after a week. I went to hot sweaty yoga last night and felt all my blisters react violently to the temperature and the sweating, but funnily enough they are all much calmer today, so perhaps another session of Bikram yoga might speed up the healing and return me to normality in a few more days.
Friday, 7 September 2012
|onions drying in the sun|
On the plus side it's perfect weather for drying your onions, garlic and shallots just by digging them up and laying them on top of the beds in the sun.I say DIG because if you try to pull them out you will end up on your arse clasping a handful of stem while the onion/garlic/shallot remains stubbornly in the ground. If you must be lazy- be lazy with the onions,after all they are practically sitting on the top of the soil.But dig out the garlic, it has pretty tenacious roots and will not budge unless it grew on a sand dune!
|garlic drying with shallots|
Wednesday, 5 September 2012
|Misty morning in the valley|
There is something beguiling about mornings like this not just brought on by the richness and weight of memories.In a few short weeks it will be the Autumn Equinox (September 22nd) when the days and nights will be equal in length, (in theory whatever about in practise). In the Southern hemisphere this signals the start of Spring but for us up North it's officially the start of Autumn. Maybe that's why each single day suddenly becomes so precious and a fine day doubly so. For the gardener it's the start of the long slow leisurely Autumn tidy up, lifting crops, clearing beds, sowing green manures and getting ready for winter.Once we retire indoors we must be content to dream. In the longest and darkest nights I often dream of how sunshine feels, warm on the back of my neck in summer, and I hunger for that feeling until it finally arrives in late Spring. Somewhere along the way to mid-summer we take the long days for granted, get gardening fatigue,"hit the garden wall" as a friend said this summer, and need to get progressively lazier until September arrives and our energy is restored once more.
With the cooler mornings I find my energy renewed. This week is promised gloriously fine, the perfect late summer/early autumn weather to get busy on jobs the lazier summer version of you has been putting off for weeks. Time to chop down spent peas and beans, dry onions and garlic in the sun and dig up main crop potatoes to store for the winter.
Tuesday, 4 September 2012
|Happily situated in the top bed where it gets sun all day|
If August was the month of pumpkins running all over the garden then September is the month of the chop-at least where pumpkin leaves and stems are concerned. By now the plants have set fruit, so any late fruitlets developing on the plants are not going to make a decent size for October but while they continue to grow they are actively taking food from their larger brothers and sisters on the same vine. If you want decent sized pumpkins that get to full maturity you have to chop off these extras now. Most pumpkin plants will support between 2-4 pumpkins to full size depending on the type; smaller pumpkins=more fruit, larger pumpkins=less. So if you have 2 -3 decent sized fruit on your pumpkin plant and it's got lots of tiny brothers and sisters they have to go!
|before-in the shade|
|after- in the sun|
Before and after pruning
The other reason for chopping off growth now is light. September is our last decent month for long hours of daylight, it's the month when a lot of crops really ripen well. Once we get into October the days are much shorter, and light levels can fall dramatically under grey skies.If your ripening Pumpkin is hiding under large leaves it's time to chop those leaves off, exposing the Pumpkin to the fullest amount of light and heat from the sun. The last push if you like before harvesting next month.By the way I don't chop off the leaves until now because I really think the large pumpkin leaves protect fruitlets from excess rain until the fruit is large enough, with a hardened up skin, to get through wet days without beginning to rot.
|pathway freed of pumpkins|
You might also be having trouble seeing exactly how many pumpkins are forming. This happens to me a lot. I go out to harvest in October and find a surprise under a leaf that I never spotted all summer! After chopping back vines and leaves yesterday I can see now exactly how many fruit I have and feed plants that might need help getting their pumpkins to the final size.
Do I still need to convince you?
A word of warning! one misplaced cut and it can all go horribly wrong! If you are following vines to cut back stems be so careful not to cut a vine with a ripening pumpkin attached. It has happened to me before and the swearing it brings on wouldn't get you forgiven without a trip to Lourdes and a donation to UNICEF.
|do I see one in there? (white stuff on the leaves is mildew)|
Monday, 3 September 2012
|Feeding time on the buddleia in the east garden|
|Echinacea offers up lots to bees, butterflies and other insects|
This morning wiping the sleep out of my eyes it was small tortoiseshells that caught my eye flitting on the terrace from dahlia to echinacea and back to the buddleia of which they seem really besotted. I always thought it funny that the buddleia is called "the butterfly bush" because I have never seen butterflies on it either here or elsewhere but finally the butterflies have arrived and they can't leave it alone!
|single flowered dahlias with open centres are best for insects|
Another great plant for the small tortoiseshell is the herb oregano. Here it flowers in the border around the vegetable garden where it draws armies of butterflies in the later part of September.Butterflies are the second most important pollinators for us gardeners but this tends to be forgotten in the scramble to prevent cabbage whites from laying eggs in our cabbages. If you want to help the butterfly population here are a few pointers;
|Crashing over the pathway oregano flowers late into Sept|
Getting more butterflies in the garden
Put plants that they like to feed on in clumps in the garden, as it helps them to see them better than isolated individual flowers.If you are growing perennials like echinacea you will find it improves greatly in drawing butterflies after a few years when the clump is larger and more flowers are produced. In terms of colour butterflies are drawn to pinks, purples and yellows. Oregano, chives, lavender and rosemary are useful herbs and butterfly friendly plants too.
Butterflies need to sunbathe to keep their bodies between 28-38 degrees Celsius otherwise they struggle to fly. They love sunbathing on large flat stones that have spent all day absorbing the sun. In your garden, it’s really helpful if you leave a few flat stones around in sunny south facing positions sheltered from the wind to give them a nice warm resting place.
Avoid using garden chemicals- I think you all know that one already!
You can buy or build butterfly houses. The Eden project in the UK who gave these tips also make a special butterfly house for butterflies and moths to be fed and to overwinter safely in the garden check it out here Butterfly house.
Learn more about Irish butterflies here www.irishbutterflies.com
UK Butterflies here www.britishbutterflies.co.uk