Monday, 28 January 2013

Storm damage

A messy affair
I discovered a downside to glasshouses when I pulled up the blind this find a trail of splintered broken glass on the ground. It's been a blustery few days but either overnight or some time today the wind found it's way into a corner of the glasshouse blowing down one of the largest wall panes.

I'm amazed to have missed the noise given that I sleep right next to it,and usually any high winds equals sleepless nights but Seamus has been hunting drafts and closing vents in a bit to make the house warmer with the end result that I am now sleeping through the most violent of storms and missing all the drama outside.

Rover style dog
Replacing the glass is not so bad, picking up the broken bits is by far he biggest pain in the arse. To top if off our neighbours daft dog Charlie (a King Charles Spaniel)has been visiting in the last few days,(to shit on the lawn the fecker) and to bark at me in my own driveway as I drive in!-how insulting is that???. And to think I have voluntarily taken him for walks!! He's a bit accident prone, so I had better pick it all up before he comes back over and cuts himself on it (if he does I will be the asshole for having glass lying around don't you know?).I have met a few of these King Charles over the years and lets just say there is a better chance of getting a cat to win a table quiz than to get them to do anything remotely intelligent!. Of all the dog breeds, they could carry off the trophy for sheer stupidity. No doubt someone will contradict me on this. If you have met a stupider dog be sure to add a comment! We were reared with trained cattle dogs and Labradors at home. Dogs that could buy and sell you. One of our best dogs"Rover"( a mongrel with alsation/collie mixed blood by the look of him) was even the "King" of all the local dogs. My neighbour saw him on a wall with all the other neighbourhood dogs at his feet commanding a dog meeting one evening.I bet the King Charles didn't even know a meeting was on!!

idiot dog trap
If anyone else in East Limerick has lost a pane or two yesterday or today my man with a glass replacement plan is Martin Begley. Great rates, prompt service- highly recommend him.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Starting to sow this week using the Moon calendar

Freezing fields on the road to Herbertstown from Old Pallas
Whatever about icy fields and freezing fog the sowing year is about to begin! I don't usually begin in January but this year I have the Glasshouse and inspired by Eileen I am going to try sowing earlier indoors with heat and transfer everything out to the Glasshouse as soon as they are up. She reckons her glasshouse has increased her output to three times what it was! Having three gardens to fill instead of one this year I hope it will help me be more productive too.This week I plan to get started with onions from seed, tomatoes, chilli's, peppers, sweet peas, broad beans, summer sprouting broccoli, flowers for summer and the earliest salad greens for under cover.

I use the biodynamic calendar as much as I can for doing my seed sowing . One reason I like it is that it organises me into having to sow things at particular times and that greatly helps me to keep on track with my sowing each month.The other reason I use it is that it works! I have had great success with plants sown on these days.They are healthy, strong and produce well. A lunar phase for sowing using the moon calendar starts on this Wednesday January 23rd and will last until 5th February. If you sow nothing else and you have a packet of onion seeds it is worth giving them a go. This is what the coming week looks like;

Wed Jan 23rd Root all day
Thu 24/Fri 25th Flower
Sat 26th Root to 8 am Leaf from 9am on
Sunday 27th Leaf all day
Monday 28/Tue29/ Fruit all day
Wed 30th Fruit to 5pm Root from 6pm

All of this information is contained within the Biodynamic Sowing and Planting calendar for 2013 by Maria and Matthias Thun. You could work it out yourself but I couldn't be arsed and it's very handy to have it for quick reference. For anyone who is bamboozled on the groups think of the edible part of the plant as the bit that guides you for the planting days;

On Root days plant anything you harvest the root of, eg. onions, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, beetroot etc
On Flower days plant anything you harvest the flower of, eg. all flowers, broccoli, cauliflower etc
On Leaf days plant anything you harvest the leaves of, eg. herbs, salad leaves, spinach, cabbage family etc
On Fruit days plant anything you harvest the fruit of, eg. peas and beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins etc

Happy sowing!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Back to business-pruning blackcurrants

Blackcurrants in need of pruning
For all the dire weather forecasts since the weekend (snomageddon) it actually turned out a nice mild January day. Cool and overcast with a faraway threat of rain. After weeks of being solidly indoors a few trips across the garden to feed the birds enticed me to wrap up, don boots and head out to do some badly needed work in the garden.

Armed with a secateurs and a vague idea of pruning something I headed off, Ginger in tow. There is plenty awaiting pruning; from roses, buddleia and hedging to apples, pears, blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries. I took to the blackcurrants in the western apple orchard and after a bit got into the steady job of clearing the innards of the bush from tall new growth and thinning woods on the outside to stop branches crossing each other. I pulled the weeds around them too although a good deep newspaper mulch last spring made the job very light and easy to do. I will renew it again this year as soon as soil temperatures are up and the plants are nice and moist from some spring rain. Joan is collecting newspapers for me and I am attempting to mulch each fruit bush and tree just to cut down on maintenance. So far so good, its been working out quite well. New hedges can be mulched like this too, just make sure the mulch is very thick and in the case of newspaper soaked well to prevent it flying away.

Pruning apple trees makes me nervous. If you make mistakes with fruit trees it can take a while for them to recover and forgive you lack of skill. That said standing back doing nothing is not an option otherwise most fruit trees and bushes become congested with too many branches in a short few years. Too many branches means the sun is not getting into the tree to warm the branches. Branches must get this heat to trigger them to set flower buds. Flower buds become fruit. No sun, no flowers, no fruit. You can see why pruning becomes so important. I can see it already in trees I was initially reluctant to prune. There is nothing for it now but pruning them slowly into the correct shape over the course of a few years. Too much cutting will send fruit trees into shock hence the golden rule of no more than 1/3 being cut off in any year. Blackcurrants I am very comfortable pruning. They are extremely forgiving plants with each bush capable of sending up new 2 ft high branches in a single growing season-any idiot can prune a blackcurrant!! And the best part is the terrific unmistakable blackcurrant smell that hits the air as you slice into the wood. How could you not enjoy a job like that?

All the bushes are budding up nicely, some with the dried remnants of last Junes fruit still hanging on. A wet June was a disaster for blackcurrants and the usual making of Jam that myself and my dear mother-in-law undertake. So instead the blackbirds feasted on the wet crop -the feckers, but really how can I complain at least someone got the use of them. Today as I pruned away it got me thinking about just picking and freezing the fruit this summer no matter what the weather. Later on I can figure out how to put it to the best use. Blackcurrant sorbets, ice cream? hot syrup for desserts? crumbles? I'm sure I can come up with some ideas.

The lowdown on pruning Gooseberries and Blackcurrants
  • You should be able to put your hand into the centre of a blackcurrant or gooseberry bush. That means that any shoots growing up through the centre of the plant are removed. The reason we do it is to promote healthy airflow through the centre of the bush keeping bugs and diseases at bay. 
  • If your bushes are old and fruit production has slowed down or packed up in the last few years you can renew the bush by cutting out the oldest blackest branches (down to ground level) to encourage new more productive branches to shoot up and take over. You are supposed to only take one third at a time so it will take you a few years prunings to renew the whole bush.This often applies to climbing roses too.
  • The rules about dead damaged and diseased wood and crossing branches apply to almost everything you prune, so cut out any dead wood, any damaged wood, any diseased wood and any branch crossing another.
  • I prune to stop the blackcurrants getting too tall, keeping them all at around 3 ft high, this is even more important for gooseberries because at a certain point their natural tendency is to lean downwards and start growing towards the ground. You need to cut any of these downwards branches at the point where they bend downwards to keep them growing upright.Always prune to an outward facing bud.
  • Blackcurrants and Gooseberries fruit on older wood so if you have new plants it will take a few years (2-3)before enough growth has grown and seasoned to produce good crops of fruit.

(thanks to for th blackcurrant pic!)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Word verification back on-sorry!

 Although a number of you are too shy to post I have had to reinstate word verification for posting comments because of spam. Apologies to all of you who do comment-I know it's a pain in the arse, but I have had enough of anonymous people posting dodgy links in the comments section and the hassle of having to find and delete them!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Happy new gardening year!

American tonda squash nabbed from
Hello to you all from the fluey indoors in Pallasgreen. Finally both Seamus and I have succumbed to the bug that has been doing the rounds over Christmas (Ginger seems to have escaped). I woke on Thursday morning to a hung-over type head, aching body and tired limbs (NO DRINKING done before you ask).Today it has moved on to partial deafness and weird taste in my throat accompanied by green phlegm-lovely.

You get the picture-Zombie like state all day.Nevertheless it hasn't stopped me eating or sleeping for Ireland.I did manage a trip around the garden yesterday,  spotting the earliest of the spring bulbs cheerfully sending up fresh green shoots amongst the debris of the winter. yay! it's almost spring.

early wonder beet nabbed from same web site

The big upside to it being January is the fresh excitement of a new gardening year. I have been getting seed catalogues in the post and looking up some on line, drawing up my rotation plan and now doing a seed inventory to check what is out of date and what must be ordered to fill in any emerging gaps.This is quite possibly the most dangerous time of the year when just the possibilities alone make you do crazy things, ordering far too much seed and losing the plot over unusual or rare varieties.That's why I do a seed inventory first to make sure I'm not ordering yet more of something that I already have 5 packets of (you would be amazed how often this happens, a bit like my dad perpetually buying soap and toilet paper on every shopping trip).

De bourbonne cucumber from same site as two above
My big guilt is over flower seeds which I begin the year promising to sow and fail catastrophically to do. I have a full tin of flower seeds, a glut in particular of poppies, and this year they must be sown!!! So I swear, on this blog, to faithfully sown them. Please be sure to ask if you haven't seen a related post as I will need considerable prodding to actually sow them all. The lazy gardener in me says weed the potager terrace and toss them on the soil, poppies don't want to be transplanted at all so it makes sense. Getting down to the weeding is the bother...I feel like one of Jacks bees trying to get pumped up to fly, perhaps some badly needed sunshine would do the trick?

If you are ordering seeds there is a wonderful plethora of seed companies to check out.

Irish seed companies who produce seeds here (grown and harvested on Irish soil) include;
Brown Envelope Seeds (catalogue on line only so far this year)
Kylemore Abbey Seeds (small selection, but some interesting seeds, all pre-1910)
Irish Seed Savers Association   (more seed varieties available to members and old potato varieties only available to members)

Irish seed companies importing Organic seeds and non Organic seeds from the UK and EU include;
The Vegetable Seed Company (The baby of quick and Klaus Leitenberger)
The Organic Centre (importing from mostly the UK)
Seedaholic (great website)

Organic spud/onion sets/garlic and vegetable seeds supplier;
Fruit Hill farm (not printing a catalogue on line only this year)

After that there are of course lots of specialist on line suppliers like seeds of Italy, heirloom tomatoes and American pumpkins etc for you to knock yourself out over. And then all the ones going for free with gardening magazines, in the supermarkets and the garden shops. Try not to go too mad!!!!

PS; am awaiting my bio dynamic sowing calendar from amazon, if you use it too but cant find it locally click on the link here