Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Merry Month of May

Snail no 587...
While April might have begun dry, at times too dry (digging out the last surviving winter leeks, I nearly reached for a pick axe! It took serious elbow grease to liberate them from the ground), May has proved to be a pleasant mixed bag of sunshine and showers, driving on growth inside and out.Seedlings pop up, weeds prosper, snail armies march at night, trees bud up and flower, birds sing, and everything is in that great burst of new life that characterises this most lovely of all months.

Tom sowing clover in the orchard at Blackhill farm
In the potato beds the first potato leaves are now well above the ground and have been earthed up. It's fatal to first early crops not to keep the water supplied in the next few important weeks.You might not realise it but we have actually had a very dry month of April (like last year) but unlike last year with its cripplingly cold bleak easterly wind, this April has been marked out by mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine.Last year lots of people complained their spud crops were slow to develop and poor looking, none of them thought to water them, once they did start watering all their crops began to prosper and grow. In the next few weeks if the weather dries up and becomes hot-water your spuds if they don't come by it naturally(and water charges be dammed!).

Apple blossom on the Lough Key Crab
Soil temperatures are nicely up. A few weeks ago I saw the first stray nasturtium self seeded in the vegetable garden (many more have appeared since)and spotted the asparagus (which had somehow eluded me up to now) at a healthy few inches high and unmolested by slugs. I have been eating rhubarb and giving it away for a few weeks, by far the best crop in an age, although, like everything else the growth had begun to slow down for want of rain before the weather finally broke.The great wealth of blossom on cherries, pears and apples is a great promise of the harvest ahead.

Strawberries in bloom
Under the protection of glass and plastic tomato, aubergine, chili, sweet pepper,herbs, salads, brassicas and flowers are all prospering well. While Seamus can't seem to decide what to do with his delicate exotics it's a doddle with veg; once they are up in the propagator its off out to the great outdoors, glasshouse or cold frame. Mind you things are getting a bit chaotic to say the least! So far 48 varieties of Tomatoes (including outdoor bush and basket tomatoes) have been grown, and not one of each but about 5 or 6 of each!!! Seed sowing is a kind of madness really, like gambling, you know you should stop but you cant' help yourself!

Tomatoes in the Glasshouse
That's not to say the sowing is over-far from it. More leaf crops are in the pipeline for Thursday and Friday; its time to get the first Kale crops going and to keep on with succession sowing  salads, herbs, spring onions and lettuce.

All around me seedlings are popping up on the windowsills and propagators-cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes, runner and climbing beans, courgettes, sunflowers and dwarf french beans. Dace has very cleverly organised a large patch at home in Clare for pumpkin, spud and cabbage production. Although such a venture is fraught with dangers; ( Mum and Dads unintentional "help", a local hare population with undeveloped palates and straying cattle) it's probably worth the risk. If all she gets is a handful of pumpkins and some nice spuds it will be worth it as she could never grow them in the confines of the one raised bed in Montenotte.

Daces Pumpkin Plot in Clare

Extra space and the question of upping scale has been occupying my mind a lot in recent years. Is it worth renting extra land, is it worth the hassle of field scale veg for pumpkins, onions and potatoes? What about acquiring a tunnel for that matter? The lure of fresh peaches, apricots, nectarines, kiwis, passion fruit, oodles of space to try tonnes of tomato varieties, to grow salads for winter and spuds in early spring or for Christmas day. Early strawberries!!!A storage area indoors, a propagation area indoors, all very exciting prospects. But at what cost? and at what effect to the existing garden space?

A red arsed Bumble bee on Borage in the Veg garden
The tunnel debate goes on daily here; we have gone so far as to visit Poly-dome in Offaly and price a large tunnel, (you'd probably fall over if I told you the price, though the tunnel itself is a fantastic straight sided, industrially built model). Do I pay the money or source it elsewhere at a lower price?It looks tempting to order from First Tunnels in the UK.

Large 8ft bamboos mark the spot on the lawn where it could go, but when? Now? and get it up and running for this summer? A big ask! Later in the Autumn? and get it prepared for next years Spring season? definitely the easier of the two. But then what happens to my Tomato army? Having set up a very fast tunnel in Kilmallock with my 5s (a tunnel which is now heaving with crops) I feel I could manage it. I do think I will have to give up work though-it keeps getting in the way of my gardening.

The lads put finishing touches to a climbing bean support in Kilmallock


  1. I went to First Tunnels - great company to use! Highly recommended.

    1. Great tip, I went with them in the end, they were brilliant, thanks!

  2. We got a small tunnel this year,9x6ft, its a green, garden one and already I have been amazed at the amount of crops we can start off in it so I can only imaging how you produce in a bigger one.We got ours in Carrigtohill in Cork, the company is online at