Sunday, July 29, 2012

Update 1 - short - but more to follow

Sorry I have been away the past few weeks - I finished up work and thought I would have more time on my hands home with the kids, but turns out I have a lot less :-) Trips to the beach, Bunratty Castle and catching up with friends has been dominating my time. I will get some more proper updates up later this week. These are some photos from a few weeks ago - will have more up to date ones uploaded then.

The weather also hasn't helped - think it has been a record July for rainfall so far in Ireland - and thats saying something!!

Onions are starting to swell

First carrot and beetroot picked at start of July
Potatoes and peas growing nicely start of July

Strawberry plant producing runners since start of July

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Picked my first peas today, delicious, but all that shelling is too much like hard work. Anyone any quick tips for shelling them? Growing petit pois so loads of small peas.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stone wall build through the stages

Here are some photos of the wall we put up for our house name sign. As there are all old walls around our site, we went with a similar stone wall build. It is now the main feature of our new shrub beds.
Just click on any of the photos below to see them in larger format

Foundations dug out
Foundations poured - and a rough idea of how the sign will look

Finally underway

How high to have the wall
Work continuing

Protection from our lovely weather
The reverse view

Again more protection needed

The wall is now finished - just need to get soil and plants in to show it all off
Finally all potted up

We are very please with how it looks - just need to finish cleaning up now after the builder - they do like to leave their messes behind!! We are also going to put in some lights (you may have seen cables in a few of the photos) to shine up on the name plate.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Strawberries, Tomatoes, Chilli & Peas

 I love love love the taste of home grown strawberries - even the Wexford strawberries for sale at the side of the road have nothing on these - they are taste sensations! I picked all that were ripe last night so there aren't as many in the photos - but there are plenty more coming that will be picked very soon!! Slugs got to a few where I had them in last years bed, but (so far!!) there hasn't been any slug damage to the ones in my raised bed - I am still believing that the loose stones around the raised bed is really helping - along with the beer slug trap that I have installed just beside them!

Close up view

Just have to be a bit more patient!

They are all hiding under the dense foliage. The runners have just started, so will be watching these for new free plants for next year!
My first tomato bunch

I have been watching and waiting patiently for my first tomatoes to appear - its lovely to watch as they grow. So far I have a good few flowers and tresses on the different tomato plants. I am feeding them every second day with tomato feed and today I also tried a bit of my nettle feed (as the weather was decent, I had the greenhouse door open - the nettle feed stinks otherwise!).  This is my first time trying the nettle feed on tomatoes, but saw it on another blog and had to give it a go!

The Greenhouse tomatoes

Old Greenhouse tomatoes - growing well

Bush tomato planted outside - not the healthiest but still has a few toms growing!

Chilli plant in greenhouse - still very small
 The chilli plant was bought as a small plant this year - I have in the past grown them straight from seed before. So far I have a good few flowers on the plant, but no sign as yet of chillis developing - I may have to pimp my chilli!

My first Mangetout peas!

I was up at a friends at the weekend and discovered his first peas - (a few of them found a pleasant home in my belly!) - was delighted to discover my own first peas. They didn't survive for much longer after this photo was taken!

Monday, June 25, 2012

How much land do you need to be self sufficient?

This is from the  website during the year. Food for thought maybe?

Tip of the Day - 21 Jun, 2012

How much land do you need to be self-sufficient?

What do you think? An acre? Five acres? This is a question many of us have wondered Im sure and Jim Cronin addressed it in great forensic detail at his course in GIY Wex last week. Jim reckons one needs the following to be almost* self sufficient for a family of four all year around:

- a polytunnel of 40x14ft
- outside veggie beds covering 30x50ft
- 8 hours a week to give to your GIYing

*he says "almost" self-sufficient because this amount of land would not be enough to produce spuds, carrots and parsnips (which require alot of land) 52 weeks of the year. It would produce enough of these crops to last until Christmas. A further 200x15ft would be required to be self-sufficient in spuds, carrots and parsnips all year round. Even with the additional 200x15ft this amount of land is still less than quarter of an acre! Of course it may take us a while to be at a point where we are productive enough and skilled enough with our existing land to produce such a large amount of food, but still - you have to admit the potential is breath-taking!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Well the weather (again!!!) has changed for the worse here. Only managed a few snaps and essential work in between the heavy showers. Apologies to those of you in drier climates - I would send you our rain if I could - really!!!

The book that has me hooked at the moment is "The Polytunnel Book" by Joyce Russell - I so want a polytunnel, but reckon that its at least 2 years away for my garden. However, its good to read up and study about which types etc and what and when to plant. The book is a great guide and reference for all experience levels and has a handy month by month guide. Its going onto my recommended books very soon!

Salix Nishiki

This is one of my favourite trees for small gardens or small spaces. It doesn't grow much bigger that when you buy it height wise, but will lengthen and thicken up the branches and foliage wonderfully. All new leaves on the tree ( note it is deciduous) start off white/pale pink and then turn to variegated green as they age. Makes the tree look like it is flowering constantly from spring right through till the end of summer.

Ominous dark clouds approaching - hmm - think its time to head for cover! Any photos of sun appreciated - not looking likely we will see it anytime soon! Managed to get another spray in to prevent Blight in between the showers - seems to be a lot of blight around due to the wet and warm weather we are having here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Peas flowering, strawberries, and a few flowers

Finally I have seen some flowers on my pea shoots. Most of them are still way behind everyone else. I was late putting them out this year and the weather here in Ireland has definitely not helped!

My first red strawberry too hiding in the foliage - now have to keep a close eye out for slugs, birds and the other 2 legged animals that rob them in me :-)

My sunflowers are growing well - if a bit close together - about 8inches now. There is a family competition on to see who can grow the biggest sunflower - not a competition I have lost yet, but there is always a first time!

 My hosta bed with a tree fern in the middle, a honeysuckle thats just about to flower with a few other plants - including my monster chives on the far left. Think this bed is now complete - just have to split my chives during the winter. I have some pistachio nut shells around my favourite hosta and it seems to be working a treat at keeping the slugs at bay - perfect excuse to eat more now to protect the rest of them! As this is a corner bed with two walls - plenty of hiding places for the slugs and snails, so I have to be extra vigilant. This bed only gets sun in the early morning and late evening as the old wall on the right is facing due south and blocks the sun.

This is an old type of rose - I'm afraid, I don't know the name of it, but the smell is unbelievable! I have already had a few requests for cuttings from it for next year. This is its second year in-situ. It really makes me wish that they had smelly vision on the internet. I have cut a lot of flowers from it to bring indoors and the aroma when you walk into the house is amazing.

My lupins with a bay tree hiding in the back. Gives beautiful colour right outside my kitchen door. The bay tree still has another year or two growing until it fills out nicely - already has trebled in size over the past two years.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another pick

Finally got to pick something other than my lettuce and radishes at the weekend. There was the broccoli which I had a post on  (click here), but also got to pick my second batch of rhubarb at the weekend. This was a pleasant change - I can't wait to pick more veg - patience is a virtue that I need more of !

As I wasn't planning on using the rhubarb straight away ( which would be what I would normally do), I tried freezing it. I had never done this before ( I followed advice from Piers Warren book "How to store your garden produce"), but it was so simple that I think I will try again later on in the year.

The difference compared to freezing the broccoli, is that there is no blanching needed ( it can be preformed if you wish to keep the vibrant colour) - all you need to do is chop into usable sized pieces and freeze (similar to the broccoli - I stacked mine individually initially and then bagged them up when frozen).

Also below is a photo of the potatoes that had the blight (just started on the leaves) in the pot - very small, but after boiling for about 10 mins, they were delicious! So tender.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What is this growing on my old walls?

We have this plant which grows in the old mortar of the old high walls around parts of our site. It is giving a lovely colour this year (light pink flowers) - I think the wet weather is helping it a lot!

The pictures don't really reflect how pretty it is as they were taken on a dull day. Please let me know if you know the name of the plant. You can click on any of the images to zoom in.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My failures so far

Every gardener loves to talk about their successes and what worked so well, but I believe we can also learn even more from our failures. And with gardening, sometimes our failures happen due to circumstances out of our control (weather, pests to name but a few).

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

This was my second time trying to grow ginger and again it was a total failure. I bought the bulb from B&Q and tried it on a hot windowsill - but absolutely nothing happened. May take some more advice from the link below before trying it again with some suitable store bought ginger - but if it fails again, I will just have to resign myself to buying it!
Growing ginger

Approximately 50% failure on my garlic this year due to rust. I had some store bought garlic and this is still growing strong - but the old garlic that I used from last years bulbs that I grew myself all got heavily infected with rust. In future I will be buying new supplies of garlic for sowing each year. 

This was my most annoying failure - all was going so well - it germinated well, grew quickly on a windowsill, adapted well to life outdoors after hardening off. And then came the storms last week - and the two pumpkins I had sown were snapped off near their bases. If I had known they were at risk, I would have covered them with a cloche ( I will be doing this next year for sure until they are too big for the cloche). The most annoying part was that it happened too late in the season for me to germinate more. I was so looking forward to having my own grown pumpkin soup for Christmas dinner starter as I had last year.

I forgot my potatoes that were in the pot when spraying for blight (thankfully remembered all the rest, and they are doing well) just before the last batch of wet weather and sure enough - they were covered in blight this weekend. I immediatedly emptied the pot - the potatoes were still usable, but tiny - still nice addition to the salad that evening for dinner. Blight will mean that the potatoes won't store. The leaves etc have been removed off site. Photos below.

Click on the images to see them in full size.  
These are just my failures so far - I am sure that by the end of the season that more will come along with a lot more success (hopefully!!).

"Expect the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes"

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Broccoli/Calabrese Harvest and Freezing

Couldn't believe the size of some of my Broccoli yesterday morning. Harvest time beckoned.

I have included photos of my blanching and freezing of the broccoli to keep it over the next few months. Note - before you start, you should make sure that you have enough space in your freezer to store them all especially if you are trying to freeze them individually. You are better off blanching and freezing as soon as possible after picking to ensure maximum freshness, but they will hold for a couple of days in the fridge if its not a suitable time.

These were seedlings I bought back in early April and sowed under cloche for the first month. They have turned out so well - I might do some this way next year and also bring on my own for a later sowing.

You need to watch your broccoli carefully when the heads are formed as they can quickly turn to flowering (which indeed is what we eat - the flower buds!) and you will have missed your harvest after all your hard work caring for them.

A fine sized pot of broccoli and the headless plants!

Lovely full heads - ran out of space in the big sauspan bringing them in. Wouldn't be Irish without the cup of tea on the side!


First batch chopped up into usable sizes. If you have a large amount of harvest, it is better to do them in small batches or else your boiling water will cool too much when you put them in.

To blanch them, put them into boiling water for just one minute. They retain a lovely deep green colour after blanching as above. The water afterwards looks like the hulk took a bath in it!!

To cool them afterwards, I place them directly into a bowl of iced water. This helps cool them down quickly to stop them from further cooking ( as otherwise they turn to mush when cooked later on). I then place them on clean tea-towels to dry before starting the freezing process.


You can just bag them up once cooled and dried, but if you freeze them that way, you may find that the whole lot freeze in one big iceburg and make it difficult to pick out just the few pieces you want at any time. I line them up in trays, any plastic boxes with lids - all separate so they aren't touching.

This was the freezer once I had the whole lot done - about 8 heads of broccoli freezing here. Give them a few hours in the freezer before bagging up to reduce the space required in the freezer.


Remember to date and label your bag prior to putting in the vegetable - it is much easier to do when the bag is empty. I'm not sure how long they will store in your freezer, I just know that all mine will be used up before they go out of date anyway!

They will only require about 5 minutes ( adjust less if you prefer more crunch in your Broccoli) in boiling water to cook from frozen or can be added directly to your stir-fry.

Broccoli has some great nutritional values - click here for a link to them on Wikipedia

I have left the plants to continue growing as from past experience, there will be further (although smaller) heads that will appear at the sides of the plants.