Friday, April 19, 2013


A quick post - just found this site on foraging for mushrooms in Ireland and I thought I would pass it on. Someday soon I have to get out on one of these walks to learn about how to forage mushrooms - I have picked some from fields in my youth, but would love to know more about which to pick, where to pick and when to pick! Please comment with any good sites on them.

One great gift idea for those of you that enjoy truffles - how about growing your own! Haven't tried this myself and have no ties with the company, but its definitely one for my wish list!

Bought a grow your own mushroom kit in B&Q, just been waiting for the weather to get consistently warmer to try it out. Will let you know how I get on!

I can't wait to pick a basket like in the photo - just have to get my knowledge level up - as its a risky business should you pick the wrong mushrooms!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grand stretch in the evenings!

The weather yesterday was glorious - rushed home from work and straight out to the garden after dinner. So much to catch up on after the cold weather we have had over the past couple of months. Big difference yesterday in the weather compared with the gale force winds the night before and of course today has changed back into heavy showers, so doubt I will get out again this evening.

Finally we got around to putting up some posts and wires for my fruit bushes. I am growing redcurrant, blackcurrant and raspberries and I have a gooseberry bush and a blueberry bush as well. Some of them were trailing along the ground which made them easy prey for slugs etc ( and also our lawnmower!). Also we had no defined edge for the border against the lawn, so this was needed to be put in. Above is the view along the side of the back garden.

This is the section behind the garage. I moved a few raspberry plant suckers (daughters) during the winter to this spot along with a blackcurrant bush cutting and so far they have all taken - can see new growth on them all. At the top left is my gooseberry bush which I hope to pick from this year as it was planted approx 18 months ago. 
Good link if you are thinking of transplanting your own raspberry suckers - 
How to Dig and Plant Raspberry Runners

This is the other side of the back of the site - the raspberry bushes have gotten very tall in places ( some same height as me 5ft 6"!!). There are still a few suckers I will have to dig out - more presents for friends! 

First posts and wire up - I am using the same wire they use here for electric fences - so it should be both very strong and durable. Also we got the edging in the whole way around.

I tied up some of the branches to wire to prevent them trailing along the ground. Also, should make picking from those branches a lot easier at harvest time.

We still need to put down some compost to help feed the bushes and clear the last weeds from around the plants and then we are going to put bark down to help control the weeds and moisture.

My garlic plants are coming along nicely. Onions planted to the front haven't started yet - but only down two weeks. I had a lot of trouble with birds and cats pulling up my garlic bulbs - had to cover the bed in a net until recently. Thankfully it doesn't seem to have bothered the garlic too much - great tough plant!

My broccoli is growing well in its mini cloche. I have some Pak Choi seeds planted or which a few have started to germinate under the cloche. 

I just love the colour the purple sprouting broccoli is giving to the garden at the moment - as well as the delicious veg for my dinner! 

In this photo, you can see the stump of the floret I cut two weeks ago and the new florets that grew around it once the space was released by the cutting. 

The rewards - a full bowl of broccoli! Great to have and to share!

I love self-seeding plants (and I don't mean the thistle in the above photo!) - above I have some violas that have self seeded in the bed just inside the gate. I usually buy some winter hardy viola annual plants in mid-autumn and I find that they usually survive the winter to produce a brilliant showing in spring/early-summer far exceeding the showing you get from ones brought in spring time. Also, they love to self-seed - which makes my job all the easier :-)

Now all I need is the weather to improve so I can get back in the garden!! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April update 1

What a great start to April. Lovely sunshine last weekend finally which enabled me to get out in the garden. The weather is promised to change to wet, but warmer so now I am going to risk getting the garden started. Ten day weather forecast for Shannon here (time for umbrellas!) :

As I went around the garden, one thing I did notice was there was a marked difference in the temperature in the soil of the raised beds compared with the ground.

Of course - I did pull in a favour off my hubbie to get the potato drills started. Planted my Sarpo Mira potatoes on Sat - these are a main crop variety. I spaced them about 12-14inches apart in the ground and covered them with a few inches of soil. I will build up the drills as the shoots appear. Sarpo Mira are supposed to be a good blight resistant potato - time and summer will tell. Fingers crossed! Only doing half the potatoes I did last year as I had such issues with blight due to the wet summer despite spraying them weekly.

Planted out my broccoli (calebrese) plants too - these I covered with a mini cloche tunnel to keep them from getting too damaged in the wind/rain that is forecast. This will also increase the temp for the seedlings so they should grow quickly. I also planted a small number of radish and pak choi (my first time growing from seed) seeds under the cloche - these will be well gone out of the way by the time the broccoli needs the space. 

My last remaining parsnips were evicted from their bed to make room for the onions which are following them in my bed rotation policy. Great to still be picking fresh veg even at this late stage. I don't think I will grow parsnips in my raised beds again though - they grew too well (poor complaint I know!) - as my raised beds are 2 ft - the parsnips were almost impossible to dig out ( help was needed again) and we had to break some of them to get them out.

I have now my first raised bed full of garlic, onions and shallots. I will be planting more shallots and onions directly into the soil in a couple of weeks - weather dependant. I am also waiting for my purple sprouting broccoli to finish before I can dig it up and use the space for the onions.

I brought out my spring onions that I had growing inside on the window sill to my temp greenhouse. Planted a few other seeds in there too to see how they do. As it is only a plastic greenhouse with a couple of holes, it wouldn't be as warm as a glass greenhouse. Also brought out a few other garden plants (morning glory, nasturtiums, tomato) to start to acclimatise them,

We got a gift of new gloves and I cannot rate them highly enough - I normally end up flinging my gloves aside to get fine work done or handle small plants, but these gloves above were absolutely excellent. The only thing I wasn't able to do with them was handle fine seeds, but really managed to wear them for everything else. Some of the gardening gloves I have tried in the past are either too bulky or else you still have dirty nails afterwards which often negates the reason for wearing them.

Found a website below that sells them in the UK (note, I have no connection with the company - just one I found through google and I haven't used them).

Monday, April 8, 2013

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

First year ever growing Purple Sprouting Broccoli and definitely not my last!! So great to be able to go out and pick some veg at this time of year. I did get one shock with it which I will describe later.

There isn't a big large head like calabrese (normal broccoli) to you and me - there is a smallish floret at the top and the rest is spears that grow along the sides. 

I have managed 4 picks so far from my bed of about 8 plants. It has been largely ignored during the winter and is in good condition considering. There is another month of a couple of picks a week from the plants to go. Great at this time of year!! 

My first pick!

The purple sprouting broccoli doesn't take as long as calabrese to cook - just took a couple of minutes in boiling water. I cooked it with some parsnips that I had still in the garden ( which had been cooking already).
Discovered then, purple sprouting broccoli looses its purple colour when cooking - the water absorbs it all, and so did my parsnips slightly! Was totally shocked - had people over for dinner and was promising them lovely purple broccoli, but it just looked like normal calabrese! Tasted slightly sweeter, but then again, picking to cooking time was only about 10mins!

Those of you that are fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - he has a couple of recipes for purple sprouting broccoli at the link below.

More details on the growing of Purple Sprouting Broccoli on the GIY website:

Definitely one for the plot if you have space!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March update - garlic planted, beds readied, seeds planted

Spent a few hours planting up a few seeds - ran out of both window sill space and containers. Planted some tomatoes, basil, coriander, spring onion and a new variety of basil which I haven't tried before that is supposed to be hardy for Ireland - Sacred Basil Ocimum Sanctum from

Also planted some bedding plants including French Marigolds, asylum and some other plants for different parts of the garden like Morning Glory and Nasturtium.

Enjoying the lovely spring flowers - crocus and mini daffodils. 

We have our light installed by our house name plate now which meant it was finally ready for planting - I had been holding off as even with the best of meaning, they would all have been trampled with the light installation. Planted some violas and 

My strawberry bed after clearing out. Not looking the healthiest after all the frost the last few nights. 

My strawberry nursery - planted my strawberry runners here ready for moving out and passing onto friends in the next month or so before the bed is needed. 

Got my three varieties of garlic planted - though I did have to re-plant a few after the neighbours cat decided to dig up a few!! Think the chicken manure I spread on the bed attracted the cat! 

 These two beds have been cleared down and the manure spread on them in Oct/Nov has mostly broken down in them. Almost ready for planting!
My first glimpse of purple sprouting brocoli! Can't wait to taste as its one I have never had before! 

New paving stones - just put them out in temporary positions at the weekend. Have to figure out what we will do around them for the future with the beds. It does get so mucky when trying to collect the veg during the lovely Irish summer! 

Just a few views around the garden. Looking quiet well - only second year for the rock garden and even now has a nice bit of colour in it.

View back up the garden from the raised beds. 

A lot of digging over still left to be done. 
Strimmed the wild flower section - going to rotivate it again this weekend - it had too much grass planted with the flowers and was taking over. 

So much work to do - so little time ... 

For something different - check out straw bale gardening! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting Organised

I have finally had time to sit down and order my seed potatoes, onions and garlic and figure out what order I am going to rotate my raised beds. And its something that isn't stopped by the weather, so I have no excuses for taking so long!!

Had another good Saturday in the garden clearing weeds and clearing out the last of the unused veg from the beds. I now only have 2 half of beds to finish off ( but only about 1/4 of the non-raised section ready!) Also, spent a couple of hours on my strawberry bed - it had gone wild with runners. I planted up a whole new bed with the runners as well as filling out the current bed (yes I know it should have been done at the end of the summer, but at least its done now!). A lot of the runners will be donated to friends as there is more that I need once I am sure which will take and which will fail. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the bed beforehand - will try to get some of the finished bed in the next couple of weeks.

Last year I just picked up my onion sets and seed potatoes from a local hardware store, but this year I decided to order online. I ordered the below from Mr Middleton shop online:
After all the blight last year ( even with weekly spraying), I decided to give Sarpo Mira a go for my potatoes. Not going to grow as many as last year, just went with 2.5kg bag. Note - I have searched many of the big name DIY stores around my area and couldn't find this variety which is supposed to be one of the most blight resistant varieties.
Red Baron for my red onions - had these last year and they did wonderfully
Stuttgarter Giant for my white onions
French Shallots - Vigarmor
There is a good selection online - it depends on your personal taste.
Going to try 3 varieties this year - all different. And going to resist my normal temptation to shove a few of my own or last years growth into the ground as this gives a higher chance of rust growing on the garlics.
Garlic 'Elephant', Garlic 'Cristo', Garlic 'Solent Wright'

I had never seen the Elephant Garlic before and got a bit of a shock at the size of the 2 cloves that were sent!
Some serious cloves - you would want to love Garlic to eat these!!!

Anyhow - onto my bed order for the next two years. I have 5 beds in total.

Strawberries /lettuce
Spring Onions & Lettuce/  Shallots – ½ bed each
Shallots /Spring Onions & Lettuce – ½ bed each rotated
Onions/ Leeks / Garlic
Calebrese / Brussels Sprouts/ Radishes
Carrots / Parsnips / Beetroot
Carrots / Parsnips / Beetroot
Onions/ Leeks / Garlic
Calebrese / Brussels Sprouts / Radishes
Calebrese / Brussels Sprouts/ Radishes
Carrots / Parsnips / Beetroot
Onions/ Leeks / Garlic

I have retired the potatoes out of the raised beds as my beds are nearly 2 foot high and I found them hard to dig out. Increased Strawberries to a full bed for this year on their own - I also have a bed in the back garden near the garage of Strawberries, but you can never have enough! :-)
So instead of a rotation of 5 beds, I am reducing down to a rotation of 3 beds and just rotating in the one bed for the other. This is also not an ideal order, but is what works space wise for me based on the veg we like to eat most. Please feel free to leave comments or improvement suggestions!! All feedback welcome.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another year begins

Finally time to get back in the garden getting everything ready. Great to finally have a few dry days, been such a wet winter here. So many weeds have taken over in just a short few months of neglect. Its great that to have at least something still growing - tried purple sprouting broccoli for the first time last year and its looking good so far - hopefully will be able to get a few dinners out of it in a few months. We had a bit of trouble in late summer/autumn keeping the butterflies off it from laying their eggs - fed quite a few caterpillars.

I dug out my purple bed in preparation for March/April planting and had a lovely surprise. I had left 3 potato plants in the bed that never got picked as all others in the bed were tiny and had left those to grow meaning to pick them at the end of the season. By this stage I had assumed that they would all have rotted but to my great surprise, there was a great collection - easily enough for a few dinners for our family of four. I think as the raised bed is so high, it saved them from rotting.


Bed ready for some compost - weed free and turned over. Only 4 more beds to go ...

The last of the leeks - very tasty and  they have done well despite the neglect through all the wet weather.

Started digging over all the outside too - this may not look much, but I have been slowly digging over a section a week - will all be done by the time its needed in March/April. I had compost down and some cardboard in some of the sections to help limit the weeds and I have to say, it did a fairly good job. Taking it slowly to allow the muscles time to remember what its like to do work! My poor hands were a lovely red colour after the few hours work.

Split my rhubarb plant - probably a month or two late, but better late than never. Covered them both with a nice heap of manure to help protect from the frosts. Picked a nice corner that will get plenty of sun in another month or so when the sun rises. The other has full sun even at this time of year and has shelter on three sides, two walls and the small "glasshouse". 

Time to get planning on what I am going to put in each of the beds this year.