How To Grow Peas


Peas are one of my absolute favourite crops to grow in the summer garden. They are easy to grow, quick to germinate always look beautiful in a garden. There’s not much better than picking peas straight from the vine and eating them fresh. They’re like nature’s candy!

Since I’m talking about summer planting this week, I thought I would do a quick post on how to grow these fantastic plants as summer is the perfcet time to get them in the ground.

There are two types of peas you can grow, ordinary podded peas and eat all “mange tout” varieties. I grow ordinary garden peas on the plot every year and they never fail to do well.

Peas like full sunshine which is why summer is the perfect time to plant. They also thrive in well cultivated, loose soil as air is essential for the roots to thrive. Peas are known as  nitrogen “fixers”, which means they can draw nitrogen from the air, as such, you do not need to feed your peas


I sow peas straight in the ground where they are to grow, you can sow them in pots and transplant later but there isn’t much need. Make a shallow drill about 10 cm wide and 5cm deep. Scatter pea seeds along the drill or space them evenly about about 20 cm apart. Cover back with soil using a rake to draw it over them. The warm summer soil will boost your pea growth and they should germinate in 7-10 days. Use succession sowing to ensure a steady crop throughout summer.


Most peas, particularly mangetout peas, will grow to be very tall so need support as they are growing. There are dwarf varieties available which do not need as much support but I’m warning you, I’ve seen dwarf peas grow very tall in the past, despite their title. Strong mesh or chicken wire is perfect for this purpose. Peas send out tendrils that grasp on to and wrap around structures for support.


Peas don’t really need too much care once they are established, birds can peck at them though and slugs love them so keep an eye out for pests. Peas can get sometimes get powdery mildew in the summer which appears on leaves . Make sure to keep your peas well weeded, especially when they are tender young plants. It helps to keep your peas well watered, particularly as they are flowering and again as the pods are beginning to swell.


Peas have a relatively short growing time and will be ready to harvest within 10-12 weeks provided the conditions are correct. Your peas are ready to harvest once the pod begins to swell, you will be able to see the peas forming inside the pod and should be able to judge when to pick them.

Peas are amazing straight off the vine, I challenge you to pick peas and not eat them straight away, go ahead, I dare you.

Summer Planting

It’s the height of summer here in Ireland, the sun is shining, the world cup is on, beer gardens are jam packed and I’ve seen more inappropriate short shorts than I care to remember. I even have a tan (i.e.. I have new freckles that are just merging together to look like a tan).

Most gardens are now in their most productive stage of the year, however, mine is not thanks to the toe injury. I am quite a few weeks behind on my planting. As such, I’ve had to plan out my garden for the next few weeks to get the most I can out of it. Even though it is June and I have missed out on planting some essential crops, I have been forced to rethink my strategy for the plot for the year. That being said, that’s half the fun of gardening, a garden is forever changing and gardeners work is never done.

So, I figured I’d do a blog post on summer planting, what’s good to plant this time of year and how to make sure your garden is productive right in to the winter months.

It being the last day of June today, you would think it is almost too late to plant most staples of the vegetable garden but you would be wrong. Peas and beans can still be planted, in fact, I planted some on Monday last week and they have already germinated, a combination of the warm sunshine and a heavy summer rain earlier in the week gave them a real boost and I should have a serious haul of peas soon enough. Salad greens are another great vegetable to plant in the summer months, they grow very quickly and within 4-6 weeks you can have loads of leafy greens for your late summer salads.

Summer is the time to plant your cucurbits, squashes, pumpkins and courgettes . If you have a polytunnel or greenhouse, even better, just ensure you keep them very well watered.

You can also continue with succession sowing so you can still plant carrots, beets, french beans, chicory, endive, kale, turnips and kohlrabi for an early autumn harvest.

It is also time to begin planting for winter harvests, kale, winter cabbages, purple sprouting broccoli and turnips. Planting these now will ensure that even in the lean winter months, some forward planning will provide you with plenty of hearty winter vegetables to warm your bones.

It is also the ideal time of year to plant asian greens, Pak Choi, Tat Soi, Mizuna and Mustard all thrive when planted in July so you can plant yourself a delicious bed of asian stir fry veggies. Florence Fennel also prefers a mid to late summer sowing, I planted some just last week.

So, if your garden is like mine, and lagging a bit behind, don’t panic, there’s still plenty of time to get growing.


All that being said, my plot isn’t bare, there is plenty growing, I have a beautiful artichoke plant bearing plenty of globes ready for harvesting, rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, russian kale, onions, leeks, garlic, peas, beetroot, carrots, blackberries, red currants, lettuces and spring onions and plenty more. And thanks to my summer planting, I should have plenty more in a matter of weeks. so don’t despair, get out, keep planting, it will pay off.


How To Grow Raspberries

Raspberries are a surprisingly easy to grow plant that produce lots of fruit per plant. Also, they are divinely delicious straight off the bush. What does it for me is the texture versus the flavour. I love that when you pop them in your mouth they’re soft and furry then when you bite in, they are tart and juicy. Mmmmmmmm, hang on, just going to wipe the drool from my keyboard.


Rasberries come in two varieties, summer fruiting and autumn fruiting, it helps to know which of these you are growing in order to properly care for your plant.

Raspberries love the sunshine but can also tolerate partial shade. They prefer fertile, well drained soil that is slightly on the acidic side, if your solid isn’t acidic, you can add mulch of an acidic matter such as pine needles or bark. You will also need to provide some support for your plants as they grow very tall. You will only really need a couple of raspberry plants to get yourself a good crop. You can buy young raspberry canes in most garden centres during the Spring/Summer months.


Raspberry plants should be spaced about 30-40cm apart in rows spaced a metre apart. You will need to support your raspberries as they grow very tall and can be destroyed by wind. The best way to do this is to get yourself two posts and drive them into the ground a few metres apart (the distance will depend on how many raspberries you intend to plant). Using some strong wire, evenly space three lengths of wire horizontally between the posts. You can then use these to tie your raspberry canes as they get taller.

My DIY effort
My DIY raspberry supports


Raspberries need very little care. They hate weed competition though, so I would recommend keeping all perennial weeds in check around your raspberry bed. Every year or two, add a mulch of well rotted manure to your raspberries in early summer.


Like most fruit bushes, raspberries benefit from annual pruning. After fruiting, untie the canes and prune them back to ground level. In the winter, prune the canes back to ground level and remove any weak canes.

Pests and Disease:

Raspberry beetle is the main pest that could affect your plants.  The stalk will turn dry at the end and there will often be white maggots in your fruit.

Grey mould is the biggest disease to contend with when growing raspberries, it causes your ripening fruit to rot, it is particularly prominent in high rainfall areas. To help control this, remove all dead or infected leaves and fruit from your plants and make sure there is no dead plant material lying around.

Cane blight and cane spot can cause the canes to wither and die, to help avoid this, only prune your raspberries in dry weather and always cut off any infected canes immediately, it can also be beneficial to improve soil drainage as this can contribute to rotting.

All that being said, I have yet to experience any problems growing raspberries, they are a wonderful addition to any garden, tall, with beautiful bright green leaves and we all know raspberries make the best jam. Fact.


Fiona Gets Fruity

This weekend saw the summer solstice come and go and from here on in the evenings will begin to get shorter. Sob. The weather here in Dublin has been nothing short of spectacular the past few weeks, so much so that my veggies are bolting with the heat and my clay soil is as dry as the sahara.

Summer is the time of year I associate with fresh fruit. As a child, there was a large farm out near where I live where you could pay to go fruit picking. Every summer, my parents would bring me there and we would spend a day picking fruit. Buckets of raspberries and strawberries. Hands stained red from the juice, track marks all over my skin from the raspberry thorns, I was a regular old berry junkie. We would spend hours there, walking around picking fruit to bring home and make jam. My dad would buy a load of jars and sugar and would get to making jam for hours. I made little labels on my computer, “J.J’s Jam” we called them. I spent a good hour or four designing a fancy label, guess this was a bit of a pre-curser to my graphic design days (yep, I was a graphic designer for a spell, I’ve had many a job in my time). He’d spend hours cooking the fruit, sterilising the jars, pouring in the jam, sealing them, labelling them and by the end of the process we’d have about 15 jars of jam. I thought this was the BEST THING EVER!

When I first got my allotment, I spent the first few weeks and months just digging the plot, installing a shed, building my raised beds and planting spuds. I didn’t necessarily give much thought to fruit and as such it was only last year I began to plant any fruit bushes. I did know however that I wanted to make jam again eventually, relive those glory days when J.J’s Jam was the jam of choice in the Kelly house.

I did have rhubarb last year, as you all know, because I have a tendency to harp on about rhubarb (no apologies, it is a wonder crop). Last summer, rhubarb was the only real fruit I got from the plot. Myself and my Dad spent one evening making 36 jars of rhubarb and ginger jam, and this year we already have about 20 jars with plenty more to come over the coming weeks.

I have criminally overlooked strawberries, an offence for which I am truly remorseful. Fresh strawberries are probably the best thing about summer in a garden. Bless me mother nature for I have sinned.

I do however have a serious crop of raspberries on the way. Having pruned my raspberry canes to the ground in early February, I am amazed at how tall they have grown, most of the canes are over seven foot tall now and the plants are throwing out runners all over the plot. There are raspberry canes popping up in my rhubarb patch, my beetroot bed (no idea how) and even in my herb garden, which is quite a distance a way from where I originally planted them. There are quite a lot of berries beginning to form now and I reckon in two weeks I’ll be able to begin harvesting and making myself some raspberry jam to add to the jars of rhubarb and gooseberry jam we already have at home. Looks like J.J’s Jams could be having a bit of a revival.

I also have some pretty gorgeous looking blueberries, not loads this year but they are very young plants and blueberry bushes take a few years to establish. I’m just pleased I got something on them, the clusters of berries are beginning to turn blue now. I’m watching them with great excitement, waiting to gorge myself on the sweet fruit like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka. I have visions of rolling my fat blue self around the plot signing the oompa-loompa song.

I have a pretty unruly blackberry bush at the back of my plot, behind my rhubarb patch, this will be the first year I get fruit from it. Blackberry picking is a particularly satisfying experience. I remember spending days on end in County Roscommon with my childhood best friend, picking blackberries in the wild, bringing them home and eating so many our tummy’s hurt and our tongues turned purple. Blackberry bushes can be a bit of a nightmare as they get a bit out of hand but I just couldn’t resist planting a little bit of nostalgia on my plot. I’ll deal with the consequences later. Famous last words, I know.

I have a redcurrant bush starting to come into its own in the corner, in fact, I had forgotten I planted it as it died off a few weeks later so imagine my surprise when it did a Lazarus on me and resurrected and began producing red currants. Hallelujah.

Now that I have a polytunnel, I shall be adding some more fruit to the plot. I am getting myself a fig tree, strawberries, a miniature citrus tree, cherries, gooseberries and even kumquats (idea courtesy of my very adventurous foodie Mother, Janette).

So, in honour of these juicy developments on my plot, this week on the blog I’m getting a bit fruity. I’ll be sharing some tips on growing fruit in your own garden and on making your very own jam so keep your eyes peeled. Get it? Peeled? Like fruit? You peel fruit? See how I’m over explaining my terrible pun? Is it getting a bit sour now?

(And yes, it may be fruit week but I am clearly nuts.)

Happy Digging,




Post Bloom Blues? Here’s some upcoming events to keep them at bay.

Bloom festival has been and gone, the gardens dismantled, the stalls removed, the park cleaned up and the buzz dying down. We’ll just have to wait until next year for it’s return. For those of us who are feeling a bit deflated, sad, show-garden deprived, here are a few upcoming Irish Garden events in June and July to keep us going.

The Dublin Garden Festival

13-15 June 2014, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin

This June, Christchurch Cathedral will be bringing the outside inside for it’s first Garden Festival. The cathedral will be transformed into a floral arcadia with displays by some of irelands most talented florists. There will also be horticultural displays, urban gardens, a petting zoo, crafts, live entertainment and plenty of food. There will also be a number of featured talks by renowned gardeners and horticulturalists. Tickets are €12.

WAFA World Flower Show 2014

18-22 June 2014, RDS, Dublin

This year, the world flower show will be held in the RDS in Dublin. Thousands are expected to visit this event which is pretty much regarded as the olympics of flower arranging. The World flower Show is held every three years in different countries  and this is the first year the event will be held in Ireland. Exibits will include floral demonstrations, craft and trade stands.

Blarney in Bloom

Saturday 12th July, Blarney Castle

Held in County Cork, the Blarney in bloom festival is a one day gardening event in aid of the Irish guide Dogs. Attractions include plant nurseries, crafts, farmers market, seed savers association, bee keeping and plenty of live entertainment.

Galway Garden Festival

5-6 July, Claregalway Castle

The Galway Garden festival is a celebration of gardens and has won many plaudits since 2010. There is plenty of entertainment on offer from live music to medieval jousting. There are many garden suppliers and experts on hand and an international panel of speakers.

Conifer Walk and Talk

Sunday 22nd June, 2.30pm National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin

This walk and talk will be a guided tour of the extensive collection of evergreens in the Botanic Gardens. Learn the basics of conifer identification and learn some fascinating facts about why they are so special.

Learn About Meadows

Saturdays in June & July, 3pm, National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh 

Each Saturday in June and July, The botanic gardens in Kilmacurragh are hosting guided walks through the meadows where you can see the wide variety of plant species living in the meadow at Kilmacurragh. Admission Free.

I’m hoping to go to a couple of these, particularly the Dublin Garden Festival, it looks great. Hope to see some of you there!


A Blooming Great Day in the Park

This week, I’m taking a bit of a change of tack from my usual How To Tuesdays to tell you about my amazing weekend at Bloom. I’ve been on  little bit of a blogging hiatus the past week due to a redesign of the blog itself and of course, a busy weekend, volunteering at Irelands best summer festival. It was a glorious bank holiday weekend here in Dublin, The sun was blaring (mostly), the mood was high, families lined north wall to see the tall ships, thousands of women ran the mini marathon and the wonderful Bloom festival took place in the Phoenix Park. Back in March, when I put my name down to volunteer at Bloom, I was eager to experience Ireland’s annual gardening festival, having never been before. I was eager to meet new people, enjoy talking to like minded people and perhaps feel a part of this wonderful event. Thankfully, my experiences far exceeded my expectations.

On Sunday morning, I arrived in the park at 8am, sun blaring, the park buzzing with excitement at the day ahead. The truly wonderful thing about arriving at Bloom before the gates opened was this, I got to see the show gardens before the crowds arrived, a rare opportunity. I was just blown away, never before had I seen such a diverse collection of gardens, plants, designs in one place. Making my way over to the fab food village, I grabbed a coffee and enjoyed my surroundings before the madness kicked off. I collected my Bloom Ambassador T-shirt, cap and name badge before we were shown around the site and assigned jobs for the day.  That’s when the madness started, people poured in the gates in a steady stream from 9am until 4pm. By one o’clock, the place was very busy. The food village was full of people, sitting out in the sun, enjoying the festival atmosphere.

I must say, it was one of the better experiences I’ve had in a long time, I met a lot of wonderful new people and it was great to feel part of the team that makes Bloom one of the best festivals I have ever been to.

The big attraction at Bloom of course is the show gardens, there were thirty show gardens in total, ranging from larger gardens to the small postcard gardens. Now, I had never been to a show garden event so I was completely mesmerised by what was on offer. Each garden was obviously designed with such passion and hard work it blew me away.

"The First Place" designed by
“The First Place” designed by Fiann O’Nulláin

One thing that really struck me about the show gardens was that nearly every one featured lupins, these herbaceous perennial’s are some of my favourite flowers, their vivid coloured flower spikes provided the show gardens at bloom with a serious display of colour. I also noticed a trend of edible and medicinal gardens, one of the Gardens, “This First Place”, deigned by Fiann O Nualláin was a garden designed for growing medicine, and I took a real fancy to  Wayne O’ Neil’s “An Edible Woodland Garden”.

Lupins were definitely the star of the show
Lupins were definitely the star of the show

To be honest I can’t even begin to try explain each show garden or pick a favourite as they were so varied, but I will say this, there was not one design I wasn’t seriously impressed with. Beside the show gardens was a large walled vegetable garden, this was, without a doubt, the highlight for me (of course it was). It was a spectacularly maintained, productive large vegetable garden that I’m told is actually always in the park and can be visited. I have literally never seen so much borage in my life, it was a borage batallion, a starflower regiment.

The borage battalion
The borage battalion

It felt good to get involved, it felt good to volunteer my time to be part of something so enjoyable for so many people.

There was so much to experience at Bloom, from the Nurseries to a Botanical Art exhibition, to cooking demonstrations and live music. I must say though, I think my favourite part was the volunteer work itself. I was working with a lovely bunch of people at one of the entrances, greeting the visitors and helping people with directions and information about the festival. I really enjoyed working with those people, some of us were gardeners, some not, some were horticulturalists, some just liked to volunteer at events and every single one of those people taught me something I never knew before. And I guess this brings me back to my love of community and my theory that it is the one of the most important developmental tools we have as human beings. It felt good to get involved, it felt good to volunteer my time to be part of something so enjoyable for so many people.

I took far too many photos to share them all here so I’ve popped a little selection gallery into this post for you to have a gander.

Being a Bloom Ambassador is definitely one of the major highlights of 2014. I even got myself a few fab ideas for my own garden, oh, and of course, a fancy cap. Who doesn’t love a fancy cap?





High Tech Lettuce for Dialysis Patients

Engineers inspecting the lettuce at Fukushima Prefecture facility. Photo: Fujitsu
Engineers inspecting the lettuce at Fukushima Prefecture facility.
Photo: Fujitsu

As you know, I’m a big fan of organic food and organic gardening. However, sometimes I come across a news story that goes against my fundamental ideas about food production but still peaks my interest. This weeks What’s Happenin’ Wednesday story is something I stumbled across  earlier this week and wanted to share.

Japanese electronics company, Fujitsu, have undertaken a surprising new project. In its former factory in Fukishima Prefecture, Fujistu is using empty space to grow lettuce for people with kidney disease. The lettuce has been engineered to contain low levels of potassium, most lettuce contains approximately 500mg of potassium, whereas the lettuce engineered by Fujitsu contains only 20% of normal levels at 100 mg.

The growing operation uses a cloud computing system to optimise the ideal growing conditions, controlling humidity levels and CO2. Fujitsu semiconductor engineers are responsible for growing the lettuces which, needless to say, is a bit of a change from their usual day job.

Usually vegetables need to be heated in order to decrease the potassium levels enough for kidney patients to eat them, but now they can eat lettuce cold. Which is quite a blessing, I can’t imagine, warm, limp lettuce is very enjoyable. The lettuce, which tastes less bitter than normal, began selling on May 7th. Fujitsu claims that it is just the first instalment in their “Kirei Yasai” (clean vegetable) series.

Growing food isn’t always about gardening, it’s also about providing sustenance. For people with kidney disease, this project is extremely promising. Genetically engineered food can be beneficial, particularly to those in need, and this story is a perfect example of engineering food to be used for good.  As much as I love the idea of all food being organically grown, that reality of that is just not attainable, particularly with rising global populations and climate change having an adverse effect not only on our environments.

This project by Fujitsu is a brilliant example of growing food in a way that is outside the norm, and I believe this is what we need to do if we are to continue to sustain life on this planet for future generations.

All that being said though, there’s still nothing better than growing your own food. I don’t plan on growing high tech lettuce anytime soon, I’ll stick to my muck and the great outdoors thank you very much!


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