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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Planting:

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

Care:

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.

Pruning:

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.

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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!

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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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How To Grow Lavender

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Botanical name: Lavandula 
Flowering time: Summer
Height & spread: 30cm-1m height, 30cm-1.5m spread

Lavender is probably my favourite plant in my garden. It’s beautiful, easy to grow and smells amazing.

Lavender is best when planted late spring/early summer, ideally in May. Like many other herbs, it does well in most soils once it gets full sun and moderately good drainage.  If you have heavier clay soil, lavender can become woody and the plant may not live as long. Now, I have very heavy clay soil so I often add gravel to the base of my plant for drainage. Lavender grows well in pots also and makes a lovely addition to a balcony or driveway if you are growing in an urban environment.  Just ensure you add some gravel to the end of your pot for drainage.

Lavender does not need to be watered too often, and in fact over watering lavender is more likely to kill it than anything else.

Lavender should be pruned every year to keep the plant compact. Some people prune after it flowers in late summer and others in early spring. I pruned mine in early spring this year. Use a secateurs to remove the flower stalks and and inch of the years growth.

To propogate lavender you can take semi ripe cuttings from young plants in early summer. You can also collect seed from dried flower heads and plant the following year.

Lavender is an aromatic herb, famed for its calming qualities. It is   often used to treat insomnia, nervous stomach, and anxiety. it can also be used as an analgesic and an antiseptic.  It is also beneficial to the respiratory system, in particular in the treatment of colds and flu. Lavender is one of the most popular ingredients in aromatherapy used to treat insomnia and headaches.

Lavender is also widely used in the culinary world, often used in condiments and dressings. Its flowers yield a lot of nectar and as so is popular with bees make high quality honey  from the lavender nectar.

 

Bloom Festival 2014

New-Bloom-Logo

Break out the pyramid of Ferrero Rocher, I am to be an ambassador. How very Fancy! Well, when I say ambassador, it’s really just a fancy name for a steward. Yep, I’ll be spending my weekend volunteering at Bloom festival, Ireland’s largest annual family event. The festival is held every June bank Holiday weekend in the Phoenix Park.

I am very excited to volunteer at the event, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the festival in previous years so getting to work there is extra exciting. Obviously as a gardener, I’m very interested to see the show gardens and the garden exhibitions, but I am also looking forward to getting out and meeting new people with similar interests.

The Bloom festival has been running for seven years now and is increasing in popularity every year. Bloom is a family friendly event run by Bórd Bia. The festival features a number of show gardens, exhibitions and food. I’m particularly interested in seeing the show gardens. I am becoming increasingly fascinated with landscape design and horticulture and a very intrigued to see what is on show at Bloom, maybe I’ll even get a few ideas for my own little garden, which is by no means well designed and could do with a few new features.There will be 30 show gardens at Bloom this year so I’m sure there’ll be something new and interesting at each one.

So, keep an eye out on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter where I’ll be posting regular updates and probably many blurry-photos-fixed-by-fancy-filters. Oh, and if you are going to Bloom and fancy a chin wag/cup of tea, drop me a line.

Bloom festival runs from Thursday 29th May until Monday 2nd June in the Phoenix Park. Oh and if you’re looking for a family day out, kids get in to bloom for free! Lovely Jubbly.

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