Bloomin’ Beautiful

We’ve had a beautiful stretch of weather here in Dublin the past 12 days. It’s been warm, dry and sunny, and it feels like summer is finally here. I’ve even been able to get out in my shorts and terrify the world with my so-white-they’re-reflective legs. I’ve been trying to visit the plot in the evenings to water it, the clay soil seems to totally dry out in the sun and becomes cracked very quickly.

The good weather has caused a wonderful growth spurt on the plot and everytime I visit, something new is growing of something has doubled in size. Everything is beginning to bloom. My main crop potatoes are coming up very quickly and I planted peas last Monday and they had germinated by Thursday!

Potatoes

Pumpkins

I had to thin out my beetroot, chard and perpetual spinach the other day. I felt like a murderer but it had to be done. I’m just pleased they’re growing, they were looking like they’d never come up. I also planted out my courgette and pumpkin plants, they were just too big to keep on the windowsill anymore, thankfully they seem to be adjusting well to being outdoors.

My strawberry plants have come back to life, having been battered by the wind a few weeks ago, and they are thriving. They have lots of beautiful white flowers and I can see some of the flowers starting to develop into fruit. I covered the bed they are in with weed control fabric, this is so the fruit won’t be sitting on wet soil when it grows as this causes the fruit to rot. Straw is also good for this purpose, just spread it under each plant for the strawberries to rest on. I also made a cage of sorts to protect them from birds, I simply used bamboo and wire to make it and draped netting over it to protect my strawberries .

Strawberries in bloom

Strawberry cage

When I first got the allotment, I knew I wanted to grow Borage. I had read about this wonderful plant in a few different books and loved how it looked. Borage is an annual herb, with beautiful blue star shaped flowers and a mild cucumber flavour. I planted two borage plants in early spring and in the past week they have literally tripled in size and burst open with gorgeous blue flowers, I’ve already seen a few bees buzzing around them.

Borage flower

Another one I planted to attract bees is lavender. It was very (very) slow to start and I didn’t think I’d see any life on it this year but lo and behold, the sunshine has done it wonders and there’s lovely stalks of lavender beginning to form

Lavender

My rhubarb has come back to life too, it’s amazing what a few days of heat and sunshine can do for the garden. It’s great to be able to sit out on the plot on a sunny day and just enjoy my surroundings. This weekend, there is an open day at the allotment site, there’s to be a barbeque, music, entertainment etc, I’m really looking forward to it.

This weekend also sees the return of the Bloom in the Park festival in phoenix park, an annual gardening and food festival held in Dublin. If you have the time, it’s worth a visit, especially if this weather keeps up.

I have big plans for the plot in the coming weeks, I’m going to finally rebuild our gate, install a patio area, compst bin, water butt and I’m working on a little project to attract some unusual wildlife in, watch this space.

The plot in the sunshine

Sunshine, At Last!

The sun is finally shining in Dublin. Seems like summer is finally arriving, it’s warm, sunny with a lovely breeze and it’s perfect gardening weather. After two months of rain, wind and frost, the sunshine is a wonderful thing. I even have a little pink on my shoulders from spending a couple of hours on the plot on Monday. Many of my plants were stunted from the bad weather so I’m hoping this sunshine will give them a boost.

Mint tea

Today, I’m enjoying the sunshine, I’m currently sitting in the back garden, surrounded by plants, soaking up the sun and drinking fresh mint tea. Bliss. The mint tea is a nice refreshing drink in this weather. I used spearmint but you can also use peppermint, just be aware it is cooler and stronger than spearmint so you will not need as many leaves. To make your own tea, boil some water in a pot with some fresh mint leaves in it, pour into a glass and enjoy. You can strain the leaves out if you like but I just think it looks nicer with them in. It makes a lovely refreshing drink in this weather. You can use dried mint too, it’s easy to dry mint yourself, you can air dry it, use the oven or a dehydrator. I simply put it in the oven for two-three hours at 80 degrees. When it’s dry, you can crush it up or leave it whole but make sure to store it in an airtight container.

I’ve noticed signs of new life in the garden. My tomato plants have trusses on them and on closer inspection, I noticed one or two flowers beginning to open up. This was a relief as I’ve been quite unlucky with my tomatoes this year and was convinced I wouldn’t get any fruit from them but this sign of life is very promising.

Tomato Flower

My courgette and pumkins continue to grow at a speedy rate and are now quite large, i’m going to move them to the plot this week and have been hardening them off the past few days. I’m still taking them in at night though, just to be safe.

Courgette outgrowing another pot

The cat has taken a fancy to my chili plants and I’ve caught her on more than one occasion munching on a leaf when I’m not in the room, cheeky girl. I’m waiting anxiously for the day she decides to munch on a chili, I’m sure that will turn her right off them. They seem to be growing very slowly but today I noticed some flowers forming. It seems like everything is starting to come into it’s own.

It’ll be a busy week on the plot this week. I’ve to transplant my courgettes, pumpkins, lettuces, sweet peas and my sunflowers. I also hope to plant some pak choi and some florence fennel, these are best planted in summer as the cold weather can cause them to bolt. I’ll be planting carrots soon too. I’ve held off planting them until now to avoid the first generation of the carrot root fly. I hope to plant them on the last day of May or first day of June. The weather is set to stay this way for at least the next week so I’ll be spending as much time as I can in the garden and hopefully have plenty to blog about in a few days.

Sunflower

Lettuce, “Little Gem” and “Lollo Rossa”

Pumpkins and Borlotti Beans

Hope you all enjoy the lovely sunshine while it lasts.

Shelter

Dave’s reading chair

I was chuffed the other day when I visited the plot and discovered the shed had been put up. It’s a 6ft by 4ft shed which is small but it’s big enough for our needs and I didn’t want the shed to take up too much space on the plot. Finally I have somewhere to store the tools, the car was destroyed with all the muck etc, it also means I can cycle out to the plot now as I don’t have to carry all the tools with me.

I planted another crop of peas the other day. Succession sowing means I should (hopefully) have peas throughout the summer. I tidied up the plot the other day, there’s a lot of weeds to deal with and I’m trying to keep them in check.

I put some collars on my cabbages to protect them from the dreaded cabbage root fly. I wrote a blog post about how to make them yourself, you can find it here if you want to try it yourself, it’s very easy. I also put netting around the bed to protect the cabbages from the birds. I hammered a small length of wood to each corner of the bed and just draped the netting over using twine to hold it up. You’ll notice I also have some CD’s in the bed, this is to try scare the birds away, I’ve heard it helps so fingers crossed.

Other than that I haven’t done much on the plot this week, again the weather hasn’t been great. You can tell by my photos it’s been very grey and dull. Things are looking up though, the weather forecast tells me we should have a dramatic improvement in weather this week, we might even get some decent sunshine and a raise in temperatures. I’m just hoping for at least one day when I can get out on the plot in my shorts, is that too much to ask?

I’ll leave you for now with some shots of the plot from the other day.

Rain pooled in lupin leaves

View from the shed window

Spuds

Borage

Grey skies

How To Make Your Own Cabbage Collars

I’ve decided to do some “how to” blog posts on DIY garden projects, as I’m often asked for tips from fellow plot holders and gardeners. Hopefully this’ll be the first of many.

Cabbages are a staple of most vegetable gardens but need lots of care and attention. Cabbages are a member of the bassica family and are therefore plagued by a variety of pests. They are well worth growing though as they are very tasty when grown yourself, nothing at all like the shop bought cabbages and they also look gorgeous on the plot.

Not only do birds love them, they are also plagued by slugs, caterpillars and the dreaded cabbage root fly. The cabbage root fly lays it’s eggs on the soil at the base of your cabbages; when the eggs hatch, the maggots tunnel down to munch on the roots, effectively destroying your cabbage. The hearts will not form properly  and the leaves will wilt and often turn a blue colour. To protect your cabbages from the root fly, you can install some cabbage collars at the base of your cabbage. You can buy these in most garden centres but they’re fairly pricey and often flimsy so I decided to make my own. They were very easy to make and you can use materials you have lying around the house.

I used a doormat to make the collars, old carpet or carpet underlay is also ideal, anything that won’t warp when wet.

To make the collars, you will need: one doormat/some old carpet, an old CD, a marker or pen and a scissors.

Step 1: Using a CD as a template, draw circles for your collars on the mat.

Step 2: Cut the circles out using a scissors.

Step 3: Cut a straight line halfway through the circle and then cut either side so it forms a Y shape.

Step 4: Place the collars around your cabbages.

Water the collars a bit to flatten them to the ground, and there you have it, quick, cheap and easy homemade cabbage collars.

The Day of the Spearmint Triffids

Today is another lovely summers rainy day in Dublin. Not only is it wet, it’s cold. Far colder than it usually is this time of year.

I know I’ve been harping on about the weather in my past few blog posts and loathe to think I’m becoming one of those individuals who talks of nothing but the weather, but I never thought I’d be dealing with frost damage to plants in the second week of May. The rain, I can handle, the wind I’ll happily do battle with, but frost damage in May is not something I had bargained for. My spuds have been the one crop doing well on my plot so far, the cold temperatures have stunted many of my other plants, but my spuds were lovely, tall and bushy, a big splash of green on the otherwise brown plot, so imagine my horror when I visited my plot yesterday and noticed five or six of my lovely plants covered in frost damage! However, I’ve been told not to despair, once it’s only the leaves that are damaged and not the tubers, they should return to their former glory in a week or two. Here’s hoping.

Frost Damage on my potatoes

However, it’s not all doom and gloom on plot P26. Despite the bad weather, there are signs of life, you know, under the masses of weeds (the weeds seem to be the one thing thriving on the plot of course). My salsify, beetroot, chard, brocolli and perpetual spinach are all growing, albeit it very slowly. I still have only one asparagus so far but it’s a healthy green and purple spear, I’m hoping the rest show themselves soon, even though I can not eat them this year, it would be nice to know they’re there. My onions continue to grow well and my peas are beginning to grow tendrils. My raspberry canes have buds on them and I spotted some new growth at the base so they’re obviously not too badly affected by the weather.

Pea plant getting ready to climb

I spent a good two hours the other day weeding the raised beds, my poor strawberries were looking overrun with young weeds, as were my beetroot and spinach. I enjoy weeding, I complain about weeds of course, but I enjoy pulling them up from the soil, it’s therapeutic, even in the bad weather.

When the weather is bad, and I can’t make it to the plot, I keep myself content by watering and taking care of my plants at home that still need a bit of TLC. My pumpkins and courgettes will have to be planted out soon, they’re outgrowing every pot I put them in.

A few weeks ago, on the advice of a fellow plot holder, I transferred my spearmint from the ground into a pot, on the understanding that it would completely take over in a few weeks. I almost scoffed, I didn’t quite believe it would grow so quickly, I potted it anyway and have been watching it with interest. It’s huge! It’s growing at an alarming rate and has tripled in size in three weeks. I’m very grateful now that I moved it out of the ground. I’ve been having nightmares that my mint is reminiscent of the plants in The Day of the Triffids and any day now it will leave it’s pot, begin walking on it’s roots and try to take over the world!

This weather better clear up fast, being cooped up is clearly driving me insane.

Monster Mint

Keep Calm and Pot On

I’m sitting here, looking out at a very rainy day, the May bank holiday hasn’t been the warm, gardening filled weekend I hoped it would be. I’m starting to get quite frustrated with the weather the past few weeks, I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in far too long and the garden is starting to suffer for it. I wouldn’t mind the rain so much if the temperature was good but it’s far below average for this time of year and on Friday night, it got down to One degree. So much for summer!

To fill the gardening void in my weekend, I’ve been looking for other things to spend my time on. On Friday, I began sprouting some chickpeas, I love chickpeas and couldn’t resist trying this out. Chickpeas are basically dormant seeds, which when kept moist, begin to sprout. I simply dampened a few sheets of kitchen towel and placed  them on a seed tray and spread the chickpeas out on the wet towel. It reminded me of school, when we would grow cress and alfalfa sprouts on wet paper towels in the science lab. The chickpeas should sprout pretty quickly and I’m looking forward to trying them fresh as they are much nicer and contain higher nutrient content. Chickpeas are very low fat, high in fibre and vitamin C and are great for blood pressure, and of course, they’re very tasty. I’m going to make some  homemade hummus and falafel with them when they’re ready so keep an eye out for the recipe.

Borlotti bean

I also had to spend an hour or two, potting on my chili and tomato plants which were fast outgrowing their small pots. I should really be moving my tomatoes outside by now but the weather is still a bit too nippy, I’m going to hold off for another week or two. Instead, I had to be content with potting them on and hoping I don’t somehow kill them in the process, I seem to have bad luck with the potting on process, especially with my tomatoes but thankfully I had no casualties. My borlotti beans are finally showing themselves, I think the cold weather had stunted their growth a bit, even though they were in the greenhouse, I’m going to waith until mid June to plant them on the plot just to be safe.

I visited the allotment breifly to plant my red cabbages and celery, I had to cover these up though as there was frost predicted. I used fleece to cover the cabbages and for my celery, I used old plastic bottles as cloches. I only had two of these to hand so I fashioned a homemade cloche from wire and plastic for the remainng plant, it looks a bit mad but it does the trick.

Homemade cloches

The one thing that seems to be thriving in the current weather is my early potatoes, I had to earth them up the other day as they were getting pretty large, I even noticed some flowers starting to form. Even if the bad wether ruins everything else, at least I’ll definitely have some spuds!

Dave earthing up the potatoes

My strawberry plants took a beating during the week and are looking very bad indeed, however, I noticed some new rhubarb growth, looks like the wind didn’t kill it completely and it’s coming back which is a great sign. All in all, it’s been a quiet week on the plot, hopefully, next week we’ll be getting our shed, the poor car is covered in muck from hauling the tools back and forth, it’ll be nice to have a place to store them on the plot, and of course to hide from the rain showers.

Potting on

Red Cabbage

New Rhubarb growth.