Sometimes you just have to sit back, relax and enjoy.
I admit, I’m not an allotment expert. All of my work and teaching has been in private gardens, village halls and community gardens so I was really looking forward to helping a group of teachers, parents and school children in the Kilkenny Allotments and Community Gardens.
One of the immediate benefits I observed of allotment growing was being able to pick up tips and ideas from fellow allotmenteers. I absolutely love this structure built by Gerry on our neighbouring plot! The mini polytunnel/cloche was made from recycled bits and pieces, is hinged and once opened kept in place by rope.
Inside Gerry has tomatoes, peppers and an aubergine growing, none of which would grow well (if at all) in the Irish climate outside.
When we’ve seen them, the other allotment holders have been friendly and more than happy to share bits and pieces. I can now see why people enjoy spending time on their plots so much, working away on their own but able to have a chat over the fence.
Are you an allotment grower? Why do you enjoy it so much?
“I don’t have much space, what are the best vegetables to grow outside in my small garden?”
This has been one of the most often asked questions this year which is encouraging as one of the first pieces of advice is start small! Why? Because you’re less likely to give up growing your own if you don’t take on too much at once.
So you’ve installed a couple of raised beds, you’ve cleared a space for some veggies somewhere bright and sunny in your garden, or you’re even planning on planting vegetables among your flower borders or in containers; now you’re wondering what you might grow in your small vegetable garden that will give you the most return for your efforts.
Four tips to bear in mind when growing in a small vegetable garden
1. Grow what you like to eat - no sense growing spinach if you can’t stand the taste.
2. Choose vegetable varieties that are expensive in the shops – shallots, mangetout or early potatoes can all add a few extra cent to your weekly budget which means you may never buy them or they’re only ever special treats.
3. Choose leafy veg that you can harvest a few leaves off and they will keep growing (known as cut and come again), beans or peas that will keep producing the more you pick them, bulbs that will break up into smaller cloves or small vegetables that don’t take up much space.
4. Grow something different. Most supermarkets only sell the most popular vegetables with chards and pretty spinach varieties such as Bordeaux never seeing their shelves. Now’s a chance for you to grow something you’d like to eat and not be told what to eat by the Buyers.
Suggested vegetables to grow in a small garden
In no particular order, here’s a list of vegetables that have grown well in gardens I’ve worked with of all shapes and sizes. I’m not suggesting you grow them all at once, mix and match and see what grows well for you. Continue reading
“My strawberry patch is overrun with weeds and I don’t know what to do… can you help please?”
This was a question asked by a customer recently who’s strawberry beds were full of weeds, just like our own.
Like my customer, I’d left the strawberry patch to last as it really was the most weedy, daunting job in the vegetable patch this year. It had been neglected for several months and with no weed membrane or mulch surrounding the little plants that had been transplanted there from runners last year, it was now seriously out of control.
Three days later (on and off) and the strawberry patch is looking fabulous and we’re hopeful that we’ll have a good crop of fruit this year, but it took some work to get it there. On my hands and knees pulling up dandelions, dock, creeping buttercups and thistles, I was almost ready to throw in the towel but kept going as I knew from previous years that this lovely Cambridge variety of strawberries can provide a bountiful harvest.
Back to the question, where to start? Like everything, at the beginning… pick a corner and begin to pull out everything dead or diseased looking and all the old runner stems. If you have too many little plantlets in the patch that have rooted themselves from last year, take them out and pot them into multipurpose compost or even some soil from your garden and give to a friend. Then weed by hand. All the pernicious weeds mentioned above need to come out roots and all or they’ll be back in no time. See some tips here from a previous post about weeding.
I’m sure many of you have heard that the slugs are expected back in our gardens in large quantities again this year, but I’m guessing we’ll also be seeing a lot of crane fly too if the amount of larvae we fed to our pigs is anything to go by. Every single weed I pulled out had at least one or two leather jacket grubs around it and I’ve already lost one kale seedling to one of these little root eaters.
Once the beds were cleared in the Greenside Up garden, to keep the weeds down and cover our clay soil that can dry out immensely, we added a thick layer of straw around the plants, dampened it down with the hose to prevent it blowing away, then added hoops and netting over the entire patch to keep the birds out who love to feast on juicy strawberries. The new structure will also act as a cloche if frosts arrive at the same time as the strawberry flowers bloom… I’ll be able to cover the patch with horticultural fleece and quickly protect them.
Inside the polytunnel the few strawberry plants we added to give us an earlier crop are much more advanced with fruit starting to appear. We can expect the outside berries at the beginning of July all being well.
If you’d like to know more about strawberries, here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago with more information, but for now we just have to wait patiently before we dig out the strawberry cheesecake and Eton Mess recipes and hope for some sunshine!
Whilst we huddle indoors out of the rain, outdoors the sunshine and downpours have encouraged the flowers to begin their display.
Apple trees, sage, chives and thyme are all bursting to bloom in Goresbridge Community Garden and with them our hopes for good growth and magnificant harvests.
Hurray for spring, however late she falls!