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Greenside Up Garden


An exciting find in the garden in June

June 5, 2014

It’s been a while since I shared an update of what we’ve been up to at home but I discovered something exciting in the garden this evening that’s prompted this post…

BeehiveWe have bees!!!

A neighbouring beekeeper (John) heard recently that we were interested in keeping bees so he dropped a beehive up “just in case”. Apparently bees like to swarm at this time of year and as it’s quite expensive to buy a ‘nuke’ of bees, a swarm that finds you is a lucky bonus.

As it was such a beautiful evening I headed outside with the camera just before tea to take a few snapshots and stopped in my tracks as I suddenly noticed a group of bees surrounding the hive. We don’t yet have any beekeeping kit so I didn’t venture too close but they are definitely honeybees. John has advised that we stay respectfully away from them for the moment and he’ll call by and check them over the weekend. Although we attended a beekeeping morning last year our knowledge is scant so John’s offered to teach us as much as he can about how to keep them. Fingers crossed they’re here to stay and not just visiting… I’ll keep you posted!

A swarm of bees in May Is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June Is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July Is not worth a fly.

Greenside Up Garden JuneElsewhere in the garden there is a lot¬†going on. The flowers are starting to bloom in the front garden and although quite wild (I haven’t weeded much) it’s looking quite pretty.

Greenside Up Garden June A very bold fox has visited during the day time and took our last remaining duck ūüôĀ and the little black hen which leaves us for now with the big rooster, a little brown hen and a very broody white hen in the main run.

broody henWe’ve separated the other hen who had three chicks that are growing quickly and are keeping them safely enclosed and safe from our cheeky young cats and hopefully the fox too.

piggiesA couple of weeks ago Alfie arrived from Oldfarm¬†with a couple of young boars that we’re fattening up for the freezer.

Although we struggled a bit with sending Rashers and Sausages off to the slaughterhouse last year, the taste and flavour of home reared pigs is second to none and knowing they had a happy life and not one squashed into an intensively reared unit means it will be difficult  for us to ever buy commercially reared pork again.

fedge and mikeIn the veg patch growth is delayed but happening at last. I was late getting started but everything is coming on nicely now that we have some heat during the days, the odd downpour and a stretch in the evenings.

Outside the mangetout are managing to survive the slug attacks, unlike the kale seedlings that are struggling which means I’m constantly sowing more to replace them.

The broad beans are surrounded by poached egg flower (limnanthes) in an attempt to attract hoverflies that will eat the black bean aphid which is sure to appear as the plant’s soft tips develop. We may curse the wet weather when it arrives but the growth it encourages is worth it (in small doses.) The Sarpo Mira potatoes are coming along nicely, as are the onions and inside the polytunnel everything is flying up. We’re now enjoying picking the strawberries every morning for breakfast and the grapes are starting to form.

I still have a couple of beds empty that I’ll need to plant over the coming weeks if we’re to fill them. I’m hoping to get more kale¬†out there as well as runner beans and in the polytunnel I’m scratching around looking for space to transplant the peppers and cherry tomatoes.

front garden

How’s your garden growing? Are you enjoying sitting outside and feeling the sunshine caress your skin?


Grateful for a garden…

August 19, 2012

Well we’re home from our long trip away, the garden is a mass of chickweed, flowering vegetables and overgrown borders, but there is a lot¬†to eat.

Vegetable Baket

Dinner: Potatoes, Kale, Courgettes, Mange Tout, Garlic, Carrots

I wont list how everything is doing in the vegetable beds, suffice to say there’s a fair bit of weeding and tidying to be done now we’re home.

Polytunnel - August 2012

For all the blue sky and hot sun, I’ve missed my garden. The flowers, the lush green grass we take for granted and sometimes complain about when it can’t be mowed due to the rain. I’ve missed the peace, the birdsong and the utter quiet at night-time. I’m grateful for everything the garden provides us with, whether it’s stunning blooms or oversized courgettes.

‚ÄúNo one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄstLin Yutang

Hydrangia Macrophylia 'Selma'

Hydrangea Macrophylia ‘Selma’

Am I alone in my wistful musings? Do you miss your garden when you’re away or even ¬†give it a second thought?


Vegetable Garden

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in Winter

November 15, 2010

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in WinterAs a working mum¬†with three children, an old farmhouse that’s¬†in a constant state of renovation,¬†a Scout group leader and a gardener, I face a constant battle with time management. Life can be a rollercoaster and trying to¬†keep a¬†balance a struggle at times –¬†whether it’s washing, cleaning, cooking,¬†typing, sewing, homework¬†or helping¬†whichever family or group member¬†is shouting out the loudest.

Needless to say our house isn’t spick and span, the kids watch more¬†TV than I’m comfortable with, the kitchen door¬†remains unpainted after four years of adding filler to it, I regularly serve up omelets and oven chips,¬†my filing hasn’t been sorted and put away¬†for months and¬†the weeds are growing in my veg beds.

So it’s with a¬†massive sense of¬†delight and relief when I finally tick off one of the jobs that’s been taking up head space…. and this weekend it was the polytunnel.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in Winter

24th May 2009

Our tunnel had remained in the shed, still packaged in its cardboard box, for over a year before we finally erected it with the help of a few friends, on a still, warm day in May in 2009.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in WinterMy in-laws had bought it as an anniversary¬†present from Highbank Organic Farm in Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny¬†and so I was pleased as punch that I’d started off several¬†seedlings in a friend’s tunnel during the springtime so that I could immediately plant up the beds once the cover was on.

That first¬†season we grew¬†lovely crops of tomatoes, coriander, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, chilli’s, sweet peppers, flat leaf parsley, melons, aubergines and basil.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in Winter

19th July 2009

We made parsley wine and repaired a hole in the roof of the plastic after our youngest daughter had decided to climb barefoot to the top. We also got our share of pests and diseases Рthe dreaded tomato blight and red spider mite.

On a wet, cold day in November I drove over to Scariff in Co Clare and attended an informative full day workshop at Irish Seed Savers about using a polytunnel throughout the year.

I came back inspired and enthusiastically cleared the tunnel of anything dead or decaying and replanted it (yes in November) with carrots (Amsterdam Forcing), Overwintering Lettuce, Broad Beans (Bunyards Express) and Peas (Onward I think, seed packets got a bit muddled!). I left the parsley, chives, radish and carrots already growing to do their own thing.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in Winter

Peas growing in May 2010

Everything remained dormant for the worst of the cold winter but then as the light levels increased and the air became warmer, they started to grow and we were eating fresh peas in May.

After we harvested everything (it all grew) we planted shallots, onions, garlic, basil, more carrots, baby tomatoes, cooking tomatoes, lots of cucumbers, courgettes, french beans and sweetcorn.

The onions and garlic didn’t do as well inside (their bulbs weren’t very big) and we only picked about four chilli’s (they were in a draught), but when clearing the tunnel yesterday I¬†harvested¬†10 more sweet peppers.

Crop rotation can be tricky in a polytunnel or glasshouse.  Many of the fruit and vegetables we tend to plant in them, plants that require warmer temperatures to fully mature, are of the same family, for instance tomatoes and aubergines (Solanaceae) , cucumbers and squashes (Cucurbitaceae).

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in Winter

Three Sisters Planting in August

Most folk I’ve spoken to just seem to move the plants¬†around the best they can each year.¬†Some remove the soil and add new soil the following¬†season (a bit too labour intensive in my mind). Some grow tomatoes in containers as they’re more prone to disease (eelworm). Some take their chances and grow them in the same space each year.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in WinterWhatever you chose to do it’s important to keep adding as much organic matter as possible to the soil.¬† It will help with drainage and subsequently¬†moisture levels amongst other things. I¬†appreciate it makes financial sense to keep a tunnel planted up year in, year out…. the plastic has to be replaced every five to ten years, so¬†get the most from your money and sow as much as you can. Any of the vegetables that don’t require Mediterranean temperatures and light levels can be grown in a tunnel over the winter months, and at this time of year anything that says ‘early’ on the packet should grow for you.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in WinterThere are massive temperature fluctuations in polytunnels that you have to be aware of…. at lunchtime today¬†I opened the door¬†and¬†the temperature had reached¬†23¬ļC in the bright sunshine, despite falling to just 1o¬ļC overnight.

(If you have a tunnel¬†it’s worth investing in a good thermometer that records highs and lows.)¬† It¬†will¬†guide you as to¬†whether you should put¬†some horticultural fleece or newspaper¬†onto¬†crops to give them some added protection, or whether to water more in the summer months.

However, this winter I’ve chosen¬†to give the soil a good¬†rest. For the past 18 months the tunnel’s been fully productive.¬†¬†I’m aware there are lots¬†of vegetables we could be growing and sowing (see the fabulous Joy Larkcom book for all her oriental veg ideas for starters), but for the next three months we wont be sowing anything inside.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in WinterOutside we still have leeks, celery, parsnips, swedes and curly kale. We have potatoes, beans, onions and garlic in storage and bags of strawberries in the freezer.

At this date in time¬†there isn’t a food crisis in Ireland (just an enormous financial one!) –¬†I don’t need to keep the tunnel¬†endlessly productive.

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in Winter

Preparing the polytunnel beds for winter

So, we’ve cleared the beds, watered the dry earth and covered the soil with lovely, well-rotted cow manure that’s full of¬†big, fat worms.¬† Now¬†we’ll watch while¬†nature does her job, replenishing and nourishing¬†the soil.

In the spring time, when I’ve caught up with a few more jobs, I’ll dig out the seed packets and trays and start growing again.

I’ll also be keeping a look out in the library¬†for Charles Dowding’s new book How to Grow Winter Vegetables, that’s due out in May, and see if I can overwinter anything next year.

I wonder what other people will be doing with their tunnels and greenhouses this year?

Looking After and Planting a Polytunnel in Winter