Monthly Archives: March 2013

Frosty Spring

Thursday 14 March 2013

This week we had some really hard frosts. Perfect timing for my peas which are not sprouted yet… hoping they survived. The rhubarb took a beating.

Milder temperatures returned today with just a bit of rain. I planted some red onion sets, put some willow in that had been potted, and installed rhubarb and strawberries that had been salvaged from another plot. I also planted Gladiolus bulbs in between my raspberries, we’ll see how that works out. I’m hoping to go back tomorrow and get some more lettuce, potatoes and onions in.

I now have four beds with the flattened PVC conduit hoops. The peas are bird netted, and I have purchased insect netting for the broccoli, carrots and cabbage. The insect netting needs sewn together to be wide enough, I cut the pieces today and Kayla will sew it up length-wise. I still need to devise a net high enough for my raspberries, I think I will try to find some good metal poles, then secure the same hoops to the poles so that they make a higher net.

Friday 15 March 2013

Today Kayla sewed the net and it worked perfectly! A little long (should be about 9.6 meters) but the width of two 1.2 meter nets was just right. It is now up over my soon-to-be broccoli, carrot and cabbage bed.

I met another neighbor – John, who also works at Microsoft. He was sorting out a strawberry bed so I may be able to get some plants from him.

I planted more onions – about 80 white onion sets next to the red ones I planted earlier. I also planted four-fifth’s of a box with lettuce. I tried not to sow too thickly, letting just a few seeds fall every six inches or so. That bed has been covered by my plastic perforated cover all week, so it was relatively dry and warm. I didn’t finish the package and still have another variety of lettuce that I will have to interplant in other spots if I use it this year. I am out of white onions but have about half a bag of red left.

This weekend I plan to put in my potatoes, green onions (“salad onions” here), and carrots. I need to start thinking about slugs as well, I haven’t seen any big ones but lots of little ones and I’m sure they’re already out and about. I found a nice big green caterpillar today that was amazingly tough even trying to scrape it dead with a rock… hope not to see too many more of those!

The seed trays are all going full bore, but quite leggy. The marigolds are the only tray that failed to sprout well, probably 60%. The rest mostly came up and the lettuce are on their first true leaves now. They are spindly so I’m putting more dirt around them, not sure if they will transplant well but it’s worth the experiment.

No sign yet on the plot of either sweet peas or the mangetout peas. If they do come up I’ll need to trap for slugs as I have read they are very attractive to them.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Today I quickly put in two sections of potatoes. The south rows in each section were Rooster, the north rows were Sarpo Mira. One batch went into a mounded bed, the other is a raised bed. It will be interesting to contrast the varieties as well as the different bed designs.

The weather has been warmer in the day though still quite cool at night. We had one shower yesterday but it was dry all day today. Should be good growing weather for the cool crops and hoping to see progress with the peas soon.

I’m realizing just how little space I have, even with two allotments. I’ve already taken up twice as much space for potatoes as I’d planned, and the lettuce took a full bed instead of half. I’m beginning to think I may need to scrap the sweetcorn in order to fit other items that I prefer, like beans and squash.

Week Ending 10 March

Wednesday 6 March

Today I spent two hours at the garden right after work, planting sweet pea, sugar pea and a tiny patch of radishes. After a week of no rain it finally began yesterday, though it’s more of a mist than anything. The soil is still quite dry in spots. Weather continues quite warm.

I planted the sugar peas about 7 inches apart in all directions, filling up one 8 x 16 foot bed with exactly one large packet of seeds. The sweet peas (which I’ve never grown before) went in various corners where a fence post or tree provides an opportunity to climb. I still have loads of those seeds and will find additional spots for them as other things are planted. Each sweet pea got a milk jug cloche (also new for me). I had cut off the bottoms to use as intermediate seed pots, the tops were washed and became cloches. Since our family goes through a fantastic amount of milk each week, I should have plenty of cloches!

There was no one about at the garden, though I could see a few neighbors had been gathering more compost and putting things in. I’d say only about a third of the plots show activity yet this year, the rest are either fresh dug waiting for new owners, or waiting for their owners to come out of winter hibernation and start digging.

Friday 8 March

It has been raining for two days straight, I went out to the garden to rescue some seeds I left under an old doormat, and found 4″ of water in the wheelbarrow (I really need to get a cover for that). The garden soil wasn’t waterlogged thanks to the raised beds and plenty of light compost, but the paths were a quagmire and the spot over where the water spout leaks was soggier than ever. Nothing has disturbed the peas, one of my projects this weekend will be getting a net put over that bed to ensure the new shoots aren’t assaulted by birds.

So instead of working in the garden today, I went on a long walk in the countryside, discovering a new beautiful spot in a river valley with an old stone bridge, mill race, and no one about. I love Ireland. Every time I go on a walk I think, “How could I ever leave?” But I’ve said that about a few other places we have lived too….

All the seed trays are now sprouted, my next task is to find another under-tray and begin planting the next batch of seeds. I have a load of plastic trays repurposed from various grocery store items, plus a good stack of yogurt cups and various odds and ends to use as seed pots. It’s amazing how much plastic garbage we generate just by shopping at the supermarket.
Saturday 9 March

I took Hyrum up today for 1.5 hours to put up a bird net I bought at Lidl (EUR 3 for a 5×4 m net). The hoops are flattened PVC conduit bought at Burke’s Hardware for EUR 1.50 each, four hoops to a box. The nets fit the boxes perfectly, and the hoops are just the right length for a medium-height net (e.g. peas, small fruit bushes). I will need something higher for the raspberries.

The net is very light and we had some trouble attaching it to the sides. We tried bamboo poles threaded through the side ends, which worked OK. For connecting to the hoops I used string and bricks, I will try clothes pins as well, the main concern being the wind which is quite strong here.

Sunday 10 March

Today I spent an hour in the garden even though it was still wet and the mud deeper than ever. Firstly, I noticed that the site owners built more cold frames which they had promised to all new allotment holders this year, so I nabbed my two and carted them up to the garden. I don’t have anything ready to be hardened off yet but will soon enough.

Second job was to put up a row cover I bought at Lidl for EUR 6. This is a cheap PVC job with a clear perforated cover. I am using bricks to secure the sides, and will soon know how well this works in the wind as we had a good blizzard last night.

Garden Journal

I came across an allotment site that encouraged its members to keep a journal of the year, including time and money spent, and the vegetables and fruit produced.

Now would be a good time to start a more detailed accounting of inputs and outputs, since I have been at the allotment for a solid month. I have spent pretty much all of my free daylight hours there, much to my wife’s chagrin.

Saturday 2 February 2013: 3 hours. Paid for our first plot, and spent the afternoon with Hyrum clearing away garbage and gathering stray lumber, bamboo and various “bits and bobs” as they say here. The plot was surprisingly plentiful with metal poles used in a now-defunct mini greenhouse. The plastic joints are mostly UV destroyed but the metal poles are quite useful.

Sunday 3 February 2013: 5 hours. Bought 31 scaffolding planks (8 ft x 4 ft x 9 inches) for EUR 120 (EUR 4 each). Had the planks delivered to the barn, cut some in half with my jigsaw, then hauled the lot into the garden on the cart.

Between 9-24 March I probably spent about 30 hours at the plot.

Saturday 2 March 2013: This week I went to the plot three times in the morning before work, totaling about 5 hours. On Saturday, the family came and I also spent most of the day when they weren’t there, about 8 hours. We finished the entire East Plot (6 wood boxes, 2 small brick boxes for the boys). We also built 2 wood boxes on the West Plot, and hoed the soil into mounds in the part that won’t be boxed. In the evening, I planted a plum tree (“Czar”) from Kilquade’s Gardenworld.

This will be sweetcorn, a place to experiment with willow, and other such like.

This will be sweetcorn, a place to experiment with willow, and other such like.

Sunday 3 March 2013: I worked compost into the unboxed portion of the West Plot, then rototilled the compost in and re-hoed the beds. I planted 4 blueberry bushes (“Northland”, “Goldtraub”, “Rancocas”, “Duke”), and 2 blackcurrant bushes (“Titania”), all bought at GardenWorld. I also interplanted some sad-looking strawberry plants that I saved from the junk pile.

Berry row

Total purchase of berry bushes and plum tree was EUR 60.

Other purchases yesterday at Country Life in Ashford:

  • Slug pellets
  • Seed potatoes: 2.5kg of Sarpo Mira (blight resistant)
  • Seed potatoes: 2.5kg of Rooster
  • All-year Cabbage mix of seeds: “January King 3”, “Durham Early”, “Greyhound”, “Winnigstadt”
  • Broccoli seeds “Waltham 29”
  • Thyme seeds
  • Dill seeds
  • Onion sets: 100 yellow “Centurion”
  • Onion sets: 100 red “Red Baron”
  • Sweet Pea collection “Charlie’s Angel” (purple), “Daphne” (pink), “Royal Wedding” (white), “Terry Wogan” (light pink)

Total was EUR 60.

The first leaves on the seed lettuce “Salad Bowl” are getting big today, and the marigolds “Scarlet Sophie” began to sprout in their tray (note: the sprout comes from the dark end of the seed, not the dry frayed end; I planted them upside down). The third tray I planted this week with free Tomato seeds “Harbinger”.

Lettuce sprouts 1 March

Other seeds started today:

  • Cabbage “Greyhound”
  • Broccoli “Waltham 29”

We’ve had somewhat sunny days and quite warm all week. The garden has gotten much drier, in fact I watered a few things today as we’ve had no rain for about a week. My plot has water access at both ends, but one side is not working, and the other side leaks constantly. I rigged up some yarn to catch the leak and channel it into a garbage can, which filled up halfway over 24 hours. I need more water storage areas!

I have met a few of the regular allotment holders, most have not been around yet (which is obvious from the condition of some of the plots!) –

  • Keith is my neighbor to the south. His plot is super organized and he also has the most fruit trees of anyone. He lent me some bone meal when I planted my plum tree. He’s been there three years.
  • Donal and his wife have 1.5 plots in the middle of the garden, he is there frequently and I offered the use of my rototiller since I see him digging so often.
  • Eileen is next to Donal, I met her my first weekend and she gave me some parsnip. She’s been here about three years I believe.
  • A woman comes out from Dublin and meets her son here, I don’t remember their names but I have seen them twice and they are always friendly.
  • Two women manage the plot west of Donal’s, again don’t remember names….

The unrented plots have all been dug over, I believe there are 9 free. There are 32 plots total. Season Park Farm started letting allotments for the 2010 season.