This is the journal of my endeavours to grow a range of fruit, veg and flowers from seed, grow organically, and my attempts to create a personal paradise with 1/2 acre of maintained gardens and 1/2 acre wild meadows. Northern Ireland's average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. Soil type: Clay

Friday, 29 October 2010

Pumpkins n Halloween thoughts

Happy Halloween! 

 What would Halloween be without a pumpkin?
What would Autumn be without frost?
Where would we be without... leaves?  (besides Winter)
....or a little creativity? (ever see a pumpkin used for flowers?)
Enjoy your Halloween weekend & happy gardening...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Flowers Hit by Autumn Frosts

Frosted field and rooftop begin to defrost.
Frost again... this makes three in the past week; a mini frost on 20 Oct and two bigger frosts yesterday and this morning. Is this the end of my flowering annuals & perennials?? Time will tell....

Good news! The seed company came back to me and said I could keep the 10 extra seed packs with their compliments! (ref: 22 & 4 Oct blog)

Frosted cornflower looks sugar coated!
If only the green fly had frozen to death (but no)!

The spider webbed heather looks ready for Halloween.
Geraniums on their 2nd flower.
This light shaded aster flowers actually look better frosted!
The Calendula 'Orange King' may have given up their crown.
Sweetpea - I'm glad it's going (all green and no flowers).
The heat rising off the leaves which were left over night.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Sunflower Focus and Free Seeds Dilemma

Seed pack used over the summer.
Would you keep them???? I came home to a nice surprise... a little package through the door with 10 packs of seeds inside and nothing else. I thought, 'That's odd, but nice!' Recently I took out a magazine subscription to 'Grow Your Own' and with the subscription I received a (promotional) gift pack; this gift is pictured on my 4 Oct blog. Part of the free gift was to receive 10 packs of seeds, which I did. So.... now I've recieved 10 more seed packs, bringing me up to 20 in total! So the big question is.... should I keep them or return them?

Sunflowers are always so cheerful! Above is a little bouquet I threw together from the garden.
I've started collecting seed from my drying sunflowers. The birds love them too!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

(First Frost today) Cabbage - loved by slugs & caterpillars!

This morning marked the first of the Autumn frosts - buurrrr burrr!!!
Pot grown Cabbage 'Golden Acre' from seed.
I ate the last of my cabbage in stew over the weekend. I adore the flavour of cabbage; it's too bad most of my cabbage heads were eaten by caterpillars and slugs over the summer.  I'll be growing 'Golden Acre' again in the Spring and I'm thinking ahead - I'll be investing in netting (to deter caterpillars), and I'm also considering plastic collars to keep slugs at bay.

Did you know...
  • The Royal Horticultural Society reports that slugs and snails are the UK's most troublesome garden pest (its because of all the rain we get!)
  • Each slug or snail produces around 500 offspring every season, with the majority of eggs being laid in the summer and autumn.

Devoured by slugs & caterpillars!

Caterpillar caviar - at the base. 

Variety: Cabbage Golden Acre, Homebase, 175 seeds, 39 pence per pack.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Double Flower Power - azalea to primrose

Azalea Topiary (click on photo to enlarge)
Isn't it great when plants flower twice during the year, in Spring and again in Autumn!

My double performers have been:
  • Azalea - it flowered in May and is going to full flower again
  • Poached Egg Plant - it flowered in June-July and is making another show. Sown from seed two years ago, this plant self seeds every year and blooms twice.
  • Lupin Russell Mix - it flowered in June-July and is flowering again (pictured 4 Oct blog)
  • Primrose - it flowered in Spring, and is flowering again

I've started my 2011 grow list mainly seeds I'll be sowing in Spring (can be viewed from page tab). My blog reached 1,000 hits this weekend; I'm thrilled. I really appreciate all your comments & ideas, thanks everyone!
Primrose (perennial)

Poached Egg Plant (annual)

Friday, 15 October 2010

Roses blooming great

My roses have put on a good show all summer and they're still going strong. I love roses, they smell fab and look sensational. However I struggle with their care.... from pruning to dealing with blackspot. I like to garden organically but this year I sprayed them with a fungicide and it helped a bit. On the plus side, they still flower & I remove the blackened leaves to try and keep the disease under control.

I have my roses mixed with annuals and perennials although I try to give them a bit of breathing room & I give them a sprinkling of bonemeal in Spring. Traditionally in Ireland roses aren't planted with any underplanting. 
Floribunda Arthur Bell.

Rose Floribunda Valentine Heart.
Hybrid Tea Just Joey (5 Sept 2010).

Rose - unknown.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Apple & Blackberry Pie

My neighbour, Mr Farmer, gave me a bushel of cooking apples! And over the weekend I faced my blackberry phobia and made apple and blackberry pie. I have to admit my pie wouldn't win a beauty contest but it sure does taste good!

I soaked the blackberries overnight to see if any unidentified creatures (worms, maggots, etc) would appear... there was nothing. (See 21 Sept blackberry blog for an explanation).

Variety: Brambly Cooking Apple.
Variety: Thornless Blackberry 'Rubus' Evergreen.
Recipe from 'Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book' 1973 (family heirloom).
However there are recipes on the internet.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Dogwood is barking red...

Photo taken 10 Oct 2010.
Almost all the leaves have fallen.
Shrubtastic dogwood looks best in Autumn and Winter. Its leaves are green in Summer, changing to colourful red leaves in Autumn. Finally its looses its leaves completely in Oct - leaving bright red stems that look fab throughout Winter. Wish I had a few more in the garden! Landscapers often group 3 or more of these in borders for a dramatic effect.

Variety: Dogwood Red Stemmed. Cornus alba 'Sibirica'.
Photo taken 3 Oct 2010.
Photo taken 2 Sept 2010.
In Summer, the leaves are completely green.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Schizostylis Coccinea - tropical autmun colour

Why do plants have such complicated names? Schizostylis Coccinea - I can't even pronounce it. It's a gem of a plant with its coral coloured flowers and spiky leaves. It's great to have colour in the garden this time of year -highly recommended plant!

Its features include:
  • easy to manage (I don't do anything to it)
  • makes a good show every Autumn
  • clump forming / interesting foliage
  • likes sun and moist, fertile soil 
  • good cut flowers
Flowers: Sept-Oct.
Variety: Schizostylis 'Coccinea' (bulb / perennial).

Schizostylis with Sedum Autumn Joy.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Crocosmia flowers - reproduce like rabbits

Crocosmia are an Autumn favourite! I was never a fan of their orangy colour however as they multiple around the garden they grow on me.

Their features are...
  • perennial bulb (easy to divide & multiply)
  • variety of colours available - bright red, yellow or orange
  • spiky tall leaves provide interest
  • good height, 3-4 feet tall
  • good mixed in flower beds
  • easy & reliable (don't even need deadheading)

And... the colour orange goes with anything, right?!?!
Variety: Crocosmia. Flowers: August to October.

Crocosmia (centre) pictured with perennial Aster (left) with deep purple flowers and annual Nasturtium (bottom right).

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Petunias and Cows - have nothing in common

Its getting colder; the annuals want to keep flowering but it won't be long until they'll be on their way out (if they aren't already)...

I've helped out the pentunias by bringing them inside, maybe they'll give me a few more weeks of flowers after our first frost? Maybe they'll flower over the winter!?!

Flowers aside, the question of the day is....

Why does this cow always stick his tongue out at me?


Isn't cow tongue edible?

Monday, 4 October 2010

Autumn Lupins & 'Grow Your Own' freebies

I took out a 'Grow Your Own' magazine subscription and received my free joining pack (pictured). I received a free book, "The Low Maintenance Vegetable Garden" by Clare Matthews for beginners, which I absolutely love. I'm still a beginner after ten years! I'm happy with my 'lucky dip' - 10 free packs of seeds, most say they're easy to grow (exactly what I like!). This starts my grow list for 2011!

I've had a nice autumn surprise... several of my lupins decided to flower again. I cut them down after they flowered in June/July and some (not all) decided to flower again in Sept/Oct.

Variety: Lupin Russell Mix. (pictured below)
Above, this re-flowering lupin is a bit week in colour but this time of year a little colour is better than none.
I collected seed from the darker purple/blue variety pictured at the back - love the darker colour! This picture was taken in June and, of course, a better show than the re-flower picture.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Autumn Harvest - Chard, Potatoes, Spring Onion

Today Northern Ireland was sunny and warm... about 16°C/61°F. Shame I have a cold & couldn't get out and enjoy the weather as much as I would have liked! I'm eager to dig over a new bed to grow potatoes come St Patrick's Day (the day the Irish sow potatoes).

There's still quite a bit of harvesting to do. I planted Chard seed outside back in May and it has produced leaves thoughout summer. (pictured above).

Variety: Chard Bright Lights, Mr Fothergill's, 150 seeds, £2.29. The pack says the chard will die down in Winter and come up again in Spring (for another crop) before they run to seed. How exciting! 

This week I harvested bag grown potatoes. Instead of buying the potato grow bags I used two old compost bags; folded the sides down & planted about four tubers in each bag (back in April). I  folded the sides of the bag back up as I earthed up the poatotes as they grew. I didn't get a very big yield from my bags (yield pictured from 1 bag). In fact, I would only get about two meals for 4 people.

Variety:  'Maris' Peer Seed Potatoes, Homebase, 2 kg bag for £3.49.

Picture below, I cut my spring onion back 4-6 weeks ago and am getting masses of regrowth, some of which is flowering (the flower petals look great scattered on salad).

Irish restaurants serve "champ". This is mashed potatoes with about 1/3 cup of chopped spring onion or chives. Yummy!