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 April 2011

What do Radishes taste like?

Experimenting... back in Oct I put some radish seeds in a wheelbarrow I use as a mini raised bed, using plastic bottles cut in half to protect the plants from the cold. Three of the radishes survived our harsh winter. I remember Holly saying on her blog that she popped a radish straight into her mouth from the garden....

Well, I went inside, washed the radish, took a big bite.... yuck (hot, burning flavour)... come to think of it, this may be the first time I've eaten a radish. Ever see a child eat a black sweet (candy) & then try to get it out of its mouth. That was me! 
However, I've decided to grow radishes this year and I'm gonna like / eat them! Suppose I can grate them into salad.
Radish experiment - growing from Oct 2010 until April 2011.
One radish harvest.
The other two radishes that survived the winter, when I pulled up the green leaves that looked healthy (pictured), there was not a radish in sight.

Radish planting back to normal, seeds sowed outside April 2011.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Bita landscaping and Yellow Archangel

Over the long weekend I decided to freshen up the side garden and I cut two of the five cordyline palm arms. The clay pots keep water from dripping into the trunk. I hope to grow morning glory up them this summer.

As you can see in the before shot, some plants were looking a bit tired and the black mondo grass was taking over. The most winter damaged plants have been the cordyline and the azalea.

Ginger enjoys the revamped area as its a sun trap for him. This mini walled garden contains grasses... I went through a bit of a grass phase, and it also houses lupin, delphinium and a number of other perennials, as well as shrubs like Heathers and Pieris Forest Flame.
I found out what this lovely yellow flowering plant is.... it's an invasive plant (weed) called Yellow Archangel. It creeps its way wherever it can.
The bees really enjoy this plant. I've pulled some of it out of my flower bed and will need to keep it under check.
However the creeping Yellow Archangel has taken over about a 10 feet area behind my Sycamore trees. I suppose I'll leave it there as its acting as a weed suppressant (to other weeds) and I kind of like the varigated leaves of the plant and the yellow flowers.
Part of the area behind the Sycamores covered with Mr Creeper (also known as Yellow Archangel, Variegated Lamium, Lamium galeobdolon). Apparently it can grow 100 sq yards in 5 years.

Friday 22 April 2011

Jobs for the Weekend

I'm hoping to make a mini forest over the weekend. I've had a variety of wildlife specie trees delivered. They're bare root whips and will grow quickly once established.
Over many years, Ireland has gone from 95% forest cover to 8.3% in Northern Ireland. The European average is 36%. Along with the decline in woodland is a decline in native plants and animals.
(Source: Conservation Volunteer NI website).

So I've decided to plant a mini forest in a wild area of the garden, approx 1/2 acre. It'll consist of mixed wildlife trees like birch, hazel, crab apple, hawthorn, rowan, ash and alder.

I've stuck my bare root plants into some moist wood mulch for a few days until I get them planted.

A job that will keep me going over Easter... mulching around the shrubs and beds in the garden to suppress weeds. No gym workout

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Things that Smell

Slugs & snails are generally my number 1 garden pest. However, my neighbour's cat....

This cute little cat came walking up to me one sunny day when I was out working in the garden. He was meowing as if to say hello and seemed very friendly. Came right up to me. I thought maybe he was lost. So I spoke to him and squat down to pet him. He purred lovingly and rubbed up against me. Then... he turned his backside to me and sprayed his scent (luckily just covering my jeans)! Cheeky cat! I couldn't believe it. Needless to say we haven't been on speaking terms. Cheeky cat still comes around but we keep our distance.
On the topic of smell... pictured is 9 days into my homemade nettle-weed fertiliser. (12 April post) I've stirred it once - boy does it smell (phew)! I think this weekend I'll use some. Nettle fertiliser is apparently rich in nitrogen and acts as a good all-round fertiliser. It's said to benefit dark green, leafy plants such as brassicas. Not so good for flowers/fruit plants as it encourages leaf growth rather than flowers.

My sweet little kitty (the cheeky cat has a crush on her) has developed a bad habit of getting up into my plant pots and sleeping on my plants.

So I've had to add some creative barriers to keep her from getting into my pots...

Above taken 16 Oct 2010.

Remember the red Dogwood stems from the Winter? I kept the stems I'd cut and have used them to make a colourful cat detterant.

Monday 18 April 2011

Weed or Wildflower

Ever have a plant in your garden you wonder... is that a weed? Or maybe a wonderful new plant has made it into the garden?

I was quite happy with a little plant with yellow flowers.... Lesser Celandine (thanks bloggers for helping identify this plant). Our local conservation charity calls it a wildflower however other websites call it a troublesome weed. I was content with my little 'wildfower' until this year - it has made its way into four different areas of the garden. Wonder do those little plants have legs that walk across the garden at night?
... so suddenly Lesser Celandine seems more invasive and less flower! The other day I dug out about 3xs the amount pictured. I've a feeling I'll be digging it out every Spring for the next few years.

So now I have another little plant, slightly prettier than the Lesser Celandine, coming up...
Any takers what this might be? Its in flower at the minute. Its leaves are slightly varigated, which don't show very well in the photos.

In my mind, its a lovely wildflower! But it has taken over a 'wild' area of the garden plus it's in one of the flower borders, happily expanding.
To weed or not to weed?

Friday 15 April 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - the 15th of every month.

Here's what's blooming...

Left: Large yellow Tulips have replaced the mini red tulips that flowered last month.

Below (L): Muscari is still coming up between paving blocks around the house.

Below (R): Honesty has self seeded. The slugs seem to like it too.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Bergenia is making a show. It also houses half my snail population.
The azalea are starting to bloom. They had some frost damage this year; one plant was badly affected.
One of Pieris Forest Flame shrubs is blooming. The other two are in their red leaf/foliage stage.
I'm assuming the above is a Japanese cherry tree planted well over 10 yrs ago.
There are four Native Cherry trees in the garden planted about 8 years ago.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Making Fertiliser & Seed Spurts

I often drink nettle tea... but this year I've decided to make nettle fertiliser. I've read articles about it over the years and I have a good supply of nettles so thought I'd give it a go.
The instructions are: (1) Shear off some fresh nettle or comfrey growth. (2) Pack it into a net bag and tie at the top. (3) Suspend the bag in a bucket of water for several weeks, occasionally squeezing the bag. (4) Before applying in the garden dilute with water. I weighted the nettles down with a rock, covered the bucket with a lid and will leave it to 'cook' for a few weeks. 
We had really warm weather this week (70F on Sunday), maybe a record for this time of year. I was surprised at the seed growth. Notice the two pots at the far right. Photo taken 9th April.
Two days later, 11th April the Dwarf Bean Purple Queen (far right) have almost grown out of no where. I had to do a double take; I could have sworn those beans weren't there yesterday!  The cucumber and cabbage are also coming up nicely. Variety: Dwarf Bean Purple Queen. Mr Fothergill's Seeds, 100 seeds, £2.35.

This year I spotted yellow courgette seeds so have decided to try these. The seeds have come up quite quickly. Sown 3 April.
Left: Sweet Pea Tall Mixed Climber, Mr Fothergill's Seeds, £1.69; photo taken 4 April. Right: Same sweet pea, photo taken 10th April - quite a bit of growth for a week!

Any bloggers make their own fertiliser from nettles or comfrey?

Saturday 9 April 2011

Snail Retreat & Cordyline

I came across a luxury snail retreat in the garden, looked a bit of an 'all inclusive'. I have a feeling there's alot more where these came from.

The snail holiday home was around my bergenia plants which had alot of dead leaves around them. Due to over crowding I'm afraid the snails have been vacated.
What a coincidence! I posted about my 'winter damaged Cordyline' on Thurs (thanks to bloggers who commented)... and on Friday I was at Belfast Botanic Garden doing a walk through, and they had just cut their own damaged Cordyline (pictured) so this gives me a bit of a baseline. I won't be cutting mine until 1st June as I can still get frost through the end of May. Also coincidence, Gardener's World (UK) had the Cordyline on this weekend!
Daffodils and muscari are currently putting on a good show, bringing cheery colour to the borders.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Winter Damaged Cordyline

What to do about my frost damaged Cordyline Palm?? This winter was one of our worse on record and thousands of people in the UK and Ireland have ended up with dying Cordyline Palms. Back in Jan it was even covered on the local news, where they advised to give the plant two years to recover.

These tropical looking plants always seem like beach plants bringing a little cheer to rainy days. Perhaps this is why they have been so popular in Northern Ireland. (although looking rather gloomy now).
I've read a few articles on the Internet that say to cut the main trunk just below where it is dead or rotten. Apparently it will regrow new shoots and eventually recover. Hmmm, not sure about this but I have to do something.

Any advice from others who have poorly palms?

This is what the palm looked like in August 2010. I was quite fond of it.

For further updates on the Cordyline:
Click here for March 2012 update.
Click here for February 2013 update.