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

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Veg Update (Courgette, Cucumber, Peppers, Radish, Turnip)

The first few courgette / zucchini have been eaten by slugs. I've put most of my plants in pots so I can hopefully keep a better eye on them - before the slugs munch. I must have hundreds if not thousands of slugs and snails in the garden!

Left: Courgette (yellow zucchini) 'Soleil F1', Mr Fothergill's, 10 seeds, £2.39. Sown indoor 3 April 2011.

Courgette (zucchini F1), Carters Tested Seeds, 20 seeds, 79p. Sown indoor 3 April 2011. Planted out early June.
Left: Cucumber, Plant Hart's Seeds, US$2.29. Sown indoor 3 April 2011.

I'm down to one cucumber plant. The others were damaged in our Spring gales and didn't survive. I brought this one back indoor to grow in the glass house. It's just starting to get tiny cucumbers on it - fingers crossed!
Left: Bean 'Dwarf Purple Queen', Mr Fothergills, 100 seeds, £2.35. Sown indoor 3 April 2011. Planted out early June.

Ever grow a veg and think... when is it ready?!?! (I'm eating them, ready or not.)
My poor chili pepper plant - its leaves are turning yellow like they will all fall off. Hope the hot peppers keep growing.

Left: Chillis (hot) - Pepper (Hot) Cayenne, Mr Fothergill's, 60 seeds, £1.89. Sown indoor 20 Feb 2011.
Left: Pepper 'California Wonder', Thompson & Morgans Seeds, £1.50. Sown indoor 20 Feb 2011.

I pinched the growing tip of my peppers in Spring (based on an article I read ) and it kind of dwarfed my plants. Oh well, next year, I won't pinch the peppers.

Veg box with perpetual spinach, carrots and radish.
Spotted a little leaf in the veg box; lifted it to find a slug underneath - surprise!

Above: My first turnip (yeah)! A slug got the first tiny nibble (pictured above left). Turnips in the grocery store a quite large; this one is about the size of a tennis ball. I couldn't resist pulling one out to have a look! The seed pack says they're quick to mature and best eaten small and young. Variety: Turnip 'Purple Top Milan', Mr Fothergill's, 1,750 seeds, £1.49. Sown outdoor 21 April 2011.

Left: Radish 'Candela di fuoco'. 

Don't think the radish are quite big enough - thought I'd pull one to check.

Happy gardening - hope your veg is pest free and tasty!

Sunday 26 June 2011


My all time favourite cottage garden flower - Delphinium. They're tall, attractive and need little care (apart from staking).
Variety: Delphinium Pacific Hybrids. Grown from seed several years ago. Flowers June.
Flower buds before they open.

These plants seem to like where they're planted, reaching almost 6 feet. They get bigger and better every year! My attempt at staking them with sticks and canes above. Photo taken 18 June.

A little bit of wind damage above - my staking didn't quite do the job!                                                     Photo taken 25 June.

The same delphinium in fuller flower. Pictured are only two plants.

Another group of delphinium in a different area of the garden, only about 2-3 feet tall. Same type of seed as the plants above, however, this year one of the plants changed to a 'mini' (pictured) - maybe lacking nutrients or on its way out. I've read articles that say delphinium need replaced after a few years. (Not sure if true).

Same flowers, just different angle...

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Foxgloves (Wild)

Wild Foxglove have self seeded throughout the garden. Each year there seem to be more and more of them. They go nicely with my other cottage garden style plants (delphinium, lupin, aquilegia) although sometimes they look a bit messy scattered about. I like the spots inside the flowers - maybe the best part!

Left: Foxglove mixed in with lupin.

They provide lots of 'free' flowers, and easy to pull out if they come up somewhere you don't want them.

Last year I had white foxglove but this year they all seem to be shades of pink.

Friday 17 June 2011

Slugs love Irish Guinness

I'm not too sure Guinness beer would be too happy... however I poured the dark stuff and served it to my garden slugs. And they loved it!
Serving Guinness to slugs is a one time occurrence - next time it'll be cheap beer!

Bottom Left: Some slug damage appearing on plants in the veg box.
Guinness poured... looks like a pint glass but its a shallow plastic container set down into the soil. It began to rain after I put these in and I was worried if it would work. Then it rained the next two days.
When I went out a few days later I found quite a few slugs drowned in both beer containers. I was surprised how many slugs came from that little veg box.

Beer trap at bottom left of photo.

Sticks /bamboo canes are for cat proofing purposes.
Managed to get my cabbage and broccoli planted and hopefully no little white butterflies will get to them. I hope my little cage withstands the weather!
A store bought onion was sprouting in the fridge so I stuck it in a pot to see what would happen. Its growing. I wonder if it will be ok to eat? Hmm.
Coriander grown from seed. I was using it rightly, in spaghetti,  chili, sauces etc. The young leaves really added superb flavour. Coriander is said to be good for stomach complaints and colds.

I assume once coriander is flowering there's no more harvesting? (I have so much to learn)
Since hardening off (getting them used to being outside and bringing them in at night for a week) and planting my courgettes, cucumber and beans outside, they've gone into a huff. They are not happy with the wind and rain we have been getting. This courgette plant was damaged at the base by gales so I have staked it to keep it from getting battered.

One of the cucumbers I've moved back indoors and it's perking up. When will summer arrive (and stay)?

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Blogger's Bloom Day

Here's what's blooming...
L to R: Aquilegia still going strong: Poached Egg Plant (Limnanthes Douglassii); Coriander in flower, Rose (I think this is Arthur Bell).

L to R: Wild Foxglove first two photos; Geranium; Lupin
L to R: Geranium pink and purple; Aquilegia top R and bottom L; Rhododendron (I think).
At front Delphinium - in years past the flowers were more striking (taller and bigger flowers) - suppose it's true that delphinium need replaced after several years. In the background, the lupins are still flowering but will soon be finished.

Grown from seed: Aquilegia, Poached Egg Plant (Limnanthes Douglassii), Coriander , Lupin, Delphinium.
Self seeded: Wild foxglove.

More on Bloom Day:

Saturday 11 June 2011

Pinched Peppers and Tomato (Red Cherry)

The peppers and chilies seem to be doing well and are flowering. I counted 25 flowers on one of the plants. My pepper growing (so far) has improved from last year.... when I harvested maybe 2 or 3 peppers per plant!

Variety: Pepper California Wonder, Thompson & Morgan Seeds, £1.50. Sown 20 Feb 2011.

Variety: Pepper Hot Cayenne, Mr Forthergill's Seeds, £1.89. Sown 20 Feb 2011.
I read an article that said to 'pinch' your peppers. I wasn't really sure what I was doing but I went pinching back in April. Some of the plants seem happy enough from their grow tip 'pinch' and have branched, whereas two of the plants dwarfed - as per small plant in photo.

The plant (far left) is Pepper Hot Cayenne.
Mostly flowers at this stage on the pepper plants but a few little peppers can be seen forming.
My 'indeterminate' tomato plants are growing and one or two tiny clusters of flowers. I have 5 plants and I often look at them and wonder what to do with them. I've never really grown tomatoes before. I want to pinch off leaves so occasionally I do (a bit randomly)... not sure why I can't get the concept of tomato growing.

Variety: Tomato (Red Cherry), Mr Fothergill's, 50 seeds, £1.89. Sown 3 April 2011.
Left: Tomato flowers forming.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Winter Damaged Cordyline - care

The winter damaged Cordyline Palm has been cut and will hopefully rejuvenate itself. I took off the damp sections of the tree and left the dry stalks to recover. I heard a radio show that said recovery could take two years. In the meantime, I'll grow climbers up the trunks for some summer interest and colour.
Left: An everlasting sweetpea has been planted at the base of the palm... if it survives me moving it. I'll also be planting morning glory soon.

(The cat is once again supervising my efforts.)

Left: The Cordyline after Winter damage. Photo taken Feb 2011. 

Winter this year was one of our worse on record and thousands of people in the UK and Ireland ended up with burst pipes and dying Cordyline Palms. 

Right: I took direction from Belfast Botanic Gardens who cut their damaged palm in April 2011.

For further updates on the Cordyline:

Friday 3 June 2011

Cabbage Challenge

Last year I grew a cabbage in a small pot and was quite proud of it as this was my first cabbage growing experience. (The plants I put directly in the ground were ravished by slugs and caterpillers.)

This year.... I've grown cabbage and broccoli from seed in my conservatory / sun room. They're gettting quite big in their little pots and need to go outside.

My challenge or dilemna for the week is ..... 'how do I get my plants hardened off outside without white butterflies laying their eggs on them?' I see lots of white butterfliies in the garden. I haven't got my brassica cage made yet, so plans for the weekend - make brassica cage with netting, harden off plants and plant out.

Last year's pot grown veg can be viewed at

Photo taken Sept 2010.
Variety: Cabbage Golden Acre, Homebase Seeds, 175 seeds, 39 pence per pack.