Monday, August 16, 2010

His name was buggin me .....

If you don't like creepy crawlies look away now.

Ha ! you looked anyway and now you're shuddering at the thought of it sitting on your shoulder desperately trying to make it's way into your ear to burrow and nest and whisper !!

But whatever you do, do not kill it. Here is one of the gardeners seldom seen allies, the ground beetle larva. There are more than 2500 species of ground beetle and they will prey on : slugs, snails, cutworms, cabbage root maggots and most other soil dwelling pests. A single larvae may eat up to fifty caterpillars, how many did you catch this year ? Adults can live up to three years and are a voracious predator .... a bit like me. Well when it comes to chocolate that is.

So how can I get one I hear you cry. Well I'm spoken for but these ground beetles love perennial beds which provide cover, also ground cover planting is a great encouragement and stone pathways give some pretty nifty hiding places. So a friend indeed is a friend we need and I damn nearly squashed him when clearing out the earlies bed !! Phew, it's murder in the garden these days !

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

" I collect heads you know "

Collecting heads makes me sound like Ireland's answer to Ted Bundy, but although I did consider wearing one as a hat, this is where the similarity ends. Or does it ? This year I have quite a lot of sunflowers and most of them are of the branching type giving up to ten heads per plant. A huge amount of sunflower seeds were in danger of going to waste as I couldn't possibly set them all or use them for food. There would be a genuine danger of me growing feathers and moving to an aviary. Which when considered in more detail doesn't sound all that bad. But in the meantime my plan for the seeds is to dry and keep them until the weather turns harsher and the food for birds becomes scarce. Then I intend to mount the heads on poles ( a bit of medieval inspiration here ) and let the birds do the rest. The heads hanging from the rafters in the garage have a slightly macabre element to it, but when winter comes the birds should have a veritable feast on a stick ! So if you grow sunflowers consider the birdies.

Even if you don't grow sunflowers consider the birdies.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Oh dry up !

The shallot harvest was on me unexpectedly, these little critters were planted on the fourteenth of March and as can be seen from the photo below most of the leaves had fallen over and were dying back. I decided to pull them all and dry for storage. But how do I dry them ? The good book says let them on the bed or on trays for up to two weeks to dry while moving them in when raining. It's August in Ireland, two weeks of no rain here would be akin to a biblical plague. Actually it's August everywhere isn't it !!

My darling wife wouldn't part with the child's buggy so I could convert it into a movable drying rack. How inconsiderate is this ? Here I am supplying enough shallots for the rest of the year and all she can think about is the welfare of our only child ..... some people !!

So plan B it was then, I simply cut some rabbit wire and put it on the floor of the coldframe. The wire takes on a natural curve and so allows air to flow freely through the shallots. The coldframe is easily closed when inclement weather is expected and the damn thing retains heat during the night aiding the drying process.

I checked this evening and it appears to be working a treat, so the next step is to tie em up and hang em from the rafters until needed. The onions will be dried in much the same manner and hopefully they will be harvested soon.

There they are now all snugsy wugsy.

Oh, and I'm still suffering with atrocious bad wind after them shallots .... just thought you'd like to know.

Monday, August 2, 2010

When weeds attack !!

Now I've been around a few gardening blogs lately and I must say my first impressions are always of awe and wonderment at how neat and tidy every ones garden appears to be. My first impressions are usually followed by envy, jealousy and lately, suspicion. Yes suspicion, because in a world of very busy people how in the name of Christ do ye keep on top of the weeds ? I turn my back for ten minutes and look what happens a veritable jungle has appeared. You could lose a whole troop of boy scouts down there !! and wouldn't it serve them right with their damn badges for everything. A badge for successfully tying their shoelaces, a badge for helping old ladies, a badge for wiping their own ass ........ But once again I digress, if ever a garden was in need of help from Ground force. Charlie, where are you ?

Some of the weeds were almost five feet tall ! " How on earth ? " I hear you cry, well it was easy really it's as if they grew themselves !!
Today was the day when I would reclaim my garden for once and for all, no weed would be standing when I left the garden, I felt a bit like Tommy in that Kenny Rogers song " The coward of the county " only this time the Gatlin boys didn't stand a chance and they certainly wouldn't have their way with Becky.

To war I went and all was going great til my old back injury reared it's ugly head, the pulling of these weeds was akin to uprooting five year old trees ! But I struggled on, the weeds fought back, I never knew nettles could be so damn sneaky. They hid amongst the more placid looking weeds and struck time and time again as I grabbed a handful. Have you ever been stung repeatedly between the fingers ? Bloody sore I can tell you ...... and no I wasn't wearing gloves, gloves are for sissies !! Who was the clown that said rubbing a dock leaf on a nettle sting would ease the pain ? Did he know that nettles grow amongst the docks causing more torment ? If the suggester of this little gem of knowledge were to appear today I'd give him a rub of a dock ..... A Doc Martin size ten !

Then there were the bees, I planted flowers everywhere this year to encourage bees back into the garden, I love bees .......... and bees must love me or else it was the fact that the weeds were also in flower and instinct had whipped the furry little sky pilots into a damn frenzy. " Go pollinate me flowers ", but no, every time I carried an armful of weeds to the wheel barrow I risked the wrath of the bees. It's a bit like shelling out for an expensive present for a child and then watching crestfallen as they seem to get more enjoyment out of the packaging. " Go away from the weeds ". But a child can't sting you, well technically anyway. So when a huge bumble bee found his way down the back of my jeans and wedged himself firmly in my ass crack the first thing I thought of was the sting. The second thing I thought of was to stay calm, but unfortunately that thought came too late. For I was off doing a sort of demented riverdance while flinging the armful of weeds straight into the air showering myself with more bees ! I could feel him trying to turn pawing at my butt cheeks with his furry hoofs, yes he had hoofs for he was the size of a small donkey.I dared not flex my cheeks for the pressure might prompt the release of the javelin which was surely being aimed at that moment, it would spell the end for the bee but also the end of sitting for me. " Please don't sting me mister bee " Why am I talking to a bee, especially one jammed in a sweaty ass crack, he must be feeling trapped, he probably can't hear me anyway, do bees have ears ? So many thoughts so little time. I managed to open the button of my jeans while busting some dance moves that haven't seen the light of day since I was trying to woo the knickers off of Mrs Foxylock, successfully I might add but theres no time for that right now. I gingerly inserted my index finger into my butt cleavage just below the bee and with a deft flick it was all over, I had liberated the bee, saved a life and a hell of a lot of explaining. Off he flew, I was full sure he looked back at me and winked !! I wonder what would the casual observer have made of the situation not knowing of the presence of the bee donkey ?

Shaken but not stirred I ploughed on and had nearly come to the end of my hardship when I came upon a thistle almost six foot tall. This mother could look me in the eye, I was tired but would not give in to a thistle no matter how mean and spiky it was. I have seen my father dig thistles with a shovel, with one sharp thrust below ground level he severs the thistle and walks away with it balanced neatly on the shovel, whistling and looking around as he nonchalantly flicks it over the nearest boundary " One for the neighbours " he smiles, he's pure cool you know !

So with shovel in hand I approached the thistle I could have swore it tried to move. " Ha, you fear me " I said out loud. I thrust with the shovel but made a balls of the balancing part, I pushed the shovel upwards and outwards in a vain attempt to compensate. I guess you can't compensate for ineptitude and I ended up giving the thistle a sort of awkward bear hug while taking the brunt of the spikes on my face. A hundred fiery pinpricks tried to burst my bubble as I kissed the modelling job goodbye !

So I can't make money from modelling, won't make money from gardening What's left ? Anyone want to buy a wheel barrow of top quality weeds ? I'll throw in a couple of bees ........

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gravity defying carrots !!

A ha !! I can grow carrots after all ! Call it egotism, call it swagger, even call it vaunting. But here I am shamelessly showing off my carrots after my pride was badly injured as a consequence to the previous post. These lads were swiftly dispatched to the dinner plate accompanied by an unsuspecting chicken ( dead of course ! ) Duke of york potatoes and shallots ( which I still maintain give me excessive wind ! ) However regardless of the smell the taste is second to none .... the shallots that is. The smell of the wind .... not so good and thankfully I haven't been unfortunate enough to be caught in a back draft so therefore have yet to do the taste test !!

Now I won't be boastful and say I'm becoming green fingered but LOOK !!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Disaster strikes.

It can never be all plain sailing now can it and it's by our mistakes we learn right...... Ah balls !! I prefer the easy life as can be seen in my " relaxed " style of gardening. It all started back in late February when I decided to cheat and start some carrots off in trays to have an early crop. " It can't be done, they must be sowed direct " the experienced gardeners crowed. " Ha me arse " I thought " I'll show em " and now I'm showing you.

The unmitigated disaster that is my early carrots. I reckon that while transplanting into the ground I must have curled the roots and somehow created these mutants, lets face it they're probably still edible, but would ya ?

" To the compost heap Giles and don't spare the horses ", or in this case the carrots !!

Then to add insult to injury the wind flattened my already wavy borage.

And then much to my now mounting pile of dismay my cornflowers got such a twisting from the storm that when I went to right them up they came away in my hand !! In a vain attempt to salvage my dignity I quickly bunched some together, put them in a vase ( actually a jug, but I'm a man ) and presented them to the lovely Mrs Foxylock. She criticised my flower arranging skills ( I'm a man ) said " twas fierce mean looking " and poked fun at the floppy ones. I became highly insulted, a tad embarrassed and vowed never again to flower arrange. From now on it's only manly stuff for me......

I start my crochet class next week !!

The casualties.

Just to end on a happy note my poor neglected roses are putting on a good show. Why are they neglected pray tell ? That's a whole other story. But I will indulge, maybe not today , maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Dukes are coming to dinner.

There's something rewarding about growing your own potatoes, something that can't quite be explained. Maybe it's an inherently Irish thing to want to grow your own spuds, can it be traced back to famine times ? Maybe there's part of our psyche that doesn't want to get caught out again !! For me it's a family tradition there has been generations of families fed by this patch of earth and now mine are carrying on that tradition. But enough sentimentality ...... What about the spuds ?

A Queens blossom or a blossom fit for a Queen.

This is the crop in early June with the maincrop on the left and the earlies above on the right.

One month later and the Golden Wonders in the foreground are showing a lovely blossom.

This is it the moment of truth, ready for the lift, all that hard work .....

Alleluia...... A fantastic bounty the Duke of York are absolute beauties.

Oh and as for the taste, I do not have the words to describe. But I'm one damn happy potato head with this crop. I just hope the rest are equally as good.