AN UPDATE ON MY GROWING EXPERIMENT

I already notice quite some difference even though the plants have barely been able to establish themselves and have been fighting lots of slugs despite my efforts at keeping them checked.   Plot one (compost from organic waste) is way ahead of plot two (leaf mould & organic seaweed fertilizer).  The young plants in plot one already look much healthier than those in plot two, but of course there are variables, like plot two is getting the evening sun while plot one is getting sun most of the day.  Both are overshadowed by now with tree canopy’s.  Weather has been very warm with no rain in the last fortnight.  Terrible trouble with slugs despite going out every night and picking them off, even now resorted to using organic slug pellets.  Cats have also done damage by uprooting young plants and messing soil, hence the covering of my two control plots.  I’ve lost some bean plants but have sowed more of them.

Top left is a bean plant of plot two, underneath a bean plant of plot one – big difference so far.  On right are the spinach seedlings and beneath on left the radish seedlings all of which are part of the experiment and are ready to plant out.

And besides the ongoing experiment I have quite a few other young plants ready to be planted out, such as leaf beet, kale, marrow, marigolds, borage to name but a few.

The broad beans which I planted out a month ago are now in flower, I did have trouble with some black mould or fly on them, someone called it Chocolate Spot. I sprayed it with a combination of tea tree oil and a natural soap, I also nipped out the affected parts and it seems to have solved the problem.  Today I can see young beans appearing on the plants already.

Some of my variety of herbs growing good, two different types of thyme, two different types of oregano, lemon balm, rosemary, lavender, and more to be added.

Garden is absolutely full of insects especially bumblebees and bees.  The cat is the culprit that does damage, but she is rather beautiful!  The two comfrey plants are flowering and have grown enormously, the variety of bumblebees visiting these plants is fantastic!

And finally some good reading.  I started ‘The Butterfly Isles’ a while ago, it is a slow read but delightful and so informative – learning such a lot about butterflies habitats in Britain.  The other one I’m reading is great too, ‘Earth Matters’ is all about the soil and the importance of it and how soil underlies civilization, it contains so much good information and is told  in an interesting way – enjoying this, it’s written by Richard Bardgett and published by Oxford University Press.

Some weeks ago after I finished my course about the soil (with FutureLearn).  Then just recently  I started another online course this time with Coursera.  Its run by the University of Tel Aviv and it is all about plant physiology, quite deep and intense but also very interesting.  I’m sure happy to be able to avail of these on-line courses, they are a great discipline and education.  I am extremely busy and hardly find the time to write a blog post, but I hope all my friends and followers have enjoyed my update.

An interesting facebook site of GROWOBSERVATORY

https://www.facebook.com/GROWObservatory/?fref=mentions

DANCE OF THE SPIDERS

Yesterday I took a look at some of the spiders which were hanging around the garden, seeing that the turn of the season is almost upon us and with the morning mists and the evening becoming cooler, the spiders seem to become much more noticeable. They immediately reminded me of ballerinas, especially the three first ones that I came across, they are garden spiders, Araneus diadematus, also called the Crowned Orb Weaver. You see those a lot around here, they are quite beautiful and have sometimes huge webs.  They rarely enter the house.  In autumn the gardens are full of them.  I took the first three photos, of two different spiders just outside along the wall beside the rainwater barrel.

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The fine slender spider is quite unfamiliar to me and I cannot locate it, I did not see it before in the garden either.

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Here in between two leaves (the leaves looked as if they had been pulled together into some sort of hammock), there are two garden spiders, sleeping perhaps, not sure but they looked quite cosy in there. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other species with the autumn starting. We are still getting nice weather, perhaps we might even get an Indian summer. Schools have started and everyone is getting back into routine, we saw a great number of swallows gathering on a neighbour’s roof, another sign of the season’s changing and their farewell to our shores, and we ourselves are preparing for our journey to warmer climate too.

BUTTERFLIES, HONEYBEES AND THE NEIGHBOUR’S CAT

A happy Monday morning wishes to all, hope that your week has started well. My week could not have started any better when early on I woke up to glorious sunshine. I happen to glance out of the window to the front garden and the buddleia bush and there I saw the most beautiful butterflies, five different species. They were fluttering among the honeybees of which there were over half a dozen.   I stood watching them for a long time and only then thought about taking some photos and I’m glad that I did because in a way I feel that I have captured their beauty to share with so many others, and that makes me happy!

What a beautiful time of the year it is!
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This is a peacock butterfly, it is found all over Ireland. It hibernates during the winter. It’s got to be the most beautiful of the butterflies in Ireland.
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This was amazing, so many species on the one flower spike, there is the red admiral, these feed on over-ripe fruit and also in particular you see them on the buddleia bush. There is also a painted lady and a small tortoise butterfly.  Not to forget the lovely honeybee, it’s so nice to see many of these around isn’t it, knowing that they are on the decline.

Painted Lady butterfly
Painted Lady butterfly

After I had stood there for a long time watching them, there came a neighbour’s cat and she could think of nothing better to do but to try and catch the butterflies, she managed to get hold of one branch of flowers and destroyed that, but the butterflies were able to escape and of course, much as I love cats, she got chased away very quickly by me.

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MY GARDEN UPDATE ~ JULY

It has been a while since I did serious work in the garden, seeing that I had not sowed nor planted anything this season, I had let the garden be for the bees and the insects, they of course took full advantage of the wilderness, and though there were not as many insects around this summer, I was still able to find some today. I had my little helper with me all day, Ruben, my grandson, came over and we both put on our wellingtons and out we went, we soon started to pull some of the overgrown cleavers away from other plants, also some of the ivy was removed. The two cold frames were totally overgrown some of the plants were pushing up the plastic and some had grown through it! Ruben, being almost 6 and a very enthusiastic worker was lifted into the frame and soon had pulled all the ‘weeds’ out, they then went on to the compost heap. We covered the earth in one of the cold frames with comfrey leaves, that will be good for the soil.

Ian came and cut the grass so we could use this for mulching as well.  We spotted quite a few insects and I am happy to say that Ruben does not mind them at all, he is just very interested in the little creatures and seems to quite love them.  Here is one beauty sitting on the flowers of a parsley plant, there were several others on the same plant.

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Then there were all these weevils, and several different types of beetles, spiders, and caterpillars, lots of woodlouse as well. And the snails and slugs could not be counted, so many.

We have at this moment quite a few of these most beautifully scented white clover growing, I sowed them last year to improve the soil and they are giving a lovely display this summer.  They will be good for the soil.  The flowers of the parsley are quite beautiful too, they seem to attract many different insects.

And so the summer is moving along, there is more work to do, is lots to prepare before we leave for Gozo in autumn, though the garden will not be unattended while we are gone as there will be people in and out of the place all the time, still, I must make sure that when we return the garden will be ready for me to start more planting.

MIDSUMMER IN OUR IRISH GARDEN

Well it is midsummer now, there has been a stillness in the air all day, now as the sun slowly disappears behind Mount Gabriel, the swifts are making merry above the houses here, probably the coolness of the evening has allowed the insects to dans around making easy prey for those happily swooping birds.
It is wind still.

How nice after the emotional and exciting last two days after voting results came out, Brexit is out….. will chaos follow, or not!

I was out in the garden today, looking at what is growing, and was pleasantly surprised with the flowers and the herbs, there is not much else growing as I did not plant any vegetables, but there are quite a few wild edible plants which I am using. I did not sow nor did I plant this year because this coming autumn we are going away again, but more about that another time. There are some berries growing and producing, strawberries, red currants, raspberries, are all doing really well. The herbs too have never grown better, makes me very happy.

Though I am leaving every single flower wild or not, I am disappointed with the lack of bees and other insects, despite there being a beehive just in next door’s garden! I still have to see my first butterfly too this summer, even though I spent days in the midst of nature last week. I hope that will change soon.

DISTRACTED BY LIFE

As it was an overcast but still very nice day, I decided to do some work in our own garden. I cleared one raised bed ready for growing some plants, but I am delighted with what is growing there already, there are plenty of herbs, such as rosemary, lemon balm, lavender, evening primrose, oca, oregano (two types), and of all things some Jerusalem artichokes have come up too. So I just took out some grass and some other stuff that was smothering those plants. Ian decided to come and work with me, so he cleared the path on his knees with a small little knife, no easy task to be sure.  Now and then we took a rest, either for tea or chat, or to admire the creatures flying or crawling around.  Meanwhile I took a few shots of them.

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These are three wild plants that I am keeping my eye on very closely, number one is a huge thistle, it is almost in flower, I know that the seeds are what the gold finch feed on and that is why I want to keep it, to attract these birds and see how it goes.  The second one is our comfrey plant, it’s flourishing and what I am watching is the amount of insects that are using it, most of what I see are the bumblebees and I would love to see some honey bees on the comfrey too, of course.  The third plant is two years old, I grew it as a salad plant but it was so beautiful that I did not want to eat it, so I let it grow, and when we returned from Gozo it was so large and I recognised it as a plant you see a lot around here in the wild, a type of sorrel perhaps.  These three are on my watch list.

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And this is a view of our garden, we have had the pleasure to sit under the hawthorn tree all week for our meals, in the dappled sunlight with the garden scents all around us and the birds singing, what a perfect summer weather, aware that for people in other lands, not as lucky just then because of rains and floods.

Always nice to appreciate what we have in the moment.

YOUNG TENDER SHOOTS AND COLOURS

I took a walk around the garden this mild spring afternoon. I went to see what vegetables are still growing, and what young tender shoots or flowers are hiding here and there, and of course they were. I came across a whole range of fresh young growth that shot up all of a sudden because of the sunshine in the past week.
The comfrey, tansy, lungwort, hypericum, foxglove, wild leeks, are all throwing out young shoots, some are near flowering. My winter garden did not produce as much as I had planned, partly because the slugs ate some of the produce, and partly because the rain and storms destroyed some of the vegetables, in fact the soil became too wet for anything to grow. But the Brussels sprouts are still growing strongly, small as they are, they are looking good enough. My white round radishes are doing well, as are the beetroots and the leeks. And the kale is still lasting, even if we ate from the plants regularly. One of my kale plants has grown over 1.50m and is looking fabulous, I am leaving it as an experiment, it is now growing new small leaves among the large old ones, I want to see what happens next.  The lavender plants are shooting up well, the grey green young leaves adding to the variety of colours now in the garden, as are the primroses and grape hyacinths, they are just about flowering, they too are bringing some very welcome colour to the garden.  And our little Korean fir tree is really doing well, ever since I put it outside again after Christmas it has been showing an abundance of shoots, leaves but also cones, beautiful.

In another week or so we shall be going away for a month, and so my garden will have to take care of itself, which I am sure it is very well capable of, I am already curious what I will find when we return, will there be a lot of wild plants, to be sure there will be, I remember from last year that the goose grass had overtaken the garden fast enough.  I will let it be, I’ll tell my grandchildren to come and take away the produce that is there though.  One job that I will try and fit in is to spread some leaf manure over the raised beds, I think the soil will benefit from it greatly and I have plenty of it.

And now soon for us it will be looking at the flora, the insects, the architecture, the folklore, the rocks, and the people of the island of Malta, a whole new experience awaits.
YOUNG GREEN IN GARDEN

A LITTLE FROSTY, BUT SUNSHINE

Some of these mornings lately are frosty, and the garden looks a little white, but the nice thing about it is that we get sunshine along with it, so very much needed here in West Cork.  Clear the air too.  The garden is waiting for attention, but my mind is on other things right now, and it’s all good.  All will be in order for a fabulous growing season.

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FROSTY MORNING

This morning a glorious sun rose over the hills to the East, a bright blue sky welcomed me from my dream-filled sleep. The grass fields across the valley looked like well ironed patches, smooth and very green. And in the garden there I found jewels. Jewels because it had frozen during the night, but already the thaw had set in, some of the vegetables and little plants were still beautifully laced with ice.  Texture and colour, a feast for the eye.
A precious new morning, a beautiful new day.
I feel energized from this sunshine,
something to be very grateful for.