Tah Dah!!!! This Year’s Sowing Diary

Although the Monster has its own sowing diary page accessible through page link up above, now that we’ve completed most (if not all) of this year’s plan we thought we’d copy and paste and place  a copy of this year’s diary as a posting in its own right,

We literally began from scratch at our new plot in January, and since then we’ve been doing this

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Basil; this year’s basil filled Barrow Bug

February 1st 2017     Bedfordshire Champion onion seed

March 1st 2017   Bunyard’s Exhibition broad Beans

March 5th 2017  sowed Cosmos ‘Cosmonaut’

March 5th planted 4 of Lidl’s best bare root Redcurrant 

March 4th 2017 Planted Plum tree ‘Opal’, and Peach tree ‘Red Haven’ both from Lidl

March 10th 2017 Ailsa Craig onion seed

March 12th planted replacement rose bush: David Austin Rose, Young Lycidas

March 18th 2017 sowed Basil, Misto Mix and Classic Italian

March 19th 2017 broadcast green-manure mix; phacelia, red clover,

March 28th 2017 sowed dwarf sunflowers ‘Topoline’

April 8th broadcast poppy seeds and cornflower seeds  Greenfingers Day

April 21st 2017 sowed Giant Yellow sunflower seeds

April 22nd sowed Moss Curled parsley, and dill seed

April 23rd sowed Bright lights Chard, Fire-bird Spinach, Tuscan black Kale, Italian Giant leaf parsley and Tom Thumb mix nasturtiums

April 26th sowed Wild Rocket seed

April 29th sowed Celeriac ‘Monarch’ and ‘Akito’ ridge cucumbers. Mrs dirt-Digger planted out all of the cosmos, dwarf sunflowers and autumn beauties, plus some marigolds gifted from one of our new allotment neighbours…

April 30th sowed Parsnips ‘Tender and True’, Radish ‘mixed jewels’, Italian giant-leaf basil and mixed lettuce varieties. Also planted up and potted on some fennel seedlings and pepper seedlings gifted from an allotment neighbour.

May 1st sowed Pumpkins ‘Big Max’ & ‘Jack o’Lanterns’ purchased in Toronto in August last year; Beetroot ‘Solo’; planted up Shirley & Moneymaker tomato plants, pepper seedlings and sowed ‘Gold Rush’ courgettes. 

May 2nd sowed Grandpa Otts (ipomea; morning glories)

May 13th sowed Northern Blood Reds and White Lisbon spring onions (scallions)

June 1st  Longhorn Wax dwarf french beans plus successional sowings of lettuces and radishes

June 3rd Kale, Scotch Green dwarf

July 2nd Spring Cabbage, Durham early

July 5th  Swede,Tweed

et voilá.   All sowings for this year complete

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I’m A Celeriac get Me Out Of Here !

Poppies Cosmos & Sunflowers
Poppies Cosmos & Sunflowers

Airily and imperceptibly it has happened upon us again. Tipping day unfolds ‘ neath  heavy humid skies. A steady  drizzle grounds the flying ants, and a deep slate grey of midsummer’s duvet hints at Thor’s mighty hammer smash in the coming hours.
The gulls and starlings that yesterday spent hours on the wing gorging on summer’s aerial feast, are this morning taking it a little easier along with the rooks, crows and blackbirds who now find the jaded and wet ant-feast crawling at their feet.
For the first time is over 5 weeks, lighting-up time last night was back at 10.00pm, and the majority of Dublin’s street lamps, including the one directly outside our garden wall flickered cool pink at 21.59 precisely.
July 19th; Tipping Day; the 200th day of the year; the first point beyond high summer in Ireland, and though, if we’re lucky we shall still have some days and weeks of pleasant weather ahead, by this day each year there is that unmistakable sense that changes are afoot, and none more so than in the garden.
We arrived at the monster’s gate yesterday evening to find the Bunyards Exhibitors had given up the ghost completely. Although showing signs of stress the last week or so, yesterday they finally surrendered and we arrived to find them prostrate. We stripped the last of the pods and we will cut them to ground over the coming days, leaving the nitrogen rich roots in place a while longer. The Sutton Dwarfs are also showing signs of struggle, but we’ll keep these well watered in hope that they will hold for a fortnight yet. The Jumbo peas are cropping and holding up well; we have lifted our onions and set them to cure, and we have also sown our spring cabbages together with successional lettuces, radishes and chard leaves.
The reasonably good summer –which for the most part it has been, to date -has left casualties in its wake right across every garden and allotment site; a lot of the allium and leaf crops have bolted, and we too have had our fair share of losses with the shallots and chard, rocket and lettuce going over very early; but we have made further sowings.
Indicative of the fairly good summer temperatures so far this year, we arrived Monday afternoon to find the Monster and her neighbouring plot under a buzzing cloud of black Irish Honey Bees. Having originally swarmed the day before, they had set to hive in a compost bin on the corner of our neighbours plot, but, being made of black plastic their new home immediately overheated once the temperature rose to the high twenties. This no doubt proved intolerable in the black plastic compost bin and once the new combs began to collapse they swarmed again, setting up temporary stop on a sweet pea frame directly beside our plot. Three years in succession at our former allotment site we had been lucky enough to witness this great summer spectacle, and perhaps the only true regret we had in leaving that old site was that we would miss the beehives that were in situ there; and as beehives are not facilitated at this particular site we more than pleased with Monday’s swarm. Getting over their initial fear (- most of the plot holders at this site had not experienced such a sight before) the event proved a great photo opportunity for all the Monster’s plotted neighbours, and thanks to Keith from the Dublin Beekeepers Association who came boxed and smocked with smoker once the rescue call was logged, a lot of the plot holders now know a good deal more about honey bees and the swarming process, and hopefully will have gained a little more appreciation for these wonders of the natural world.
We have made our Blackcurrant and Gooseberry Jams, and once this evening’s final offering of Hinnonmaki Gooseberries are jarred we will have jammed 48-50 jars in total, and given that we uprooted and re-set the stands in the move to our new location we are reasonably happy with this result. We jarred some rhubarb and ginger also, but our Victoria certainly rebelled at the severity of being split and dumped and after an initial helping in late May we’ve since left it to recover the rest of the year…
The rocket was/is peppery and fabulous; the lettuces crisp and fresh. The Solo beetroot has, once again, proven itself a worthy performer, while the Kale Negro and Bright Lights have been used continually as cut-&-come standards for the last 7-8 weeks. The Jack O Lanterns vines have all set fruit and we’ve pinched the tips; the Big Max however is struggling big time.
We have tomatoes aplenty on all our plants and they’ve begun to blush ever so slightly, so here’s hoping for an early harvest of Shirleys, and Marmandes. We are using the Gold Rush courgettes and will most likely have to start passing these on as they look set to glut. The Greenshaft are a few weeks behind but have set at last, as have the first of the Akito cucumbers. The Tender & True parsnips have caught up with the late sowing, and all of Mrs. Dirtdigger’s roses, and gladioli have put out some wonderful seasonal colour and scent, and one of the running commentaries for the last 2 months amongst our new neighbours is the wonderful wildflower area scattered by the self same dirt-digging Missus on that area we intend to erect our polytunnel on early next year.
How quickly things turn; the hand spins a circuit of the face, days come, weeks go, and months and seasons slip past unnoticed.
As much as it galled and upset us at having to vacate our well tended and much toiled former allotment, that sorry saga is, thankfully, a distant memory, and the level of enjoyment and success we’ve experienced in such a short time span on this our new adventure has led us to speculate as to why we had not moved sooner…but, c’est la vie!
We have hares and pheasants and buzzards. Yes, wonderful crying and screeching buzzards. There are tits and finches and thrushes. We have butterflies and bees and we can see the sea in the distance. We have made new acquaintances, and run into some old faces. We were faced with a challenge last December are we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the rising to it. We have been busy; so busy getting re-established we have neglected to write as often as we should, determining at times to Garden instead of writing about Gardening, but perhaps we’ll have a little more time now.
It has been a major success all round. We reached tipping day in better array than in any of the previous 6 years. I would like to be able to say that we’ve had a 100% success rate in every aspect of our new allotment endeavour (which by the way we have) but I can’t. The most we dare say is that we almost had 100% success, because there’s always that one thing that throws the damned lie into sharp relief, or unwittingly undermines the veracity of the unverified statistic.
So, we’ve had a 99% success rate, because there’s always one, isn’t there? Always a fly for the ointment, or a pea for the pillow. Always something which fails to do exactly what it says on the tin. A prima-donna, a wannabe, something with ideas way,way above its station.

There’s always some commoner gardener vegetable that decides it’s having none of this and just opts out…none of this hard outdoorsy living; none of this bush tucker existence; no association with celebrity B list vegetables and C list fruits; stuck with your feet in the muck for months on end and a social profile lower than a didgeridoo’s  bell end…chicken manure for tea and strained nettle and seaweed soup for brekki…no way Jose…Who mentioned ants?….hit the deck quick and get me out of here!

  So, I’m a celeriac they thought…doo dah!!!

The Monster's summer blush
The Monster’s Hut

Yes, we’ve only had 99% success on our new plot… Only 99%. One little thing let us down, and after 4 failed successive sowing we decided to leave it for this year, but we’ll not go into that here…

Feverfew & Rose Blooms
Fever-few & Rose Blooms

 

A Monster Midsummer in Dublin and Lille…

Basil Gooseberries & Rhubarb
Basil Gooseberries & Rhubarb

Chelsea, Chatsworth and Malvern have come and gone, as has Bloom in the Park, and gone too are all those plans we had at the beginning of the month to make postings on all the aforementioned festivals and events. June arrived and on its tails came the air of summer with all its latent promise: warm bright days, summer festivals, ál fresco lunches in short-sleeves and daily blight warnings.
We’ve made busy on The Monster in the Corner, so much so we actually lost ourselves in the doing of things on the plot, and it is only now that we have all things bedded, supported, weeded and netted that we have the time to recap and sketch out the late summer and autumn plans and finally post them here.
All of the plot’s beds are flourishing: the gladiator parsnips are growing very well and now that we’re at mid-summers the Centurion and Stuttgarter onions are finally beginning to bulb but, as expected, about one in six has bolted. The Karmen reds, not surprisingly, are still lagging behind but all the summer bunching and salad onion are now ready for use. We’ve been pulling rhubarb stalks on each visit to the allotment and have jammed and jarred the first flush glut with some finely grated stem ginger. This store never lasts very long as it’s generally shared with extended family, friends and work colleagues, but the Victoria stools seem to be sprouting well enough yet and we should have ample for further desserts, crumbles and that second flush glut for more jam.
The shallot tips are beginning to colour down so these shall be rudely unearthed in the next fortnight or so. A great deal of effort the last 3 weeks has been spent battling the squirrels, blackbirds and magpies for ownership our rapidly ripening blackcurrants and gooseberries. We’ve always acknowledged foregoing nature’s share, but there’s only so much we’ll allow the wildlife to covet.
Having decided against a strawberry crop the last three summer seasons this year we planted up a small bed of 20 plants (a new variety called Malling Centenary) and we’ve had some of these. As with all first year crowns, the pickings were slim, but the berries themselves are of a very good size with that great taste of summer…
The early sown radishes, lettuces and rocket have gone over, so we’ve made more sowing for later in the summer, and the first beetroot sowing is just about ready for some baby-beet pickings. The Broad beans were well and truly walloped with black-fly, and on more than one occasion, this no doubt down to the warm and humid conditions which proliferates their spread, but that said we have fared better than the other plot holders across the walled garden whose potato crops have all been badly decimated with blight. The red Kale sown in May has now been planted into the open drills, as have the pumpkin and ornamental courgette plants, and as usual the herb and floral border which is one of the main focal points of the Monster in the Corner is once again in full bloom and generating the annual conversation piece with the passers-by.
We’ve decided to change the Monster’s ‘rude mechanical’ this year. Since first beginning work on the allotment our ‘play’ has been a large chestnut log with bug hotel and carved wooden plot number in situ. But given the effects of three wet and stormy winters it was looking a little forlorn. This year we’ve gone for a spilled-barrow effect; a living mechanical if you will, the Monster’s designation and number in living floral form. Originally conceived in red, white and bluegiving a nod to the EURO’s 2016 event in France- we’ve adapted a little at the last minute to facilitate incorporating another of the elements of the walled garden into the design, and with a little luck we should be putting the finishing touches to it over this coming weekend.

The Monster's Mechanical Spilled Barrow almost complete
The Monster’s Mechanical
Spilled Barrow almost complete
Almost Completed...
Almost Completed…

Madame dirtdigger is somewhat incapacitated at present, but there’s no slackening-off with this particular one armed weeder & feeder; still showing up for plot duty, still making the most of the weather, and reminding me that as of today the days are no longer stretching. Today, and for another day or so, the season’s daylight is fully taut. Midsummer’s mindfulness abounds, filled with birdsong dawns and those slow receding half-light dusks stretching almost to midnight; young starlings learning the principles of murmuration formation flying and beech nuts and hazel nuts now setting on the branches; cosmos, lilies and lupins beginning to open; sunflowers reaching into the broad light with basil and coriander pots scenting the plot and the outdoor courgettes showing signs of bloom…and to top it all off, great sporting nights like last night that will live long in the memory as the low lying fields of Athenry worm their way into the French psyche’s  association with the Green ArmyCOYBIG

The Green Army doing what they do best...
The Green Army doing what it does best…

 

Robbie's Italian Job
Robbie’s Italian Job
robbies-goal.jpg.jpg
Robbie Brady’s goal…

Gardening, the gentle pastime!

There are many who consider gardening The Gentle Pastime:

a peaceful, unflustered and unhurried personal interaction between man/woman and nature as the year spins its course through the seasons. Pottering about the garden shed, tidying up the spring and summer bedding, weeding herbaceous borders, pruning clematises roses and wisteria, sowing pots of salad leaves and radishes and looking forward to a small bounty from the strawberry plants strategically trailing from ideally positioned wicker baskets bought in Woodies or B&Q at Easter time.
And then there’s the gentle rhythmic see-sawing of push cylinder lawnmowers, the clippity clip snippity snip of the shears, and the waft of fresh cut grass! And if the summer really proves itself, who knows, perhaps the odd glass of slightly chilled prosecco with added splash of elderflower cordial ál fresco whilst idly leafing the Collin’s coffee table Guide to Garden Flora of the British Isles and soaking up the heady scent of night-stock and jasmine, with the promise of home-grown tomatoes from the growbags on the patio should the weather hold through till September.
Gardening is the gentle art, endless with possibilities and countless capabilities. Harmonious and therapeutic gardening is the slightly dirty activity that helps to cultivate the soul. Hopeful and optimistic and limited only by the gardener’s imagination it is a moderate-intensity exercise with the added benefits of fresh air; a stress buster and improver of mental health and (if you happen to grow your own vegetables) your garden can be a source of organically grown pesticide free and no air-miles produce, and all by means of your own effort.

Then of course, there’s the Allotment Garden, where everything aforesaid can be composted immediately and where every single gardening, landscaping and urban farming concept is quite conspicuously and unceremoniously turned on its head.
If gardeners be considered swans, then allotmenteers be the walking waddling swimming quacking blood-thirsty soul-sucking teradactyducktils who’ll readily declare war on their fellow plot holders based on nothing more than a Swiss chard whim or a dislike for the neighbours blue delphiniums, and who all too easily will resort to terror tactics if it is thought someone else’s cabbages and beetroots are performing better than their own. Not all allotmenteers are of this genus, but every plot holder will instantly recognise the classification.
If gardening be the gentle pastime, then allotmenteering is the disreputable underbelly of the gardening world.  A great deal of the time allotment sites are promoted as council or civic projects with the misleading façade of a community development initiative, but this all too often turns out to be dubious pitch, and all too often the downright dirty and two-faced side of the horticultural hobby world is easily exposed on the allotment site.

The modern allotment site is where yummy mummy’s get to meet and greet the retired retiring policeman, and mild mannered council workers get to rub shoulders with foreign bank clerks; where lifelong bus driver meets chartered physiotherapist or architect; where Tesco meets Lidl meets Aldi meets Facebook meets Ryan Air, and where everyone is an expert in their own field, but no-one has a clue what to do on their little plot. It’s where throngs of disparate strangers with too much time on their hands and absolutely no ideas about gardening are suddenly thrust into the same demarcated site and expected to…well…garden? It’s boom time for new tool sales in the big outlet stores. And it’s all shiny new wheelbarrows, and Cath Kidston co-ordinated wellies and gloves, it’s hand forged forks and stainless steel dibbers, metric tonne cubic meter bags of compost and soil improver; and Fothergill’s, and Thompson’s and Morgan, and Sutton’s and Mr Middleton’s, and before a single sod is turned it certainly looks the part…Or so it is thought.
Of course, there are those with all the gardening ability of a Terrestrial Gastropod Mollusc who’ll quickly lose interest in the getting the hands dirty aspect of allotment life, but who, in their desire to remain connected with all things allotmenty, will content themselves with the plotted  and potted politics of the allotment garden and are slowly and inexorably drawn to life on the allotment site steering committee.  And just when you thought life on a city council allotment site couldn’t deteriorate much more, you suddenly learn you have to contend with the small-minded group think willing to invest hundreds of €’s or £’s in printing laminated corrie-board rules on composting whilst forgetting that rocks and stones don’t compost too easily , or who’ll spend months on end devising duty rosters and grass cutting schedules for other plot holders to help maintain council communal areas, or or who send endless group texts advertising pub quizzes and fundraisers to help generate the funds they say are needed to develop future projects and yet somehow fail to invest more than €10.00 in actual green-stock, and this only on seed being sold cheaply in the early season sales mainly because it is past its sow by date…
So, you search for a hat to take off, and you bite your tongue, you watch as all the flower beds are zapped with round-up and replaced with 3rd rate grass seed, and you just wait…
and you bite down, hard. You don’t throw your hat at it yet, but, you find it difficult not to lose the head and to help you hold your tongue you bite down hard…