Many Weathered Madness

it has finally, finally dried out, and we’ve been able to get onto the monster’s measure. So we’ll be updating over the weekend, in the meantime a few pictures taken over the last number of days…

We’ve managed to build our replacement beds, and get our broad beans, parsnip seed and onions sown, so suddenly we don’t seem so far behind schedule.   We’ll be updating the sowing diary also to reflect what we have sown to date.  And so after have lying water on our plot for almost 10 weeks we once again have terra firma to work and cultivate… 

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

Robbie Brady’s goal…

The Dimpled Golfus…Strange Fruit.

Golf Balls 2016
The Dimpled Globulus Golfus. Strange Fruit Indeed.

Yesterday evening, we here on Monster In The Corner hosted the first of this year’s open events. Each year we endeavour to facilitate local gardening associations and interest groups wishing to have a look around the walled garden. Over the years we’ve accommodated local schools and Girl Guide troops, scouting and Sunday school groups and the local herbalist society. Each year we also receive requests from local associations and branches of the GIY (Grow It Yourself) organisation.
GIY began life as a network of gardening and allotment enthusiasts dedicated to growing their own food. It quickly became a national network and recently has reached out to become an international organisation. It is a not-for-profit network with over 50,000 people currently involved in 800+ community food growing project groups that in recent years has gone from strength to strength.
Last year we received a request from the Raheny GIY group to allow it peruse the walled garden, and yester-evening we were happy to host the Clontarf branch GIYers.

For many of that group it was their first visit to an allotment garden, and I think it is fair to say that by the end of the 90 minute tour some of the questioning curiosity and keen anticipation was more realistically grounded than it had been when they first entered the garden. Although gardeners themselves, the GIY group’s misconceived vision of allotment life was certainly jolted, but that is not to say they were not impressed with the allotment garden as a whole. I think the biggest surprise to the group was the amount of un-worked and/or abandoned plots around the garden. We pointed out that we have just had the longest winter followed by a delayed spring.  We also drew attention to the fact that Life sometimes gets in the way of peoples’ desire to garden, and accounting for the fact that a lot of people take on an allotment without any idea at all regarding the level of commitment needed to maintain it, we told them that it is never surprising our allotment garden has an annual abandonment rate (like many other allotment gardens) of about 15%.
Overall the group enjoyed the experience and were fascinated by the vastly differing approaches used by the collective plot holders in working their respective plots. It was quickly determined that there are as many ways to garden as there are gardeners to garden, and never more so than in an allotment garden; raised beds, lazy beds, turned ditches, square foot planning and no-clear-spot-planting; buckets, barrels, barrows, baskets and boxes; recycled tubs and misplaced piping. Small plots, fallow plots, overgrown plots, recently sown drills, and not forgetting the Monster in the Corner, which we like to consider (with bias of course!) as one of the exemplars.
We were asked about growing mediums, and crop rotations; organic seeds and heirloom varieties; compost, leaf-mould, perennials and annuals; polytunnels and cloches, with pictures taken of anything and everything which caught the eye or was deemed click-worthy.
The group spent some time examining the Monster’s measure itself and all that is currently sown and   in-situ on our own plot.
We were asked about our favourite crops, our most challenging crops, our most dependable crops and our greatest failures.
Enquiry was made into the most exotic thing we’ve ever attempted to grow, and we reminded the group that exotic fruit and vegetables invariably need exotic climes in which to flourish, but that with the aid of a polytunnel you could, if you wished, attempt a venture with more exotic varieties, whereas to our mind a polytunnel is best served in simply helping to extend the growing season. We did say we had attempted Romanesco with some minor success, and Radicchio, again with minor success, Oca, Sunchokes and Samphire, but that we do like Celeriac, and not so much that it’s an exotic vegetable, it’s more that many gardeners don’t actually grow this fabulous gnarled root.
We then drew the group’s attention to the garden’s most exotic produce: the Dimpled Globulus Golfus.

The Dimpled Globe is a random free forming crop that suddenly appears on certain plots, and all the more so with any slight improvement in the weather. It truly is an exotic crop. The fruit appear as if by magic. No seed is ever sown, and neither leaf growth nor root growth ever observed. No drills need be prepared and no weeding ever needs to be carried out. Curiously, no watering is ever needed to sustain the crop; in fact is has been noted that where all other crops thrive after a downpour of early spring rain, this particular crop disappears until the weather improves. It is as if the whole staggering 800 million year evolutionary development history of the flora world is instantly perfected in the blink of an eye, and these dimpled fruit-lets appear without any effort at all. Tah Dah!
They are sun-proofed and water resistant and hard as the hammers of hell and wholly inedible. The cultivar is predominantly white, but mutations and variants luminously coloured yellow and green and orange have also been seen. This predominantly summer occurring crop is a constant source of fascination to everyone.
No-one ever sows them, and yet there is this steady and constant seasonal supply.

No-one knows for sure where these strange Globes originate but legend says that these come from beyond the walled garden’s walls, where another and altogether stranger world exists. There are some here who claim to have heard strange incantations from this other world just before the appearance of the Globulus Dimplex, and on certain still and quiet days feint echoes of this distant invocation will be caught drifting on a summer breeze: Fore! Fore! Fore!…
Last year the plot holders  managed to harvest over 460 of these during the summer season, and we then sell them back to the local Pitch-and-Putt clubhouse: a bag of ten fruits for Eur2.00…no best before date, no sell by date, and no refrigeration needed.  What a bargain eh!
And Oh! how our visiting groups love to take home some of this strange, strange fruit.

Lock, Stock & Two Wonky Barrows…

Lock Stock & Two Wonky Barrows
Lock Stock & Two Wonky Barrows The Monster’s Face on Census Day

Today being April 24th 2016 it is National Census Day in Ireland.
Exactly 100 years ago today at the General Post Office in Dublin city centre some of our patriots and heroes publicly declared their desire to run our national affairs in our own way.  Of course, such a declaration was also a succinct declaration of war on that once great empire which had governed this small western European island for almost a millennium, and in the ensuing rebellion and subsequent civil war just a few years later, over 800 years of national records were totally destroyed.

So, it is fitting  in this great year of commemoration and celebration that we also take stock of our greatest national asset, i.e. the people of the state.
Today is the day when every man, woman and child currently residing in or passing through the state on this particular day is asked to give an account of themselves.  The lines of enquiry are quite simple and are concerned with finding out who you are, where you are, what you do on a daily basis, with whom you do it, and the when, why, and how of doing it. In short the Who What Where When Why and How of your life on this particular day in time.  The information gathered will not only provide a picture of The Nation precisely100 years on from that momentous historical event, but it will also provide a valuable blueprint for future local, regional and national  planning…
And so I thought ( as I often do with little else to think about) that it may be a good exercise for us to do likewise and complete a census of The Monster in the Corner: to record exactly what we have planted on our allotment plot. A inventory of what we planted and when we planted it and of why we planted it in the first place, and how well it has performed since; this will allow us to see how our plot plans have changed over the years, and perhaps spur us to make other changes on the basis of the collated information… right, that’s the waffle well and truly prepared.

The Monster in the Corner is a 120sq metre clay based and stone strewn suburban allotment.
We are working this plot the last 3 years having moved from another much smaller plot within the walled garden. The plot has 3 clearly defined areas:

Our fruit patch consists of 4 stools of Victoria rhubarb planted 5 years ago; 2 Ben Lomand blackcurrant bushes and 5 gooseberry bushes, 2 each of Invicta and Hinnonmaki, and 1 Captivator all set out 5 years ago; 2 blueberry bushes, Bluecrop and Reva planted last winter; 2 heritage Irish apple trees, Summer John and an April Queen both only planted 2 years ago; a clump of Autumn Gold raspberry; a climbing scramble of Tayberry brambles from winter 2014; and this year after foregoing such the last 3 years we’ve once again planted up a strawberry bed with 20 runners of Malling Centenary.
In the front aspect of our plot we have 9 vegetable beds, 3 of which are raised “14 high. As our soil is a dense claggy clay, we grow our deep rooters in the raised beds; parsnips,carrots, celeriac etc. and to help with a semblance of crop rotation we use one of the raised beds for summer catch crops, this allows us to move -especially the parsnips – along the raised beds year on year.
So this year we have a bed of Gladiator parsnips; a bed of Longue shallots; a bed of summer scallions,bunching onion, lettuce plants and rocket; and in Terra firma we have large beds of Stuttgarter,Centurion and Karmen onions (in as sets) also Ailsa Craig and Bedfordshire Champions in as seed; a bed of Sutton Broad Beans; a bed with Solo Beetroot and radishes; and 2 beds awaiting Velour beans and Kelvedon Wonder peas.
The Monster in the Corner is a most awkward shape; like a giant wedge of badly cut birthday cake that we’ve come to love. There is a markedly curved run along the plot perimeter that was never going to be easy to cultivate as it skirts the original pathway of the walled garden and as such became little more than a holding area for the hardcore and foundation fill of the path, which over 160 years with little or no maintenance decided to migrate eastwards and has, by dint of being gently sloped, crept into the adjacent garden border that is now a large part of our plot. However, we use this area as a herb border, and over the years this is one of the Monster’s aspects which seems to catch the gaze of all strollers and passers-by.
There are established upright and prostrate Rosemary bushes; Munstead and platinum blonde lavenders; Cambridge Monarda Bergamot; Oregano; Faustini, Common and Lemon Thymes; Broad sage; Marjoram; Red Orach; Fever-few; Chamomile and clumps of Chives with plenty of chocolate Mint. There are 6 rose bushes here also: A Rosa Port Sunlight; Rhapsody in Blue; Tequila Sunrise; Lily Marlene and 2 Korresia. Currently we have trays and pots of Sunflowers, Cosmos, Zinnias and Catanache ready to spot plant all over the plot, but not just yet.
In our tool shed we have 3 garden forks and a pitch-fork; a shovel, a spade, a pick and a coal shift; a grass rake and a soil rake; 4 hand trowels, I large sweeping brush, 2 Dutch hoes and an onion hoe; a hose, 2 watering cans, 3 buckets, a shears, a loppers, a pressure sprayer, whilst back on the Monster there is a large poly cloche; 200-300 pots of varying sizes; 2 wheelbarrows, one a makeshift summer planter, and the other the work horse. There are 2 compost bins and a leaf-mould cage; 40-50 Bamboo stakes with various lengths of netting and fleece. We have a stainless steel potting table, access to a communal poly-tunnel with propagating table, 2 locks and a bunch of keys. And that, by and large, is that: the lock, stock and 2 wonky barrows, The Monster’s itinerary…
Of course there are other things we have garnered compliments of the Monster In The Corner, but these are not so easy to enumerate and take stock of. These are not things you’ll see growing in the soil, or find tucked away and buried in the end of a locker or shed. And yet they are there every time we walk onto our allotment. But then just like tonight’s census, there are some lines of enquiry best left unanswered at present, providing fruit to some other occasion…Census 2016 complete. Roll on this year’s harvest.

The Barrow Bug & The Work Horse
The Barrow Bug & The Work Horse…