Tomatoes, Felling, College, Hiking and Tasting


This past week I start clearing out the tunnel to make way for the summer crops. The peas were suffering from Mildew so I rescued what I could and removed the rest. I think in future I would space the over wintering a little further apart perhaps 3 or 4 inches instead of 2 inches. This way there should be more airflow. It’s probably better to have access on both sides of the row when picking but in a tunnel like this your a bit limited in how you can grow peas.


The tomato /squash beds were given a dressing of well rotted 2 year old F.Y.M. and topped with enrich compost. Very reluctant to dig through as there is an abundance of mycelium. I’m planting the tomatoes about 500mm apart using the string method tyng around the rootball and attaching to overhead support. This is one of the Brandywine tomatoes with its distintive leaf shape.


The other varieties in the tunnel include Blackcherry and Moneymaker , 2 of each with spares just incase. I,m limiting the space given over to tomato growing inside for rotational reasons and will be planting into the garden other varieties such as , Amish, Aurora, Tumbler, Mexican Midge about mid May weather permitting. These varieties can be hardened off and grown outside in a sunny sheltered possition in Ireland provided of course that we get a half decent summer.


Regular sideshooting (removal of growth between stem and leaf)once a week minimum will ensure good air movement and concentrate growth into the trusses that will bear the fruit.

In work we are using a slightly different method of preparing the beds. Here we are digging tenches on either side of a 4 foot raised bed. Into the trenches we are adding well rotted F.Y.M. and a little compost and then raking the soil back over the top. The beds are then well watered prior to planting.

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The first of the Brandywine tomatoes going into the ground using the string method again a double row at 500mm spacings. The over heads wires have been fixed at corresponding spacings since feburary as it can be unbearably bright and hot trying to fix wires over head in a tunnel in almost May.

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Between the tomatoes we have sunk some pots to help insure water gets to the roots. Used this method last year and it helped with the watering which is done with a hose and lance connection.

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Leaving a bank of Chrysanthemums  (chop suey greens) that have flowered  on the end of a bed for the pollinators and us.

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Planted up a ridge of Kale  Nero di Toscana at 2 foot spacings. These have been hardened off over a few days. Probably wont use any plant collars or enviromesh on these as they are a little hardier than cabbage or Calabrese which will hopefully be going in soon. The location is at least 2 weeks earlier than most sites in terms of planting times.

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Lining out the mixed chilli plants at 500mm centres.

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Sowing 2 rows of carrots and beetroot in the roots section of the rotation ( carrots). I inch spacings on the beetroot clusters and a few seeds every inch or sow on the carrots. A barrier will have to be put in place to about 18 inches to prevent carrot rootfly laying eggs.

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We felled a dead tree during the week cutting a notch in the direction of fall and cutting through from the back.

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Removal of lower limps and use of a rope to direct the fall.

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Saturday was spent at the Organic College in Drumcolligher. On this occasion we looked at soil testing for N.P.K. and other nutrients, planting a hedgerow , soil profiling, sowing seeds and the importance of flowers heads used in plant identification. Looking forward to getting a copy of Webbs Irish flora.


At the college pit trying to identify the E-horizon


Peas growing against the polythene.


While down home for the weekend , headed out for a wander in the demesne and came accross Arum maculatum Lords and ladies or coockoos pint


Honeysuckle Lonicera spp


Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata which is edible 

Garlic Mustard

On monday back in work the group went on a hike from the Guinness gates to Lough Dan. The weather was dry but overcast and a very pleasant day was had. This is one of my favourite spots in Wicklow expecially by lough Dan where the lack of carparking and access keeps the valley free from the crowds that Glendalough gets. We spotted some tree and wildflowers along the way.

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The larch!

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We were very fortunate to see a badger out in daylight. He eventually just hid behind a clump of grass and did’nt seem too bothered by our presence.

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Our biodiverity id included:

Larch Larix spp, Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris , Hairy bitter cress Cardamine hirsuta which we have plent of in pots , Oak, Quercus spp, Foxflove Digitalis purpurea, Gorse Ulex europaeus, Heather Calluna vulgaris , Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus , Blackthorn Prunus spinosa , Whitethorn Crataegus monogyna Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella , Willow ( goat Salix caprea)  Sheeps sorrel Rumex acetosella, Polypody, Wall rue Asplenium ruta-muraria, and sedums including stonecrop.

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Navelwort Umbilicus rupestris

Our tasting session included Sorrels sheep and wood, Stinging nettles Urtica dioica and how to pick without getting stung from the underside of the leaf and roll between fingers and a nibble on the coconut smelling Gorse.








How to make netting for climbers and other gardening bits

As an alternative to supporting climbers  with chicken wire,sticks and branches it’s quite easy and enjoyable to make a net from cordage of some sort. Here I,m using jute a natural and strong fibre.


The basic example below gives a step by step guide.

1. Take a length of cordage and stretch it between two points this can be as long or as short as you like. This length determines the width of the net. In the above example it’s 7 feet wide and took about 2.5 hours.You can of course use the net the other way round when its finished if you need a tall and thin net.


2. Cut lengths of cord about 2.5 to 3 times longer than the finished height you would like. The reason for this is that the cord is doubled over and also the zig-zag pattern and knots use up length also.


3. Double over the cord and and loop it through itself to fix it to the horizontal.

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4. Repeat this untill you have spaced the chords about evenly apart. The spacing determines the size of the diamonds. Below we have 4 pieces of cord from left to right 1,2,3,4.


5. Gather together the right hand side length from cord 1 and the left hand side length from cord 2. Approximate by eye where you want to tie the first knot. This should be about centred between the two nodes above. Make a knot adjusting the final possition as the ropes tighten.


6.Now move to the right hand side of robe 2 and the left hand side of robe 3 and tie these. Continue this pattern all the way accross the ropes.


7.The ends are knotted like this.


8. Continue down the cord repeating. As you can see the outer cords have more spare length as they dont zig zag.

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When you,ve finished untie the  horizontal cord from the support and tie this around the end knot a few times. It’s not perfectly even or anything but the plants wont mind. This is a very enjoyable way to pass a few hours in the evening or if it’s lashing outside.

Other bits recently:

Put a bird feeder up near the kitchen window.


Sweetchestnuts  from U.C.D. have germinated after stratifying over the winter.


The foxes got their prize in the end.


The little greenhouse jammed with seed trays and the sunflowers are coming on


Sweetcorn going well.


Yacon and courgettes starting to get potted on.


I have always had bindweed in the garden mainly in the hedges and the neighbouring gardens have lots also, it does pop up in the raised beds but it seems to stay at managable levels that can be removed by pulling or cutting to ground level. If the stems are long enough and rapped in the privet or griselinia before I get to them I just cut at the base and let them rot wrapped up in the branches. Doing this prevents the leaves from photosynthesising and over time weekens the plants.I have a bucket of water for rotting any smaller bits and other problematic weeds prior to composting. I use mulches beneath the hedge to block out the light and try to prevent flowering and setting of seed. Looking about online there does’nt seem to be any better ideas on how to deal with this plant. Other options include digging which seems futile considering the plants ability to regrow from fragments and the depth to which it grows. Probably one of the best options  to prevent it’s spread is to create natural plant barriers with comfrey something Patrick Whitefield talks about when making forest gardens.






Weeds are good for you

Another busy week gardening and fantastic weather too. Started planting out some Brassicas into the beds at home. Lots of seedlings coming through the sowing, potting on and hardening off process. Having to really monitor the ducks as the plants are quite delicate and ducks tend to follow where soil is being distrubed.




Red Russian Kale





In the tunnel the rocket and Mizuna have flowered


Rocket flowering


Mizuna Flowering

Spiders web in tunnel.


Nettles are a superfood and a few patches in the garden can be considered as both good for biodiversity and as a crop. In Martin Crawfords book “How to grow perenial vegetables” there are some fascinating bar charts on pages 16 and 17 showing that nettles  and other perenials like dandelion have vastly more proteins than any we grow as vegetables up to 6 grams of protein per 100 grams consumed. No wonder mark boyle looked so well on the cover of the moneyless man! Nettles also score tops on calcium much more than any other vegetable, up to a 1200 mg per 100 grams and do better than average on Vitamin C and A . It really makes one think about all the effort, time and energy it takes to grow vegetables and the fact that we would be better off nutritionally eating what we are removing. There is a need for education regarding the usefullness of nettles especially for those who would like to collect them given the chemical controls employed. The other day I saw someone spraying around trees on the road edge creating that patch of death at the base of ornamental cherry trees that line the street nearby. I know its the norm but Arrrrrhhh.. stay calm. Plant an apple tree.

In the garden being selective with wildflower removal and leaving patches of cleavers, chickweed, plantains, some dandelions, etc as a nearby forage resource.


Even the dreaded Japanese knootweed Fallopia japonica see image below can be eaten as one method in its control.  See This amazing plant is not something you want in your garden. There were ants that seemed to be removing bits of leaf. Go ants ! Its a difficult one to know how to approach as it’s by a 12 foot boundary wall and near a polytunnel. A 23 foot exclusion zone is not possible and digging out to several metres, sieving and introducing physical barrier seems unlikely without financial assistance. Probably the best strategy at slowing its pace a bit is heavy mulching with a tarp or carpet but by golly one has to be careful as it can regrow from tiny fragments that might lodge in boots and wellies.

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The Law – Northern Ireland

Japanese Knotweed is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 and it is therefore… ‘an offence to plant or otherwise cause it to grow in the wild.’ The current Environment Heritage Service policy on disposal of Japanese Knotweed material and contaminated soils follows the Environment Agency guidelines and thereby places a duty of care on all waste producers to ensure Japanese Knotweed is disposed of at a licensed landfill site and that the site operator is notified. There is also a duty of care to prevent spread to adjacent land or by failing to dispose of Japanese Knotweed by following the correct guidelines. Remember not all licensed landfill sites will receive Japanese Knotweed waste.

The Law – Republic of Ireland

At present there are no specific legislative provisions that directly govern Japanese Knotweed control or removal in the Republic of Ireland. However the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 states that…. ‘anyone who plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild – in any place in the State any species of (exotic) flora, or the flowers, roots, seeds or spores of (exotic) flora shall be guilty of an offence.’

Quote from

As usually we don’t take seriously enough here.

Lolla rossa in the tunnel


Pods are now forming on the peas.


Started pinching out the tips of the broadbeans to discourage black bean aphid


Planting out borage


Clearing celery bed for potatoe planting


Potatoe “sante” planting


Evidence of foxes watching and waiting.


Unfortunately on Monday last the drake was killed and found in a bad way in the hedge.I had let them out early while feed and stepped inside for a moment. About this time last year the same thing happened.

Its been so dry recently that I have been forced to used some mains water.

Took delivery of enrich yesterday  (23 cubes) so have started top dressing all the beds with about 1 to 2 inches of compost. Will start the hardening off process with some of the brassicas next week for planting out by the weeks end.

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Planting out the potatoes, this years varieties include Maris piper, Epicure, Sarpo Mira, Records and Roosters.

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Sowing this week :

1.Brocolli Green Calabrese 1 x 24 tray

2. Gold Rush Courgette 1x 8 into 3 inch pots

3. Runner beans 1×12 in large tray

4. Pumpkins Green Kuri in 3 inch pots

5. Basil 24 multi sown in cells

6. Purple top milan 1×12 cells

At home:

1.Basil genevose 4 pots

2.Goldrush courgette x2

3.Ishiki Kuri Pumpkin x 2

4. Minesota Midge Melon x2

5. Green Calabrese 1×10 cells

6. Table Queen squash x2

6. Borage 1×24

7.Runner beans scarlet emperor 1×14 cells

8. Echinacea purpurea 1x 10 for flowering next year.





Time to go for a walk


It’s one of those morning when you cannot stay in bed. The window had been opened in the bedroom last night and I was woken by the dawn chorus. The entertainment ended about 6.15 when the ducks started quaking, they seemed to wait their turn to have their say. It’s easy forget you live in suburbia sometimes. The drone of cars in the distance has yet to begin and the dew, stillness and clear red sky promise a very fine day ahead.

As we approach mid April the pace of growth is quickening buds bursting everywhere and little plants needing re-potting.


The 8 or so varietys of tomato plants are looking quite health and now in need of repotting before planting in May. Again we repotted in slightly larger containers to concentrate the moisture where it’s needed at the roots.  I saw some tomatoes for sale in the shops the other day. They were re potted sideshoots from forced plants and looked rather gangly. Who know where they came from or what conditions they were grown in. It’s still much too early to be buying tomatoe plants for planting.


When re-potting the tomato plants we planted with the first leaves just above soil level and filled with potting on compost leaving space for watering.It’s really important not to wet the leaves. The fresh compost will feed the plants for 4 to 6 weeks but in any case they will be moved on probably into the ground by then. These tomatoes are more developed that those sown at home under plastic as the glass has much better light transmission.


Some of these will be for sale in the garden centre.


To help with rotations and keeping records we have started numbering all the raised bed. Bits of slate and undercoat are handy for this.


Some temporary protection for the onions while they root ready to be removed after about 2 to 3 weeks.


Recently sown pea hurst greenshaft with rocket and beetroot.


The bed of homeguard first earlies all poked through in the past few days. The bed has just been handweeded and watered and calendula , borage, planted along the edges.


Some of the onions doing well.


We got this years potatoes in yesterday to join the earlies. Half bed of Maris Piper, bed of Sarpo Mira, bed of Records and a bed of Roosters. This takes up 1/4 of the large rotation areas using the B.A.S.L. system. The beds were rotavated prior to planting so the soil is quite easy to work.



Planting some borage and nasturtiams on the ends of the rhubarb bed.


The benches are filling up with seedings for potting or planting.



This years legume area weeded and covered untill direct sown in May.


West facing hot wall with topfuit and soft fruit.


Mulching around the tunnel and Espaliers is going to make the job of “weeding” much simpler.


Comfrey awaiting planting into raised bed. We are sheet mulching using  well lapped wet cardboard and putting compost soil mix atop to plant into. This is located beside the compost pile and can be used as an activator and for high potasium liquid feed good for fruiting crops.


Reminder signage.


We finally got round to hanging some 6 bird boxes around the site. The opening ideally facing between North and East shaded and at least 10 feet off ground using a variety of ope diameters from 24mm upward. Must make up a little bird feeder soon.


Onion and Broadbeans going well.


This part of the gardens has its own little microclimate sheltered from the South with glasshouses and protected from the North with a stone wall. The growth in this area is noticably earlier than in other parts of the garden. There was once lean too glasshouses along this South facing wall.


The carrots sown with radish are now ready for thinning and the radishes big enough to eat.


Strawberry alley is coming along nicely. The old leaves have been removed as they are replaced with new growth. Looking into Organic liquid feeds suitable for these.


Been going around looking at the flowers on the Ornamental Cherries and Apple trees in the garden. If the blossom has 5 styles (thats the shaft that the stigma sits on) then its Malus ( Apple family)or if one style its Prunus which includes Plum, peach ,Almond ,Cherry. Below a Shinseki Pear.


At Home:

Slowly harvesting the chives cutting back to about an inch above soil. Will let these flower once cut.


Signs that the maturing compost might be ready for sieving and use include the germination of seeds. Probably tomatoes


Greenshaft pea have germinated


Potatoes Sante and Oca Chitted ready for planting now.



Chitted Oca


Chitted Sante potatoes






Flowers on Broadbeans


spring cabbage ready


flowers forming on strawberries


perpetual spinach




buds on vine




bleeding heart


Yacon starting to grow


Early potatoes




Dwarf Broadbeans


Lolla Rosa lettuce

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mustard lettuce


spring onion

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spring cabbage


Red Basil

That last section was basically plants bursting into life or coming to maturity. This past week has seen much change. The earlies are up in the tunnel. The red basil ready for potting on, buds bursting everywhere one looks. Tis but a joy to witness.

Went for a wander this morning with my father along the Dodder. His latest thing is hoverflies. Below are some images of what we found on our wanderings. His advise was to walk a local route  at least once a month looking at a particular habitat in this case a river side.Note down what you see there throughout the year and use something like the collins field guides to find what you cannot identify. It’s a bit of work but a good active way to learn about the flora and fauna. It’s also relevant to your day to day enjoyment of local walks.

Winter Heliotrope

Winter Heliotrope

Willow herb

Willow herb

Wild Cabbage

Wild Cabbage



Wall Rue

Wall Rue

Plantago Lancelota

Plantago Lancelota

Spear Thistle

Spear Thistle

Red Valerian 2

Red Valerian


Polypody from Limerick

Perrywinkle (vinca)

Perrywinkle (vinca)

lime bud

lime bud

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

Ivy Leafed Toadflax

Ivy Leafed Toadflax


Hoverfly to be identified

Ground elder ( to be checked again )

Horse Chestnut candle

Horse Chestnut candle



Germander Speedwell

Germander Speedwell



Forget me not

Forget me not

Dad shooting hoverfly

Dad shooting hoverfly

Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley





Broadleaf Dock

Broadleaf Dock