The unattended garden , Farm walk in Carlow and Eco talk

Part 1 Home Garden

Its almost mid August and there is now a noticable nip in the air as the day length shorten. Over the past week or so I,ve been away from home for much of the time except for some essential indoor watering every 3 days to keep the indoor crops going. I suppose you can sort of get away with a week away at this time as most of the sowing for the season has been done and many of the overwintering crops can be sown in September and October. In any case we won’t be doing this as there is just 6 weeks remaining before we give up the house. I’m looking forward to the change of scene.

It’s amazing how much things change even in a week. Below the grass in need of cutting. It had gotten too long to chop and drop as it would exclude light from the grass underneat. I decided to collect some and spread the fresh clipping over some of the beds.


I got rid of the petrol mower sometime ago and use a push type which is much better at getting in around the beds. The grass is much lusher and returning to areas of bare soil by regular cutting. At the start of the season in spring I kept the setting high but as the growth rate has increased I lowered it.  With all the guano that the lawn receives I,m sure robbing a bit of greenery this time is  not going to do the lawn any harm.


There are some spuds to be dug in this bed. As the surface is mulched fairly roughly so adding a layer of grass  will help to break this material down quicker before the next crop.


There was great excitement at finding this pumpkin hiding.


I try to do as little digging as possible save for growing spuds at present but this wil change. After about 2 weeks with very little attention what bit of weeding there is will take a fraction of the time had there been bare soil. One thing I will take forward to any future garden is digging as little as possible if at all. In my opinion its only one method of gardening but I recon it’s unnecessary work. I would recommend any gardener to try spreading on the surface what they had intended digging in well rotted ,  FY.M. etc and see what happens. There is no one solution for how to garden, no catch all, no such thing as if you do this this and this it will be guaranteed to work,  every site is different, the resources time and aspirations of every gardener are different and so the approach must and should be different. Personally I love experimenting I,m not long enough at this to be fixed into a method or style, I say forget style, forget convention, forget trend and make decisions based on what’s in front of you.  Recently I,ve been visiting some gardens and farms. It is very interesting to see how others garden. I,m interested in the reasons why gardeners do things a particular way and I am fascinated with the nutshell of how their system works for them.

Below is a bed of onions after two weeks with no weeding or hoeing. I dont hoe either. It will take less than a minute to pull what few weeds there are here.


On a recent visit a grower told me they had produced and sold 200 euro of salads on about 1 square metre in a tunnel. Charles Dowding has some interesting figures on yields on dig and no-dig systems. Of course it not all about quantity and there are environmental problems with high imput gardening. I would love to see some examples of gardens with no imputs from off site manure or compost resources other than that which birds and wildlife bring as they are attracted in or that which is cycled from within. All the while at the same time being no dig/ no till. I get the feeling this is entering the realm of the forest garden system with a mix of nitrogen fixers, deep rooted dynamic accumulators,  decomposers and stacking.

I can only imagine how much one could spend in an organic shop. It makes so much sence to grow some food. Its better for you and will save money.


In this bed two bush type tomatoes have been interplanted with Oca. The tomatoes are growing outdoor and will all ripen together within a two week period. This is ideal for making large batches of sauce. The tomatoes are in their hundreds on these two plants.




Before heading off for a few days I cleared part of this bed ready for replanting. The drip feed irrigation can be seen snaking its way along the bed. I decided to sow radish , coriander and beet etc. The radish follow the line of the drip feed as they are fast growing and can be harvested first. The other crops  are growing in blocks. see below.



A bed of mixed salad leaves. A few weeks back I added a layer of homemade compost. I then mixed a bunch of saved seed in a bowl and sprinkled it over the top. The surface of the compost was not smoothed so the seed found its way down cracks etc. With the rain the compost settled and covered the seed.


A singly sown lolla rossa lettuce, filling a gap in a carrot bed. Its a good idea to have a bunch of plants ready for transplant into gaps after direct sowings.






To the rear of the garden some of the bed are within the drip line of trees from the neighbours garden. On the edge that sees a little sky some brassicas are doing well. They got a deep watering when they went in as well as a good surface mulch with homemade compost.



Deeper into the shade a bed of  mixed salads went well. Their cooler position seems to have prevented early bolting.


Some broadbeans and a vine along the boundary.


One of the pumpkins heading toward the light.


The cucumber plant doing well in the tunnel.


The shinseki pear tree. We had,nt yet spotted the pumpkin from above seen in this pic.


Yellow pitcher apple tree from seed savers an eater ready in October


The green sprouting brocolli in the tunnel is still producing spears.


Growth through the sawdust in duck dome. I think this is germination of wheat grains from their feed. Fumitory growing up the dome.


Bed of Brassicas


The last strawberry this summer


The grapes have taken on a lovely dark colour. Must resist picking


Minnesota midge melons in the little greenhouse. Delighted with these.


The signs of autumn


The pumpkin patch has gone mad ! Love it .


The tunnel also gone mad. The garden is an organised mess of plants


Part 2

Paulas Farm walk

Headed down to Carlow on Sunday for a farm walk with other students from the Organic college. Our course tutor Paula showed us around her 2 acre farm.



Below is a sketch layout. The orientation is,nt shown but rotate the image -45 degress approx and North is up the page. Near the entrance a complex of barns are used for packing veg and flowers ready for the Carlow Framers market. The site is in the form of a long narrow strip bounded by mature trees to the North West and lower trees and shrubs to the South East. Near the entrance a native trees nursery of local provenance are growning in tyres for planting. The complex of barns and hedging provide shelter from the prevailing winds. Water is fed into a large elevated water tank and the 2 tunnels are watered every 3 days approx using hoses. The site is non residential.

paula penders garden


Cut flowers for market  are grown both outdoor and in the tunnels. Some of the flowers  are Nigella love-in- a-mist, Scabiosa, Yarrow, single stem sunflowers (zoar) available from the organic centre and is pollen free, Cosmos( much loved by the slugs), Liatris, Sweetpea ( spaced at 1 foot), Veronica sightseeing mix, Solidago ( Golden rod does however spread a lot) Larkspur which is like Delphinium but easier to grow, ,  Marigold Frances choice, Verbena bonariensis, Callendula Resina ( high oil content good for hermal uses) , Ageratum and zinneas. In the tunnel Amaranth ( Hopi red dye) and Foxtail millet do better inside for the late season bouquette.


Some of the vegetable varieties grown are Courgette Darkstar ( open habit, smaller leaves easier for harvesting) and Dundoo F1 and Costrata (Italy). The squash variety grown is Uchiki Kuri. Salad varietys grown include Cos and saladbowl.

In the tunnel dwarft french beans are grown and the tomato varieties include Black Crimea (cherry), Isis candy, Gardeners delight, Yellow pear, Yellow gooseberry, Zuckertraube, Chadwick cherry, Sungold F1 and Peacevine. We did a taste test and the peacevine is particularly delicious. This tomato was developed by Dr Alan Kapuler and is so named for it high amino acid content which has a calming effect on the body. Definately one to try. These are all types of cherry tomato which customers want at the market. Other varieties include Paste and Brandywine.


We saw an example of the webs created by the red spider mite on the underside of a courgette leaf. Also we saw deformation on many of the crops, elongated flattend stems on the tomatoes and elongated fruit, which I think looked like fasciation after having seen this recently on a veronica plant.

Outside crops

Outside in the field 16 rows of potatoes were planted varieties include Nicola, Sante and Sarpo Mira . Unfortunately they were lost to blight. The pea variety grown are Rondo supported with posts and sheep wire. They grown to about 3 feet and tasted very nice. Celeriac is grown in staggered rows at 15 inch spacings approx. Green sprouting brocolli varieties are Bellstar and Fiesta ( 1 main head)

At the top of the field a row of summer and Autumn fruiting raspberry canes and beyond this some apple trees with varieties, James Grieve, Discovery and Bramley ( for pollination) on row ends.

Beyond the apple trees was an area planted with willow one variety was packing twine others were purples and yellows. If cut fresh willow can be used within 6 weeks. Kept longer the canes will have to be soaked for 1 day per foot before they are ready for use in basket making. They can be kept for up to 8 years before use. A bee hive was located here as well as another down near the barn.

This was a very informative visit and really glad I went along.

Part 3  Eco Talk

Was delighted to be asked by a good friend to give a gardening talk on monday to a group of Jesuit Eco Pilgrims.




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