Offgrid Living Ireland  from Dogs & Coe

So How Did Our Garden Grow?

Its been another weird weather year. April and May blazing with hot sun only to plunge into cold rainy June and an even worse July. August tried its best but really it always is a terrible month in West Limerick. In the 5 years I have lived here August has always had rain everyday.

It was with trepidation then that we faced September hoping for those last warm days of mild sun to bring the remaining few weeks of the summer growing season to a flourishing end. Well I can report that by day 15 we haven’t seen much sun yet and so the plan for the weather to help us go out in a blaze of tomato ripening glory is fading.

Simon and I, never the most organised of people have talked every year about making garden notes and probably we did but who knows where we left them. I am sure that in about 5 years time I will come upon numerous jottings of seed details and garden plans that have coffee rings and mouldy leaves stuck to them and we will murmur again about how we really need to have a special place for all those important thoughts that pursue us daily.

So 2020, the year of the crisis will be the starting point. I am going to write our garden notes here. Can’t loose them then she says, you’d be surprised.

If you are one of the many that decided the pandemic was driving you mad, making you worry about your food and health and so leading you to grow your own for the first time I imagine you may have watched enough gardening vlogs to sink a battle ship. I have had the pleasure (not) of listening to many such productions during the last few years and I can say whilst they are not top of my box set list I have at least soaked up some knowledge, who knew! My favourite, of course is the lovely soft spoken Charles Dowding who is nothing if not organised, extoling constantly about how planning and preparation is key. So in a bid to replicate that fine gardening Guru I have attempted to organise the husband’s gardening thoughts, after all I am green fingerless and so this is the least I can do.

If I was to describe our garden, I would say “unruly chaos”. Messy and mostly weedy with a number of nettles designed to keep out the wife. Simon says that’s not on purpose but I think it might just be the case.

If I was to give the garden a theme I would say quality over quantity this year. We have eaten some wonderful produce and for that I can’t thank the garden and Simon enough but there was just not enough of it, courgettes being the exception as always. Sometimes I think that courgettes will eventually take over the world.

There are a number of reasons, I am told by my gardening fairy (Simon), why we have had a poorer crop than expected and to be honest I have heard some of these excuses(reasons sorry) before. I know I know some of you are thinking why doesn’t she get out there and do it herself then, well its the insects and the soil and I hate kneeling down and although Simon likes to walk me through the garden pointing out his plants I know that actually allowing me to get down and dirty in his space would be another matter. Wives, polytunnels and never the twain shall meet is apparently a real thing.

So I will not point any fingers as actually I couldn’t be prouder of my in-house gardener. He in fact admits that next year we will do things differently and suggests that by writing down what went wrong we will remember not to repeat past mistakes and perhaps impart a bit of our knowledge also. Now that actually sounds like we know some stuff, which of course we do on the quiet, but no one likes a big head.

Your Thoughts then Simon?

Could have prepped more!

Have had some health issues over the last 12 months and prior to that was working on the house and also working full time. Let the garden and polytunnel get a bit out of hand and so the decision to go back to growing this year meant a huge amount of weeding and restructuring the garden, Didn’t do it well, cut a few corners and just planted and hoped for the best. Ground should have had some more prep, but hey weeds can be very pretty – well some of them anyway. Also didn’t buy enough compost and then when I really needed it we had the lockdown and compost was like gold dust. Attempted to use some I had been making myself but in reality it wasn’t a good starter culture for the seedlings.

Seeds are my first love!

I am a seed junkie – I buy far to many but in my defence I buy them from that well know online market place so they are always cheap. I also like to buy unusual stuff that know one ever buys or grows. I love the sound of interesting stuff, last year it was the cucamelon, small like a grape but taste like a cucumber, that really messes with your brain. Friends really loved them but they were more a novelty than a crop to feed the family I guess. I have hundreds of half used packets of seeds lying around that way the wife never really knows how many I actually have. HEH!!!

The Rest:- things I do badly every year and will probably continue to do despite these notes

Sowing too early

Sowing too late

Not potting on early enough

Not watering enough or feeding enough

Believing I can stop the slugs with late night raids

Forgetting about dive bombing birds

Despite the vast amount of seeds not actually planting enough- DUH! Not planting more of the things that grow well – with the exception of COURGETTES.

Not picking in time so plants go over

Picking too early – I apologise to the Spaghetti Squash

Generally believing that the weeds wont grow anymore.

Never really knowing what varieties have been sowed – I love a good surprise.

Not shutting the polytunnel door – feeding the Irish bird population was never in the plan.

That’s it then – some things to work on methinks

Wow -that took some thought- Simon dug deep (ha see how I did that) to let me into his gardening ramblings but despite all that he apparently did wrong we still had some great veg and actually continue to eat well from our garden. We don’t have the huge amounts some people post about but we have not bought veg for a while now and that in my mind is the real success of his endeavours.

To finish then here is some veg we did grown and what happened to them, as not all made it to the table this year but I live in hope.

Garlic – should have planted earlier – Didn’t plant till March – whoops – they look like Garlic but didn’t swell up enough.

Courgettes – there are not enough words, but please stop growing comes to mind as the freezer cant hold anymore.

Cauli, broccoli and cabbage – raised from seedlings – planted outside all eaten before they could walk.

Strawberries and melons in the polytunnel – dismal as the birds picked them before we could.

Potatoes – sowed inside and others out. A success this year, but the main crop did have some blight but we managed to pick enough.

Main Crop tasty but not good mashers

Tomatoes – planted inside and out. The outside plants got blight so that was that and the inside ones grew like mad but are mostly still green. Having said that the ones that did redden are wonderful.

Baby sweetcorn fought the slugs manfully and gave us some amazing cobs – bravo – we will grow these again.

Ridge cucumbers – another new veg for us but doing well and they have the freshest taste, really lovely.

Squashes and marrows still going strong in the polytunnel.

Early season greens, salad onions and lettuce really good but didn’t replant so that was a mistake.

Mange tout and broad beans – didn’t last long with the slugs outside.

Winter swedes and fennel doing well now in the polytunnel along with the ever popular kale.

Carrots = chose a variety that could grow in pots and trays, as our soil is too heavy and we actually managed to get some this year = first time ever and they are wonderful.

Apples looking really good this year but no other fruit from the trees yet which is a disappointment. Was hoping the plums would come this .

Blackcurrants, loganberries and tayberries still newly planted so maybe next year.

Well, look at all that Mr Dowding, it seems we didn’t do too badly after all and with our trusty notes finally written down I predict a bumper crop next year. In the meantime I will go back to shredding my courgettes and dreaming of a time when we have eaten the last of the green goodies which should be sometime in 2035.

OOO ERR you’re a big boy

I hope your garden projects where just as much fun as ours have been this year and whether you have grown your own for fun or because you are a super homesteader send me your tips for gardening success as we definitely need all the help we can get – Sorry Simon.

In the meantime

just breathe

Steph

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