HAVING just covered nearly all of our raised beds with various layers of compost, seaweed, newspaper and finally, black plastic or mulching membrane, I’m in quite reflective mood.
Thinking back to when I first uncovered the beds and planted the first potatoes, when I earthed them up, when I was so happy they didn’t get blight, when I lifted the first of the Orla and Colleen varieties and then had that mouth-watering experience of the first boiled potatoes with butter and a bit of salt, like so many of my fellow gardeners.
Looking back I will share with you what worked in our garden and what didn’t, talking about the highlights and the low points.
A dry start to 2010
It was an exceptionally dry first half of the year with plenty of sunshine and that meant a bumper harvest of apples which are now hopefully safely stored in boxes and also in bottles of apple juice and many containers of dried apple rings.
My apricot tree lost all its flowers and tiny fruits again but I hope I found the cause. Actually I found an expert at the Bloom Garden Show who firmly believes it is a fungus that can be overcome by spraying sulphur when the leaves have fallen. So I live in hope for next year.
My mature fig tree in the conservatory produced 77 fruits and his younger sibling, which I bought earlier this year, has already produced 13. I highly recommend to grow figs .... and eat them at room temperature!
We didn’t get around to designing our new herb garden, but we still have plenty of herbs in pots and fish boxes and best of all our own cuttings of rosemary, sage and lavender have propagated into good looking young plants in big pots, ready to be planted outdoors next year.
I had entered a little competition with a few fellow GIY gardeners on growing the best aubergines.
We didn’t actually manage to crown the winner, but I had 9 aubergines from 3 plants with 4 really big fruits. I am not sure if I will grow them again in 2011 as they take a lot of care, space, and water for only a small return.
The tomatoes were a delight. We had planted 60 and loved the plum tomatoes. We had some San Marzano until November. I had tried a new variety from The Organic Centre seed catalogue, a bush tomato by the name of Koralik.
The two plants were very prolific and yielded lots of fruit till late autumn, but I found the taste disappointing. They are also very unwieldy plants. The tomatoes we can’t eat end up as tomato sauce, ketchup, chutney or dehydrated. We bottled at least 50 litres of tomatoes, which means a ‘free’ yearly supply of tomato sauce for our weekly pasta dish!
This was the first year I had planted onions through black plastic as my colleague Ingrid Foley had suggested. So there was no weeding all year and they grew well. The problem this year is that some don’t really store and go soft.
I don’t really know why and other gardeners tell me they experience the same problem. The symptoms are like neck rot, but I had stored them for at least two month and the stalks were really dry.
We were lucky to get our hands on Filderkraut seeds, the cabbage variety that makes the best sauerkraut and from for big cone shaped cabbages we made around 12kg of it. Kale, curly kale and brussel sprouts are still in the garden, waiting for a bit of frost and Christmas. I always mulch cabbages with cardboard or mulching membrane, which makes plant care so much easier especially late in the year, when I am not in the mood of weeding.
A great gardening year
Overall it was a great gardening year and our larder and freezer are well stocked for the winter month. At the moment we are browsing seed catalogues and we hope to try asparagus. We will see...
This is the last in my series of articles for this year and The Organic Centre and I would like to thank The Mayo News for printing what I hope were interesting and useful pieces. I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a great new growing year and I want to publicly thank my wife Gaby for sowing all the seeds I have been talking about.
I hope to be back with a new series of articles in 2011.
Hans Wieland is joint manager of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, which offers courses, training and information in organic growing, and runs an Eco Shop and an online gardening store. For more information, visit www.theorganiccentre.ie, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 071 9854338. Questions or comments? Contact Hans at email@example.com.