High summer

After spending two lovely weeks in half of our family’s native country Sweden, we returned home to a garden full of life. There has been lots of rain while we where away so everything has put on massive amounts of growth, the flowers, vegetables and grass is all looking verdant and lush. It is nice to come back after half a month away and realize that the garden has not suffered at all in our absence. It is one of the positives we can experience from living in a climate with few droughts and no extreme changes in temperature. We think it can also be put down to the fact that we mulch all our plants well with cardboard, straw and just about any organic matter we can get our hands on.  This makes for a sustainable eco system in the garden where less intervention is needed to keep the balance right.

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June in retrospect.

June was a month that seems to have passed very quickly this year. Maybe that is because we have been busy preparing for our open garden day on July 15th. There is still quite a lot to do in the garden, and we are baking every day and kind friends are letting us use their freezers for all the muffins, Swedish cinnamon buns and scones. We have had masses of ripe raspberries over the last couple of weeks and most of them have been used for vanilla and raspberry muffins for our guests on the open day.

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A berry nice month.

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We are almost a week into August and it is time to sum up a very fruitful month in the garden. July brought quite a lot of rain but also some sunshine and our berries thrived. Ripening this past month were blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, worcesterberries and a cross called jostaberries.

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A colourful harvest on a grey day.

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It is harvest time in our garden and almost every day we are bringing in something tasty for the dinner or to store for leaner times.


We have recently adopted a lovely young dog, and between training her and building our extension, most of the growing season has been very busy.  Today it was time to harvest our onions and shallots and as you can see in the picture; our onion bed was completely covered in weeds and plants this morning. We have been growing nasturtiums for three summers now. They self-seed prolifically, taste nice, bring in pollinators to the vegetable plot and look very cheerful on a dull rainy day. Another reason to have them in the vegetable garden is that they act as weed suppressants and if they get too big and start to shade out your crops, they are very easy to pull out.

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We started our onion harvest by pulling out most of the nasturtiums and weeds and after that it was very easy to get the onions out. We put in small sets in spring and have been eating and giving away lots of lovely fresh onions all summer so today we were surprised to find that we still had enough onions to fill a whole wheelbarrow. The only problem is that we have had a very wet summer here in the West of Ireland and they cannot be put out in the sun to cure and dry up a bit. We are planning to tie them into bundles and hang them from the roof of our open shed where the sun might shine on them once in a while, but the rain can’t get to them. If it works out we are hoping to be self sufficient in onions up until midwinter at least.

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The weather has been very wet but it seems to have benefitted the members of the onion family. We bought a bag with about 15 shallots in spring and today we harvested hundreds. Each set had grown into a big cluster of plump healthy looking shallots.

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harvest shallots

Another crop we were looking forward to check on were the potatoes we planted on St. Patrick’s Day. The tyre stacks had grown quite high and we pulled apart one stack of the long fingerling ratte variety and two of the blue ones. The ratte potato is a French second early variety and the tubers had grown all through the stack but as it has been a very cold summer the harvest was not as big as we had hoped, but we are looking forward to tasting the ones we got. They are supposed to have a chestnut flavour. Our blue potatoes were growing close to the ground and had no tubers near the top of the stacks, but the ones we harvested were very big and healthy looking. We have not had any problems with blight.   We are not sure of the variety but are looking forward to baking, frying and mashing them.  We still have six more stacks to harvest in the next week or two.

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Our runner-beans are called sunrise but so far there are only pretty flowers to look at and no beans. It has been too cold for them to really flourish.

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We are growing purple, green and yellow peas as well as lots of daylilies for stir-fries. The daylilies (hemerocallis)  are very tasty and can be picked as buds, flowers or the day after they have flowered for stir fries. They are eaten regularly in China and yellow daylilies are sold dried under the name of golden needles for soups and stews.  As far as we know, not all varieties are edible so use caution and do some research about yours.

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All in all it has been a very wet and dull summer but we are happy with our harvest, despite mostly ignoring the kitchen garden and letting the weeds run riot we have enjoyed many tasty meals this summer and we are looking forward to the continued harvest.

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June in the kitchen garden.

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It is the lightest time of year and things are moving on fast in the vegetable and fruit garden. We use a system with no-dig, raised beds for growing annual vegetables and our beds are now in their third year. We add mulch to them several times a year, and top them up with well rotted cow manure once a year. The earth worms then do the work for us and mix the newly added materials into the beds. We have made them 120 cm wide as it is possible to weed and harvest at that width without stepping onto the soil and compacting it. Our paths are about 30 cm wide but we would make them a bit wider if we did the beds over again as they get quite overgrown with floppy green vegetable leaves. Everything grows very well in our beds including weeds but we try to stay on top of them. Mulching helps a lot and we grow all our little plants in pots until they are big enough to out compete the weeds and stand a chance against the slugs. Onion sets are one of the few things we put straight into the beds.

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We planted our potatoes on Saint Patrick’s Day in the middle of March and they have now been earthed up five times and we are up to our forth layer of tyres. They are growing strongly and we can’t wait to dismantle the stacks to see how many potatoes we can find.

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For growing peas and sunflowers we use some cut off big plastic bottles to protect the newly planted seedlings and it is working very well. There is less slug damage than other years and the bottles also protected them from the worst of the weather when they are small. We are planning to just leave them there and it also makes watering easy as you can just pour some water into each one.

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Our berry bushes have now been in the ground about two years and we have an amazing amount of berries this year. We have blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries and currants, as well as a lot of hybrids like jostaberries and tayberries.

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Along our drive a long row of Laylandii cypress was planted that blocked out all the light from the south and made it impossible to drive a car down it. We removed them and kept every fourth trunk in place and stretched wires in between them. We now have seven different varieties of apples planted there. We put in small trees and bent all the branches out to the sides to create espaliers and now, after only two years they are really filling in and starting to fruit. They look lovely but are also less prone to disease and take up a lot less space than it they were planted straight in the garden.

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We are harvesting and using our herbs everyday for food and teas. It is a pleasure to spend time in the herb garden listening to the bees buzzing away and looking at the butterflies.

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We also grow perennial vegetables and are particularly happy with the sea kale that is flowering at the moment and has a great honey scent. The good king Henry is very tasty and the yellow flowers from the Turkish rockets are going into salads along with purple chive flowers. Our perennial Swedish ‘leeks’ are doing really well and we have harvested a lot of them in spring when the annual onions weren’t ready. They are just about to flower now and later the newly formed bulbils will be heavy enough to make the stems lean over and re root. Our cardoons and artichokes are making good use of the willow fence we built in winter.

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All in all it is a beautiful and bountiful time in our kitchen garden.