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Family Fun Day

Hi Folks,

Despite the weather I hope you are enjoying the farming and are starting to harvest the fruits of your labour and again thank you for your ongoing support of our project.

The weather also played havoc with the Open Day we held last month but we have now found a weatherproof venue for our next event which we hope you can attend. 

We are holding a family day next Sunday in Malahide Rugby Club. The day will provide the kids with 3 hours of entertainment while you can relax with Sunday lunch in your hand and discuss the pros and cons of agriculture or you may prefer to watch Dublin v Meath in the bar. 

Obviously we need to assess the number of adults and kids we will have on the day to plan the food, etc according so I would appreciate if you could email me by return and let me know if you can join us and how many tickets you require. (brian@epilepsycare.ie).

I also think it would be good if we could provide the salad dressings from the allotments, I will contact you soon about this.

Thanks again,

Brian

The Ultimate Family food & fun day!

  • At Malahide Rugby Club.
  • Sunday 22nd of July. 3pm – 6pm

Ireland’s Leading kiddie magician Joe Daly (as seen on Kenny Live and the Late Late show) will appear at 3.15pm, perform his show involving the kids in the main function room, then disappear at 4pm.

But the show goes on……….

1. We’ll have free face-painting.

2. Then another 2 hours of relative peace watching kids burn energy on the bouncing 30ft snake and 40ft bouncing obstacle course.

3. BBQ, included in your ticket price) will be served from 4.30pm – 6pm

4. All the salad toppings for the burgers / hot dogs are being donated by the Malahide allotment growers around the corner, so that’ll be nice & fresh !

5. Ps. We will have the Dublin match on the tv in the bar.

All tickets €8

(Kids under 3 go free)

Midsummer Murderer

Fiona’s Blog – http://fionagrowsfood.wordpress.com/

I’ve had a pretty busy few weeks and I wouldn’t say that I’ve neglected my plot, but I haven’t been to it nearly as much as I would have liked either.

The weather has been pretty odd for June, a mix of horrible rainy days and milder dry days but nothing like the hot, sunny weather we had two weeks ago. It’s hard to believe that midsummer’s day is only a week away. The warm weather did however, start a growth spurt on my plot and it’s looking significantly greener than it did a few weeks ago. Most of the greenery, however, is weeds. They seem to be trying to take over the plot, within a week, they went from tiny seedlings to tall bushy weeds all over my paths and on the parts of the plot that are still unused.

I visited the plot on Sunday and spent over four hours just pulling weeds up from the paths and from the paths around the outside of my plot in an effort to stop them from spreading onto my plot. In fact, I did so much weeding that I gave myself a hoe-ing blister on the inside of my thumb, ouch!

Poppy

Beetroot, swiss chard and perpetual spinach

I did feel a little guilty tearing up some of the lovely red poppies but it had to be done. I truly felt like a murderer though, when I had to thin out my beetroot and swiss chard plants. After all my weeks of careful nurturing, I had to pull out about half of each to give the rest space to grow. It did give me a chance to have a cheeky nibble on the baby chard leaves though.

I planted out my borlotti beans which had been hardening off at home for a week and I finally planted some carrots, a bit later than I wanted but it couldn’t be helped. This weekend, I hope to plant some florence fennel and pak choi too. Unfortunately, my pumpkin plants all died, all three of them, and my courgette plant. I have literally no idea why this happened, they had been thriving before. I have heard they are very easy to grow and really prolific so god only knows why they died, it seems I am having trouble with plants that are seemingly easy to grow and no bother at all growing the trickier plants. I’m just going to chalk it down to bad luck and try again next year.

Borage. Spot the ladybird?

Apart from that, the plot is thriving, my potatoes plants are huge and my jerusalem artichokes finally showed up, after months of nothing. My rhubarb which had disappeared in the bad weather in april, is back with a vengeance and is now pretty huge. My borage grew far larger than I expected and the two plants are a lovely addition to the plot, I’ve seen lots of bees buzzing around them. My first sowing of peas are starting to really climb now and the second aren’t far behind. I also have lettuce, rocket, salsify, cabbage, onions, shallots, celery, purple sprouting broccoli, artichokes, red currants, raspberries and strawberries growing very strong, in addition to my tomatoes at home and my herbs. Not bad for the first three months of my gardening adventure.

Rhubarb

Peas, borlotti beans and early potatoes

Broccoli, celery and cabbage

It’s amazing how different the allotment looks since I started it in March, it’s difficult to get the whole plot into the pictures but you get the idea. I still have a million and one things to do, I need a gate, some proper pathways, a patio area, and lots of other bits and pieces. I’m also hoping to get some food out of it soon, that is, after all, the whole point.

Plot P26 on the 10th March 2012

Plot P26 on the 10th June 2012 – 3 months later

Fiona – Malahide Allotments

Malahide Allotments Open Day

We’re going to brave the weather!  The opening will go ahead from about 3 o’clock this afternoon, food etc at 4.
Hope to see you all there – bring chairs and tables if you have any, food, drinks etc, bbq and soft drinks will be available.  Hope to see you all there!

Bloomin’ Beautiful

We’ve had a beautiful stretch of weather here in Dublin the past 12 days. It’s been warm, dry and sunny, and it feels like summer is finally here. I’ve even been able to get out in my shorts and terrify the world with my so-white-they’re-reflective legs. I’ve been trying to visit the plot in the evenings to water it, the clay soil seems to totally dry out in the sun and becomes cracked very quickly.

The good weather has caused a wonderful growth spurt on the plot and everytime I visit, something new is growing of something has doubled in size. Everything is beginning to bloom. My main crop potatoes are coming up very quickly and I planted peas last Monday and they had germinated by Thursday!

Potatoes

Pumpkins

I had to thin out my beetroot, chard and perpetual spinach the other day. I felt like a murderer but it had to be done. I’m just pleased they’re growing, they were looking like they’d never come up. I also planted out my courgette and pumpkin plants, they were just too big to keep on the windowsill anymore, thankfully they seem to be adjusting well to being outdoors.

My strawberry plants have come back to life, having been battered by the wind a few weeks ago, and they are thriving. They have lots of beautiful white flowers and I can see some of the flowers starting to develop into fruit. I covered the bed they are in in weed control fabric, this is so the fruit won’t be sitting on wet soil when it grows as this causes the fruit to rot. Straw is also good for this purpose, just spread it under each plant for the strawberries to rest on. I also made a cage of sorts to protect them from birds, I simply used bamboo and wire to make it and draped netting over it to protect my strawberries .

Strawberries in bloom

Strawberry cage

When I first got the allotment, I knew I wanted to grow Borage. I had read about this wonderful plant in a few different books and loved how it looked. Borage is an annual herb, with beautiful blue star shaped flowers and a mild cucumber flavour. I planted two borage plants in early spring and in the past week they have literally tripled in size and burst open with gorgeous blue flowers, I’ve already seen a few bees buzzing around them.

Beautiful Borage

Another one I planted to attract bees is lavender. It was very (very) slow to start and I didn’t think I’d see any life on it this year but lo and behold, the sunshine has done it wonders and there’s lovely stalks of lavender beginning to form

Lavender

My rhubarb has come back to life too, it’s amazing what a few days of heat and sunshine can do for the garden. It’s great to be able to sit out on the plot on a sunny day and just enjoy my surroundings. This weekend, there is an open day at the allotment site, there’s to be a barbeque, music, entertainment etc, I’m really looking forward to it.

This weekend also sees the return of the Bloom in the Park festival in phoenix park, an annual gardening and food festival held in Dublin. If you have the time, it’s worth a visit, especially if this weather keeps up.

We have big plans for the plot in the coming weeks, we’re going to finally rebuild our gate, install a patio area, compst bin, water butt and we’re working on a little project to attract some unusual wildlife in, watch this space.

Plot P26 in the sunshine

Shelter

Fiona’s Blog  –  http://fionagrowsfood.wordpress.com/

Myself and Dave were chuffed the other day when we visited the plot and discovered our shed had been put up. It’s a 6ft by 4ft shed which is small but it’s big enough for our needs and we didn’t want the shed to take up too much space on the plot. Finally we have somewhere to store the tools, the car was destroyed with all the muck etc, it also means we can cycle out to the plot now as we don’t have to carry all the tools with us.

Dave already put the shed to good use the other day. I spent a couple of hours  pottering around, watering, weeding etc and he sat in the shed reading a book avoiding getting his hands dirty and hiding from the rain showers.

I planted another crop of peas the other day. Succession sowing means I should (hopefully) have peas throughout the summer. I tidied up the plot the other day, there’s a lot of weeds to deal with and I’m trying to keep them in check.

I put some collars on my cabbages to protect them from the dreaded cabbage root fly. I wrote a blog post about how to make them yourself, you can find it here if you want to try it yourself, it’s very easy. I also put netting around the bed to protect the cabbages from the birds. Dave hammered a small length of wood to each corner of the bed and we just draped the netting over using twine to hold it up. You’ll notice I also have some CD’s in the bed, this is to try scare the birds away, I’ve heard it helps so fingers crossed.

Other than that I haven’t done much on the plot this week, again the weather hasn’t been great. You can tell by my photos it’s been very grey and dull. Things are looking up though, the weather forecast tells me we should have a dramatic improvement in weather this week, we might even get some decent sunshine and a raise in temperatures. I’m just hoping for at least one day when I can get out on the plot in my shorts, is that too much to ask?

I’ll leave you for now with some shots of the plot from the other day.

Rain pooled in lupin leaves

View from the shed window

Spuds

Borage

Grey skies

The Day of the Spearmint Triffids

Fiona’s Blog  –  http://fionagrowsfood.wordpress.com/

Today is another lovely summers rainy day in Dublin. Not only is it wet, it’s cold. Far colder than it usually is this time of year.

I know I’ve been harping on about the weather in my past few blog posts and loathe to think I’m becoming one of those individuals who talks of nothing but the weather, but I never thought I’d be dealing with frost damage to plants in the second week of May. The rain, I can handle, the wind I’ll happily do battle with, but frost damage in May is not something I had bargained for. My spuds have been the one crop doing well on my plot so far, the cold temperatures have stunted many of my other plants, but my spuds were lovely, tall and bushy, a big splash of green on the otherwise brown plot, so imagine my horror when I visited my plot yesterday and noticed five or six of my lovely plants covered in frost damage! However, I’ve been told not to despair, once it’s only the leaves that are damaged and not the tubers, they should return to their former glory in a week or two. Here’s hoping.

My poor frost damaged potatoes

However, it’s not all doom and gloom on plot P26. Despite the bad weather, there are signs of life, you know, under the masses of weeds (the weeds seem to be the one thing thriving on the plot of course). My salsify, beetroot, chard, brocolli and perpetual spinach are all growing, albeit it very slowly. I still have only one asparagus so far but it’s a healthy green and purple spear, I’m hoping the rest show themselves soon, even though I can not eat them this year, it would be nice to know they’re there. My onions continue to grow well and my peas are beginning to grow tendrils. My raspberry canes have buds on them and I spotted some new growth at the base so they’re obviously not too badly affected by the weather.

Pea plant getting ready to climb

I spent a good two hours the other day weeding the raised beds, my poor strawberries were looking overrun with young weeds, as were my beetroot and spinach. I enjoy weeding, I complain about weeds of course, but I enjoy pulling them up from the soil, it’s therapeutic, even in the bad weather. Dave often buys me a cup of tea and I sit there, weeding, in my own little world for an hour or two, I seem to lose all track of time, it’s lovely.

When the weather is bad, and I can’t make it to the plot, I keep myself content by watering and taking care of my plants at home that still need a bit of TLC. My pumpkins and courgettes will have to be planted out soon, they’re outgrowing every pot I put them in.

A few weeks ago, on the advice of a fellow plot holder, I transferred my spearmint from the ground into a pot, on the understanding that it would completely take over in a few weeks. I almost scoffed, I didn’t quite believe it would grow so quickly, I potted it anyway and have been watching it with interest. It’s huge! It’s growing at an alarming rate and has tripled in size in three weeks. I’m very grateful now that I moved it out of the ground. I’ve been having nightmares that my mint is reminiscent of the plants in The Day of the Triffids and any day now it will leave it’s pot, begin walking on it’s roots and try to take over the world!

This weather better clear up fast, being cooped up is clearly driving me insane.

Monster Mint

Keep Calm and Pot On

Fiona’s Blog  – http://fionagrowsfood.wordpress.com/

I’m sitting here, looking out at a very rainy day, the May bank holiday hasn’t been the warm, gardening filled weekend I hoped it would be. I’m starting to get quite frustrated with the weather the past few weeks, I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in far too long and the garden is starting to suffer for it. I wouldn’t mind the rain so much if the temperature was good but it’s far below average for this time of year and on Friday night, it got down to One degree. So much for summer!

To fill the gardening void in my weekend, I’ve been looking for other things to spend my time on. On Friday, I began sprouting some chickpeas, I love chickpeas and couldn’t resist trying this out. Chickpeas are basically dormant seeds, which when kept moist, begin to sprout. I simply dampened a few sheets of kitchen towel and placed  them on a seed tray and spread the chickpeas out on the wet towel. It reminded me of school, when we would grow cress and alfalfa sprouts on wet paper towels in the science lab. The chickpeas should sprout pretty quickly and I’m looking forward to trying them fresh as they are much nicer and contain higher nutrient content. Chickpeas are very low fat, high in fibre and vitamin C and are great for blood pressure, and of course, they’re very tasty. I’m going to make some  homemade hummus and falafel with them when they’re ready so keep an eye out for the recipe.

Borlotti Bean

I also had to spend an hour or two, potting on my chili and tomato plants which were fast outgrowing their small pots. I should really be moving my tomatoes outside by now but the weather is still a bit too nippy, I’m going to hold off for another week or two. Instead, I had to be content with potting them on and hoping I don’t somehow kill them in the process, I seem to have bad luck with the potting on process, especially with my tomatoes but thankfully I had no casualties. My borlotti beans are finally showing themselves, I think the cold weather had stunted their growth a bit, even though they were in the greenhouse, I’m going to waith until mid June to plant them on the plot just to be safe.

I visited the allotment breifly to plant my red cabbages and celery, I had to cover these up though as there was frost predicted. I used fleece to cover the cabbages and for my celery, I used old plastic bottles as cloches. I only had two of these to hand so I fashioned a homemade cloche from wire and plastic for the remainng plant, it looks a bit mad but it does the trick.

Homemade cloches

The one thing that seems to be thriving in the current weather is my early potatoes, I had to earth them up the other day as they were getting pretty large, I even noticed some flowers starting to form. Even if the bad wether ruins everything else, at least I’ll definitely have some spuds!

Dave earthing up the spuds

My strawberry plants took a beating during the week and are looking very bad indeed, however, I noticed some new rhubarb growth, looks like the wind didn’t kill it completely and it’s coming back which is a great sign. All in all, it’s been a quiet week on the plot, hopefully, next week we’ll be getting our shed, the poor car is covered in muck from hauling the tools back and forth, it’ll be nice to have a place to store them on the plot, and of course to hide from the rain showers.

Potting on

Red Cabbage

New Rhubarb growth

Malahide Gazette

http://issuu.com/robheigh/docs/malahide52?mode=embed&layout=http://skin.issuu.com/v/light/layout.xml&showFlipBtn=true

A good article about the allotments here, see page 3.  Thanks to the Malahide Gazette!

 

Snails Pace.

Fiona’s Blog  –  http://fionagrowsfood.wordpress.com/

Having an allotment is not just about growing vegetables and fruit. It is a place to go when you need a break, It is a haven from city life. It is a hobby like no other. It is a garden for those without.  It is a place to bring the kids at the weekend, or to sit down with a flask of tea and simply enjoy the view. Some people have them simply for one crop, some people only grow fruit, some people don’t grow food at all and just use their plots for growing flowers.

Myself, I’m growing whatever it is that takes my fancy, whether it be pumpkins, strawberries of some flowers for the bees. I’ve been reading about companion planting lately, a method of gardening where you plant different plants in close proximity which benefit each other, wether it be by pollination, pest control or nutrient uptake. I have planned out a four year crop rotation for my plot, and strict companion planting methods do not necessarily fit into my plan, however, I have planted a few things with other crops in mind. I am growing chives, which I will plant near my carrots as they help deter carrot root fly. I planted borage, beside my strawberries to help encourage pollination and repel pests. I have been growing some marigolds to attract the pesky slugs away from my brassicas, and attract the slugs they do! I started my marigolds about six weeks ago, in pots at home. They germinated well and I moved them out to the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago.

Nibbled Basil

Yesterday, I went to water my plants in the greenhouse, but when I opened it up, my marigolds had all but disappeared! Gone. Eaten. Savaged overnight. There was telltale signs of slugs trails on the soil. Exasperated, I took everything out of the greenhouse, but could not find the culprit. As I was disposing of my destroyed marigolds (sniff), Dave found a small snail on the side of one of the pots, little bugger. One tiny snail had destroyed all twelve of my marigold plants overnight, so much for moving at a snails pace! I suppose the marigolds did do their job of attracting him away from my other plants, my tiny lettuces were left alone, he did have a nibble of one of my basil plants though. I now have zero marigolds for my allotment. One can only laugh. We got rid of said snail, and dave made a few beer traps in the greenhouse for future slugs and snails to hopefully fall into.

Snails Dinner. This was the only one left standing.

Sunflower

The windowsills at home are becoming more and more green. The chilli and pepper plants are thriving and I will move them out to the greenhouse in a few weeks. My tomato plants succumbed to whatever illness it was that was killing them, I declared failure, swallowed my pride and bought myself some tomato plants in a garden centre. they’re a far cry form my measly efforts. A few weeks ago, I gave my dad some of my tomato seedlings and his are thriving! I obviously gave him the best ones (that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it). My courgettes germinated in a few days and are thriving so far, I was surprised to see how strong they are. Only half of my sunflowers took, but at least thats better than none and I also spotted a green shoot about to pop up in one of my pumpkin pots. No sign yet of my celery or borlotti beans but patience is the most important tool at my disposal and I need to learn to use it more!

Courgette

All in all, it’s been a quiet week, we’ve only been up to the plot once, for an hour the other day, we dug out another potato bed and we’ll plant our maincrop spuds this week. They’ve been chitting away since February and have lovely strong green shoots on them.

I took the time to go for a little walk around the site and it’s great to see some of the wonderful plots, It’s amazing just how much the place has changed since early March. Every plot has it’s own personality and you’d be amazed at how many ideas you’ll get and how many people you’ll get chatting to if you walk around. Gardeners seem to be the friendliest bunch, always happy to share some advice, or ask for some when it’s needed. It really is a great community. There was a gazebo on site the other day where they were selling  plug plants, they had a great selection, including some unusual varieties. There’s such a great set up on site, the allotment shop has a great selection of all things garden related and the best thing is, all the proceeds go to the Epilepsy Care Foundation so it’s worth buying on site. You can even buy your shed for a great price and they will install it for you. I’m a particular fan of the tea/coffee van that visits every weekend, and last weekend, I spotted an ice cream van on site with a queue of allotmenteers lining up like kids to get their 99’s. I think I’ll stick to my cups of tea for now though, there’s still quite a chill in the air.

Pumpkin

My pitiful tomato plant compared to the garden centre plant

Batten Down the Patches!

Fiona’s Blog  –  http://fionagrowsfood.wordpress.com/

Get your wellies ready and your raincoats out, we’re in for a rough ride, or so the weather forecast tells me. We’ve had some pretty heavy rain showers the past two days and it’s very blustery out there. We’re due some very strong winds tonight and tomorrow and there’s a gale warning in effect.

I’m quickly learning that a lot of my time gardening is spent putting preventative measures in place to protect my plants from extreme weather, slugs, pests and birds. The wind seems to be my greatest foe at the moment. My rhubarb has been all but destroyed by the strong gusts and my artichokes have some snapped stems too. I was trying to figure out a way to protect them from the strong northerly winds. I toyed with cloches, netting, fleece, with no joy, until Dave had the brilliant idea of making a barrier around that section of the plot by extending some windbreak netting out from the fence. We drove a stake into the ground as with the perimeter fencing and used wire and staples to attach the netting. Not only does it protect my fragile plants, it breaks the plot up and gives it a bit more structure. I extended the flower bed around it too. It looks much better than before and my rhubarb, artichokes and fruit bushes are now well protected.

Simple but effective wind barrier

Much improved, hopefully my rhubarb will be safer now

I also covered my strawberry plants up with some of the windbreak netting today to protect them from the wind tonight as they’re doing so well so far, I’m not sure if it will be of any use but it can’t do any harm and I’d be disappointed if the wind was to snap them. I have my peas and asparagus covered with some fleece too, just in case the temperatures drop again. It’s been all systems go in order to protect my plants from the gales.

If you’re reading this and you have one of those plastic greenhouses, on your plot or in your garden, I strongly suggest you tie it down, weigh it down or do whatever you can to secure it to the ground, I spotted one about to take flight this afternoon!

There’s been a growth spurt on my plot the past week. My early potatoes are growing very strong and very fast! My strawberries have a few white flowers in bloom. I noticed quite a few pea shoots the other day too, I had been concerned about these as there was quite a bit of frost last week and I feared it might have killed them, thankfully, covering them with horticultural  fleece seemed to have been a good idea and most of them have germinated. I also noticed a tiny asparagus spear poking it’s head above ground the other day, I nearly jumped for joy, I wasn’t entirely convinced these would grow so too see one was a nice surprise.

Pea shoot emerging

It’s not all good news though, my poor little tomato plants are suffering, from what I do not know. They are getting plenty of sunlight, I’ve been watering them regularly (but not too much of course) but somehow, the leaves are simply turning limp and dying. This has happened to three of my six plants now so I’m starting to think I’ve done something horribly wrong to them. I was concerned they had been overwatered but it doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s not much I can do really, I just hope they perk up a bit. At least the other three seem to be healthy.

It’s hard to believe how much the plot has changed since I first laid eyes on it a few weeks ago. It seems there’s always new plans afoot and I’m never short of something to do. I’ve set my sights on getting a shed sometime in the next few weeks. We began digging and leveling the area where it will go as I’d been neglecting that section of the plot. I also hope to put in a compost bin, water butt and a small seating area too. There’s a good bit of planting to do soon and It’s looking like it will be another busy few weeks on plot P26; once the bad weather passes, that is. Until then, I’ll be snuggling up with cups of tea and watching the rain from the comfort of the sofa.

Fiona, Malahide Allotments

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