Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Garden: 20th May 2015

My pet rabbit is still wild in the garden until we finish making her run. 

She is decimating everything, even the plants she doesn't eat - she likes to lie across my lavender. My vegetable garden is so sparse compared to recent years. The only upside is that it is changing my focus from the usual vegetables to other plants such as fruit trees and container grown flowers and veg.

Aren't these lupin seedlings so pretty?

Here is the only Scented Nightstick that survived but I have some planted in a border, although I'm not sure of they are coming up.
I really hope they do because they are just outside the backdoor and I am really looking forward to sitting outside after the sun goes down and enjoying that gorgeous smell they release at night.

Pods are emerging on my lonely broad bean plant. I had very poor germination rates this year but my seeds are a few years old:

I planted a Conference pear tree in November to act as pollinator to my Williams tree that I planted (I think) four years ago. It has done it's job because judging from these swollen flowers we might have our first pears this year!

This is the Conference:

And the Williams:

My comfrey has started flowering and this will bring many bees to the garden:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Back On Two Wheels (with a companion)

Until my pregnancy, I had been driving motorbikes for five years. I started off on a Suzuki Marauder 125:

After six months I upgraded to a 2000 Honda Rebel 250, which I drove to France alone thus spending one of the best weeks of my life. I loved this bike so much.

But I was doing to much road for a 250 engine and with a trip from Ireland - UK - France - Belgium- Holland planned, I had to size up. So I sold the Rebel and welcomed a 1992 Suzuki Katana 400 into my life. Big, beefy and beautiful.

I still have the Katana but I haven't been back on the her since bambino came along. It needs a good overhaul after being parked up for two years and I just don't want the responsibility, or cost, of it right now. But I was yearning for a bit of a thrill so when I saw a cheap second hand bicycle for sale locally I went for it.

It's a Triumph, from the 70s I believe.

I've worn him strapped to my back and now strapped to the back of my bicycle!

Today was our maiden voyage - to the library, playground and back home! Carrigaline is well equipped with cycle paths so I worked out the safest route with the least severe incline. We had a blast and I'm fitter than I thought. I really didn't think I'd make the hill back but just as my stamina was running out, we had reached level ground again. I can't wait to get back out!

Monday, May 4, 2015

My Garden: 14th April 2015

If you look at the back of your seed packets you'll find that March planting is suggested for most spring sown vegetables. Except for a few hardy plants (peas and beans) and those who have to get a headstart indoors (tomatoes and peppers), I've given up on March planting. I now prefer to wait until April, when it has warmed up, and put my seedlings outdoors. I find it a delicate operation keeping young seedlings adequately watered without drowning or droughting (did I make that word up?) them, and having them outdoors is a much more natural environment that, unless the weather is extreme, has a good balance of rain and sun. Of course you must keep an eye on the weather because frost can still strike, and put the seedlings under cover on a particularly cold night.

Some lonely looking coriander and dill seedlings:

I've used the shelves from a redundant cheap greenhouse as support for my broad beans but burying them in the ground. You can see my brussels sprouts in the background:

Here are some plants, two of which I raised from my own seed saved from last years crop. A few days later they were eaten by my pet rabbit! I covered them with net and they are sprouting again.

My lavender is beginning to form flowers. I bought it as a plant from a garden centre last summer so this year will be a real test of the quality of the blooms. I've given it some comfrey feed. Lavender loves full sun and this plant gets the morning sun, up until around 2pm so I hope it is enough. I must look into dividing the plant so I can relocate some of it to the opposite wall, which gets the afternoon sun. It will be interesting to see the difference. Listening to an episode of Gardener's Question Time (BBC 4 Radio) I hear one of the panel members suggesting that I snip off the early flower buds as it will lead to twice as many blooms.

Below are a selection of cuttings given to me by my kind auntie. There are a selection of heathers with, what I think is, Elaeagnus Gilt Edge is in the back. I am keeping them watered in the greenhouse until I decide what to do with them.

My comfrey plant which dies back to nothing every winter has bounded back. I must start pulling leaves off and making some homemade fertiliser. I will also add some to the compost bin as it speeds up the decomposition process. 

These are two pear trees. The one in the foreground is a Williams which I planted as a year old tree about three or four years ago. It needed a pollinator and I didn't get around to getting it a mate until last winter, namely the Conference in the back ground. The older tree has gotten unkempt so I must prune it. I've been reading up on summer and winter pruning. I think I will do nothing until next winter, incase I affect my chances of getting any fruit this year. I have really ignored the possibilities of growing fruit in my garden and it is time to set that right.

A few pak choi seedlings:

My father has kindly built me this clever bench using only few pieces of wood. It is supposed to be for my plant pots but it may become a reading seat as it is positioned perfectly to receive that rich evening sunshine:

Purple sprouting broccoli is still going strong. I have started blanching and freezing it into bags as the temperatures are rising and it will go to seed soon:

And thus concludes the highlights of my garden as it stands!

Monday, April 20, 2015


I'm not at home and I have just realised that I left some jalapeno pepper and Moneymaker tomato seedlings outside all night. I only took them outside because I was moving stronger tomato seedlings from the same tray into larger pots - which I thankfully moved back inside. They were only innocent bystanders! They are on the top shelf of a small plastic greenhouse, against a fence, with the door open. Ahhhh. They have some shelter from a nearby shed. Yesterday was much colder than it has been recently. Oh please don't have perished!

The only thing comforting me right now is that I have just listened to an episode of Gardener's Question Time where Geoff Jenkins, former head of climate change at The Met Office, gives feedback from his studies in his own back garden showing an increase of a few degrees between conditions on the ground, and a few feet above the ground, the latter being warmer.

It will be a long six hours before I get back home!



I got home, incoherently grunted at my family and rushed out to the back garden with a manic urgency. Quickly, I realised that I had left the seedlings on the bottom, ground level shelf. Ahhh less degrees! Well my moneymaker seedlings were fine but three of my precious four jalapeno pepper seedlings were missing their tops. Rabbit! Or maybe it was slugs. I'll never know. Now I have one miracle seedling left that I must guard with my life.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Medicinal Plants to Grow at Home

As young children myself and my sister spent hours playing, what we called, Mucky Crumby. This was basically collecting muck, flowers, leaves, stones and other garden debris and making into little meals and mixtures. Somewhere buried in the backgarden of the house we moved from when I was six is a lucozade bottle filled with water and mashed up sloes in my attempt to make a some sort of an elixir.

This delight in making potions and lotions never left me and it really pleases me to add medicinal plants to my collection. Here are some plants I am growing at home that can be used as natural cures for an array of complaints.

1. Plants To Reduce Stress


Possibly one of the most recognised floral scents, lavender is synonymous with encouraging better sleep. It produces calming, sedative effects when inhaled.

The lavender plant is quite hardy and will withstand dry conditions but a good watering before the flowering season will promote healthy blooms. It spreads, so don't restrict it too much. Place it in a sunny spot as it will not thrive without 6-8 hours of sunshine a day.

Harvest the flowers just before they come into bloom (late June-July) and to maximise the scent, collect in the very early morning. Cut the flowers at the base of the stem and tie into bunches. To retain as much colour as possible, hang in a dark place that is dry, with low humidity. A garage or shed would be ideal. You want to dry them gently. Keep space between the bunches so the air can circulate. The process can take up to a month. You can dry them quickly in the sun, but the purple colour will fade.

To lift your mood, try a homemade lavender tea. Place 1 tsp of dried lavender leaves in a cup and cover with freshly boiled water.  Leave to steep for three minutes and drain before drinking. It can be sweetened with honey.

2. Plants for Cuts, Grazes and Minor Burns

Aloe Vera

Aloe can be grown easily as a house plant. It is a succulent plant, which retains water in its leaves, so it doesn't need too much watering, particularly in winter. It likes a warm, bright location but not totally direct sunshine.

If you break the tip of a leaf off, you will be able to squeeze out the thick green gel from inside the plant. Apply the cool gel directly to a minor burn or graze. Equally you can use like a compress by slitting the leaf down the rib, open it out like a book and apply it, gel side down, straight onto the burn.

I recently used aloe vera on a graze on my toddler's head, and it was gone the next day. Maybe it was his small-child powers of healing the countless bumps he gets but I like to think my efforts helped.


Onions contain sulphur and quercetin (an anti-oxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties) which help sooth the pain and heal the burn. To help prevent a blister forming, finely dice a raw onion and apply to the burn, wrapping in a bandage to secure.

Sore Throats and Colds


Another use for onion is to help sooth an irritated throat. You can make a simple cough syrup using raw onion and honey. Make in small batches as it only lasts a few days. Simply add half a chopped raw onion to a clean jar, add enough honey to cover the onion and store in the fridge. Eat a two spoonfuls every few hours.


The pungent aroma alone is a great decongestant when you are suffering with a head cold and garlic is also reported to have anti-viral and antibiotic powers. If you are partial to garlic, try eating a whole raw clove a few times a day until the cold passes. A gentler way of ingesting might be to mince the clove and spread on buttered toast, creating a simple garlic bread.


Raw potato

I can attest to this one too. Chew a small cube of raw potato to fight indigestion. Not the nicest texture to invite into your mouth but it does the job, quickly.

So there you have it, a few simple remedies for common complaints.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Perfect Pancakes Every Time

This pancake recipe is perfect for two reasons - firstly, it produces flawless, thick pancakes and secondly, it requires only half assed measuring. These pancakes can be used in savoury as well as sweet dishes. It is very satisfying to make something out of three simple ingredients.

Ingredients makes 3 pancakes

1 cup of plain white flour
1 cup of milk
1 egg

Oil for frying


Carefully mix the ingredients together with a whisk until nicely combined. If some tiny flour lumps remain, don't despair. They will cook away, and won't leave nasty little lumps in the pancake.

Heat the oil in your best frying pan until it is hot and runs freely when you move the pan.

Pour the excess hot oil from the pan into a cup and put to one side

With the pan at a medium heat, pour in 1/3 of the mixture. When small bubbles start to appear in the upside, use a fish slice to loosen around the edge of the pancake. If it looks nicely browned on the underside, scoop it up and turn over. You can probably flip it, but I use too heavy a pan. Cook until the other side is browned.

Before you add more batter to the pan, pour back in some of the excess oil from the cup and allow to heat back up for a minute.

Tip: for a sweet pancake, add 1tsp of vanilla essence to the batter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

First Ladybird of 2015

I couldn't get a better photograph without disturbing it, but here is my first sighting of a ladybird this year, nestled in my purple sprouting broccoli, hopefully feasting on any pests that the plant might be harbouring. It really seems apt to see this spotted beetle on the sunniest day of the year so far.