Friday, May 6, 2011

No April showers, just a May monsoon!

If we're being honest, any period of more than three days in Ireland without rain probably counts as an unseasonal dry spell. April, by our reckoning, was probably as close to a drought as we'll ever get here in April. That said, it is a dangerous thing to pray for rain - after all, you might get what you wish for. Rain does tend to stay for rather a long time once it gets settled in in this part of the world, figuratively putting on its slippers, stealing the most comfortable seat in front of the telly and monopolising the remote control. Unfortunately it appears that someone around here might have prayed for rain. While the onions, strawberries and rhubarb seem quite happy with this state of affairs, so do the slugs and weeds which have suddenly appeared. Nevertheless, there isn't really much we can do about the weather except complain about it, which is exactly what we're doing. Fortunately, whatever the weather, there is plenty to keep us occupied.

Greenhouse legumes growing well
(although Tomatoes (top right) aren't looking too hot again!)
The bean and pea seedlings are all growing well in the greenhouse. The Broad Bean "Express Eleonora (in the middle) will be ready to go out soon, with the Runner Bean "White Lady" (left-hand side) probably not too far behind. After that, Broad Bean "Londonderry" (left side of the top shelf) will be next, then a race between Pea "Meteor" (bottom shelf) and Mangetout "Winterkefe" (on the right hand side). Together these should pretty much fill our pea and bean bed for the year, leaving space for some "Painter Lady" Runner Beans, to be sown later this month. All this means we need to start thinking about sowing some more stuff to fill up the remaining beds, including salads (which we've forgotten about due to the failure of our first crop - still coming to terms about that) - a good job for rainy weather.

Raspberries in a big drum
(one of two to sort!)
If we're blessed/cursed with dry weather, then something more outdoorsy will probably be on the cards. Cutting the grass and weeding are likely to be favourite here, but we also need to sort out a run if we're ever going to get any hens (although this could be done indoors). We also need to dig another veg bed (or two, or three...) and think about sowing part of "The Orchard" with some wildflower seeds.

We also have our eye on planting a raspberry hedge in "The Orchard" to screen off the septic tank thingy from the house. We were going to plant a foraging hedge, but we have a load of rasps that won't last too much longer in the big drums we chucked them into in...February? Oops!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Easter frenzy

Great weather and not too much else on over the long Easter weekend allowed us to make some real progress in the garden. To ensure our progress was coherent and effective, we consulted our "plan". One thing we had that needed to be planted (because we had dug up some plants from our old garden, and had them quietly dying in the cold frame) was Rhubarb. The plan indicated that the Rhubarb needed to be at the opposite end of the plot from where we had done any work so far. We carefully measured out the whole plot to ensure that we would get the Rhubarb plot in just the right place as shown in the plan, and realised two things. Firstly, the Rhubarb plot was a long way from where we were, and that if our measuring was only a little out, we might really balls up the whole plot layout. Secondly, the Rhubarb plot measures some 4' x 30'. Since it took us over a year to dig two beds totalling 4' x 24', we thought that this might be too much of a job for a weekend. The solution? To add in a row of four, 4' x 4' beds into the middle of the plot. Unbelievably, we managed to dig two of these over the weekend, and even manged to find some room in our trademark trapezoidal end beds for some Strawberries.
Asparagus (back) and Rhubarb (front) beds
(with strawberries in the bits at the side)
One interesting fact is that double digging one of the beds took about an hour-and-a-half; the carpentry for the frame about 30 minutes, and setting the frame in straight(ish) and level(ish) another hour. Three hours for a 4' x 4' bed. That should make the big 12' beds we have take about six hours (building and setting the frame should take about the same time whatever the size). Makes you wonder why they take six months...

Vegetable plot - April 2011
(badly planned to perfection)

The final bit of news is that we finally managed to get the Orchard rotovated (delayed not by us, but the builder that dug the bloody thing up at Christmas to put in the new septic tank, mutter, mutter). We're still waiting for someone to sow grass seed or (if we're really lucky) put down some turf. In the meantime, we have a plan to put a hedge down the middle of it to screen the tank off from the house. We'll probabaly need another long weekend to get that done - next easter perhaps...
The rotovated Orchard
(ready for grass, a hedge, then fruit trees?)