Winter in the West

Without doubt it is winter in West Cork. There is a cold wind blowing and reports of snow and ice. Living so close to the sea we haven’t had a frost here yet but I’m sure we will soon enough. You might think that there wouldn’t be much to do in and around the garden but with having so little time to spend outside with all my college studies, I am just able to snatch a few moments here and there when I can, the jobs are piling up.

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Its three weeks since my last blog post and as few of you were wondering where I had been. The answer to that is nowhere really just getting up at 5am, taking the kids to school and on to college. It is dark when I leave and dark when I get home. I have taken to using a headlight when visiting the polytunnels in order to keep everything growing.

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Goleen Community Tunnels

I have been supplying the local social centre with mixed leaf salad which has been growing well and the spinach and Swiss chard have also been well received by the retirees. The winter cabbage is beginning to heart up and the turnips are swelling so it all looks pretty good.

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Mixed Oriental Salad

I was given a couple of Komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach) plants from a batch we are growing in college. The plants at the college are getting hammered by flea bettle but thankfully I don’t have that probelm and they are thriving in the tunnel conditions.

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Komatsuma

I have a load of small cuttings including some Crysthanamums which might be a bit tender against the cold, so I went to see my friend Clayton at the fish shop and I am now the proud owner of two large polystyrene fish boxes, so hopefully I can keep them nice and snug during this cold spell.

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Experimenting using old coffee cups

I have been planting willows around the place hopefully they will act as a wind break but I am also hoping to have some willows for weaving in a couple of years and if I can get my act together I am hoping to lay a “fedge,” half hedge and half woven fence.

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The veg plot has really come on and I am just waiting for the rest of the kale, carrots and parsnip to finish off and now we have a bit of cold weather the parsnips will be worth harvesting as they taste so much better after sitting out in the cold for awhile.

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With no light outside I have been spending my evenings with my embroidery, I have at least 5 different projects on the go at the moment and I should just concentrate on getting one finished but I have never found it easy to just work on the same one all the time, I do hope to get at least one done before Christmas and maybe it will end up as a present if I do.

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An ex-cinamon bun

As it is winter Kate is less busy at the café these days and she has the time to experiment with her baking, this is a time that the whole family enjoys and we have been treated to the most amazing selection of stuff, pesto rolls and recently the yummiest cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted, I would like to include a photo at this point but they are never around long enough to get one!

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We have a great selection of pickles, jams and alcoholic beverages stored up for Christmas this year I am really looking forward to opening up some of the treats, I had a little taster of out Quince Vodka, just to check it was doing ok and ooh la la! It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.

We have been working hard at college learning loads of stuff. I have made significant progress with my soil analysis of my vegetable patch.

My results so far are: pH 6.3, Moisture Content 33%, Organic Content 50%, Clay Content 63%, Sand Content 14% and Silt Content 24%. We still have to analyse mineral content and cation exchange. The Clay content is a bit high and Sand a bit low but the soil samples I have used are ones I took before I started adding sand.

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Airlayering

We have also been learning various propagation techniques and this week we covered Layering, Air Layering, Stool Layering and Hedge Laying. I have often used simple layering but have not done either Stool or Air layering but it looks pretty easy.

 

Here is an excerpt from this week’s notes:

Air Layering of Hawthorn

A branch was selected and smaller branches surrounding the chosen area were cleared. A willow branch was cut to be used as a supporting post. The selected branch was wounded a hole was made in two plastic bags and the branch was covered using the bags which were filled with compost and fastened to the branch and supported by the willow branch.

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Stool Layering of Apple root stock

An apple root stock was selected which had under gone a first stage of stool layering. The bottom of a flower pot was removed and placed over a number of branches that had formed from a previous stool stage. The pot was then filled with compost.

A second suitable root stock was selected and cut. A second flower pot with its bottom removed was placed over the top of the stem and filled with compost in order to encourage growth of branches.

For those of you who have followed by Blog for awhile I have an update on my Heliotrope plants (Heliotropium arborescens) described as “easy to grow” by a number of websites. After a couple years without success this year I used stratification in the fridge and then the germination using a heat mat I was delighted when I had these small seedlings appearing. For some reason they then seemed to decide to take a break from growing and stayed as small seedling for around 2 months.

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I tried various things putting some outside in the ground, a few in pots on the window sill and a couple under glass but they just sat there doing very little. I took a few down the polytunnel at the end of August as I was doubtful whether they would do anything. I saw very little difference but in mid September a couple of them that had been planted into the ground started to grow and now nearing the end of November I have a couple who have decided to flower! I am hoping to grow these plants into bushes that I can use to take cuttings to propagate more plants. I have no idea why this little plant has given me so much trouble or why is has proved to be so contrary but I am hoping to have a least one whiff of Cherry Pie before Christmas.

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