Saturday, June 29, 2013

Time for some harvesting.

To many people Mint is a pest and hard to control, we however have had trouble for years in growing this most useful herb, all our other herbs have always thrived, but not mint, however things have now changed. We bought a pot of mint in one of the garden centres a few months ago, we decided to plant it in a large container so it would not have to compete with anything, we used just our garden soil in which we have tried to grow it before, not really expecting it to take off but it has and has now totally  filled    the  container.
At last we have mint! As it is now so well established I have cropped it, minced it finely, and put it into ice cube trays for use during the winter for either mint sauce or better still, chocolate mint ice cream.
Oregano is another herb that we grow, this goes completely mad for us, so it also has been harvested and hung up to dry, ready for use during the winter, it is a herb that I use quite a lot of, so I can never grow too much of it.
It is now coming up to two years since we moved to this cottage, when we bought it we knew that we had some hard work ahead of us in the garden, if there had ever been a garden here it was many years ago and no evidence of it remained apart from some lovely old fashioned roses in the hedges. The  previous owners had extended the cottage and renovated it, but they only used it as a holiday home.
 There is about a quarter of an acre around the house that had been covered with stones, but no landscaping and no flowers.
 A flower garden to us is important, not only to look at but to provide food for bees and butterflies, but not bedding plants. I can never understand why people spend money year after year on plants which might give colour but last just a few months and are no use to wild life or to seed collect to grow in future years.
  The first thing was the veg garden which is now well under control providing us with just about all the veg that we need with some to spare, then came the planting of fruit trees and fruit bushes, we might see a few apples this year and plenty of blackcurrants, but pears and plums have so far failed to set fruit, maybe next year?
 The Rhubarb has done very well, giving me plenty to bottle and strawberries of course but we are still struggling to establish raspberries which is a little surprising as they grow wild in our hedgerows.
All of our beds have been started in the same way, a good layer of cardboard or paper sacks , then manure and the  soil piled on top. It's not completely a no dig system but near enough. The worms do a lot of the work for us.
We have built some raised beds for herbaceous plants using stone for the edges and these beds are now blooming well providing me with cut flowers for most of the year. Now we have turned our attention to the front of the cottage which is our most visual part of the garden from inside the house.
 Who wants to look out at stones covered with struggling weeds, by weeds I mean things like Mares Tail ( although it does have some beneficial uses, it's a menace!) Dock, very long tap roots and not much use for anything, and Ragwort, although it is host for the Cinnabar  moth we have never seen them in this part of Ireland.
We have now found a source of used scaffolding boards, these are cheap, just three euros for eight feet lengths, probably due to the downturn in the building industry, treated with a dark wood preservative this is what we are using to form our new herbaceous bed.
The larger stones have been removed, the small ones stay, the ground is then covered with a good thickness of paper feed sacks and cardboard,
a good helping of donkey manure and then covered with soil and peat which was dug out when we built the new barn. All that remains is to plant with shrubs,  perennial flowers and spring bulbs, we will then have completed our garden, that will be tomorrow .
Todays work has been overseen by Susie, one of our lovely cats, he likes make sure we are not  disturbing the pygmy shrews which are using the scaffolding boards as a sanctuary from him. This lovely boy was the first to befriend Sparky, unfortunately the novelty has worn off, Susie does not like being  bitten or jumped on, Sparky has to learn that to gain  friends and influence people you have to play nicely.

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