Archive for March, 2012

March 30, 2012

Cashel House Hotel, Connemara, Co. Galway

by Ciaran Burke
CAMELLIA 'BRUSHFIELD'S YELLOW'

CAMELLIA 'BRUSHFIELD'S YELLOW'

As we drove along the coast road that hugs every curve of the ocean carved land, the sun broke through the cloud and the illuminated waves welcomed us. We had arrived in Cashel, a scenic bay on the Atlantic coast where the sun always seems to shine when we arrive at Cashel House Hotel and Gardens to give a gardening course.

ANEMONE NEMOROSA

ANEMONE NEMOROSA

After checking in and a quick and cheerful chat with Ray the manager, Hanna and I took a walk around part of the mature gardens of the hotel. The mild spring is fooling the plants and tricking our minds, it could be May, but there are no leaves on many trees, Kerria japonica ‘Flore Plena’ is flowering like mad, so it must be March, but the bluebells are flowering, nothing is making sense. Perhaps it is best to just admire the beauty, whether it is the wood anemones in the shade, the masses of green leaves waving in the sunlight; a sea of montbretia under the trees, twisting and turning the sunlight or the colourful rhododendrons or azalea mingling with Mexican orange blossom, Choisya ternata, there are beautiful plants everywhere.

CROCOSMIA IN SECRET GARDEN

CROCOSMIA IN SECRET GARDEN

After our walk amongst the flora, it was time to meet our gardeners and go for dinner in the dining room where five courses of delicious Cashel House cuisine awaited. The sea air gives one a good appetite!

CHOISYA TERNATA AND JAPANESE AZALEA

CHOISYA TERNATA AND JAPANESE AZALEA

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JOIN US FOR OUR NEXT GARDENING COURSE AT CASHEL HOUSE HOTEL IN CONNEMARA, GALWAY, IRELAND

http://cashel-house-hotel.com/docs/gardens-connemara-ireland/gardening-courses/

March 26, 2012

Planting Potatoes in Plastic Bags

by Ciaran Burke

Harvesting New Potatoes

Early potato tubers are usually chitted before being planted outside. This involves placing the tubers in a well lit, frost free place. The shoots develop from the eyes of the tuber and will then be planted outside when the soil has warmed to 6° Celcius.

Early varieties take between 75 – 90 days to mature. Harvesting can start in early summer. Irish people use St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, as the date by which you must have the early potatoes planted.

Not everyone has space for planting potatoes, in fact not everyone has a garden. However, just about everyone can enjoy harvesting a few of their home grown potatoes in summer using old plastic compost bags for planting. To obtain an earlier crop, tubers can be planted in a tunnel or glasshouse. Tubs or barrels can also be used. I decided to re-use a couple of old plastic compost bags. Here is what I did:

Step 1: I turned the bags inside out to reveal their dark side which attracts more heat, and looks nicer. I rolled down the bag so as to allow light for the shoots when they grow. Into the base of the bags I made a number of slits to allow drainage.

PLANTING POTATOES IN BAGS- 10 CM LAYER OF COMPOST IN BAGS

PLANTING POTATOES IN BAGS- 10 CM LAYER OF COMPOST IN BAGS

Step 2: From our compost heap I got a wheel barrow of lovely dark compost.  A 10cm (4 inches) layer was shoveled into the bags and then firmed with my hands.

PLANTING POTATOES IN BAGS- COVERING TUBERS

PLANTING POTATOES IN BAGS- COVERING TUBERS

Step 3: The tubers I placed on the compost and then covered with a further 10cm (4 inches) of the good stuff, and firmed. Then the compost was watered.

PLANTING POTATOES IN BAGS- TUBERS PLACED ON COMPOST

PLANTING POTATOES IN BAGS- TUBERS PLACED ON COMPOST

Aftercare: When the stems grow to 15cm (6inches), more compost will be added, to a depth of 10cm (4 inches). As the plants grow the sides of the bags are unrolled to allow for greater depth. I will continue to add more compost as the stems grow until it is 5cm (2 inches) below the top of the bag. The potatoes will need to be well watered. They need a weekly feed of liquid seaweed fertilizer to promote growth. When the plants start to flower the crop will be ready to harvest.  As a true Irish man I can’t wait to cook the first potatoes; steamed and then eaten with melted butter and some chopped chives from the garden, yum!

  • There is nothing quite like your own compost from the garden when growing vegetables. Learn about making compost on my other blog Ciaran’s Gardening Blog and download an information sheet on Home Garden Composting.
  • Listen to a podcast of “In The Garden with Ciaran Burke” – Episode 13
  • WATCH THE YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE NEW GROWTH PROJECT HORTICULTURE COURSE. This is a free training course that we are running in our own garden in Co. Mayo, Ireland. For more info: THE GARDEN SCHOOL Each week we make a video of what the students are doing on the course.

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March 13, 2012

The New Growth Project – First week Video

by Ciaran Burke
New Growths Potting

New Growths busy potting

Last tuesday we had the first class of The New Growth project. Click on the link below to see how our students got on on the first days.

March 11, 2012

Gaultheria berries, some are good to eat

by Ciaran Burke
Gaultheria berries with yogurt

Gaultheria berries with yogurt

Some G. mucronata berries are quite tasty with some home made yogurt and brown sugar! Or enjoy them as a nice treat when in the garden. It is great to be able to pick a handful of berries and munch them while taking a break from weeding in the garden.

The small, narrow, dark evergreen foliage is densely packed along the stems, each little leaf ending with a short spine.  Masses of small white nodding flowers are produced in May, creating a cloud of soft white over the branches. In winter plump berries replace flowers, decorating pots and borders.

The berries remain on the plant for such a long time, already on show in September they will be looking good right through winter until late spring. Like marbles, they clutter the stems, the colour range from white to mulberry-purple. Named cultivars are sometimes offered for sale but more usually they are just sold incorrectly labelled as pernettya.

Gaultheria mucronata -red

The flowers of P. mucronata are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on different plants. This is important to know if you expect to have berries on your plants.

One male plant should be sufficient for a group of  about 8 female plants. A low growing male cultivar called ‘Thymifolia’ is a good choice as a pollinator especially where a neater growth habit is favoured. There is a hermaphrodite plant which produces bright carmine-red berries called ‘Bell’s Seedling’ which is an Irish cultivar. One solitary plant can produce berries without the need for the company of a pollinator.

The edibility of Gaultheria mucronata berries is a subject clouded in confusion, with some texts stating that all members of the genus have poisonous berries.  I have eaten them, enjoyed them, and survived!

It is known that South American natives have valued the berries for their taste and health benefits.  The texture of the flesh is somewhat watery and the skin dryish, but it is not unpleasant at all. Recently I was tasting some of the berries in our garden, a friend was with me and we noticed that berries from one bush in particular had a far stronger and better taste than the others, while another had no taste at all. Selection of individuals for their flavour is something that could be worked on. What is quite amazing is how long the fruits stay and remain good quality onthe plants, from autumn until now in March.

Gaultheria mucronata - deep pink

Gaultheria mucronata - deep pink

Let the fruit ripen well so that the flesh is soft when gently squeezed. Be careful though, plants offered for sale are usually grown as ornamentals and not grown as fruit plants. Due to this fact there may be insecticides incorporated with the compost. Whether or not the plants have been treated with pesticides should be confirmed first before tasting the berries.

G. mucronata which hails from Chile and Argentina, was relatively unknown to gardeners from its introduction in the 1830s until plants raised by the Co. Down nurseryman T.Davis of Hillsborough were exhibited in London in 1882 and attracted attention. He showed plants which he had raised and selected over the previous 30 years. Sadly most of these cultivars are probably lost to gardeners of today but there are many others to choose from. They require acid soil, they are ideal for ground cover or can make attractive outdoor pot plants.

This text is an extract from an article (edible ornamental berries)  in the current issue of Organic Matters, the magazine of IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association) available in news agents countrywide.

Gaultheria mucronata -white

March 10, 2012

“In The Garden With Ciaran Burke” weekly radio feature in CRC FM

by Ciaran Burke

 

Ciaran Burke in the CRC FM Studio

Each week I join Johnny Oosten on CRC Fm in Castlebar Co. Mayo to chat about gardening, plants and growing your own food. This week we were talking about gorse bushes, Ulex europeaus, flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum and growing peaches. I also did a quick demonstration for Johnny of making a pot from a sheet of neswpaper. You can listen live each week at about 12.05pm on Fridays online at CRCFM

listen to the podcast by clicking the link below:

In the Garden With Ciaran Burke No.11

Information about growing peaches on The Garden School Website

More about gorse and flowering currants on my other BLOG

Peach Blossom

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