This is the journal of my endeavours to grow a range of fruit, veg and flowers from seed, grow organically, and my attempts to create a personal paradise with 1/2 acre of maintained gardens and 1/2 acre wild meadows. Northern Ireland's average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. Soil type: Clay

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Rhubarb Ready

With recent blog posts about rhubarb I thought I'd have a look to see what stage mine's at. The giant leaves seem to hide what is happening underneath so it's easy to walk past it (plus it's in a side garden where I don't spend much time). When I went to inspect I had to get down low and only then did I realise some of the stalks look ready to harvest. One of my favourite ways of eating rhubarb is stewing it with a little sugar and eating it warm over ice cream (yum!). Next weekend I'll aim to make rhubarb crumble.

I inherited this rhubarb quite a number of years ago - a little clump given to me. At that time I hadn't much (if any) experience of growing fruit or veg and I didn't really know what to do with it so I popped it into a piece of ground and went along my way. Every year it comes up happily and gets bigger and bigger; I notice it badly needs divided. It's located in an East facing shady area of the garden and seems quite happy.

Bulb Update....
Above and Below: An old chimney pot came with the house when purchased. I've popped in bulbs here and again, of course, forgetting what I planted. In early April I had Crocus flowering (pictured above); now in late April Muscari is flowering.
Some things in the garden just seem to evolve...
Above: I find it interesting that every year
 Muscari grows up between the tiny cracks in the paving stones all around the house. This has been going on for over ten years and, of course, the bulbs seem to be multiplying each year. No idea where the bulbs originated from, but they seem to like this growing position.

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

New Garden Adventure

Above: we begin to draft ideas for a bedding scheme.
A great opportunity! I've recently joined a newly established garden club and we'll be designing (and maintaining) a substantial sized area in the Antrim Castle Gardens estate, which is located north of Belfast in beautiful surroundings. We're a group of 15 individuals who have come together randomly (i.e. from an open call for interested parties). We all have an interest in gardening, and we're  from diverse backgrounds, age and skill level. Our group has two main tasks: (1) design and maintain several bedding areas and (2) design and maintain a vegetable plot.
Above: This is a photo of the garden / buildings plan for the area  The boxes outlined in red above are some of the areas our garden group will be responsible for. In addition, we have several areas for growing vegetables. This is a brand new voluntary garden project with the wider aim of involving and engaging the local community. (The area is owned by the local Council / government). This project will be a big learning experience. Already I have gained skills in how to measure an area and draw it out to scale. We also have access to an expert who gives us guidance (on a temporary basis) on garden design and horticulture.
Above Right: The empty beds to the right are two of the areas we will be designing, planting up and maintaining. These areas are a main public throughway to the park and grounds so the goal is to make them pleasing in terms of colour, deign and interest. We'll be planting these with a range of flowers (the Council pays for the plants). I had hoped we could mix flowers and vegetables but this is the first year of the project and it was felt this idea was a bit ambitious. However, we have a designated area for growing veggies as well.
Above: The greenhouse above is for our volunteer garden group to use. You may also notice  an empty bed above which is another of our group's areas to maintain. The box hedging is the responsibility of the council.

I'm quite excited about being involved in this project so I thought I'd share it with you. As things develop, I will share more details. Our group will definitely be busy over the coming months! Click here if you want to know more about Antrim Castle Gardens.

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Why I Garden...

This is a post about why I garden...

I’m not sure how my interest in gardening started, but I recall as a child going to my grandparent’s house and being fascinated by their vegetable plot. I would help dig up potatoes, and was bemused by a rubber snake they kept in their fruit bushes to deter birds. But best of all was going on slug safari at night to capture slimy plant crunching creatures. I also loved my grandmother’s excellent home cooking and in particular eating her home grown green beans and potatoes.

Snapdragon grown from seed.
Later, as an adult, I loved two things: being outdoors and being creative, so my interest in gardening began to sprout. Like many people I began with trips to the garden centre, buying plants on offer, and randomly planting them around the garden. But this didn’t seem very creative, so I began to cut trees and hedges into shapes (topiary). 

I love colour in the garden so I decided it was a good idea to grow flowers from seed. I loved seeing seeds go from tiny little green threads to eventually flowering. It’s so easy to grow sunflowers, nasturtium, marigold, poppy and a range of other plants.

Veg grown in containers.
Then I decided I should grow things to eat so I researched the easiest vegetables to grow and began with potatoes, carrots, courgette, salads, and herbs. Before I knew it I was digging up half the garden, sections at a time, for flower and vegetable growing. Next I began mixing veg and flowers together in borders, and growing vegetables in containers at the back door - simpler than popping out to the grocery store!

The biggest challenge in doing anything outdoors in Northern Ireland is the weather – particularly the rain and wind! I have successes and failures but it’s all enjoyable. Last year in particular there were hundreds if not thousands of slugs and snails in the garden that caused havoc. They can quickly devour plants as a simple midnight snack. Growing organically, I generally revert to catching and disposing of them, or using beer traps.

For me, the outdoors provides a sort of open canvas to experiment with colour, shape and texture as I grow plants ranging from edibles to those that attract bees, birds and insects. Getting outdoors and getting my hands dirty is something I really enjoy. I find myself outside in the evenings inspecting progress, rearranging plants, deadheading (pulling off old flowers), weeding, slug hunting and just sipping a cup of tea while birds flutter and the bees buzz - a perfect way to de-stress and enjoy nature. And what great satisfaction it is to harvest edibles like courgette, tomato, turnip and your own summer salad. Over the years my grocery bill has been reduced from home growing. Things like kale, chard and leek are so easy to grow and packed with nutrients.

Lupin grown from seed.
When friends and family come to the garden, I hear comments like, ‘Wow look at the colour in the garden’ (referring to the giant purple lupin) or on the flipside, ‘Why would you want to grow things, isn’t it too much work?’ Many people think of gardening as a chore. Whereas I think of it as a fantastic way to keep fit, utilise my creative energy, and get a result I can see and enjoy. Maintaining a garden is like having your own little paradise right on your doorstep (and enjoying the fruits of your labour!). 

As a way to get to know other people with an interest in gardening I began blogging. Blogging is also a good way to keep a diary of my gardening efforts and progress. It has been a great way to share learning and make new contacts, and through blogging I’ve now a circle of enthusiasts from England, Scotland, Ireland, USA and further afield who are always on hand to provide support and advice. Cheers to fellow bloggers who provide encouraging comments on my blog – very much appreciated!

(This post is part of a competition entry, with the prize being provided by SelectFurnishings

You can enter too at Green Lane Allotments. Good luck!)

 Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Starting to Sow

It's seed sowing time! With the snow several weeks ago and colder weather in March I put off sowing seed, however, at the weekend I made a start with the items pictured left. No flowers sown as of yet, but they're next on the list.

I realise many gardeners have been sowing seed from February but I prefer to wait until March or April. One reason for waiting is I don't like to clutter the house for months on end with various containers of compost sitting around everywhere. Then there's the process of hardening off the plants I've grown; for the area I live this is best done at the end of May. To harden off plants it means I put the plants outside during the day and bring them inside at night (for at least a week) - quite a chore to be done every morning before work. However, this year I splashed out and bought a tiny outdoor greenhouse (pictured below). 
Above: This year I'm having a go at sowing onion. I've no experience of growing onion or shallot so having seen a post by Sue at Green lane Allotments I realised my first mistake was covering the whole bulb with soil - pictured on the bottom rack of the frame below. I will have to look into how to sow onion. All I know is that the gardening books categorise onion as 'easy for beginners' (which is what I'm hoping for). 
My new, snazzy 3-shelf green house with plastic cover, bought for the bumper price of £14.99. (Then I saw something similar for £11.99 at Poundland. And £24.98 at BnQ). I'm hoping to have success sowing seed here rather than cluttering up the inside of the house. I just love growing from seed... so I may clutter up the house as well!

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Finally Some Daffodils

Is it just my daffodils, or are they really late this year??

Last year I was photographing daffodils at the end of February (fully open flowers). This year it's April and many of the flowers aren't open yet (as the ones show below).

The windy conditions over the past week have been fierce and of course the daffodils get blown over. Some of my rose bush branches snapped as well.

Come rain, snow or gales - all I can do is keep calm and carry on!

It's the 15th of the month and this means it's Bloggers' Bloom Day!
Blogger's Bloom Day is hosted by May Dream Gardens and bloggers share their blooms from across the globe.

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Dogwood Trim

It's time to cut back the dogwood. Everyone from Monty on the popular UK Gardener's World to Mark's Veg Plot has been trimming back the dogwood.

The red stems of the dogwood shrub are really what makes it an attractive plant. It seems to be that the cutting back of the stems is what creates the vibrant red colour, which stays red and fiery over Winter. 

But... unfortunately the red stems have to go ( I never look forward to the dogwood chop).

Secateurs in hand I chop and chop, and get the end result below. Looks like a bad haircut  but it won't be long until the shrub puts on growth again and is full of leaves. A rather 'normal' shrub over Summer, in Autumn its green leaves will turn red, drop and show the red stems again. 

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Leek, Carrot, Rhubarb, Celery

At the weekend I harvested some leek and found some carrots hiding amongst some plants. They went into a chicken curry casserole. The leeks have been in the ground for about a year and they were quite small but still tasty. None of the leeks have started flowering so I'm still harvesting.

Variety: Leek 'Musselburgh', Carters Tested Seeds, Sown indoor 8 April 2012; planted outside June.

Variety: Carrot 'Early Nantes 2' Thompson Morgan seeds. Date sown unknown.

The Rhubarb race is on! (the clump badly needs divided!)
Above: A veg box cleared and then covered to warm up the soil. On the far right side I've  left celery in the soil. I removed some celery and it was really well rooted. I read somewhere it will act as a perennial - does anyone know if this is true?
 Variety: Celery, Plant Hart's Seeds, US. Sown indoor 8 April 2012/planted outside June.

The weather has been better for gardening / sunshine is welcome.

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Spring has hopefully arrived

Spring seems to have arrived... 

The weather over the past two weeks went from very cold, to snow, to very chilly and windy, to sunny gorgeous days over the Easter weekend. The last few days have been sunny and beautiful (even if there's still snow lying on much of the higher ground). Today over lunch, I followed a bee around taking photos - it was quite an accommodating bee and didn't mind me being about an inch or two away from it with my camera watching its every move.

This bee enjoys flowers from the conservatory - windows open, bees in and happy.

Whereas last week snow was lying and showing little signs of melting. The snow arrived on 23 and 24 March and is still lying in some places. However, it does look beautiful and is much away now. Finally, jobs in the garden can be seen to!

Copyright: All words and photos are property of Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden.