Gunge

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There’s been a bit of a knock on effect after setting up the shed, sorry, cabin. I’m not talking about the culmination of youth sitting on the veranda playing music on their iphones, it’s more about the thick gungy algae that’s taking over the lawn.  Setting up the cabin meant that I needed to do a lot of walking around holding a cup of tea and looking at the levels for the base. This has resulted in me compacting the ground quite considerably. 

Gunge
The ground was pretty sparse on the grass front because I was working where the large trampoline was originally, and that cut off most of the light for the grass to grow. The two factors of sparseness and walking has allowed the alga to take hold at a startling rate. There doesn’t seem to be an area free of it for 5 square metres. I tentatively scraped some of the gunge off to see what was underneath and even though we have had a lot of rain the ground was dry. It reminds me of the flat green mat that used to form on my plant pots when I watered them with tap water. This means the alga is absorbing the water and draining off what it doesn’t need so the grass won’t compete with it. It’s all very clever.  

I do have a plan though. I have scraped the area to allow water to get in and then I have aerated the ground with a garden fork, this should at least allow the ground to both get wet and drain more freely which will be a start to eradicate the problem and promoting grass growth. As usual I don’t want to use chemicals as this doesn’t really sort out the underlying issues, they would just be a quick temporary fix. 

We’ll see if it works. 

Modification
One more reason for the algae spread is the fact that my cabin guttering downpipes are running straight onto the grass. I have a plan to rectify this too. I am thinking about modifying the flow direction extending the pipes so it runs 5 yards into the rear door of the polytunnel. This’ll give me a chance to fill up big water barrels and the excess can water the plants instead of lawn algae. I can alter the flow depending on conditions as I wouldn’t want things too wet in the winter. It might be a good idea for me to get a proper water storage system with a filter so we can channel it into the house. It’s amazing just how much water we can collect even with just a light shower.

Saving Seeds
I’ve been looking at what vegetable seeds I can save this year. I let a couple of beetroot go to seed at the start of the seasonand they are so slow at maturing I don’t know if it’s worth all of the room they are taking up. The broad beans on the other hand have produced an amazing crop of dark brown pods full of dried bean in next to no time. I thought I had only left a few pods on the plants but pulling them up this week revealed about 50 pods, with more than enough beans to get a good crop next year. They are one of the earliest crops to go in and can be started in October for an early show.

Whopper
The coriander plants will self seed quickly and I predict will be a bit of a weed in the tunnel next year like the tomatoes were this. I am letting some spinach go to seed too. I thought I would leave one courgette to go to seed as well and I am allowing it to grow to its full potential. It’s getting massive, pity I didn’t enter it in the ‘Biggest Marrow’ competition (should there be one) as it looks like a small Zeppelin airship. I’ve never really gone for the largest vegetable prizes; I leave that for the people who plant carrots down drainpipes to get 8 foot roots. This marrow has given me a taste for biggering though and I am even pumping it full of fertilizer to get it as big as I can before the end of the season. 
We won’t be eating it as it’s the one I am saving for the seeds. It’s the most fun I’ve had this month, sad but true.

Me Obsessive?

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It’s been brought to my attention that I have an obsessive personality. Of course, like most things I hear about myself I dismiss it straight away. After a bit of thought (an obsessively large amount as it turns out) I have to agree. I never thought it about myself but I do tend to obsess about one thing and then go onto another. It doesn’t have to be anything large either, I can obsess about putting the rubbish out, making a cup of tea or totally designing a new garden, it doesn’t matter. What has made me realise this after so many years? The log cabin I have been rebuilding, that’s what. 

Obsessive
I neglected all of my other duties around work and home and could think of nothing apart from the rebuild in the last three weeks. If I did try to fit things in between running to the DIY shops and drawing out plans for fixed seating, it was usually after midnight and done very quickly. But you know what? I loved every minute, even the bits where I wanted to burst into tears were in some way enjoyable. I’ve only just realised this because most of the work has now finished and because I have nothing at the moment to obsess about I am looking for more and more to do such as paving around the outside walls.  I have finished most of the detail work, the gate has gone in to keep the dogs out, I have varnished the outside as well as the floor so what next? If I don’t find something to redirect my obsessive trait then the cabin (I’m not calling it a shed anymore) is going to get decorated with thousands of fairy lights for Christmas, which should keep my busy for a while.

Ripening Fruit
We never managed to get any raspberries again this year. One reason is that a load of them had to go to make way for the cabin; the other is that the dog weeds them up. I’m quite sure she does it to help as it usually happens when I am weeding in the borders myself. All I can hear is the sound of twigs snapping as she systematically works her way through the row, tail wagging and full of joy. How can I stop her from doing that? I can’t she enjoys it too much; it just means that I have to buy raspberries from the shop.  

Shop bought fruit seems to last a bit longer that fruit from the garden. We have a lot of plums this year and if you don’t eat them within a day of picking them you are chasing fruit flies out of the house as they rot.  There is a way to deter mould from fruit and it enlists the use of cider vinegar. Not the first choice out of the cupboard but bear with me. 

Mould spores are all around us in the billions. If they are present in large enough quantities, they become visible and can ruin the fruit. Berries already have a covering of invisible mould spores on them and given the right conditions, these can kick into life fast. However, there’s a simple way to deal with this in the form of our trusty friend Apple Cider Vinegar. Vinegar is antifungal, antibacterial and also has great properties as a cleaning agent.

Using Vinegar to Stop Mould
Add a cup of vinegar to a bowl of water (around 1 part vinegar to 1 parts water) and leave them for several minutes, perhaps swirling them around gently a little. You’ll probably find the water changes colour a little as the diluted vinegar lifts dirt, mould and thing living in your berries. Leave for a couple of minutes, then drain and rinse. After rinsing, any vinegar taste should be gone but I would just do a few first to check. Then store your berries in the fridge.

You should now find that your berries last at least a week rather than just a couple of days.
This method should work for all kinds of fruit and veg, try it on the blackberries if you are picking them this month. I like the idea so much that I’m going to be washing EVERYTHING in cider vinegar before eating. 

Note: I have just been told by my family that washing everything in vinegar demonstrates an obsessive personality and should be avoided. I’ll stick to raspberries.

Do I DIY?

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I was asked if I enjoy doing DIY work today as I seem to be doing a lot of moaning. My initial response, especially as I am into week 3 of rebuilding the shed, was a resounding NO.  Then after a rethink I realised I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. I enjoy moaning as much as gardening.

Paying Off
My hard work is finally paying off with the shed. I decided to go for a wooden tongue and groove floor and insulated the underneath with 70mm of Kingspan insulation so we won’t get icy feet when the weather turns cold. I’ve given it four coats of varnish to cope with any heavy footwear, I was going to go for five coats but I was told that’s bordering on being obsessive…me? The front of the shed has been given three fresh layers of wood stain to brighten things up. I have made good progress but am still in the position where all I see is either things to do or imperfections. It’ll take a bit more work to get everything just so and I can relax on the veranda and feel a sense of achievement.
It’s been a long drawn out job and the family are just waiting to see what I get next. I’m keeping off the buy and sell sites for a while, so the only things I’ll be bringing into the house will be vegetables from the garden.

Courgette man
In the three weeks doing the shed I took my eye off the veggies. It’s only taken the weeds that long to grow and go to seed. Thankfully the grass has slowed down a lot as the nights/day are getting colder and the light is reducing, so although it took the flymo a while to chew through the clumps, the grass is looking respectable enough. I have to eat my words about not growing excess veg though as I am up to my neck in French and runner beans and courgettes. I have been trying to give the courgettes away but there don’t seem to be many neighbours who like them, I can see the curtains twitching but they don’t come the door when I knock as they can see what I have in my arms. “Not that bloody courgette man again” I hear them saying. 

I asked my lad if you can deep fry courgettes and he tells me you can deep fry ANYTHING, so I might give that a try - maybe in one piece without chopping it all up first. I couldn’t stand another courgette curry so this might be a welcome change.

Deadheading
The other job I have been neglecting is deadheading flowering plants. It’s amazing how quickly sweet peas give up on flowering when not cut. All of their energy goes into making seeds. There are a lot of plants that do this. 

What does deadheading do?
Deadheading refreshes a plant's appearance, controls seed dispersal, and redirects a plant's energy from seed production to root and vegetative growth. It also keeps things tidy, which is what I seem to spend most of my day doing in some form or another.

Deadheading is a maintenance practice that can be done throughout the growing season, from spring until autumn. The best time to deadhead a flower is when its appearance begins to decline. How often a particular plant needs it’s spent flowers removed depends on the life span of its blooms, which can range from a day to several weeks, depending on the species. Weather also greatly affects a flower's longevity. During moist, cool summers, flowers will last much longer than they will during a season of sweltering heat. Torrential rains also take their toll on blossoms.

How is it done?
Choosing the exact point to make a deadheading cut can seem confusing, since perennials have different flower forms. Because deadheading, like other types of pruning, is so species specific, it can be difficult to group plants into categories. For most plants, however, all you need to remember is to prune spent flowers and stems back to a point where there's a new lateral flower or bud. If no new flower is apparent, prune the stem back to a lateral leaf.

Deadheading on a regular basis, the waves of blooms in my garden can be extended by weeks or even months and can be relaxing too, which is just what I need to do for a while.

Blow in the Bag

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 Blow in the bag for freshness


The shed saga continues this week. If you remember I bought a “buyer to dismantle” log cabin from Kill in County Kildare, painstakingly dismantled it and am now in the process of putting the bits back together in the back garden. I waver between bursting into tears and jumping around for joy in admiration of my progress, depending on what stage I am at. I have spent another seven days (10 hours days) working on it and tend to forget to eat and drink, so when I am near to tears I know it’s time to stop for a rest. It’s coming along but I do need to buy a new tongue and groove floor as I couldn’t salvage the old one. It’s a hidden cost, along with a few new panels of wood and thousands of nails and screws and decking planks for the ‘veranda’. It could be bit of a money pit as I have spent a good 300 euro on replacement bits. We had some guests come to visit the other day and although they liked the new blot on the garden they did say that sheds such as this one are usually given away free when the buyer has to dismantle it. Now why didn’t they come to visit me before I had bought it? I keep telling myself that it will all be worth it when it’s up and painted. Another week should see it ready for the electricity to be wired up.

Family Party
We attended a big family party this week, just ten doors down from us and we had lots of relations up for the weekend. The gazebo was set up a couple of days before and all was well until the day of the party, when the wind decided to pick up. These cheap gazebos aren’t meant for any type of adverse weather conditions and when I say ‘adverse’ I mean a slight breeze or a few spots of rain. For the first few hours of the party family members stood by each of the corner poles to stop the white plastic cover lifting off the ground and ending up in one of the neighbours gardens. Thankfully the wind eased off and people could start talking to one another as opposed to waving and smiling at each other from the four corners of the gazebo.

We did our bit for the party food by producing a wonderful salad. I took full credit for the three large bowls of greenery but in reality, barring the stronger leaves like rocket, basil, parsley and mustard, everything else came from Lidl.  There were some trays of lettuce in the shop I have never seen for sale, it was the cut and come again leaves and packaged like cress in so far as the roots were in soil and they grew in their own containers. It was very presentable baby leaves and I had no reservations for taking the credit. “It’s all about timing” I gleefully commented, “planting the seeds 6 weeks before the party so the plants are at their best”.  There was a load left over at the end of the night though, so maybe I will admit to it not being all my home grown produce, most people went for the hot fish chowder (it was a cold day). 

Boiled Eggs
A couple of the bowls of lettuce were decorated with halved hard boiled eggs. I don’t know about you but I think eggs are harder to peel than they used to be when boiled, the membranes seem thinner. Maybe it’s just me being impatient, especially as I had about thirty eggs to do. It was time to do a bit of research and find the best method for removing shells. I found a great video on YouTube where the bloke put the boiled eggs into a bowl of iced water then showing us how the shell just falls off when cracked. He suggested we left the eggs in the iced water for at least four hours before attempting the peel. We left ours for ten minutes as time wasn’t on our side. Needless to say it didn’t work and some of the eggs looked a bit battle scarred.

I did see another video (like you do) as I was looking for the boiled egg top tip. It’s how to keep salad lasting longer. Get a plastic bag, put the leaves in and then fill the bag up with your own breath. The carbon dioxide keeps the food fresh all week. I tried it at the end of the party to save some salad but for some reason it didn’t go down too well. I think big companies use pure compressed Co2 in bottles and don’t get the employees to breath into every bag of pre packed salad on the supermarket shelves. Well that’s what my relations tell me.


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