Rejuvenating the soul with a weekend in the garden

Hello, and welcome to my blog! It is no secret that I have been struggling with this latest lockdown here in Ireland. I understand why we need it, I’ve just found it much harder to adjust this time. I am very happy to say that this weekend I felt an actual lifting of my spirits as I worked away in the garden over two beautiful days. My pace is slow and steady, which is good enough for me. I’ve also been practicing my mantra of ‘every little bit helps’. So over the past week I’ve managed to get a bunch of little things done around the garden, all from spending just a short amount of time doing small jobs. Of course it all adds up!

So what’s happening in the garden? I think the biggest job I’ve completed is pruning the roses. I struggle with this job only because I need to be ruthless and just get the job done, and I tend to over think it. I haven’t appreciated how many rose plants I’ve collected, until pruning them all this year! I have to say that I was more ruthless than ever before, so hopefully they’ll appreciate that. According to the gardening program I’ve been watching on Instagram, called Gardening Conversations, (I think I’ve mentioned it previously), you can do a hard prune every three to five years. Their advice was to get your worst enemy to prune your roses – to get the ‘hard prune’ that you hate to do! 🙂

Another big job we’ve been working on is creating a new flower bed. I had some sod removed back in November when we had our birch trees planted, and then my husband finished removing the rest of the sod last week. The bed looks really good because we (read: my husband) then added a very thick layer of our compost on top. There’s a good 4 inches of compost along with lots of worms. I can’t wait to get some plants in there! It will be a partly sunny garden, as I wanted a bed with some shade. Stay tuned to see what plants we pick!

Speaking of adding new plants: there are a couple of new Hellebore plants which I’ve welcomed into my garden recently. They are from Altamont Gardens, in Carlow. I’ve been meaning to visit Altamont for years! Sadly, I’ll have to wait a bit longer due to the lockdown. They were selling some of their plants via Instagram, though, and I’m delighted with the two I now have.

The other little jobs I’ve been doing have been part of my winter clean up. I’ve cut down dead fennel, aster, and sedum stems. I’ve also started to do some weeding. I want to spread more compost in the beds and I’d prefer to have most of the weeds gone before I do that. I want to feed the soil, not the weeds!

I’m so thankful that the days are brighter, well into the evening. It makes such a difference to my mood, and allows me some garden time after work!

I hope you are doing well and that you are enjoying the extended daylight, too!

In Peace,
Dana

collage of 2 hellebore plants
collage of 2 hellebore plants

I’m starting with the pictures with my two new hellebores, which I think are very pretty. They are Harvington Double Apricots and Harvington Double Reds. The Apricot flower can look a pale yellow as well as the apricot hue. The Double Reds seem more of a burgundy/pink color than red to me. I think they fit in perfectly! They are planted in the new ‘birch trees bed’ among the iris.

collage of hellebore flowers

Here are some of my other hellebore plants. The newest one is the Helleborus ‘Anemone Picotee’ which has purple veins on the petals (the three corner pictures). The Center picture is Winter Sunshine, and the top left corner is the SP Frilly Isabelle. The other pictures are from plants that were given to me, and I don’t have their names. They all add some lovely color to the garden at this time of year.

pruned roses
hard prune of roses

There was a progression with the roses. It took me a few days to completely prune one plant as each time I’d take off a bit more, and a bit more, and a bit more! I am happy with the hard prune that I eventually ended up with. I hope the plants are happy, too! 🙂

Pruned roses and pink anemone

Here’s another look at the roses, but I took the picture because of this single, bright pink anemone. Isn’t that color something?

collage of compost and freshly dug bed

Here’s a look at our compost and the newly dug up bed. The pallets which are the walls for our compost structure, have seen better days. This summer I’ll have to decide on a new place to have our compost, so the plan is to fix the structure then. The compost we’re using now is a year old (the pile on the far right).

view of garden at front gate

I cleaned this bed up over the weekend. The Pittosporum, Tom Thumb, in the right corner, adds wonderful texture. The lavender next to it looks much nicer when it is in bloom! The burgundy colored plant that lines both sides of the bed is Bergenia. The flowers of this variety of Bergenia are very bright pink. Otherwise there isn’t a lot going on in this bed at the moment!

Full rainbow garden view

This bed is ready for some more compost. I have a few new plants in here, which I can’t wait to see!

henhouse with flowers

I’ve added some flowers to the front of the girls’ house. I can look out onto their house and run while in our kitchen and this way I can see the flowers more often than I could when they were on the back porch. I always enjoy seeing flowers, so this is a win/win for me!

close up picture of hen

The chickens are so curious and will get very close to my phone when I’m taking pictures. It isn’t so easy to get good shots because they never stay still! I like this one, though. I can’t remember which hen this is, and I tell them apart by looking at their back feathers, so we’ll just have to guess! (My guess is Iris.)

Thank you so much for visiting! I hope you are keeping well, and safe. Take care! 🙂

A pleasant surprise in the Compost Heap

compost heap under Elder trees

Compost “heap” mid-summer underneath blooming Elder trees

Hello! This post is about the funny thing I “found” in my compost this past weekend. It made me laugh, so I hope you’ll enjoy my story!

compost in a wheelbarrow

Compost from our garden

First, though, I have to talk about Compost, because you could say that I am a tiny bit “obsessed” about my compost. I have written about it here and here, which you can reference for any “how to” questions you might have. It’s just that compost is sooooo good for the garden, and fairly “easy” to make that it makes sense to do so.

enclosed compost tumblers

enclosed compost tumblers for veggies and fruit

My time in the garden over the past 8 years has been one learning experience after another. Compost is no exception! We started by throwing together some pallets to store the compost. Then we began heaping on all of our kitchen scraps (uncooked vegetables, fruit, coffee grounds, tea) and everything gathered from the garden (grass, leaves, weeds).  What.A.Mess. But we now have two enclosed “tumblers” for our kitchen scraps. The idea is that I don’t want to attract unwanted animals, so I try to keep food off of the open heap.  Also, we still have the pallet set-up, but we no longer throw nasty weeds on it.

wooden pallet compost enclosure

We built our first pallet compost enclosure back in 2012

Wow, that was really neat and tidy back in the beginning!

different piles of compost based on different ages

Different sections of the compost are at different stages of break-down

O.K., so I used quotation marks around the word “easy” earlier, when I described making compost, because although heaping on the garden materials is indeed easy, I have found that the compost breaks down best when “turned”.  “Turning” the pile, basically just digging and mixing it up, can be a bit of work. It’s not the most glamorous of garden jobs and quite honestly, I don’t do it often enough. I do turn our “tumblers” every week, which really helps with that breakdown. The goal is to get dark brown, crumbly consistency, broken down compost material.

dark compost

compost breaking down into a crumbly consistency and of a dark brown color

This leads me to my story of what happened this past weekend. I went out into the garden to get my couple of hours of “garden time” and decided that the compost needed some attention. One section is breaking down really well, and is full of worms and is turning a lovely dark brown color. I worked on that pile first, because it was easy to turn! Then I started to tackle the MESS!

broken down compost and unbroken down compost

The left side is well broken down compost while the right side is a huge mess that hasn’t been turned

I started on the right side of the heap, but almost immediately, my garden fork went through something and got stuck. When I pulled it up, I found a huge potato on the fork!

potatoes in compost

Potatoes in the compost heap!

I put the fork down, and used my trowel to gently clear some of the top layers of compost away. Then I just used my (gloved) hands to dig in the soil and I found potato after potato after potato! The soil under the compost was amazing! Of course it was, it was broken down compost.

A huge Sarpo Mira organic potato!

So, what’s the story here? Well, we planted organic Sarpo Mira, main crop potatoes last year. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, it was a disaster, and we ended up digging up the entire bed, without harvesting any edible potatoes. We cleared out the bed and heaped it on …have you guessed? … the compost pile! Those “seed” potatoes, must have enjoyed the amazing organic compost because they grew HUGE!

potatoes in compost pile

Most of the potatoes from the compost pile were huge!

soil from compost heap

A close-up look at the soil the potatoes were growing in

Of course, after my discovery I remembered seeing potato plants and flowers in the compost this past summer, but I didn’t really pay them any attention as I didn’t think they’d really grow. Boy was I wrong!

container of potatoes from compost pile

That’s a lot of potatoes dug up from our compost pile!

It was just the funniest thing for me to find all of those potatoes. We’ve grown potatoes a few different years, and we’ve never had them grow this big. Just goes to show that my garden bed needed a lot more compost than I was putting in it!

bowls of potatoes in front of compost pile

The red bowl is filled with extra large potatoes, the strainer is filled with normal sized potatoes, with the compost pile in the background.

It wasn’t enough to just find the spuds in the compost, though. I had to see if they were actually edible!

potatoes on cutting board and in a bowl

The potatoes peeled just fine and were perfectly firm!

Organic Sarpo Mira potatoes are known to be blight and slug resistant, so it wasn’t too surprising that the spuds were in really good shape. The funny markings on the outside also appeared when I grew them in my beds, and doesn’t affect the taste. I’m happy to say that we ate two big potatoes today, and they tasted delicious!

The bottom line is, of course, that compost is amazing!

Do you compost? 🙂

In peace,
Dana

In my tasty June Garden

allium purple sensation is now “finished” in the garden

When it comes to the garden there are changes going on all of the time.  Just like in life, time moves forward whether we are ready or not!  The garden has moved from showing off spring flowers on to growing our fruit and veggies and showing off some early summer flowers. We live in County Louth, and although other parts of the country have had rain, it has missed us for the good part of 4 weeks.  I can really see and feel the dryness in the garden.

A very dry veggie and fruit garden

Look at that grass! Granted, we don’t pay any attention to the grass other than mowing it (probably too short, I might add), but it is usually *green* and not yellow.  Anyway, this is an early June look at our pumpkin and zucchini (courgette) plants, along with our blueberry and strawberry plants, and our pear tree.

organic zucchini (courgette)

The organic zucchini plant was given to me in May.  Actually, I did a little bit of a swap, and traded sunflowers for zucchini.  It is great to find someone who grows organically and likes to share! We mixed in a good amount of our compost when we planted them.

organic pumpkin plant

The picture above is of one of my pumpkin plants.  Pumpkins LOVE compost.  We worked in as much compost as we could into this bed.  The seed for this plant is actually from the pumpkins I grew in 2016.  While I did try to grow from last year’s seeds, they didn’t produce anything.  So I then tried the seeds from the previous year, and “Bob’s your Uncle” – they grew! 🙂

blueberries

The blueberry plants are overladen with berries this year and the berries are growing to a nice size!  I am still trying to figure out if my soil has enough acidity for blueberries, as some years they do well and some they don’t. I’ve given them lots of my compost early on in the season, and I’ve kept them watered during this dry spell.  We’ll see how it ends up!

green strawberries

The strawberries are still *very* green, and not very big.  They, too, were lucky recipients of our compost (there is never enough compost, so I have to pick and choose which plants get it!).  I’ve also made sure to water them, so again, I’m hopeful that over the next week or two we’ll get some nice color in them (and a little bit more growth!).

baby pears in early June (strawberry beds in the background)

Our pear tree is doing well again this year.  It is only in the past few years that it has produced fruit, but boy was it worth the wait!  These guys are teeny tiny right now, and only the width of a small finger.

This picture is of our pears in September 2017 (they were delicious!)

another look back at our fall garden of September 2017 with sunflowers, pumpkins, pears, and blueberry plants which have pretty red leaves

a full bed of sunflowers early June 2018

I have tried a new location for sunflowers this year.  I’ve alternated garlic and potatoes in this bed over the past few years, so it was time for a change.  We apparently didn’t dig up all of the spuds last year, as there are some growing up between the sunflowers…  These lovely plants are all grown from my sunflower seeds from last year. My father-in-law kindly started them for me in his greenhouse.  They have really shot up over the past number of weeks, and look to be quite happy!

You have to be sure not to wait too long to collect the sunflower seeds as the birds LOVE them and will clean out the entire flower heads before you know it! (sunflower from our garden Fall 2017)

I really should write a post just on compost, because it is so beneficial!  I’ll put that on my to-do list.  Here’s a look at our “summer” compost heap:

Compost heap (top layer is all new season grass) with a fab overhang of Elder trees!

Underneath all of the new grass is aged compost from last season

It is worth digging the good stuff out from underneath the grass!

I have a separate tumbler for food compost, but I think I will leave that picture for another post!  Thankfully, no one can really see our compost heap, and the sight of it certainly doesn’t bother me given how good it is for the garden!  But I really don’t want to end with pictures of my compost.  I’m going to first show you a picture of tulips and our Hawthorn trees when they were beautifully in bloom with white flowers.  This year I really think the flowers came and went too quickly!  And then I’m going to end with a picture of an early summer plant (peony).

Queen of the Night tulips with a backdrop of Hawthorn trees in flower

Paeonia Bowl of Beauty – all four pictures are different flowers but from the same plant

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of my June garden. Anything tasty or pretty growing in yours?

In peace,
Dana

Composting: One great way to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

Two composting enclosures.

Two composting enclosures (well, sorta enclosed!).

O.K., I’ll admit that pictures of my composting area aren’t the prettiest.  I do think it is worth having that area though, even if  isn’t as picturesque as I’d like it to be.  It’s been a year since my last post on composting, and I just think it’s time to talk about it again.  If you don’t yet compost, I want to encourage you to give it a shot.  It’s not complicated, takes minimal work, and it is really good for your garden!  And there are ways you can compost that look neat and tidy, too.

Oldest picture of compost from end of February/beginning of March.

Winter picture of compost from end of February/beginning of March.

The above photo is from late winter.  I had added a bunch of straw into my second  compost pile as my main pile seemed too wet.  It’s still trial and error for me, to get that perfect mix.

Before adding straw.

Very manure-like!

I think my general nature would be to recycle and reuse whatever I can.  I tend to keep items with the thought that they can be used again, even if for some unknown future purpose! I just don’t like the idea of waste.  As for composting,  I really like that I can use all of my vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, toilet rolls, egg cartons, grass cuttings, and leaves.  Put them all together, turn them when you can, and in time, you will have good stuff for your garden!

After some drying out, in March.

After some drying out of my main pile, in March.

You can still see the straw. Taking a bit of time to break down.

You can see the straw. It is taking a bit of time to break down, but I’m happier with less wetness.

I have to say that when I read in Monty Don’s book The Complete Gardener, that compost should smell “good”, I was seriously skeptical.  (Do you know of him?  He is awesome, isn’t he?)   In his words: “Well-made garden compost is the best possible addition to the soil. It will nourish both the long-term micro-ecology and the growing plants.  And if it is properly made, it should smell positively good.”

Now it was back to my compost pile after reading that.  Up until now, I would have said Pee-U!  But I discovered that the dried bits around the outside didn’t smell. It was the inside, not completely broken down compost that was not smelling so nice.  I can see so many worms when I turn the pile, which is a great thing.  So for me, I’ve learned that I have to turn it more often than I was.  Once a month isn’t good enough! I’d rather speed that process up.  Generally speaking though, a slow compost will take a full season to be useful in the garden.

There are tidy options, like large barrels that you can rotate with the spin of a wheel.  Certainly not challenging enough for me! 🙂

Close-up look today (May) from starting in  February.

Close-up look today (May) from starting in February.

View of the compost pile in May (started in February).

View of the compost pile in May (started in February).

Starting a new pile on the left while the "main" pile ages.

Starting a new pile on the left while the “main” pile ages.

I talked about what items are good to compost in my post from last year. You can have a look here: https://mominthegarden.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/valentines-day-love-your-family-and-your-compost/

I’m still learning. While on vacation I bought a great book; it’s called “The Complete Compost Gardening Guide” by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin.  It is chock full of helpful information! They have a website, too: http://compostgardening.com/ 

There are so many different things you can add to compost.  A local family, whose daughter I coach swimming, have a mushroom farm.  It didn’t take too much nerve for me to ask about getting some mushroom compost from them!  I’ve learned that it is very good for asparagus.  We’ve expanded our asparagus bed, and worked the mushroom compost into the soil before planting our new spears.  It was perfect timing to get the compost!

A bag of mushroom compost.

A bag of mushroom compost.

My next goal is to attempt hot composting.  I’d like to get the temperature higher to kill annoying weeds that I pull.  I’ll start a third pile for this experiment! 🙂

Dwarf daffodils finally coming in to bloom.

Dwarf daffodils (sweetness) finally coming in to bloom.

In the meantime, it’s always nice to look at what is blooming in the garden in May!

Dwarf daffodils in May.

Dwarf daffodils (Sweetness & Jetfire) in May.

These dwarf daffodils were given to me very late this winter.  They were promptly thrown into some containers. I didn’t think they’d do well, as they were leftover from last fall, but it looks like I’m wrong!

Dwarf daffodil Jetfire.

Dwarf daffodil Jetfire.

Now I need to think where I’m going to plant them in the fall. They are my first dwarf daffodils, and I really like them.

Dwarf daffodils Jetfire.

Dwarf daffodils Jetfire.

My rose garden is really waking up with tulips.  I’ve discovered that I’m a “group ’em” kinda gal!  I hadn’t realized before how I always group my flowers!  I should really try some different methods and maybe spread them out a bit.

Tulip Foxtrot in May.

Tulip Foxtrot in May.

Tulip Innuendo.

Tulip Innuendo.

The tulips are doing much better this year than last.  I’m attributing this 100% to less slugs.  Last year the slugs took over and destroyed everything!  This year, so far, I’ve seen a fairly normal amount of slug damage.  I have done a few happy dances in the garden, in seeing plants that I wasn’t able to enjoy last year!

Tulip Blueberry Ripple.

Tulip Blueberry Ripple.

Tulip Blueberry Ripple.

Tulip Blueberry Ripple.

Another clustering!

Another clustering!

Oops! What's this color doing here?

Oops! What’s this color doing here? It’s a lily flowered tulip called “ballerina”. 

Hmm, I’m going to have to go back and check my notes. I’m sure this orange tulip was supposed to go up against the stone wall with some daffodils and yellow/orange tulips, and not in my pink themed rose garden!

Narcissi Blazing Starlet.

Narcissi Blazing Starlet at the stone wall.

Narcissi Blazing Starlet.

Narcissi Blazing Starlet.

I’m still not tired of daffodils yet.  There are so many different varieties, and I’m still seeing new ones!

Tulipa Triumph Purple.

Tulip Triumph Purple.

The Tulip Triumph Purple flowers have a little more added color around them this year.  I mistakenly “weeded” the area last year, inadvertently taking out flowers!  This year, I left it alone, and I’m delighted with the results.

I wanted to end with pretty flowers instead of my less than pretty compost area!  I hope you’ve been inspired to try composting.  Your garden will thank you for it!

Good Luck and Happy composting!
Dana