Thursday, February 19, 2009

An Extract from Eileen's 2008 journal

On January 3rd this New Year started with a bang, or rather a storm. It began mid-afternoon and accelerated until evening when it became a force 12 storm which continued through the night and most of the next day.

Despite the battering our Phormium (New Zealand flax) varieties and Australian palms fared well, as did our other coastal plants. They have been selectively bred/evolved to withstand coastal weather.

A good number of birds have been visiting the garden; blackbirds; thrushes; robins, wrens, and many of the finch and tit families.We are also fortunate to have reed buntings, sparrowhawks, kestrels, and a woodcock, though admittedly some of these are just passing through or overhead.

This is the third year I have participated in the Birdwatch Ireland Garden Survey. It is a useful exercise, both from a national and local perspective as, through comparisons of data, birds can be identified which are increasing or declining. In our garden here at River Cottage, due to the fact we don’t tidy up in Autumn, or use pesticides or herbicides, and feed peanuts and mixed seeds, the birdlife is flourishing.

Mid- January here was very mild and very wet with sunny spells; daffodils and crocuses were almost in bloom. March also came in with severe storms. this set us back clearing up our raised vegetable beds. Then I had to do most work in April.This year we sowed first early potatoes – Orla - recommended for organic growing. Our usual onions, Sturon, and yellow shallots were sown - they always give good yields. I have used a lot of organic seeds where possible as they are suitable to our wayof growing under ‘Bio-fleece’. Nantes gave us a great crop and, most importantly, excellent flavour. In addition they kept well in the ground all Winter. Organic beetroot is another excellent doer. Parsnips are a problem to germinate - this year I started them off in a damp j-clothand transplanted them when tiny green shoots were showing. A bit fiddly but well worth the effort for the excellent success rate.I grow four types of lettuce, mostly for pulling leavesor cut and come again varieties; Lollo Rosso, Little Gem, Tom Thumb, Mixed Oak Leaves.We are also trying three types of beans - broad beans ‘The Sutton’, French bean ‘The Prince’, and Fine beans ‘Tendergreen’. We shall see how successful they are.

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