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Monday, March 23, 2009

Cauliflower cheese season

Marian Carthy sent me this photo of her Winter Roscoff cauliflower on St. Patrick's day, when it was flowering in her tunnel in Co Leitrim. She says" This is Winter Roscoff which bloomed last Sunday after a very long time a growin. I have grown may types of vegetables but this is the first successful cauliflower so I'm delighted with it. There was no sign of anything blooming a week ago and I could'nt believe my eyes when I went into the polytunnel on Sunday evening and there it was, pure perfection. You are welcome to use the picture to promote it- everyone should grow a Winter
Roscoff."
My outdoor ones are now producing curds. Winter Roscoff, an old variety re-introduced by the Irish Seed Savers Association takes almost a full year to produce a curd but what a great time to do it. The leeks are bolting, the carrots are getting a bit hairy, and the potatoes a bit wrinkly. They can reach enormous size and can sometimes go perennial. I grew a few last year for the house and although most of them died two have survived to produce for another year, producing a head on each of several stems.

Until now I have kept really poor records of when things happen in my garden but all that is going change. Phoebe Bright has started a 'Seed Trials' website into which I am going to put this sort of data into. It will be really interesting to have data on things like the date Winter Roscoff cauliflowers are ready. Will they be earlier in Cork than in Leitrim? If anyone else is interested in joining the Seed Trials website, do let me or phoebebright310@gmail.com know.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who Let the leeks out


On sunday we decided to take advantage of the dry weather and plant out leeks instead of going on the St. Patrick's weekend charity walk.We were suddenly joined by lots of hounds who seemed to be having a lovely day out on their own. Apart from lots of SUV's going up and down our usually very quiet road there didn't seem to be any huntsmen. I don't think the wild-life was in much danger, but I am not sure where I stand on this - carefully on the fence, I think. On the one hand, its a nice day out, and foxes aren't that nice to rabbits and chickens, on the other hand, we could have an equally nice day out with a camera, shooting the wild-life without any blood.  video

Hopefully we will have leek seed next year. It has failed for the last two years. We ran out of the 2006 Solaise Bleu seed recently and the 2007 and 2008 seed is very poor. These leeks are Hannibal, also known as Autumn King, I prefer to call them Hannibal so as not to confuse them with the carrots. In the orchard we have Hilari, and I have sown Musselburgh and Solaise Bleu for 2010.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I have been trialing different varieties of peas in 10" pots in the polytunnel for their qualities as cut-and-come-again shoots. The peas in the photo are Winterkefe, sown on the 11th January, I took a cut on the 8th March and got 40g. The Irish Green Peas yielded 30g. The Poppets didn't seem worth cutting, they were so small. Incidentally a pot of stir-fry greens, sown the same day, and cut the same day, as the peas, yielded 34g. (I accidentally crossed some Wong Bok with Komatsuna, thinking that Komatsuna was a mustard. I mixed the resulting seeds with Mibuna and called the lot stir-fry greens).

Touchon carrots



Mike grew these Touchon carrots. We spent today digging them up, in the persistant drizzle, and replanting them in the small poytunnel. Sophie, who was here this time last year, taught us how to select carrots, so we laid them out on the bed and picked the smoothest, darkest, most beautiful ones. We will replant some outside too. Although I have never managed to save much carrot seed outside I really can't produce enough indoors. The current damp weather is annoying, but perfect for transplanting biennials. The Offenheim cabbages that were cosy and warm in the polytunnel were planted out in the orchard and are now at the mercy of the savage slugs. In the field we have to remove the brassicas that would cross with each other and we will leave the Ruby Ball red cabbage, and some swedes that Sophie sowed last year and have done fantastically well. We are not bothering to replant the parsnips. In the orchard we have White Gems, not that many of them though, because last Sunday I got a bit carried away with the new rotavator and accidently turned one row into parsnip julienne. Up in the field we have our old favourite Tender and True. They are starting to grow again. I wish I'd weeded them before I took that picture. Touchon Carrot on Foodista

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Barley loaves and small fishes?

I gave a talk to the Sustainable Clonakilty on Thursday. I think what they expected was a 'A How to grow Vegetables' sort of thing but I started thinking about how a community of 5,000 could feed itself. On the basis that adults need 2,700 calories a day (or 1 million a year) and that no chemical fertilisers would be used, I searched the internet for yields of various food groups, averaged them out, decided that a diet of 40% cereals, 5% pulses, 30% fruit and veg, 20% nuts meat and dairy, and 5% oil would be a reasonable mix and came out with a figure of 3880sqm or about 80% of a football pitch would be needed per person.  This adds up to nearly 2,000 hectares for the whole population of the town. The grey part of the map is 2000 hectares. I was surprised that it was so large.  I made some whopping assumptions but if the figures are close to reality it means that a total of 400 cultivated hectares would be needed. Using fossil fuels to do this is unsustainable, so I looked at the biofuel option and found from the internet (and again I don't know if these figures are at all accurate) that a yield of 1200 litres of biodiesel  per hectare was possible and that about 900 litres of diesel, and I don't know how much chemical fertiliser, was needed to produce that 1200l. So it would take the surplus biodiesel from at least 3 hectares to grow one hectare of food. Not a runner, I thought. Horses would be more efficient, but they would need a good ha each and I would guess (not very scientific) that it would take a good horse for every 10 hectares or a total of 20 horses. Maybe we could use battery powered tractors charged with wind? If we were to do it by hand, could four gardeners manage a hectare? That would be 1600 gardeners and quite a market for osteopaths.