Potatoes.Last year I grew them successfully on straw and manure spread on the ground on top of cardboard.The ground was in perfect condition afterwards for digging in a new Rhubarb bed.
Swiss Chard.A cut and come again crop. It just keeps on giving!Here it is growing outdoors during the winter.The frost may set it back but it grows again quickly from the root.Eat young leaves as salad or cook.You can sow directly into the soil, but I prefer to start almost everything off in pots to give them some strength to resist the slugs!
The stalks are marvellously coloured and can be white, as above, yellow, red, and orange, so they can look great in flower beds too!
Beetroot grows easily and stays in the ground over winter, so can be harvested without fuss.If left in the ground until the following spring, you will be able to harvest some young leaves from the plant too.Great in Juices too!Parsley…a biennial, so will over-winter perfectly and not be set back by frost if protected just a little, like above, using an old bottom-less bread tin.
Bealtaine Cottage now offers a subscription website and seeds for sale at minimal cost to supporters, (this keeps me solvent, pays the mortgage and sometimes a little more)…keeping the main website free for all, along with a NO ADS Youtube channel, Podcast and FaceBook sites, all listed above.
“…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”
― Wendell Berry
Lots of the rhubarb has been lifted and divided recently and planted into the new beds, all loaded with fresh compost from the heaps stacked last year.
Rhubarb is an easy and early fruiting plant to grow. Although the leaves are toxic, various parts of the plants have medicinal and culinary uses. In culinary use, fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong tart taste; most commonly the plant’s stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavour. Personally, there is nothing equal to a Rhubarb Crumble, or, one of my absolute favourites…Rhubarb Jam!
Did you know that in England, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in dark sheds dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle” of Wakefield, Leeds, and Morley,a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk?
The New Vegetable Beds
The new beds are coming along well…planted out with Chard, Cucumber, Parsley, Tomato and Chives…for starters! I have spread wood ash recently on the beds and continue to build up with compost.
Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender, or after maturity, when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Raw chard is perishes quite fast, so it’s best to pick only when about to be used!
Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow to red, depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked Spinach. I use Chard a lot in my home made soups and curries and as a replacement for Spinach.
Flowering Oregano and Chives
Both grow like weeds here at Bealtaine Cottage, with lots of Oregano now coming up in the gravel driveway. Great for drying and using in sauces and soups and breads!
More Trees Please!
Trees are planted all the year around here at the smallholding. Many are grown from seed and potted on several times before eventual planting out. Many are rescued from the roadside verges and gravel paths. Lots of these trees are given away to those who show an interest in planting. There is one thing for sure though, the Earth needs more trees. Trees protect her.
Compost this morning at Bealtaine
Now working through the second heap and already filled up the first again, so am busy as you can see!
Composting as a recognized practice dates to at least the early Roman Empire since Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).
Traditionally, composting was to pile organic materials until the next planting season, at which time the materials would have decayed enough to be ready for use in the soil. This is the method I follow and it works every time as you can see! The advantage of this method is that little working time or effort is required from the composter and it fits in naturally with agricultural practices in temperate climates. Personally I see no disadvantages in this technique. There is no real exposure to excessive rainfall, as the heaps are thatched with lots of straw to overwinter in peace and harmony with all the hibernating insects and frogs!
Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 85 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.
Harvests continue to develop and flowers bloom at Bealtaine Smallholding. Flowers like these Sedums require little or no attention and soon fill out a space.
White Buddleia in full bloom, though there are few butterflies around at the moment. This tree, well, bush really, serves as an air island for the birds nesting in the box nearby.
Pots of Curly Kale, Chard and Pumpkins, some of which will be moved across to the new beds in the Vegetable Garden. All these have been planted in pots filled with home made compost.
The grapevine, grown from a cutting about four years ago, has produced well this season. This was pruned hard at the end of the winter and then lightly at the end of spring. Well developed bunches of grapes have set and continue to thrive.
Another good year for the apple harvest. This part of Ireland is great for growing fruit, as rhubarb, blackcurrants, redcurrant, plums, apples et al appear to thrive!
Water drops on Lady’s Mantle…one of the reasons why this perennial is so beautiful and loved here at Bealtaine.Picked all this beautiful Chard in the tunnel this morning to juice with some apples and kick-start my day…and it did!Pulling and stretching the sourdough is really therapeutic! I’m using the recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall…It’s looking good…now to wait for the rise…The bread has spread…oh dear! I have a feeling that either the starter is too powerful or I needed to add more flour…I’ll get there eventually!