Food in the Midwinter Garden

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It’s surprising just how much food is growing in the gardens of Bealtaine at this time of year, the time of scarcity…but far from it!

dsc05673dsc05672dsc05671There’s the makings of a decent salad, with Fennel, Japanese salads like Mizuna and others as well as a lovely edible garnish in the form of Pansy flowers.

dsc05670dsc05675In other parts of the gardens, where little micro-climates exist in the form of stones and shed walls, there’s Flat-leaf Parsley and Thyme.

I used Thyme in roasted potatoes yesterday…delicious!

dsc05664Purple Sprouting Broccoli is giving lots of florets…delicious raw or cooked and full of goodness! dsc05663Then there’s Leeks…all grown from saved seed and the stronger for it!

dsc05662Elsewhere in the gardens I found stands of Kale…shred this in salads and roast as chip dips!

dsc05669dsc05668Here and there in the flower beds and in pots…lots of Sage and Rosemary…great herbs to add taste to root vegetables at this time of year!

dsc05666Bay is growing in abundance, quite acclimatised to the Irish climate.

dsc05674Golden Oregano continues to thrive past Midwinter.

All of this is growing outdoors, not in the tunnel and these pics were snapped today, 26th of December!

dsc05651Even the Rhubarb is beginning to produce!

dsc05642There’s lots of other food in the garden…for birds and small mammals, in the form of berries.

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Heritage Seeds in a Cottage Garden

rocket stove in the permaculture gardenThe morning is dry and hot.

7am sees me boiling the kettle on the rocket stove, eager for fresh coffee.

The water is ready in under 10 minutes, from lighting the stove and inserting a handful of twigs.

As I walk back into the cottage a blackbird swoops noisily through the courtyard, followed by it’s assailant, another blackbird.

These birds are very territorial!

Ox-Eye Daisies in the permaculture gardensThe Dog Daisies are opening in the heat of the morning.

These magical flowers were used to treat madness and Smallpox during the middle ages!

Daisies in the gravel at Bealtaine CottageThese Ox-Eye Daisies were thrown onto this patch of gravel as seed two years ago and are ready to make a fine show this summer.

During the time of the early Christian church, this flower was dedicated to Mary Magdalen and became known as the Maudlin Daisy!

Ox-Eye daisies in the garden at Bealtaine CottageThey are lovely, wild flowers to grow in poor soil, but are not good for flower arrangements as they make a stink when cut and put into a vase.

I grow Shasta Daisies for that!

Using spent mushroom compost in the gardenMushrooms are growing up through the mushroom compost I spread a few weeks back…one of the benefits of collecting and spreading spent mushroom compost at this time of year!

Pea flowers at Bealtaine CottagePeas and Chard this morning in the Potager Beds.

The young peas are now in flower and looking strong and healthy!

Crimson flowered Broad beanThis is the beautiful crimson flowered Broad Bean, a heritage seed, vicia faba, this morning.

So delightful, it fits into the Potager gardens as a flower and a vegetable.

It’s wind tolerant as it only grows about a foot or so!

Red-flowered broad beans were described in seed lists in the late 18th century.

This variety was lost and appeared to have become extinct, until an elderly lady from Kent donated it to the Heritage Seed Library in 1978.

This red-flowered Broad Bean  had been grown by her  father, who was given the seeds during his childhood years a century earlier.

Monsanto eat your heart out, for this is what we gardeners do well…preserve the seed!

I shall be saving and posting this seed by the end of the summer!

ValerianValerian is now flowering around the cottage in wild abandon!

Wisteria in flower at Bealtaine CottageThe first ever flowers on the Wisteria…this was planted about 4 years ago.

Poppies in PermacultureThese Poppies have already seeded and are beginning to fall over, so need to be staked this morning.

More seeds to save…I shall be very busy from now through to the autumn, saving and cataloguing seed.

Thyme in flower at Bealtaine CottageThe hot, dry weather has encouraged the Thyme to flower outdoors.

Recent weeks have been so hot, that this potent, little herb thinks itself in the Mediterranean, where it once lived!

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Seeds…

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My Herb Garden

I grow lots of herbs in the gardens at Bealtaine Cottage, picking freely wherever I walk along the paths.

Herbs grow very easily in the Irish climate, as the fairly constant temperature agrees with the plants.

Herbs have a variety of uses that include culinary and medicinal.

The crossover line is blurred, as much of what we cook with does so much good and is easily integrated with everyday food.

Think of Garlic for example, or Parsley, both great for the blood!

Herbs can also be used in spiritual practice too, usually through the method of burning to release scent and as a cleansing or purification ritual.

Many herbs release anti-bacterial oils into the air, thus cleansing, so again, the crossover line is easily blurred, as herbal oils released into the air can have a tremendously uplifted effect upon the senses.

This can also be in the form of strewing underfoot, as was the practice during medieval times, to combat pungent smells and general sickness.

Here at Bealtaine Cottage I grow over fifty different herbs, including perennials  such as Thyme, Lavender, Rosemary, Fennel, Lemon Balm and Mint.

The list goes on to include: Chervil; Angelica; Borage; Catnip and Chives.

Include in this list, Dill, Elderflower and Garlic. Lavender, Lovage and Salad Burnet.

Parsley is a good permaculture herb, coming up each year and growing steadily for two years as a biennial plant.

Most herbs self-seed easily.

Feverfew and Borage, once introduced to your garden will grow always.

Some perennial herbs are shrubs, such as Rosemary, Sage and Lemon Verbena, or trees, such as Bay laurel, all growing healthily here.

Oregano grows virtually wild here as does the strongest mint you will ever smell or taste, which grows in the Bog Garden as Water Mint.

Willow Herb is another wild addition and even the Valerian around the cottage looks after itself.

Inserting willow to make arches that will support the developing crop of Pumpkins and Butternut squash.

Many herbs are enjoying the space left in between the squash, such as Nasturtium and Thyme.

The production in these newly established raised beds has been phenomenal!

Growing herbs will give an easy and beneficial garden anywhere.

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No-Effort Food Production in a Permaculture Tunnel

I’ve been busy this morning working in the tunnel!
Following on from the other day when the pipe was broken and a tap was subsequently erected in the tunnel, there’s a lot of tidying-up to do!

I decided to put a big bin, to hold water, just underneath the tap.

In this way, it’s easy to collect excess water and then to have it at the right temperature for watering plants here in the tunnel.

A lot of the plants in here have self-seeded…so many of the plants have done their own planting! This is one of the achievements of permaculture, where the conditions are put in place for optimum food production with as little input as possible!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli with their babies!
Lots of Broccoli and lots of seedlings…none of which was ever sown in this tunnel!
I moved some of the seedlings in around the base of the bin…

That way, the Broccoli will have plenty of support as they grow and heat from the black water bin will be transferred to the plants for optimum growing conditions!

All the Lemon Balm and Parsley is coming up really lush. Of course, with Lemon Balm, it only needs to be sown once as it is a perennial.

There’s also lots of Shamrock growing in here, especially in the warm, damp places.

Oregano abounds, it is almost a weed!

In amoungst the plants there is lots of Aquilegia, or Columbine. I plant flowers in around the vegetables and fruit as this is a way of keeping the Bees happy!

It also keeps me happy!

Thyme spilling over the stone edging the paths in the tunnel. It’s a beautiful scent when walking along and brushing against it!

As I’m working in here I can hear the sound of the water trickling from the tap into the bin…it’s like a water feature and the sound is very relaxing!

I have an old Wicker and Bamboo here in the tunnel…

I have stored the cushions from this in the shed and shall be dusting them off in the coming days…this is a great, all-weather place to relax…and warm too!