RTÉ One, Friday, 8.30pm

Kitty's Garden

Programme 5

What can I say, working in a beautiful walled garden surrounded by a mature orchard with delicate pear and apple blossoms and the sound of wee birds chirping – pure paradise despite a few visits from uninvited crows and slugs! A wonderful week in April to be a gardener!

An up-cycled container garden!
Spring is in the air and everyone is in the mood for cleaning and gardening so what better time to make something new out of something old? Why go buy expensive flower and plant pots when you can make your own funky personal planters oozing of character and charm instead? You can use almost anything to plant into - pots, pans, colanders, old wellies, boots, school bags, hand bags, tea pots, china cups, wheelbarrows, old sinks, baths and toilets, old watering cans, the list is endless. You can’t beat the satisfaction of seeing something that was destined for the recycling centre actually being upcycled and looking fabulous overflowing with summer flowers or bursting with tasty herbs, salads or veggies. Charity shops and car boot sales are full of planting pot potential and remember that when it comes to creating a recycled container garden, your imagination is the only limitation!

Whatever your container is, you need to make sure there are drainage holes in it so that your plant is not sitting in a swamp. Colanders are obviously fine but most things will need you to punch or drill holes into the base to allow excess water to drain out. Colanders and sieves will need lining with newspaper to stop all the compost washing out of the holes when it rains.

Once you have punched your holes, you now need to cover them up! Pop in some pebbles, bits of broken pot or broken up polystyrene packaging. This is to ensure that the drainage holes don’t get blocked up with compost. If you are using a tall container like a wellie, do fill the bottom with pebbles rather than polystyrene or they will be top heavy and fall over!

Next fill your container with a soil and compost mix. If you are using a very tall container, you are unlikely to need to fill it completely with soil unless you are planting a deep rooted plant so you can fill it to about half way with broken pot pieces to save on compost.

Oh what fun, what fun, a great way to cherish memories, add a bit of personality to your garden and most importantly an inexpensive way to grow a few fresh homegrown edibles!

My New Scarecrow, Séan an Fear Bréige!
Well buíochas to Gaelscoil Sheáin Uí hÉigeartaigh, my plot is now home to his lordship king bird scarer, Séan. He couldn’t have come at a better time as I arrived one morning this week to find a few of my freshly sprouted onion sets strewn around the place. Would them birds not have the decency to take them off and use them? Oh no, not the crows, they just like to pull them out and play onion-ball with them! Thankfully it’s easy to shove them back in as they are still young and only settling. Oh the joys of growing your own veg but hey it adds an element of suspense and surprise to your life as you never know what is going to greet you when you pace your plot!

On the upside, the onions are rooting and shooting, first of the spuds are poking their leaves out in the lazy bed, my pea’s are popping up and I spotted the emergence of broad beans so happy germimation days. Sur’ organic gardening is like life, there’s highs and lows but there’s no point in getting stressed and you just have to enjoy the journey and the lessons as you go along and whatever you do, don’t lose the plot!

The joy of a day with Joy!
Without a shadow of doubt, Joy Larkcom has had more effect on the way we grow and eat salads and vegetables than all the celebrity chefs put together. Anyone with a tiny garden has Joy Larkcom to thank for cut-and-come-again lettuce and lucky me had a visit from the undisputed Queen of Vegetables, this week. Joy emanates knowledge, experience and passion for organic gardening and creativity to boot! Trying to liven up my planting and sowing schemes I asked Joy to help me do something creative with my brassica bed and oh lordie, was I impressed. Instead of sticking with the conventional straight lines, we planted a zig zag of kales and red cabbage which we interplanted with salads. How clever is that? Since brassicas are slow growers that need a lot of space, why would one want to waste all that valuable ground when one could be growing quick crops underneath which will be well devoured by my goodself (not the slugs hopefully) before the brassicas grow tall. Instead of doing ordinary rows of lettuce, we planted our mix of red and green cut leaf lettuce in patterns, not unlike a patchwork quilt! I can’t wait to see how they grow. Joy had a great tip regarding leaving blocks of wood on the bed with the intention of providing a gathering ground for enthusiastic slugs which can easily be lifted in the morning in case you miss your midnight round with the head torch!

Joy has contributed so much through her books and talks to organic vegetable growing – it was a real honour to have her and her husband Don visit my humble plot. For anyone with the remotest interest in growing vegetables, I recommend all Joy’s books, especially Grow Your Own Vegetables and the wonderfully informative and inspiring Creative Vegetable Gardening.

And if there was one message or mantra Joy has left safely imprinted in my mind is that: You SOW SEEDS and PLANT PLANTS. A misreference that myself and lots of other gardeners often make!

Colorful Carrots
After a morning with Joy, I was utterly inspired and feeling very creative so I decided to try another of her novel and creative vegetable gardening ideas. This time it was for carrots. Joy brought me a fab selection of annual flowers which we mixed up in bowl with early carrot seeds, the idea being that they will all grow together in one bed, with feathery mixes of pretty flowers and carrots. How beautiful is that and to add extra merit, it’s also a great way of deterring and confusing the arch carrot nemesis, her evilness, Mrs Carrot Root Fly. Also we chose a 2ft high bed for sowing our carrots which is also a bonus, as the carrot root fly is know to fly close to the ground. I had the bed filled with sandyish soil and omitted dung from this raised bed as carrots are said not to like it as it causes them to fork. In a wee bowl, we measured out a teaspoon of carrot seed and then another teaspoon of annual flower mix (love in a mist, larkspur, flox and cosmos). So with them mixed, we shallowly sowed them in wide based drills in a pre-watered bed and voila, hopefully I’ll be enjoying flowers and carrots by the late summer. I had one packet of heritage white carrots from the Irish Seed Savers so I sowed one drill of them as a comparision. I’m excited to see how this carrot creation will grow.

Thought for the End of this Week!
There is nothing quite like a vegetable garden to keep you in tune or neurotic about weather forecasts!

Kitty Scully

The Gardeners

The Gardeners