All posts by Stephen Barstow

The last roots

The last roots I harvest in the autumn are perennial vegetables for eating in the winter. I usually do this as late as possible and some years harvestng involves breaking through the ice with a pick axe! With daytime temperatures of -7C forecast for next week, this may be the last chance! Yesterday was the annual horserdish (pepperrot) harvest….the big roots are for forcing young shoots as a vegetable (usually blanched) and the younger roots for grated horseradish! An annual dig also serves to limit the spread of horseradish which can be a problem in some gardens!
See my webinar from last winter on winter vegetables here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf1ucsGrU2U

A Cool Windy Planet Experience at Powerscourt

Back in September again and I was in Ireland and my friend Orlaith Murphy had set up a diverse tour of great local gardens for me! My first blog was from Carraig Dulra Permaculture Farm, here: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=19592

After Carraig Dulra, the plan was to visit one of Ireland’s great gardens, Powerscourt and to kick off we were to meet  Bruce Johnson (a member of the family that owns the house and gardens). He very kindly treated us to lunch at Powerscourt. As we sat eating lunch, Bruce commented that there weren’t many people around today and we put it down to the storm (Ali; see link below) that had hit Dublin and Wicklow in the night, putting people off travelling. After lunch we  discovered there was another reason when we were told at the  garden entrance that the gardens had been closed because of danger of falling trees and branches after the storm….
What to do? Bruce suggested seeing a video introduction to the amazing story behind the house and gardens including Ireland’s tallest waterfall, the Powerscourt Waterfall at 121m, a 6km walk from the house on the river Dargle (you can see it too here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxrFPrJlTQc ).  Briefly: the house was originally a 13th-century castle and was extensively altered during the 18th century by German architect Richard Cassels, starting in 1731 and finishing in 1741. A fire in 1974 left the house lying as a shell until it was renovated in 1996! Originally the family seat of the Viscounts Powerscourt, the estate has been owned by the Slazenger family, founders and former owners of the Slazenger sporting goods company since 1961.

Bruce’s next suggestion was to go do the adjacent Cool Planet Experience, an “interactive climate action experience” for all ages (see https://powerscourt.com/estate/cool-planet-experience). Very different from what we had expected when we arrived at Powerscourt, but we had great fun!

Before parting ways with Bruce, we visited a wooded area just outside the main garden and saw the best avenue of monkey puzzle trees I’ve seen in the British Isles!
Thanks again, Bruce!!

Storm Ali : https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/storm-ali-two-dead-and-thousands-without-power-1.3634177

 

Digging for victory

I’ve been following and supporting the discussions that we need to Dig for Victory against climate change as though we were in a war….this is the progress so far! No, I shouldn’t joke :(
The first two pictures shows progress digging a trench along the driveway. 30 years ago, I dug by hand the length of the driveway and filled in with stones and gravel as the previous owners hadn’t wanted a car into the house and it was just a pathway with grass. I started the trench to stop the tree roots invading my vegetable beds, a problem on my shallow soil which I didn’t think was more than 20cm depth anywhere, but where the pictures are taken seems to be part of an old sand quarry and it was much deeper than I ever imagined and I’m still not down to the rock! I gave up having excavated a lot of sand and come down to a layer of clay beneath. I’ve now refilled this with large rocks! I remember excavating this part 30 years ago in the spring and finding a hard layer that I thought was rock…it seems it was frozen :)
The second picture shows another bed I constructed when building the greenhouse (RIP) for my mint collection. The mints were grown in pots and sunk in gravel to stop them wandering. I’ve dug it all out, cleaned the gravel and replanted!

RIP Bombycilla garrulus

It doesn’t happen very often but the last few days at least 3 waxwings (sidensvans) flew into a window on the house, two of which recovered (have put something in the window to discourage them). Probably discoordinated after partying too hard on fermenting apples :(
I can only remember once finding a dead waxwing next to the house (and on occason there can be up to 1,000 of them in the garden).

Broad bean diversity 2018

Broad (fava) bean diversity 2018! This was the first harvest at Væres Venner community garden in Trondheim! This is the only (and original) bean for making falafel and hummus! We should be growing large areas of this bean here in Norway for food security and climate friendly vegan food. It annoys me how little self-sufficient Norway is in particular in vegetarian food when it doesn’t need to be that way!