Friday, 29 September 2017

Beetroot Store

Vegetables that can be stored add considerable value to the garden and the ideal of self sufficiency. Beetroot is one of those vegetables that should be lauded much more than it is. As a fresh vegetable it is available in NI climes from July until early October. Thereafter a mini clamp protects the excess crop from the extremes of winter weather and extends the climatic availability of the crop as of course does pickling. The yellow and candy striped varieties do I think look particularly good in their pickling jars. Perhaps another, "boiling," is required.

Monday, 28 August 2017

A Paucity of Cucamelons

I have to concede that my experimental growing of cucamelons has not been a wholehearted success. They proved to be quite easy to germinate and after transplanting the seedlings into three inch pots and growing them on for about three weeks I was able to plant the small vines into twelve inch rings which I had sunk in the greenhouse border. I planted a total of twelve vines - two per pot and erected a bamboo wigwam in each pot for the vines to climb up.

All the literature which I had read told me that if you can grow cucumbers then you can grow cucamelons. Both thrive in the same conditions and require the same husbandry. Taking this advice to heart I planted the cucamelon vines next to my six cucumber plants. The latter have done well. To date I have pulled an average of seven cucumbers from each of my plants and by the end of the season I would expect to have had in excess of fifty cucumbers. 

The cucamelon vines have been very vigorous in their growth and there have been hundreds of little flowers with embryonic fruit behind them. The problem is that the vast majority of these have failed to swell and have fallen off the vines. I am coming to the conclusion that the flowers have not been fertilised. My cucumber plants are self fertile. I have noticed that there are just not as many bees and other pollinating insects in the garden this year. 

So far I have pulled the grand total of seven cucamelons so definitely not a productive use of greenhouse space. I will have to decide if it is worth continuing the experiment next year.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall, Londonderry Act (Northern Ireland), 1935

This Local Act was enacted on 16th July 1936 to facilitate the extension of the Apprentce Boys Memorial Hall in Society Street. John Ferguson, John Gilbert Magee, Joseph Thompson , Robert McElmunn Wilton, Marshall McKay, James McElmunn Wilton and James Smyth (representing the Apprentice Boys) together with Matthew Kerr, James Dunlop, Maxwell Scott Moore, Frederick James Simmons, Edward McIntyre and James Hill Lapsly (representing the Local Orange Brethren) were incorporated by the name of "The Trustees of the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall Londonderry (Incorporated)" with perpetual succession and a Common Seal.

This corporate body was granted the power to purchase, take, hold and dispose of lands and other property for the purposes of the Act and it was granted the power to borrow a sum or sums of money which did not exceed at any one time the sum of £15,000 for the purpose of rebuilding or extending the existing Hall or of purchasing further premises for the purpose of extension or of acquiring further estates or interests in the premises of the Trustees.

The Act states that as soon as may be after the passing of the Act that the then existing Apprentice Boys Hall together with four adjoining premises which had been purchased by the Apprentice Boys and the Local Orange Brethren between 1920 and 1926 should be transferred to the Trustees along with all money's which had been raised for the purpose of rebuilding or extending the Hall.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Coloured Beets

T'is that time of year when the vegetable garden racks up the quantity and variety of its produce. I should probably grow more beetroot than I actually do. I like their sweetness when roasted and a shredded beetroot adds colour to a summer salad. 

Thinking back to my childhood I have memories of my mum pickling beetroot for winter usuage. She would also preserve boiled beets by cutting them into cubes and placing them in jelly along with several cloves to add flavour. I have to concede that I didn't like jellied beetroot. It must be nearly fifty years since I dissected cubes of purple beetroot from their clammy gelatin coating. The memory still makes me feel slightly queasy.

The archetypal beetroot is purple in colour and global in shape but there are cultivars which are white, orange, pink, yellow or striped and many beets are cylindrical in shape. I sowed a packet of mixed coloured beet seed for my first sowing of beetroot this year. Today provided me with my first meal with beetroot as the principal vegetable.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Monumental Death

My maternal grandfather was one of four children. His eldest brother died at the age of fourteen years in 1909. His sister died in 1944 when aged thirty eight. It was however the death of his brother that resonated down the generations. I suspect that it was his young age that impacted on the family so much particularly upon his father who was already sixty five years of age when his son passed away. The bereft father erected an imposing monumental stone at the head of the grave near the entrance to their family church. As well as detailing the date of the youth's death the enscription includes a  biblical passage,"He has left us only left us for a brighter world above. And they shall see his face ; And his name shall be in their foreheads."

Growing older, appreciating that you are only a crumbly brick in the family wall. It is disconcerting, worrying and inevitably irrelevant.

Sunday, 25 June 2017


For the past few years I have grown a small fruiting aubergine in the greenhouse in addition to the usual tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. If I am honest I don't really know whether I like the taste of the eggplant's fruit so this year I decided to replace the aubergine with an alternative indoor crop.

The plant that I selected was the cucamelon which is also known as the Mexican sour gherkin. Germination was practically one hundred percent successful and occurred within ten days of sowing. This left me with more plants than I probably needed. Not wanting to consign any of the young vines to the compost heap I planted two per ring, so sixteen plants. I expect that I have over planted by fifty percent but if so my error is not obvious as yet.

The mature fruit are described as being grape size. So far there are plenty of small yellow flowers but the fruit have not yet begun to swell. The books tell me that the fruits taste like cucumber with a tinge of sourness. Not a very appetising description! One feature of the cucamelon which does appeal to me is that it doesn't have to be grown as an annual. The roots can be lifted in the autumn in the same way as dahlias and over wintered before replanting them in spring.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Pea Green

I sowed my second batch of peas of the year yesterday.. Unlike the first batch I sowed them directly in the position that they will crop in, - hopefully at the beginning or middle of September. The first sowing of pea seeds took place in the greenhouse in March. They were sown in modular root trainers. I suppose that I ended up with about one hundred plants. These were planted out on either side of a stretch of netting wire in May.

In between today's heavy showers I was able to pull the first pods of the year. Their contents have now been consumed. Fresh peas from the garden are so much sweeter than their supermarket cousins which almost invariably have started on the downward slope to starchiness.