I TAKE some justifiable (I feel) pride in the fact that I have not bought a vegetable for two months. It is not that I have not been eating enough of them.
Admittedly I may not always have achieved the recommended five a day, but I have made up for it with second or third helpings of the two, three or four a day.
Carrots have not tasted like this since the ‘50s, while big onions I can chew like apples remind me of another taste of old. I do wonder why people seem to be sitting further back in the church. Lettuce, scallions, spinach and beetroot make up most of the rest of my little plot, while I have high hopes for curly kale to last right into the winter.
All of this has come from an experimental nailing together of some old five foot by two discarded cupboard doors from the kitchen into a square raised vegetable bed.
Almost every time I visited one of the many beaches around Carna last winter I brought home a couple of refuse sacks of seaweed. Layers of this were interspersed with grass cuttings from the garden as well as potato peelings, banana and orange skins, tea-bags, withered flowers and any other kind of waste suitable for compost.
This in itself has saved a couple of hundred euro in bin charges, as heavy duty plastic bags can be bought when needed for the various kinds of separated rubbish.
It was around St. Patrick’s Day that I put onion sets around the outside, with lines of the other seeds across the bed. It was earlier than many people would set vegetables in the open in this country, but I had memories of people setting potatoes and other crops in the Aran Islands before the end of February.
While Carna is on the mainland it is also by the shore and I felt the early setting was worth the chance. It ended up with me being able to put my vegetables where my mouth is.
For the first time in many years I managed to beat the carrot fly, more by accident than anything else. I had often heard that it cannot fly above a certain level and I tried in the past to beat it by strips of plastic, which were inevitably destroyed by the wind. The raised bed, with the carrots two feet above ground level must have been the answer, though the onions growing around the edge may have helped too.
The lack of stones in the seaweed/compost mixture also meant that the carrots could grow down without interference, but even with that they would not reach the old European Community standards of straightness or length. The taste makes up for any difficulty involved in cleaning them.
Needless to say I hope to expand my vegetable patch during the winter. The old woodchip doors are beginning to disintegrate after the rain, but they have done their job and taught me a few valuable lessons.
Some more serviceable boards are due to take their place, and there will be even more seaweed needed next time. It was the only fertiliser used.
Speaking of fertiliser, I am reminded of the story of a man who used to bring organic rhubarb to an aunt of mine long gone to her reward. She eventually asked him how did he manage to produce such excellent produce year after year. His reply put her off the stuff for life: “The potty every morning’.