Grow your own Food with the Yard and Little Yard
Local produce is the very essence of the Good Food Ireland ethos. Some of our members take that to the max by growing their own fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables for their menus including The Yard and The Little Yard in Wexford Town, whose owner has a fabulous French style potager fruit and vegetable garden at his home to supply a host of fresh produce for the menu of his restaurants.
Local produce is the very essence of the Good Food Ireland ethos. Some of our members take that to the max by growing their own fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables for their menus. In our Grow Your Own Food series, we’ve been calling on our experts to give us some tips for home gardens. This time round, it’s the turn of The Yard and The Little Yard in Wexford Town, whose owner has a fabulous French style potager fruit and vegetable garden at his home to supply a host of fresh produce for the menu of his restaurants. The Yard’s Head Gardener uses chemical free methods to grow a wide range of vegetables,herbs and fruit, and has lots to say about what you can be getting on with in May and early June. Plus some good advice for beating the bugs and birds this growing season!
Planting out Seedlings Firstly, you can take heart in the fact that all gardeners have struggled with the weather this year! If your garden looks miles behind, The Yard’s gardener tells us that everything is at least four to five weeks behind, because the ground has been way too cold and damp to plant out seeds.
However, the good news is peas, beans and broad bean seedlings are all now up and can be planted out. Scallions and onion sets also now showing signs of life. Thinking ahead, if you have young plants for winter crops from the Brassica family, which includes sprouts, kale, broccoli and cabbages, this is the time to get them planted. If the ground had been warmer, this would have happened a little earlier. But it’s never too late and as our gardening expert says ‘the seasons always even themselves out in the end and you will get crops coming up, maybe a little later than usual, but they will come.’
Crops to pick at the moment include the last of the purple sprouting broccoli, which is generally finished earlier on in the year. But because of the delayed spring, crops have lasted till now. So it’s always swings and roundabouts in gardening!
Herbs The poly tunnel at The Yard’s garden is abundant with young herbs now growing. Chives, mint, tarragon, coriander, basil, oregano and rosemary are all doing very well and beginning to send their enticing scents out into the air at the first sign of a bit of sunshine. Customers at The Yard and Little Yard are going to have some lovely herby flavours to look forward to this summer! According to our expert, you should be seeing your tunnel herbs beginning to thrive now.
Tomatoes and Courgettes The Yard gardener has prioritised tomatoes this year, increasing crops and choosing heirloom varieties over more common plants. Here he gives us brief rundown:
‘This year we’ve got Black Russian, a big tomato with a dark tinge on the skin, very scented and flavourful. We are also growing Chocolate Cherry, which is a dark brown cherry tomato. Another one is Black Krim, with a dark green tinge to the top of the tomato and red and dark green flesh.’ This variety originally comes from the Crimea and can produce large tomatoes weighing up to 225g each. Perfect for big slices for tomato based salads with mozzarella and basil, or for topping a cheesy pasta gratin.
Courgettes are also on the go, particularly ones that are grown specially for the big yellow flowers which the chefs at The Yard love to use for stuffing or deep frying in a light tempura style batter. ‘We can’t grow enough of these for the lads, they love the flowers. Our plants are predominatly La Fleur, which means ‘the flower, an Italian variety grown specially for the blooms. But they do produce lovely courgettes too.’
Little Weeds! Our gardening expert has three very serious words of advice for controlling weeds when you are in an organic or chemical free garden ‘Hoe Hoe Hoe’!! It’s a simple as that, and you have to start now because once that sun shines those weeds will take over.
Creepy Crawlies Slugs are every gardener’s enemy. Our expert says ‘The old fashioned beer trap is a great idea. You just push an empty jam jar down into the soil and pour beer inside. The slugs will find it, fall in and die happy! One of the best things you can do to catch a lot of slugs at once, is to go outside with a torch at night. You will be able to just pick them off your plants.
A bucket of water is probably the best way to kill them, but don’t forget to put a lid on otherwise they will just crawl out! And there’s no point thinking if you take them out of the garden and release them into freedom elsewhere your slug problem will disappear. Slugs travel miles to get to food so you really do have to kill them if you don’t want them to come back. Our gardener says this method really works and you will see the amount of slugs getting less and less each night if you keep at it. He also says, ‘We don’t use slug killer here, but there are a few organic slug killers on the market if want to look for those.’
If you’re planting out cabbages and broccoli now for winter, you need to protect them from Cabbage Root Fly. This pesky little blighter lays it’s eggs on the soil at base stem of the plant, and the hatched lavae hatch burrow down into the roots of the plant to eat them. Our gardener protects his brassicas from this by using a ‘Brassica Collar’, which essentially is a 4-5 inch disk which fits neatly around the stem of the plant. The fly lays its eggs on this, rather than on the soil, which means the lavae can’t burrow down into the roots when they hatch. You can use the collar for any of the Brassica family of plants. If you’re growing a large number of Brassicas, you can net the plants or use carpet felt around the stems, which you must put down when you are planting out your young plants.
Birds and Bunnies Blackbirds, pheasants and rabbits might look lovely in your garden but you won’t have much left to eat yourself once they’ve paid a visit! Tips for preventing birds from getting their pick before you do include netting fruit bushes, particularly redcurrants, blackcurrants and whitecurrants, which blackbirds are particularly partial to eating. Our feathered friends are up very early these days, around 4.30am. So you could go out into the garden with your morning cuppa at 8am and find all your fruit has already been had for breakfast!
The advice here is to just lightly drape a fine net over the top of the fruit bush when the fruit starts to develop. Nets must be used from early on in the development of the fruit. If you are growing fruit bushes on any major scale, our gardener recommends a fruit cage, which is a metal structure a bit like a large dog run, netted on the outside to prevent anything from getting in to eat your crop.
Rabbits love young tender leaves and can munch their way happily through the lettuce patch and whatever other greenery you might have handy. Think of Beatrix Potter’s naughty Peter Rabbit! Again fine netting over the young plants in the bed can help prevent this.
And finally... If you have a failed crop this growing season, a few words of wisdom from our expert to set your mind at rest. ‘ There will always be one crop that won’t do well for any gardener. You can be growing a certain thing for years, and then suddenly one year it will fail and there’s doesn’t seem to be any reason why. It happens to all of us! Gardening is not an exact science and we can’t always get it right. There are very few explanations for why a whole crop will fail, but I always say you can’t every rely 100% on anything! Just make sure you have lots to choose from and that way if you lose one thing you still have other crops to enjoy.’
On that note, we will definitely be getting our hoes out this weekend...