Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Companion Planting and pest control

This list summarises some commonly held beliefs about the uses of companion plants, and basic anti-pest precautions I have coveed here before.

Firstly, slugs. Beer traps, copper bands and a good defense in building of slug hostile paths are primary.

Encourage Toads, Frogs and Hedgehogs by providing safe havens, dried cat food t attract them (this will also attract slugs so spread it away from veg beds) and shelter.
Their menu include cutworms, crickets, grubs, chafers, caterpillars, ants, moths, flies, slugs.
They are your friends, welcome and love them,be gretful if you have them.

Slugs are most active at night and are most efficient in damp conditions.
Go slug lamping at night, its fun. At dusk, go out in the garden with  torch and a knife and kill them on sight, every slug you kill stops hundreds more being born

Far and away the best course of action against slugs in your garden is a simple adjustment in the watering schedule. Avoid watering your garden in the evening if you have a slug problem. Water in the morning - the surface soil will be dry by evening.
Studies show this can reduce slug damage by 80%.

Secondly, the more insidious underground pests, cutworms, leather jackets et al, especially when opening up new grass land for veggies - use supernemo - a great Irish product that I found to be outstandingly effective.

In my own - non scientific - tests, supernemo outperformed nemasys, another pest control pack, and also I could clearly see that beds treated with suprnemo had little or no crop damage,whereas the few extra beds I threw in the garden that were not treated with supernemo but nemasys suffered very badly - in particular root crops.

SuperNemos are an Irish made bio-control product that contains a wider range beneficial nematode species.

SuperNemos is environmentally friendly, harmless to wildlife, earthworms,bees, bumblebees, pets and kids.

It attacks only target insect pests. There is no need for masks or specialized safety equipment.
This product will control Vine Weevil, Wire worms, Strawberry Root Weevils,Carrot Fly, Weevils, Chafer Grubs, Caterpillars, Cutworms, Leatherjackets, Beetle larvae, Cabbage caterpillar's, Flea beetle, Cabbage root fly, Fungus Gnats Larvae and many more!

SuperNemos will attack its target insect species; the nematodes enter the host through body openings or by penetration of the body wall. Once inside they kill the host within 48 hours.

Now the plants and their companions:

Allium--flowering onions, chives, garlic, leek, onion and shallot
Companion to: Roses, carrots, tomato, fruit trees and other vegetables
Repel aphids, weevils, carrot flies, moles, fruit tree borers; controls rust flies; protects tomatoes against red spiders. Protects roses from black spot, mildew and aphids.
BUT is believed to inhibit growth of peas and beans.

Companion to: Tomato, asparagus
Repels aphids, flies and mites; helps control insect pests such as tomato horn worms, asparagus beetles, and disease.

Beans (Butter, green, snap, string,wax)
Companion to: Beets, carrots,cucumber, corn, aubergine, potato,strawberry
Encourage growth of companion plants. Adds nitrogen to the soil.

Companion to: Tomato, strawberry, fruit orchards
Repels tomato worms. Adds potassium, calcium and other minerals to soil. Attracts honeybees.

Companion to: Cabbage, onions
Improves growth and flavor--but plant only one plant every 150 feet or so.

Companion to: Aubergine. Fresh catnip steeped in water and sprinkled on plants will drive away flea beetles.

Companion to: Cabbage, leeks, tomato, cauliflower
Improves growth of companion plants. Repels white cabbage butterflies.

Companion to: Radish. Improves growth and flavor.

Companion to: Carrots. Improves growth and flavor.

Companion to: Vegetables. Repels aphids. Attracts bees.

Companion to: Sweetcorn, beans, peas, radish, sunflowers
Improves growth. Vines growing with corn help anchor sweetcorn.

Companion to: Cabbage. Improves growth. Blossoms attract honeybees.

Most plants dislike fennel--so plant it away from the vegetable garden.
Its foliage and flowers may attract beneficial insects.

Companion to: Cabbage, corn, roses. Repels cabbage worms.

Companion to: Potato. Encourages growth.

Companion to: Cabbage. Improves growth, deters cabbage moth.

Companion to: Carrots, celery, onions. Improves growth, repels carrot flies.

Companion to: Tomato, potato, strawberry, beans, roses
Encourages growth, deters some pests.
Discourages harmful nematodes if they are grown for several seasons in the ground in areas that have nematode infestations.

Companion to: Tomato, cabbage. Improves flavor and growth

Companion to:Cabbage, cauliflower, radish, Brussels sprouts, turnips, collards, kohlrabi
Plant mustard as a trap crop. It attracts numerous insect pests. Remove and destroy it before your main crops can be harmed.

Companion to: Cucumber, other vegetables, fruit trees.
Repels aphids,cucumber beetles and white flies.
Acts as trap crop for aphids. Repels borers near fruit trees.

Companion to: Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli,beets, tomato, lettuce, strawberry, chamomile, summer savory
Repels aphids, weevils, carrot flies, moles, fruit tree borers; controls rust flies and some nematodes;
Protects tomatoes against red spiders. BUT is believed to inhibit growth of peas and beans.

Companion to: Broccoli, brassica's .Repels cabbage butterfly.

Companion to: Asparagus tomato, roses.
Deters asparagus beetles.Improves growth. Deters rose beetles.
Nigel from chillington hoes also informed me that parsley is related to carrots and parsnips and will not deter carrot fly and will actually be attacked by them.

Companion to: Sweetcorn
Adds nitrogen to soil for use by hungry corn plants. Grows well with carrots, turnip, radish, cucumber, beans and potatoes.

Pennyroyal Broccoli,
Companion to: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, other plants. Discourages ants, plant lice, cabbage maggots.

Companion to: Cucumber. Deters cucumber beetles.

Companion to: Carrots, cabbage, beans  Repels carrot flies, bean beetles, cabbage moths.

Companion to: Carrots, Brassica's. Repels carrot flies, cabbage moths.

Summer savory
Companion to: Green beans. Improves growth, deters bean beetles.

Companion to: Cucumber, squash, roses, raspberry, blackberry.
Deters flying insects, striped cucumber beetles, ants, flies, squash.
BUT, attracts cabbage worms.

Companion to: Cabbage
Controls flea beetles, cabbage maggots, cabbage worms and white cabbage butterflies.

Companion to: Various plants  Deters black flea beetles, cabbage worm butterflies. Highly Poisonous

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Monday, March 28, 2011

New permabed, new tools

Well, just made a start on growing, its that time of the year. It's always great to be able to expand in term of crop types and bed's, but it also takes planning and work.
This is particularly true when working on poor, marginal land like we have in Connemara, its pretty unforgiving.
But I have found some fantastic tool's available in Mayo and elsewhere in the country.
Chillington Hoes- I really don't know how these are not more widely used in Ireland, but they are available now - a list of stockists can be seen at this link.

Ridging hoe on left, heavy duty hoe on right.

Recently I invested in two tool's from the Chillington range available in Ireland, and the amount of time and effort they save is remarkable, far easier than the usual pick axe, spade and shovel combo.
The tools I bought were a ridging hoe and a heavy duty hoe, or azada.

I decided to convert last years auxiliary potato ridge into a bed for two permacrops - Jerusalem Artichoke and Sea Kale.
This was tricky as I would have to terrace in a bed. I really felt this could even require the hire of a mini digger, but at I saw an advert for the Chillington's, so I made contact with Nigel and picked them up.
After a brief try with it, I knew the tool would save me time, effort and money - that easy.

The whole process to clear tangled ground, clear rocks, open new ground, fertilise, plant, cover and bank up took me about 3 hours, and with a shovel, spade and pick I think it would have taken at least a days work.
I got to say, for a kitchen garden, particularly here in the west, this has become an invaluable tool.

So, the setup was at the edge of the garden to terrace in a new permacrop - Jerusalem Artichoke being the main one.
Firstly I had to open up the trench, which was under heavy, tangled grass and weeds.
The heavy duty ho took care of this with little effort, despite the stones and rocks. In the picture below it gives you an idea of how much stone comes out of a small trench.
Note the amount of stone on left.

The next step was to lay a bed of permanent nutrients beneath the new crop.
This was made up using seaweed and well rotted manure
After that I laid in the chitted tubers onto the bed seaweed and manure in a herring bone or zig zag pattern.
Next step was obviously to get the soil cove on, again done very quickly with the heavy duty hoe.
I used the larger rocks to shoe up the sides of the bed, and it also will allow me to terrace out the next level should I wish.
Pushing the bed out, again using the heavy duty hoe I edged the bed and put down some Sea Kale plants I had germinated.
Then it was simply to revert to what I know, laying down a pathway of ash and pine needles over the smaller stones taken from the rocky soil.
As I said last year, the building of the pathway using stone clears the soil and provides a great base.
As the pine needles and ash dry out, it becomes an unpleasant environment for slugs and suppresses weeds.
The concept behind the bed itself is straight forward, but the execution - e.g. digging into a rocky incline was always a bit offputting. However,  must say that I found the Chillington heavy duty hoe to make the job remarkably quick.
It also allowed me to start to make a start on opening up two new beds that are on ground with  lot of large roots, this has also been remarkably quick compared to the usual spade work.

As a review, all I can say is that the heavy duty hoe from Chillington is highly recommended

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Herring in Mustard and Buttermilk sauce

Again, being in Holland visiting, I go back to the old North Sea / Baltic staple.

This is basically a Scandinavian dish adapted for more Irish style ingredients.
In Sweden, this dish would most likely use dill for example.

I remember one conversation when I was told that had history been a little different Irish cuisine would be more like that found in Scandinavia, Iceland and Holland.
I suppose this has some basis in that our growing conditions are closer to them than to the Mediterranean regions, with things like oats, spelt and pulses. 
There has been a move towards this type of cuisine, particularly with NOMA in Copenhagen.

I feel also the type of food cooked in Normandy has particular reference to Ireland, with a lot of dairy, fruit and shellfish.
It is renowned for its rich butter and cream sauces - and for its apples, cider, and Calvados, an apple brandy much used in local cooking. Normandy, with its climate and history is not so different.

One thing we love with our fish is the sharp tang of citrus like lemon, so the buttermilk and mustard sauce gives that flavour. Quite common in Poland, Russia and Northern Germany - where a lot of Ashkenazi Jews lived the same combo of oily fish and a sharp taste was achieved using soured cream and chives, a dish I'll cover in the future.

This is a simple dish, get the potatoes down when you turn on the oven to pre-heat, add the beans over the spuds in a steamer about 5 minutes from plating up.

Takes about 25 - 30 minutes to cook if the fish are prepped in advance. 

Baking the fish is important in this dish, as it gives a dry texture to the flesh, it suits the sauce better.

ingredients (serves 2)

4 large herrings, cooking oil

for the sauce

3 tbsp (1 1/2 oz) 40 g Cuinneog butter
30 g (about a 1/4 teacup (1 oz)) plain flour
300 ml (1/2 pint) Cuinneog buttermilk
1 tablespoon Dijon wholegrain mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

* Some sugar or honey on standby (see note)

parsley and lemon wedges, for garnish


1. Heat the oven to 200°C (400 F) gas mark 6 and butter a deep ovenproof dish. Remove the heads from the fish, clean, gut, scale and bone them. Rinse and pat dry.

2. Slash the skins diagonally with a sharp knife two or three times on each side. Brush with a little oil. Put the herrings in the dish, cover and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the flesh is no longer pinky.

3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Gradually blend in the milk, stirring. Add the mustard and bring to the boil slowly, stirring until thickened. 

Season to taste.

* While tasting, if you find the sauce too sharp add sugar or honey to sweeten slightly

4. Serve the herrings with the sauce poured over, I plated up with some baked new potatoes and buttered green beans. 

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

New season cooking plans and Irish escargot

Well folks, its that time of the year again - time to get planting. From what the media says, food prices are going up anyway.

One thing I am looking forward to is more cooking. Just got off a ship with a lot of Catalan food, and was introduced to a great cook book on that subject by my mate Lance's girlfriend - Regina, a formidable, very influencing and creative cook who generally does much larger meals than I do, i.e. with more people to serve, amazing to watch - and the mix of north African /Portuguese/Catalan and more northern European foods is the direction in which I am trending

Its a lucky coincidence I put cardoon and Jerusalem artichoke down this year in the new perennial bed.

Its a lot of what could be called local peasant type food, so should be easy enough to adapt to what we can grow in Ireland, in particular those of you with polytunnels.

What I think attracts me most is the amount of varied fish meals.
I'm already planning to salt my own Pollock to create a home made, locally caught version of Bacalao with a bit of research.
I can already do salted mackerel - a real old Connemara staple.

Another Catalan staple was pickled oily fish like sardines and tuna - for which I hope to substitute herring and mackerel.

The other thing I liked was the way they do snails Escargot - or Cargols as they are called in Catalan - should be an interesting year. The way I see it is why they can get away with eating my salad plants when I could be eating them with salad plants.

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