Garden Diary

Jennifer with members of the SC Food Group.

Jennifer Sleeman, Founder and Honorary President of Sustainable Clonakilty, is an enthusiastic promoter and practitioner of growing your own food despite her 81 plus years. She shares her wisdom, and experience of her Clonakilty garden, with us on an ad hoc basis.

Jennifer’s Garden Diary Update Spring 2012

Recently Jennifer wrote:

“My diaries were becoming repetitive and have now stopped, age has curtailed both my gardening and writing.  However, if recording what worked, or did not, for me is any help I will leave them on web site for now.”

As website administrator I would like to thank Jennifer very much for sharing her delight in the pleasures of growing her own food over the past few years.  Her interesting and informative words and keen observation of the beauty of nature and the sheer joy associated with being at one with it, when in her garden, will be missed by all her regular readers.

Sustainable Clonakilty recommends the national organisation GIY (Grow it Yourself) to everyone interested in food growing. You can read the excellent website which is packed with useful information, and all about local branch meetings by clicking here.

Alison Wickham

Jennifer’s Garden Diary for 10 September 2011

Scarlet runner bean flower - pretty and delicious beans later too!

Beans! Such a crop of runner beans this year, delicious as they are I am almost tired of them and have been giving some away.  However, the wind of last weekend has played havoc with my beanpoles and we are expecting more and a worse storm this weekend so that may be their end. I dread the wind which can whistle through my garden twisting plants out by their roots.

As well as lots of beans, I have been eating the thinnings of Chard which was sown last month, they are truly delicious and I wonder why I did not sow more. It may not be too late and there is now some empty ground where onions and tomatoes have been harvested. The onions are not drying very well, where is our Indian summer?  The tomatoes are all green and I will make chutney with them using my own onions and apples and feeling smug. I have a strong feeling (and it is just a guess from observing my vegetables) that Ireland is cooling, courgettes have been a complete failure for me and they used to be abundant, some tomatoes have ripened other years and now cold weather crops like kale are doing well.  Remember last winter?

Ongoing work: as well as harvesting and preserving which I love, is pruning the loganberries, prickly work but they have certainly repaid any care they get with a magnificent crop this year. There is always weeding and when weather is dryish getting compost onto the vacant plots.

I lent a bit of land (I have too much now I am seriously old) to a young couple who were away traveling all summer.  Interesting to see that the weeds did grow but so did the vegetables they planted.  I thought of what I have read of pre famine Ireland when the really poor would plant their potatoes and then wander the roads until harvest time. Am I obsessed with weeding? Wasting my time and energy? Of course I don’t think so and I love the look of clean cultivated beds. Gardening should always be a pleasure!


Jennifer’s Garden Diary (23rd July 2011)

An Occasional Garden Diary week ending 23rd July 2011

I love harvesting so am very happy at this time of year and into August and September, there is always something to be gathered.  Today I picked peas enough for quite generous helpings for myself and my grandson John. John is waiting for a job in a surf school and meanwhile is a great help to me, young and strong and well able for the jobs that are just too much for me.

When I came to live here I planted a few wild raspberry canes from the Castle Freke Woods.  Now 21 years later there are raspberries growing on every untamed part of the garden! Smaller than cultivated berries, but I think they taste better. Continue reading

Jennifer’s Garden Diary (18th June 2011)

Week ending 18th June 2011

Here we are approaching mid summer and at last we have had some worthwhile rain. I have started planting out leeks and it is so much easier when the soil is damp and it is a blessing not to have to worry about watering.  My daughter was helping me and she asked why I nip off the top of the leaves and the ends of the roots when I drop them into their holes, I had to say that I had no idea it is just what I have always done!  Continue reading

Jennifer’s Garden Diary (4th June 2011)

Week ending 4th June 2011

I was picking vegetables this morning and thought of a little gate in my grandmother’s garden written on it was  “ The kiss of the sun for a pardon, the song of the birds for mirth. One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth”

I was in the sunshine, birds were singing and petals from the May blossom were falling around me and I felt utterly blessed.


Jennifer’s Garden Diary (3rd June 2011)

Garden Diary week ending June 3, 2011

Jennifer's Work Station

Jennifer's Work Station

Has it been a difficult spring? I have certainly found growth slow, too cold in May and although it rained there was so much wind the ground is very dry. Summer is here and I am writing this on warmest day of year so far, this evening I watered everything except well-established crops. Thinking ahead, as all we gardeners must, I need to get a second water butt, once I start paying for water I will appreciate what a valuable commodity it is.

I am still planting out brassicas for next spring where I can find a space, problem is the garden is very full. I pulled out the finished very earliest of the broad beans (Aqua Dulce sown in November) and replaced with white sprouting broccoli plants. Am not very pleased with these plants or purple sprouting they seem a bit frail and weak.  I was looking in the Friday market today and the selection of vegetable plants is amazing perhaps I would do better to buy plants rather than rear them myself.  Always too many seeds in a packet and then they go out of date, maybe why my plants are less than robust? But I do love to see things germinate! Continue reading

Jennifer’s Garden Diary (14th May 2011)

Week ending 14th May 2011

My garden is full of birds, some are still singing but I am sure others are busy hatching or feeding nestlings. A tiny brown bird had a nest in the bank I can see from my kitchen window, all day long she, or maybe it was they, were busy catching insects and bringing them to their babies; this has now stopped so I hope they have flown and not been killed, flown I think as there is no sign of nest being harmed. The very distinctive hen blackbird with one white tail feather has been eating my gooseberries but that has also ceased, I presume she too is hatching.  The Magpie’s nest is quiet, hardly visible now there are leaves on trees. Continue reading

Jennifer’s Garden Diary (30th April 2011)

Week ending 30th April 2011

I have always been proud of the fact that there is something to eat in my garden all through the year. I hope I am going to manage this year but it will be a near run thing. I am pulling out last of sprouting broccoli to prepare for runner beans but am harvesting both Swiss and rainbow Chard which are flourishing, and to follow? There are six Spring cabbages and I see small pods forming on autumn sown broad beans. Hoping for the best but fear the “hungry gap”. Continue reading

Jennifer’s Garden Diary (10th April 2011)

Week ending 10th April 2011

Jennifer's Hen

Jennifer's Hen

One of my most treasured possessions is my seed tin, a half sized biscuit tin dating from the 1950’s, may be even the 1940’s?  I know I have had it a long time and that it would be very hard to find one now. Once upon a time biscuits were sold crisp and fresh from these tins so they were quite airtight, and now mine keeps seeds well. I do try not to buy too many seeds (don’t succeed) and so not let them go out of date, but the tin is always full.  It has spent these last few weeks on the kitchen table as I have been very busy sowing.
I have some good little plants of brassicas in trays, brussel sprouts and red and green cabbage and lettuce, and in cut down milk cartons, on a heated tray, courgettes and runner beans. Outside parsnips and peas are up and more have gone in. I find it very helpful to mix in some radish seeds, which come up so quickly, with the very slow germinating parsnips. Thus I can keep weeds down and the radishes are delicious in early salads. Continue reading

Jennifer’s Garden Diary (16th March 2011)

Week ending 16th March 2011

A lot has happened in the garden since last I wrote, we have had a good spell of dry weather and I have sown early peas, carrots (ever hopeful I can succeed with them) parsnips and leeks outside; and in trays, Brussels sprouts and lettuces. The latter are looking well and yesterday red cabbage and a heritage variety of cabbage called Southampton Wonder have come up in trays in a heated propagator. Today I also finished putting in my small patch of early potatoes, Sharpe’s Express and Kestrel. Just in time for St Patrick’s day! Continue reading