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From the Garden: Every cloud has a silver lining and bogland proved useful this summer

Bogland is usually not the best place to grow things, but it came in handy this summer for growing squash during the drought, writes Michael Kelly.

Image: Michael Kelly

THIS WEEK I noticed that some of my bumper squash and pumpkin harvest, which I have been storing in the potting shed, were starting to get a little soft.

I grew around 70 of them this year, in a more or less derelict piece of ground beside the big tunnel. It was a pretty amazing return and very low maintenance, thanks to a €100 investment in a giant roll of mypex which kept the weeds down.

Thanks to our incredibly boggy land, which generally speaking is a negative, the plants were quite happy through a 7-week summer drought, and I only had to water them once or twice.

Thank God for that as watering around 50 plants took me about an hour.

I grew a lovely mix of squash and pumpkin, the beautiful and sweet, blue-skinned Crown Prince, the giant red Rouge Vif dTampes, the slender yellow Delicata and the efficient Uchiki Kuri.

The fruits have been happy in the potting shed up to now, but I think the constant change in temperatures in there, cold by night and warm by day if it’s sunny, could take their toll if I left them there any longer. Time to take action.

So we kept about 20 of them for ourselves and moved them into the house, where the more constant temperatures should last until February or so.

Any of the ones that were going soft already will be used up first. The rest went in to GROW HQ, where Head Chef JB can store them in the cold room. From there they will grace many a lunch menu and probably feature in jars of chutney and the like. The smaller Delicata ones will be sold in the shop. Not one will be wasted.

Anyway, the potting shed is now completely empty for the first time this year. I got my potting shed as a birthday present from Mrs Kelly back in 2011 and it’s been a trusty companion in the 7 years since.

My brother-in-law Stephen, who has handiness embedded in his genes, built it for me on the end of the garage. It’s a timber frame with Perspex sheeting for windows, a slanted roof and about 5m x 2m in size.

On the wall side, there’s a waist-height potting station made of plywood where I do all my potting and lots of little shelves and cubby holes for storage. I even DIYed a little rack on the wall for my secateurs and trowels etc – it’s nerd heaven basically, the kind of thing your Dad used to do.

On the window side, there’s a slightly lower shelf where I put the rows of seed trays to soak up the sun.

I also invested in a heating mat which came in very handy early and late in the year, when seeds benefit from a little heat from beneath to get them going.

Although it alarms me how sad this makes me sound, I have to admit that some of the happiest times of this year were spent in the potting shed.

It’s a place of hope, growth, solace and retreat and I can’t wait to get potting again in 2019.

The Basics – Planning 2019

If you are planning to GIY for the first time in 2019, and wondering what to grow, the key is to start small and stick to things that you like to eat – there’s really no point in growing cauliflower if you hate to eat cauliflower!

Pick five vegetables you like to eat, and grow them. They could be tomatoes, peas, carrots, broccoli and sweetcorn.

Go out and buy the five packs of seeds, then do a little research on how to grow them. Often times most of the information you need is on the back of the seed packet. If not Google when to sow them and what type of soil they like etc. 

Then pick one other vegetable that you know nothing about and grow that too as an experiment.

It could be Florence fennel or swiss chard or anything else. The point is that you don’t really care whether it grows or not, or whether you like the taste of it – it’s an experiment!

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Recipe of the Week – Winter Omelette

Serves 6

This recipe uses two great stalwarts of the winter kitchen garden – squash and leeks. The yoghurt is an interesting addition. 


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 350g winter squash, cut in dice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint and the same quantity of fresh dill.
  • 8 eggs
  • 150ml Greek-style yoghurt
  • 40g freshly grated Parmesan cheese



Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pan. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until tender, about three minutes.

Add the garlic, stir together until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and add the squash. Cook, stirring, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the dill and the mint. Remove from the heat.

Place the remaining tablespoon of oil in a 9-inch casserole dish, brush the sides of the pan with the oil and place in the oven. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Whisk in the yoghurt and the Parmesan. Stir in the squash mixture. Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour in the egg mixture. Place in the oven, and bake 30 minutes or until puffed and lightly coloured. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.


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