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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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From the Garden: Using seaweed to compost at home before winter hibernation

Roasting root vegetables has become a staple in our house, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

AS BUSY AS it is in the kitchen and garden, I absolutely love this time of the year because we’re still heaving with produce and straining in the kitchen to deal with it.

This weekend alone, that’s meant freezing celery, pickling chillis, making a batch of green tomato sour, making sundried tomatoes and one or two batches of tomato sauce.

Though I grumble and gripe at the workload, clearly there’s a part of me that loves all this hoarding up for winter. I wonder sometimes if I was a squirrel in a previous life. Is it the semi-hibernation all this work promises that attracts me?

For every hour spent in the kitchen, there’s one required in the veg patch. The process of turning beds over to winter slumber continues.

This week I took out the courgette plants (the cold nights generally spells the end for any courgettes remaining) and harvested all the squashes and pumpkins which is always a fun job to involve the kids in.

I just about avoided an epic fail with squashes this year. We’ve gone large on our growing of them in the last few years because we’re lucky to have the space and they store so brilliantly.

I planted out around 50 squash plants in the field beside the house before we went on holidays back in July but disaster struck – all 50 little plants were eaten by rabbits when we came home.

So, the harvest is limited to the 15 or so plants that I had in the main veg patch, around 30 decent fruits in all. It’s not a bad harvest still, and they will store for four to five months.

This year I’ve vowed to myself not to buy any soil fertility to replace the nutrients taken from the soil this year.

I’ve gotten serious about composting again with a three-bay New Zealand box system I got from Quickcrop. However, on the basis that this won’t produce enough compost to cover all my beds, I’ve to look at other options.

I sowed a Landsberger Mix green manure in the beds where the courgette plants came out of (though I worry it might be a little late to do so) and then took myself and my youngest child off to the beach to collect some bags of seaweed for other beds.

The stormy weather of recent days helped to create lots of washed up seaweed for us to pick through and forage.

Load up the boot of the car – enjoying the nice smell of seaweed – and back to the garden to spread it out.

A good 10cm seaweed layer on top of the soil will rot down to almost nothing in the coming months, releasing all that nutrition back in to the soil.

It might require another few visits to the beach in the month ahead to cover all the beds, but the process of bringing on the winter’s hibernation is well and truly under way.

seaweed on beds right way Seaweed on the beds at home. Source: Michael Kelly

The Basics – Things to Do in October

To-Do

  • Pot up herbs to grow inside over the winter.
  • Continue to lift crops that have finished harvesting and clean up the beds.
  • Sow over-wintering green manures.
  • If you are going to cover empty beds down with compost or manure for the winter, the earlier you do it the better.
  • Try and find a good source of farmyard manure if you don’t have your own – cow, horse, pig, sheep and chicken manure are all great sources of nutrients for your soil.
  • Cut autumn fruiting raspberry canes down to the ground.

Sow

You can sow hardy varieties of peas and broad beans later this month for an early spring crop, but only do so in well-drained soil. Plant selected varieties of garlic and winter onion sets. You can continue sowing oriental salads in the tunnel until the end of this month.

Harvest

Depending on the weather, the harvest may well continue in to October – pumpkins, squashes, courgette, apples, pears etc.

It’s the last hurrah however for peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, peppers and chillis.

Continue to harvest wild mushrooms, elderberry, blackberries, sloes, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, swedes, celeriac, turnip, beetroot, celery, marrows, leeks and cabbage.

Recipe of the Week – Roasted Root Vegetables

Here’s a great recipe for roasting root veg that has become a staple in our house, particularly with the Sunday roast. Don’t worry too much about the quantities of each of the vegetables – whatever you have available is fine and of course it depends on how many people you are feeding.

Ingredients

  • Potatoes, parsnips, beetroot and carrots – peeled and chopped into chunks
  • A bulb of garlic
  • Fresh herbs – rosemary and thyme
  • Olive oil and seasoning

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Bring a pot of water to the boil.

Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer for a few minutes. Then add the parsnips and beetroot and simmer for a few more.

Drain them and dry off carefully.

Add a few glugs of oil to a roasting tin and pop it in to the oven for five minutes. Then add the veg to the pan.

Remove the cloves from the garlic bulb and add them too (no need to peel them).

Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the stalks and add them to the pan.

Season well and mix it all together with a spoon to ensure all the veg are coated in oil, herbs and seasoning.

Bake for approx 45 minutes. Keep an eye on it though – you want them nicely caramelised, not burned.

Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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