Blueberries, Potatoes & Rushes.

In Cooking, Foraging., Gardening, sustainable living on April 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Bilberry in flower.

Every Irish garden, including our own, now seems to have a few Blueberry plants. They are of course very popular in the supermarkets where it costs about 3 euros for 100g. Famed for their antioxidant properties they are classed as a healthy food, which of course they are. Many seem to have forgotten about our native Blueberry, the Fraughan, Bilberry, Blaeberry or whatever other local names they carry. They are of course FREE and organic especially if you find some on a quiet road where they won’t be contanimated by car fumes. It can be hard to spot them later on in the season. They are in flower now so when out walking, especially in areas with peaty ground, keep an eye out for the small, pink, urn-shaped flowers. mark the spot in your mind and return there in late July when the berries will be ripe.

Planting Blueberries in tractor tyre filled with ericaous compost.

The day traditionally marked for picking the fruit was the Sunday closest to 1st August. This day had various names all over the country. In Tipperary it was called Rock Sunday as we all climbed Devil’s Bit Mountain and picked berries on the way down. Other names include Fraughan Sunday and Garland Sunday. Of course this day is a remnant  of the ancient Celtic Festival of Lughnasa, Lugh was the Celtic God of the Sun.

Recently I have been hearing and reading up about growing in straw, especially good for potatoes as they don’t have to be dug just pull back the straw to harvest what you want. Always willing to try an experiment I have planted some Colleen potatoes in the big polytunnel using rushes instead of straw. Andy has been strimming the fields so no shortage of rushes.

First lay a layer of newspaper to keep down the weeds.

Place Potatoes on top, about a foot apart, these ones are well sprouted.

Top with a good thick layer of rushes, or straw, water well. The theory is that as the straw rots down it provides nourishment for the growing plants. How will it do? Watch this space, I will keep you updated!

  1. I until recently had goats on their “last”day i was clearing out their stable which co-incided with also filling my poly-tunnel with extra earth as i was “multi-tasking”that day and through sheer exhaustion/laziness i just spread all the straw etc in layers with the earth.Later on i planted peas and runnerbeans one end and red/yellow pepper seeds,courgettes etc in sections on the sides-they have all come up really big and healthy-super fast!looks messy especially after the hens sneak in but it seems the seeds love straw!

  2. will give the potato and rush thing a go, have tried the same method with black plastic, don’t you need manure at all?

    • Seems not, I had a fab crop from this last year. Keep piling on straw/rushes through the season. As it rots down it provides nutrition.

  3. I’ve found blueberries to be a bit fussy. When we bought our house there were some bushes planted, but no matter how we fertilize, we only get a handful of berries off each. There are happily several wild places nearby that are covered in blueberries in the late summer, so we go and stock up for free.

    • The main requirement of Blueberries is acid soil, perhaps that could be your problem. You’re so lucky to have them wild, that’s a real bonus.
      Is your toe better?

      • Thanks, Bridget. The toe is a bit better as long as I keep it strapped. If I get lazy it reminds me it’s not done healing yet.

        Yes, I’ve been trying to acidify the soil for the past couple of years. Been spreading the “acidifier” stuff they sell for Hydrangaes (work on them) as well as my coffee grounds. But this year I read that pine straw makes the soil very acidic, so I’ve put down a couple of inches of that. We’ll see.

  4. Yep, Ballydoon are earlies. Good for champ, by reputation.

  5. Love the tractor tyre idea, Bridget. I had to make do with an old sand pit/paddling pool. Are there Devil’s Bit Scabious on Devil’s Bit Mountain? Spuds – Do you grow any Ballydoon?

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