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Teaching Children Gardening

planting with my niece

Most of my school reports, with hindsight weren’t bad ones as such. But, that I remember and am sometimes reminded, they seemed to come with that teachers note at the tail end, the at the time scary bit next to which ones parents signature had to go. They did note the great pupil/ student/ child in its many varying guises…. but their note always seemed to end with an extra added clause reading along the lines of…

if only he concentrated more in class.

My excuse is that I was looking out the window. At the trees. Some called it day dreaming, but it wasn’t. It really was admiring what was great outside. At the very least that’s my line and I’m sticking to it.

I did have my favourite subjects I’ll readily admit and I was generally speaking smart enough to read the book related to whatever current curriculum and moreso and specifically that classroom with windows in which that subject was being thought, just in case it was checked if I knew the answer when I wasn’t entirely paying attention.

My reasons for noting this is that one of my early posts after leaving college with horticultural letters after my name was a horticulture teaching post. That funnily enough was followed by another teaching post but instead of to adults, it was for those around the teen ages.

In the last few months and some ten years plus later and I have found myself giving classes to children as young as six and most recently I have been giving classes on behalf of Dublin’s [fingal] Libraries teaching secondary and primary schools [and adults] about gardening.

Let me sidetrack away from photosynthetic related teachings for just a moment….

I had teachers through my years that I liked. We all did. Everyone I know remembers the teacher that simply [we felt, as students] shouldn’t have been there and equally those that we felt deserved a medal of honour. Not because they knew their subject so well or that they were greater people but more that it really did come across as though they loved – and I mean really loved – what it is they did for a living.

Nurses, mechanics, carers, gardeners you name it…. there are the greats who care, just that extra mile more and love every second of what it is they do. With all their heart. And it shows. Their passion for that topic or profession absolutely shines through. They are those who don’t want to become the Head or the Principal or the Chairperson – solely because it means they won’t be on the ground floor, living, eating and breathing that subject that they love and in return they forsake the pay rise and the swivel arm-chair as versus the plastic bog standard version.

I guess what I am trying to say is that whilst attempts maybe are being made to bring gardening into all of our schools and to our children. Efforts that are bringing being green into the classrooms and following that into our homes, we, should I guess tread carefully in so far as that it doesn’t become a subject and a have to do. Gardening was never something I had to do, not even as part of the curriculum.

I used to grow plants under my bed. I remember taking the old coke bottles apart and using the then black hard base as an excess water collector so the carpet didn’t get wet. I remember cycling about five or six miles on my grifter bicycle to buy a bag of compost with my pocket-money. I remember my first bulb – a hyacinth that cost seven pence. My first cuttings of geraniums. My first attempt growing seeds of Radish alongside my Grandfather and my second attempt without him when my seeds failed in their entirety because I had dug a trench three-foot deep and put them at the bottom of it. At the time, it broke my heart. What you should consider also is that my parents and Grandparents were not gardeners. We did the summer patch, the same as everyone else – but they were not merited gardeners in any format.

I’m not saying I am the horticultural messiah. What I will say is that I know what subjects through school and horticultural college that I loved more. And why. I remember those so kindly who inspired me because they thought and spoke from their heart. Those, in that I could see, it was more than just a job. Maybe it is because of them, maybe, that I will never be a wealthy man monetarily speaking.

The alternate….? For me, gardening was always a want,  a need and above all it was in it’s every definitive meaning, inspiration in my life. And I love it dearly.

Contact Peter Donegan

Teaching Children Gardening originally published in The Tribesman week Monday 19th September

Fingal Independent – July 6th 2011

For those who have asked…. Despite the media report [below] I still own my lawnmower. Also, I still use it and didn’t trade it in. I am still a gardener, landscaper, garden designer or anything else that maybe describe one who works with plants.

Nonetheless, The fingal Independent did write this piece this week 😉

Donegan’s gardening radio show sparks rave reviews

By Robin KIELY

Wednesday July 06 2011

HE’S more used to hedgerows than headphones, but now a Fingal gardener has turned over a new leaf on the airwaves.

Award-winning landscaper, Peter Donegan, has traded in his mower for a microphone, fronting a weekly gardening radio show, which has drawn rave reviews.

Indeed, so popular is the ‘ Sod Show’ podcast that it regularly beats off competition from a host of international stations and programmes in the download charts.

Airing live on Dublin City FM every Friday, the Ballyboughal native aims to open up the world of gardening to everyone, mixing expert guests with local enthusiasts and businesses.

‘I’ve been doing the podcast on its own for about a year and the Sod Show has been on radio nearly six months,’ Peter explained.

‘We do it live and then it goes straight to a podcast on iTunes. It’s got a happy vibe and is a feelgood gardening radio show.

‘It’s for people who like the great outdoors. Brian Greene, who has 20 years of radio experience behind him does the sound and audio.

‘We’ve done a couple of good specials. We have Jane Powers on, who writes for the Irish Times, and we had the guy who grew shamrock for Barack Obama.

‘We’ve also had locals on. Ann Lynch from Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society was on, as was Phillip Murtagh who was talking about making elder flower champagne, both from Ballyboughal.

‘We’re aiming to make gardening and the show a fun place to be and it seems to be working well.’

A glance at the download charts on iTunes certainly emphasises that fact, where the Sod Show’s podcast regularly claims the number one berth in the ‘outdoor’ category.

What’s even more impressive is its standings in the ‘sport and recreation’ section, where it’s pulling in more hits than the likes of gardening shows on BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Ulster and Sky Sport’s ‘Sunday Supplement’ podcast.

‘It’s phenomenal really,’ Peter reflected. ‘It’s important to recognise the amount of work being done locally in Ballyboughal and it’s nice to be able to get that out on the airwaves.

‘ We’re mixing local guest with nationally and internationally known guests. The show really is open to everyone.’

It’s another chapter in an impressive story for Peter, who celebrates 10 years in business this year and he’s still as busy as ever.

He passed on his knowledge at a number of talks with Fingal Libraries earlier this year and addressed 250 people on the benefits of podcasting at a recent south Dublin event.

And on the gardening front, he spent the weekend demonstrating garden displays in the middle of the city centre, as part of an urban living event in Wolfe Tone Park.

-The Sod Show is broadcast every Friday at 3pm on Dublin City FM.

– Robin KIELY

Create Your Family Garden

If I hear the word….

…in these recessionary times….

…one more effing time, I may just spontaneously combust. I’ve had it. I’ve had it the media, with RTE, RTE Prime Time, RTE Frontline, The Week in Politics, RTE news and you can throw your man Vincent Browne right in the middle as he joins the conga party bus just as sure as one more government gaff hits the headlines. This all before I don’t pick up a newspaper.

donegan landscapingI watched the youtube clip of Shane Hegarty on BBC news – yes folks, BBC news – as he spoke about the Great Things About Ireland campaign. He yapped about red lemonade and how a wake may turn into a party, our sports and our language…. I began to smile as my mind wondered, child like, as if I was in accounting class on a warm summers day, starring at a single cow in a field…..

I don’t watch the news. I don’t watch much television. I definitely don’t watch anything that may devalue my happy head. On the one hand I spend too much time outside. But I’m happy there. I love camping in the rain. I love climbing trees, still. I love good news. I admire people who smile. I call it the great outdoors for good reason and as I type this weeks piece I’m taking my caffeine in a mug that says Happy Christmas on it. That’s the kind of happy level I like to be and am at.

I’ve realised just how much time I spend outside though. A lot of that is in other peoples gardens I admit. Towards the point, I’ve got a baby girl now and she’s one and a little bit years young. When I was camping in Lough Ennell we sat on the grass together were I played the ukelele for her while Mom was off doing stuff us adults may consider important. I know I like to keep my mind occupied, which can sometimes lead to moments of ponder. The technical term is daydreaming I believe, but Ella held tight to the sleeve of my t-shirt and sang her own or at the very least the unreleased version of whatever choon I was diddling away with. And for a moment I paused…. I wondered why this didn’t or hadn’t happened at home more often, or at all. I’m hesitant to admit some of the other pre-mentioned options.

What the flip is the gardener talking about this week Mary….?

I’ve taken at a look at my great outdoors you see. I’ve been growing vegetables. I have my fruit trees. I have had pieces in my garden like my red satellite bird bath – a satellite, painted red and turned into a bird bath – but these were or are mine. Not hers or ours. And as I delve further into my thoughts, I realise I am  now potentially reticent of the old, to me, at the time, gardeners I knew back in the 1980’s. I need to change that, in a way.

I need to plant more pretty flowers. Make the garden a place of intrigue and mystery. With hidden places. Not the stereotypical ‘childrens’ garden ie. a slide in a specific space. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s not. But I’d like to have that and so much more. And it’s so easy to do. To design, nee map out the garden in my head.

She will start to walk soon and ask questions and wonder why and explore and…..well that’s what the Haynes Manual on all things Children says and in my mind as I start to doodle I can see that I just need to be impractical. Forget about the manual. Pretend I’m four… easy before you giggle there.

I need to not say I can’t. I need wild flowers growing. Not out of a packet. Just wilderness growing, wild, so I can run through it, even though I might lose things in there. But then I may also find them, which will make me smile. I know she won’t always need to hold on to me to be able to stand you see and then I’ll need a little more than that patch of grass we sat on.

For me, as I see it, the en vogue gig for the general populas may well be growing your own vegetables and it really does have a great role to play in the lives and future of this nations nippers. Very happy I am to see it somewhat take the place of the microwave. But I remember the girls I knew growing up making perfume in a jam jar, with rose petals. I remember making daisy chains. Climbing trees, taking geranium cuttings, picking some flowers for a school teacher…. such simple things, all playing such a huge part in the ever increasing big picture of my time and life not indoors.

As I delve back into my adult head, my horticulturist hat back on I realise that last seasons snow meant that I couldn’t do certain things so that they might be in flower come this year. More than that it meant I lost a season. That means I must now wait until this coming October to plant my trees.  It also means the new hedge that doesn’t exist has a valid excuse. But more, even more than that, this time next year Ella will be two going three. A big difference. And if I don’t do the things I should to my garden now, this season…. well, as her Godfather explained to me, she’ll never be that age again.

I was chatting about this with a gardener friend of mine. I was explaining that my chicken coop is painted pink and white. I will of course openly admit I had a lot of that colour left over from a previous garden endeavour. I explained my thinking, my hands almost directing  traffic as they flapped about in the air etching the garden into nothing-ness. In jesting, we came to the conclusion that if I had had a baby boy I may simply have needed a set of goal posts.

But the horticultural minds considering poetry as versus trigonometry, both agreed that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the imagination is something that should be applauded and enccouraged, maybe even nurtured. We thought of the seasons, the seasons of nature one needs to pre-empt in order to be able to attract it to your garden so it is there when that time arrives.

Now that I have told myself my story and what I would like that road ahead to have in stock for me…. I think it’s about time I designed a garden for the future and for my family.

I remember some time ago being asked by a Client, who was also a Dad to visit his daughter. She had just bought her first home and had, as he described it an extreme case of the independance streak.

She inherits it off her Mother. Who inherited it from hers…..

He told me.

After a consultation with her and partner a list was drawn up. A wish list, that would make a garden. On the other page, a great big garden doodle. With numbers, arrows and outlines. But, after each item on the list was the ingredients to make that particular piece or space.

The benches, for example, were new railway sleepers, six inch nails, paint and some cement. The planting was seperated into trees, bulbs and then the lower growing plants, bed by bed. The sketch and the itinary were given to the Father. He then framed it and paid me for my time. It was her house warming present and it was hung in the kitchen, by the patio doors.

For each birthday, anniversary or celebration some items, ingredients or were it maybe got a little technical, my time was purchased by the various relations.

Better than the salt and pepper shaker she always wanted. Anyways the garden will be a nice home for that swing I’m gonna make her….

For the weekend that has just passed, Happy Fathers day. And before anyone asks why I didn’t mention Dads day last week….? I of course had to be reminded 🙂 There are reassons why I never buy myself socks.

Contact Peter Donegan:

Garden Radio Ireland – The Sodshow – Every Friday 3pm on 1032 Dublin City Fm

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.

Listen!

The SodShow – Fridays 3pm – 103.2 Dublin City Fm

Listen to The SodShow in MP3 – or – subscribe/ listen to the podcast in iTunes. Alternatively, subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here. Missed The SodShow May 20th 2011

With thanks to this weeks guests:

  • Ann Lynch of The Hedgerow Society who will host this weekends Garden Group adventure

Listen Later:

Listen Live:

  • Tune in: 103.2fm on your radio dial if you are in the Dublin area
  • Listen online: every Friday 3pm just click t9.ie/SodShow
  • or: visit www.dublincityfm.ie and click the listen button
  • also: use the hashtag #SodShow

Making Contact:

Thanks for listening 😉

The Sodcast – Episode 19

sodshow, garden podcast

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.


Listen to The Sodcast in MP3 – or subscribe/ listen to the podcast in iTunes. Alternatively, subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here. Missed Episode 18 of the garden podcast ?

First Up:

the above all thanks to DavyMac 😀

Anything else you can contact me in the following ways

also:

  • Fancy a Sodcast Mug for your cuppa…. ? ;) because [say Pierce Comms] of course there is a consumer emotional attachment to brands and logos

This Week On The Blog:

none for this week….

Links For The Podcast:

Grannymar links:

also:

Images For The Podcast:

This Weeks Oddities:

Will Knott asks:

Dear Peter,
I have pumpkins. Two small (put one fist in the other sized) “live” pumpkins that were decorations for haloween. If I want the seeds inside to grow, what should I do. At the moment they are sitting in the front garden, frozen. Will they rot down and plant themselves, or do I need to break them open?
Love the podcast
Will

And Finally:

...

You can catch the Niall O’Keeffe show on Saturday evening. Don’t forget to Text XMAS and your message to 57000 and let Niall know you’re listening….

Nice way to end the podcast. Thanks Niall, enjoyed that 😀