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The Gardeners Guide For August 2012

peter donegan landscaping plants

The gardeners guide [podcast version] for the month of August:

The gardeners guide for the month of August will air live today, Friday @ 3pm on The SodShow, Dublin’s only garden radio show. Listen details for podcast and radio are as follows:

Other: The non-Gardener Group Gig with Trevor Sargent, Sunday July 29th. The Sodshow microphones will be in attendance.

You may find the podcast here after the weekend. In the meantime and for all your garden podcast needs, pop across to

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Outdoor Lights: LED versus Halogen

Maybe you were thinking that this might be some fancy Dan post about nice fittings or what not. It is, a bit, but it’s not really. It’s more to do with the bit inside the fitting, the bulb that is, that provides the light. The above image is of a 10 watt LED light bulb that I’ve used to replace the flood light type lights that brighten up my space outside.

If you know where I live, you’ll also know there are only 3 street lights on a 3 mile stretch of bendy country roads and my nearest next door neighbours are either cattle or crops. Lighting outdoors in short is most necessary.

The beauty about this 10 watt bulb below is that it pops straight into the fitting that previously was held by a 240 watt halogen bulb [note: No replacement of fitting necessary]. Of minor importance maybe is the initial cost for the LED bulb of about €24 as versus the about €10 for two Halogen bulbs.

On the basis of 8 hours per average night usage, I was burning out about 1 halogen bulb per 8 – 10 weeks [approx]. This isn’t over usage, it’s simply because they tend to burn themselves out by reason of their very own heat. 10 watts in comparison never gets any warmer than a cucumber.

The next big Q is the cost to power one €24 LED bulb. More accurate may be is, thanks Orla

Total Cost = Rating (kW) x Time (h) x Unit Cost (c)

But for want of some official-ish type noting, I went to the ESB appliance calculator – thanks Caitríona ~  I assumed the average of 8 hours per night multiplied by 7 days per week usage. They didn’t have a LED bulb selection choice, but the method of calculation should still be the same.

I then put in for the halogen bulb. The logic should be 240 watts ÷ 10 watts = 24 times more usage. Not surprisingly, €19.77 ÷ €0.82 = 24.11 [rounded to 2 decimal points]. Pretty accurate or not far off it 😉

This standard high energy 240 watt bulb may surprise some. But the reality is when unit sales are related to [bottom line] the price one pays at the check out, then I guess it may [to the retailer ?] make sense. As standard, more surprisingly, maybe, B and Q [no offence and just by way of example] do a 400w R7 halogen bulb included as standard with some of their outdoor light fittings. It’s also the one added reason why one quote as versus landscape specification maybe a little higher, initially, than an other. Fine print is very important.

I’m a big believer in most of the things that I do in life, including gardening, that cheaper isn’t always the most logic. Where logic does apply and in an age where I have in the past swapped a plumbers time and cost for two water butts, I also find it mildly rhetoric that I as a green minded fellow could sleep soundly at night knowing what it is costing in energy to power just one light bulb.

Hugh did ask me how I felt the two types of lighting compared. I will grant you the halogen is better, clearer and brighter ~ this maybe warrants a video of sorts to explain. But, considering 24 LED’s is equal in power cost to just one halogen, that and my good nights sleep of course…. I’ll happily settle for the slightly [and it is just that] lesser.

Also as a sort of added extra by the way, I purchased these bulbs as local as was possible for me, in Mainscourt Electric in Swords. In the super dooper bonus points round, I score extra as owner Tommy and his nephew who also works there live in my home town of Ballyboughal. 🙂

Answers or thoughts on a postcard or leave a comment below.

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Plants. Watering. In Warm Weather

hand made bbq

A lovely image of my home-made barbecue to go with the audio.

Whilst the audio above discusses emergency water inducing measures. That aside and of note, there are some points to watch for. The first, silly as it may sound is compost drying.

compost dry

Compost is in short generally peat based, mixed with lime to raise the pH, a wetting agent and some plant feed. When it gets really dry, its colour changes from a wet black to a light woody brown ~ point of note numero uno.

More than that, the peat based product gels itself together and retracts away from the pot [see above]. You may need to ruffle the top of the growing medium [compost] before you soak it in water, but and as noted in the audio, by capillary action is the most efficient watering method.

donegan gardens

The semi- alternate to this is to be smart with your existing or new planting layout. The image above is from the courtyard garden I created some time ago now at Ché Max, Baggot Street. Plant choice decisions of note here, include the use of taller plants with a thin stem but a large bract/ head to create shading for the younger plants below. This therefore reduces the amount of light getting through to the soils surface and slowing evaporation. More than that it also reduces transpiration from the younger plants below.

glasshouse irrigation system phototropism

On a slight side note, in the last few extreme heat [for us pale and freckly Paddy’s] days I’ve noticed the phototropic effects on my younger plants in particular, that is the turning towards the stronger light just that little bit quicker than usual. Something I should note that might only happen if you left a plant in your north facing pantry.

If you do have window boxes, hanging baskets or the like, the best thing one can do is drop ’em straight into a large container of water and allow ’em to soak up exactly what they need water volume wise. Far, far better I think you’ll find that the water running down your arm and ruining that new frock you just bought. With that in mind, I did these window boxes for the wonderful folks at The Chilli Banana restaurant and I’m wondering how they are managing their watering, especially with customers walking by underneath. 😉

My advice, in a world gone all water conservation conversation, get two or three water butts and use the half wheelie bin approach. Keep an eye out for wilted plants. Super saturate your plants before planting, plant plan smart-er and make life a little less complex by allowing your planters soak it all up from below; all the while of course you being a lot greener. Water usage aside, it also leaves you with far more time to enjoy your space outdoors.

Any thoughts or comments ? Hit me on facebook, leave a comment below or pop me an email and I’ll note it this Friday on the garden radio show. In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine 😉

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Capillary Action

Pub Quiz Answer: water travelling against gravity. Ever seen rainfall go upwards ? If you’ve ever siphoned liquid [note: liquid plus tubes] from one place to another, you’re half way there.

Horticulturally serious: I’ll need this post to refer back to in a while and on a slight side note, maybe more than I realise, it is one of the most beneficial understandings in what might be considered one of the basic principles of horticulture. Many varying definitions out there to be found, this very shortened definition [as versus my own] should suffice.

Capillary action is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, and in opposition to external forces like gravity.

In relation to gardening, this becomes again important when we consider:

In hydrology, capillary action describes the attraction of water molecules to soil particles.

I never entirely understood [I do] why capillary action as a definition got to be [of sorts] borrowed, because when broken down really by meaning, it cannot refer to water movement in anything other than a xylem [a plants water carrying internal pipes] or a tube of some format. A discussion for another day over a glass of Midleton I hear you say.

If you are actually interested in joining me for that chat, you’ll most probably find this photograph below extremely humorous. Oh the giggles we shall have 😉

garden water feature

Disclaimer: there’ll be no drinks. It’s just definitions can get quite cucumbersome and often need some mild humour to brighten them up.

Also, now every time I mention capillary action I can link to my own meaning/ explanation – as versus someone elses 😉

Note: I may update this post further. For now and because I write this when it suits/ I have the time/ I’m not in your garden ~ the basic understanding/ theory is there.

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Garden Maintenance: Coryllus avellana ‘Contorta’ – Reversion

I think the video explains it better than text ever could the coryllus avellana ‘Contorta’ or commonly known Corkscrew hazel and the maintenance steps I need to take to bring it back to its glory days for the coming season.

For those who might like to know, I thought these the most helpful of definitions:

Reversion: 3. Genetics A return to the normal phenotype, usually by a second mutation


Reversion: n 1 return to an earlier condition, practice, or belief 2. Biol the return of individuals or organs to a more primitive condition or type

In all of the gardens I have ever owned [2] I have always had one of these plants. I don’t entirely know why. Part of me always wondered if it knew it were an oddball alone in the plant world and/ or just what it was thinking when it began returning to normal.

More than that I always loved how when everything else was going to sleep for the winter like some sort of Cinderella, this fellow took the stage and became so amazingly beautiful –  only for it to return to contorted just as everything else was waking up.

How the plant kingdom will never cease to amaze me and why I love it so much.

catkins coryllus avellana contorta