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Gigs: National Tree Week 2012 – Hedgerow Walking

hedgerow walk

Myself and the pint sized human will be on this walk. Always a bit of craic and good old fashioned fresh air family fun. Any hassles or Q’s just drop me a line 😉

SATURDAY 10th MARCH – National Tree Week Walk in Ballyboughal with the Hedgerow Society.

Discover Larch, Scots Pine, Oak, Beech and lots of primroses in Mainscourt Woods.

  • Meeting Point: O’Connors Pub, Ballyboughal [see image below]
  • Time: 2.00
  • Duration: c. One and half hours
  • Details: Chance too to see about 50 frogs! Children very welcome
  • Donations welcome: for Temple St Hosp.
  • Info: Ann 086 3638487 – or comment below

The Gardener

osteospernum

I’ve had an odd week of sorts [last week] in the garden. Well, it’s a little of the usual or, more of the same but it’s been an odd series of tasks that have taken place I suppose.

The weed pulling enthusiasts versus your and my chemical romance aside, it was a case of trying to dodge the showers, in part to kill of some weeds that were growing in lawns. Sticking with that for the moment, this is a very simple theory as to how that all works. There are two shapes the leaf of any plant can have. Narrow, like a grass leaf – or of a more rounded shape, in short. The molecular make up of the chemicals that kill only that of a more rounded leaf in lawns [ie daisy, buttercup etc.] is that it cannot attach itself to the narrow leaf of the grass plant and therefore only takes effect on the weeds ie. the plants we don’t want in our lawns. Problem solved.

If you are intending on doing a little of that be sure to use a hood for your napsack or calibrated sprayer. Better know as a cowel, it prevents wind drift and droplets of the semi selective [translocated herbicide – one has to be very specific] weed killer from hitting other plants and killing them off. Like hens, chemicals aren’t very fussy about what green leaves they have a go at.

The chemical brothers aside [wondering if I can sneak one more band in before the end of this piece….], hedges were cut. A little reticent of nineteen eighties Ireland to an extent, in my opinion, the symetrical boundary plantations did go out of fashion for a while but, it is nice to see them coming somewhat back into fashion. In part, I always had a little of a soft spot for en mass Grisilinia and the like. There was and is something about them that is just that little friendlier than the timber fence or the coldness of a grey and internally angular brick wall.

That aside I know a lot of the hedging in Ireland took a serious beating these winters just past, so now really is the time to start ‘ripping’ them out and getting the soil ready for some new ones to take place. If you are unsure of what type of hedge plant to use – I highly recommend a walk locally with a camera in hand and as you pass the neighbouring hedge and plant types that take your fancy simply snap away. Do remember that this is the year two thousand and eleven and one can buy plants at any height and size that you pretty much wish to, something that was almost unheard of over thirty years ago.

Looking for something a little fancier and a change from the usual that may potentially be considered garden chores. Then how about making something for yourself with your own hands ? Over on The SodShow, Dublin’s only garden radio show as a by the way [and also available in Galway – you can listen online], is starting a new feature running every Friday for the next ten weeks. There I will chat with resident civil engineer John Farrell about everything that is hard landscaping.

This Friday starts with concrete, the basics and how to mix it. Simple for some, complex for others, the idea is to start at the bottom and work our way through anything that concrete could meet in your garden. From putting in a washing line, building a barbeque all the way to garden walls and beyond. Every Friday live at three pm we will guide you through all of the things you maybe thought of building but never did. Of course you can catch the podcast version of The SodShow in iTunes and/ or live on my garden blog.

With a softer version of hard landscaping in mind, this week saw me build some quite large, robust and yet pleasing to the eye raised planters for growing some of your own vegetables, herbs and soft fruits. With the structures built and rubber lining stitched in place, the next phase is to fill them with soil and then it will be a case of choosing the crops and produce to grow for the coming months.

Some seem to have a notion that the clock stops for this gardener come the return of the nippers going back to school. Not on your Nelly Furtado [that’s three bands – although I couldn’t tell you one or any of her/ his songs of the top of my head].

I like the allium family [onions, leeks, chives and the like] but, I’ll browse the seed catalogues in the coming days and see what takes my fancy. Before I do that, I’m going to build a bench into the new part to this garden. This is a place as versus being thought of as labour intensive, I would like to be renowned and considered for being one of retreat, relaxation and escapism. How many can say that about their garden ?

Plant choices of the more outdoor type aside, it is quite funny when you think that just up the road from me pumpkins, grapes, tomatoes and aubergines are growing quite happily in abundance under glass….. maybe, just maybe I need to add a new structure to my garden.

Contact Peter Donegan

The Gardener, originally published in The Tribesman week Monday 22nd August

Ireland, Camping and The Great Outdoors

The August Bank Holiday weekend is looming quicker that you might actually realise and there is a mild buzz in the air as suggestions and possible destinations are dissected, travel plans are made and lists of not to forgets are concocted and overly examined. Of course one could book into the El Fancy Dan hotel for some pampering and what not but in case you didn’t already know, it seems that camping in Ireland may just be the new rock und roll.

Mary….?! where did you leave the….. did you actually put the tent pegs in the car….? Well they should be there then, shouldn’t they….. shouldn’t they ?

camping irelandSome may shudder at the thought of the potential chilly night and the fact that the neighbours, now just two sheets away can hear every air movement and whisper. But unless you own the Partridge Family bus, there was and always will be an element of egg shell trampling with any family holiday. It is, with hindsight what makes them fond memories.

In favour of the properly roofed accommodation brigade is the reality that our hotel prices are cheaper than we have ever seen them before and most recently we have seen Irish Value Added Tax on restaurants dropped to nine per cent encouraging us all to eat out… well, in, if you know what I mean.

In the camping camp, it doesn’t bode so well as the media pundits continue to report the usual economic related tag-lines as potential reasons for the camping resurgence. But it is of them that use the RTE Prime Time misnomers, that I wonder. I wonder if they have ever actually camped, more than once. The naysayers aside, I personally wouldn’t swap cooking and sleeping Al Fresco for the world.

I almost forgot to add the fact that Irish weather is just a little unpredictable.

The reality is I’m proud to boast, that we do live in such a beautiful little country. But I’m still wondering why and what it is about this element of the Irish great outdoors that makes so many others want to sleep in a tent.

According to Camping Ireland, figures from the Central Statistics Office show Irish people made 309,000 camping trips at home in 2009. They also noted the Irish Caravan and Camping council who said that altogether, Irish people and foreign tourists spent 2.4 million nights on Irish campsites in 2009, contributing €96m to the local economy. And figures are rising….

But why, you may be asking, is the Dublin gardener yabbing on about camping in this weeks article.

Gardener. There. I said it. Gar-Den-Er. Gar-Den. Get back to the garden, ye big Donegan head the ball…..

There is a point where, lets say in cooking, were one must cross over into the gardeners world and at the very least understand where and how the food is produced, grown and developed. One must as some point, get their hands dirty, even be it just fresh herbs. From this gardeners perspective, I’ll go back to the reasons and thinking behind the non-gardeners group I set up two years ago.

How does one encourage the next generation to become interested in gardening….?

The answer, in part, is quite simple. Step one ? One needs for the people to be outside first. And there in lies the key. Because, when one goes camping one doesn’t stay inside the tent for forty days and forty nights. One is outside, in the great outdoors and one develops a feeling, almost an understanding, not of how all the elements work, more how to work in tandem with them.

That may sound a bit silly, but every male will tell you there is an art to picking the perfect place to pitch for the night. It is a primary trait, followed in no particular order by mans preprogrammed function to source food and water.

My wry wit aside, the last place I went camping in was sited just by Lough Ennell. Surrounded entirely by woodland and right beside a stunning lake. So picturesque, at the time in audio, I wondered if in fact it was the most beautiful place on earth. Eamonn O’Malley, the sites owner told me how after weekends he wanders through the woods to do the various checks and tidy-ups. He explained how visiting children and their imaginations rearrange minute segments of the woodland in such varying guises en route to making their own fun. He commented how, even with the advances in technology how the game consoles are so quickly forgotten.

In Lough Key, near Boyle in Co. Roscommon where I stayed last year the campsite was set within the forest. My friend George and his family travelled with mine and similar to, within hours of arrival the elder son [5] had laid and rearranged some branches and stumps now known as furniture. The invisible living room was of course where one went to listen to the invisible radio. On one occasion I forgot to use the door and walked through an invisible wall.

There is a point where gardening and camping meet and appreciation for what surrounds takes reign. The fruits of recently made elder flower champagne for example were tasted just this week and no longer I should admit do I see this plant as a weed. Quite the opposite. Three weeks ago, I was thought how to eat a nettle leaf and I in return explained how when my hair goes wavy it is based on the theories behind the old hydrometers. It is how I predict that it is going to rain.

For the next generation, the nations schools have seen gardening become part of their everyday playground, at home, community gardens are becoming as logic as a hall door and plant life is something we are all beginning to instinctively watch out for.

Wonderland n 1 an imaginary land of marvels or wonders. 2 an actual place of great or strange beauty

Outdoors n 2 the world outside or far away from buildings; the open air

More than that again, our children are being thought about biodiversity. A thinking that encourages one, in short, to leave piles of leaves and logs, to plant flowers and food to encourage bees, bats and bird life. It is a thinking that in any space allows an appreciation for the older, newer and the fallen members of the tree family. But, what if you were surrounded by it….

No matter how I describe and no matter how I enjoy it…. the great outdoors, in Ireland for me, is simply amazing. In my mind and in my eyes the only thing that changes is the size and shape of the garden, one in which I am privelidged to be allowed enjoy.

Potato: Rooster

I’ve spoke about potato growing before here on the blog. I was out walking a lot over the weekend [july 9th] and of the many fields I met, this one filled with rooster potato.

With some just about to enter flower stage, I thought it may be of interest to those who growing their own were maybe looking for a good comparable, or as was pointed out to me for those who have not seen a potato, in this case a rooster in flower.

 

rooster flower

A little bit of work yet to go…. and if you have read this far you deserve some trivial potato trivia, courtesy of A Guide To Vegetable Growing, the book I got free from Teagasc.

Potatoes are a half hardy crop that hail from south America and first reached the [Ireland] shores around 1586.

In the words of Michael Caine, not a lot of people know that.

potato rooster

The Honesty Bucket

I passed this in Ballyboughal on my way home on Saturday. A slightly different way to sell your fruit and vegetable produce maybe, but one that really made me smile.

fruit vegetable selling fruit veg local

I like it.

honesty bucket