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The Apple Farm, Tipperary

peter donegan, con traas

Pictured above Peter Donegan with Con Traas of The Apple Farm.

Located between Clonmel and Cahir just off the N24 lies The Apple Farm of Tipperary, is a 60 plus variety 35 acre apple orchard that also grows some plums, pears and other soft fruits.

A little drive down the avenue however and you will find yourself parked outside The Apple Farm Shop that only sells it own on site made produce, made solely from its very on site grown produce. This shed as a by the way also doubles up as the booking office for The Apple Camping and Caravan Park that Con’s parents set up in 1982.

Last week I took some time away from horticulture [?] and decided to spend 4 nights camping there. And without question and by a very long country mile The Apple Farm is one the top spots I have ever had the honour to pay money to and stay in.

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Garden Advice

catterpillar cabbage (2)As I type this weeks article the door off my outside room is open and I am wondering on the one hand if and how the weather reports for the last five days have been so far off the radar. It was due to become Noahs ark type weather but somehow or other a few short down pours, a sort of weather Gods mini-tantrum if you may, came and very swiftly passed. The importance of this to me and any garden enthusiast is of serious importance.

Last week I had tonnes of soil to shift, by hand, well, with a bucket shovel. Of which my upper body carried. And when I say tonnes, I mean twelve of them. Suffice to say, my left arm is at present the size of a bullock.

I have been reading back over what I have written on my garden blog for the last few days and noted my reference yet again to attire for the great outdoors and yes I hear you holler back at me

There is no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothing

But if you have ever lifted a bag of saturated and wet bagged compost you’ll have a rough of idea of what a difference this could make to ones day….. alone from a just keeping the place clean and trying to sweep up mud, as versus dry clay or from a muscle development perspective – have you ever carried eleven litres of milk ? Then try carrying eleven litres of powder milk. A bit of a weight difference ?

But within this there is a point where the methodology of the construction of the raised vegetable beds in which the soil was filled, has to be of extreme behind the scenes intelligence to be able to support the weight from inside forcing against the timber. And this is the point where all of the you get what you pay for type cliché’s come to mind, my favourite of which is

cheaper can often be more tearful than cheerful

Whilst I did touch on it in last weeks article I have yet to rummage through the seed catalogues and chose the crops I want to grow here for the seasons of lower temperature that are en route. I was stalled in this department because my hens, now touching three years old are slowly progressing to pet only status. Personally, I simply couldn’t shorten their tenure, if you understand me, but the eggs resulting from their stay here are lessening. In conversation with my good friend Paddy we found a solution.

Paddy has what I can only describe as a bird sanctuary. He also has twelve chicks and a Mom that need to be re-homed. It will be a straight swap. But once again, I am back to the point where construction of the area in which the hens will be housed will make life very easy for me. To side track mildly, I don’t, personally, understand the wee triangle type all-in-one hen-house set ups. They may suit fine the domestic, with three garden walls scenario, but when like me you live in an Emmerdale farm type affair – where the dogs keep the cats away and the cats keep the….

All Gods Creatures gotta place in the choir some sing low and some….

Again, it is horses for courses and one suit does not fit all. Funnily enough, outside of my own garden and fowl, I have two one-off hen areas to build within the next month, something that in my eleven years in the landscaping business, has never happened at all.

To the photosynthetic side of my garden, my garlic has developed some rust on the almost crozier like stems and are just about to burst into flower. I can’t wait for that one, but as soon as they pass I’m hoping to plant an autumn/ winter crop.

My apple trees were weighted to the point of leaning over almost at a forty five degree angle and the pear trees I can happily boast are quite simply in abundance.

Outside of that there’s not much else really to brag about. August running into September is a bit of a no mans lands type month for me and it is here I refer to gardeners hindsight in that forward planning is everything. Anything I have growing at the moment was planted months ago and I’m literally just waiting for the lettuce to bolt and the onion stems to die back so that I can plant something else in their place.

If you do want your greens on your table come Christmas, now is the time to act. In the meantime I’m going to go one step ahead and get myself ready for moving some of my trees. Digging holes and moving soil…. again.

Contact Peter Donegan

The Gardener, originally published in The Tribesman week Monday 29th August

The Hedgerow Walk

hedgerow walk dublin

Sunday 7th August, saw a revisit to the Slí na Sceacha also known as the Hedgerow Society as the group took another journey through the ditches and outback of some of Dublin’s lesser known lands and trails.

The Hedgerow Way (mp3)

From field grown potato to brassicae and from what are soon to be the finest apples and blackberries [all free gratis], this time the group took what we called the fruiting trail. Brilliant from an exercise and fresh air perspective, more than that it is time spent with others in the great outdoors surrounded by nature.

I think the pictures tell a better story.

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

The Cheaters Guide To Growing Your own

It is a question that comes up a lot…. Mainly from people who have a job, 42 kids, a life, a dog and a door bell. A lot of which will fit into the category of

I’ve got maybe 10 minutes in the evening. It’s not enough time! what can I do to grow my bits, something, anything, in the garden… ?

I’m not going to write some big bible crapola on what you can do. This post is put simply what I am doing. What I planted last year and what takes little or no effort.

I’m going to split this post into four parts. Tall, medium and small – plant them and walk away and the bit you could potentially call farming.

The first is what for me was and is an investestment, of sorts.

It’s the fruit trees and the like. They are planted once. Paid for once and require very little attention thereafter. You see the fruit. You pick the fruit. You eat the fruit.

I have written many times on trees in this blog. The how to plant will never change. It’s what you plant that’s important. The key is to chose the tree to fit the space from an eventual size, growth per annum and type of fruit you want.

I personally have 10 eating apples, 5 cooking apple, 5 pear and 5 edible cherry trees. But don’t let that impress you. I have experimented with some fig, apricot and olive trees but really, you should just choose what you like in the amount that will suit you and the type. There’s some maintenance in everything [even tarmacadam], but it’s minimal if you do your homework. Here’s five you can try that will give you a return pretty soon. In your case – just remember there’s usually a reason why a tree will be cheaper. Buy once. And buy very well.

In this category

  • apple trees
  • pear trees
  • plums
  • apricot
  • cherries

The second group don’t grow as tall and are really great in small spaces, balconies and apartments and as with the trees, can all be planted in pots, if you wish.

Once again the same rules apply. You plant the fruit, pick it – when it appears and then eat it. Some say the rhubarb needs the stools split, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Similarly the bushes will need some select pruning the same as the taller trees… but not much. The correct purchase should mean a handful of clippings as versus a trailer load. Once again. Buyer be [very a]ware.  But once and buy well. It will pay you back.

  • blackberries
  • rhubarb
  • gooseberries
  • bay laurel
  • red currants

The third lot are the lower growers and in fairness if you have a set of pots and pans your regular picking will be all the pruning it needs.

This plethora, for me include

Not much to it after that… and not much more to say being quite fair.

The last lot is something I don’t really want to list and require a little or a lot more attention.

But if you have any amount of category 1 and/ or 2/3 in your space you already look green. So now you can choose less of these babies depending on the time limit you have. If you’ve been following Philips 3 square metre farm patch on the podcast – you’ll have a better idea of where I’m going with this. Moreseo, you’ll better appreciate why I agree that 3 square metres is more than enough to keep your home filled with produce.

Last year I grew the following – and more – but I won’t bore you with the gory details and will tell you the ones I found the easiest. I grew all of these in old pots, pint glasses, window boxes or whatever could contain some amount of soil as a by the way.

The reason these are in a group all of their own is because unlike the other groups… with this final batch – once you crop it or it comes to the end of the season you must start all over again the following year and grow them again – where the others generally speaking – just keep on giving.

What about that for a relationship. I ignore you for an entire year. And then you arrive at my home and say

….here ye go buddy, have a big box of juicy apples

Ah sometimes I’m just so ruddy hilarious I crack myself up 😆

So I could have put the image of the seedlings at the top and told you of my years of studying horticulture – but being really honest this post is about encouraging those who aren’t so green who’d love a dabble and would maybe like to look a bit greener. In that same breath it’s not rocket science. And anyone who tries to tell you different is full of it.

You don’t need an allotment, an acre or a garden [Great for you if you do]. You need a window ledge, or a balcony or a small patio – maybe it’s some jam jars or 2 hanging baskets – and you also need an ability to smile, because sometimes a plant simply decides it doesn’t feel like growing where you want it grow. The it’s not you it’s me scenario. But ultimately, one should remember any plants sole purpose on this planet is to reproduce and as long as you understand that – it will do what it’s supposed to do.

For this gardener, I’ve never bought super dooper compost, a propagator kit or miraculous growing fertilisers. Ever. Not for food crops.  In fact I’ve never even bought a soil testing kit. I give all of my plants no special treatment.

What I will say is I maybe have a better understanding of plants and a happy confidence in the fact that it will grow. But…. any gardener that says they know it all and has never got it wrong is most likely in a straight jacket. That said, I still talk to all of my plants. I play the vinyl player when I am gardening in my spare time and most important of all I enjoy it.

Back to it, last week I planted onions and garlic. More importantly, as I said in the post the growing season [for 2011] has officially started

The problems that usually arise, garden wise, are best described with hindsight being that of 50:50 vision, in the context that once one sees the plant in its fullest glory one may wish they had planted some of this or that, that could only be there if planted some months previous.

For now, it is February. For your garden, patch or space – Go forth – give it a lash. Let me know how you get on. If you do have any problems…. I’m here for you when and if you need me. Don’t forget to smile. 🙂