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The Gardener


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.

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

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Gardening Demonstrations & Talks

Although I did teach horticulture some years ago now, my first public gardening demonstration took place about five years ago in Dublin City Centre at an event was hosted by dublin City Council.

With a little encouragement from yours truly to brighten up their little space, unusual objects were planted up by the attending public with some information on their plant of choice and all some tips on the aftercare of their creation.

Since then I have worked with Fingal Libraries, DTE Events and the OPW to name but a few.

One off talks, a series of informative garden on a specific subject and public demonstrations to varying groups and ages have all taken place. From those younger than and including primary school age  to those a little taller, all have genres it seems have been covered.

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Gardening For Your Event…

  • public demonstrations and talks for events/ public or other can be done. Probably best you phone me on this one or drop by for that mug of coffee.
  • got a suggestion or query – just give me a call
  • some inquiries have been made recently as to sponsoring products and/ or a course/ class. You’ll probably want to have a mug of coffee or call me first – but I’m open to suggestions.
  • Anything else just ask

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Recent Examples of Garden Talks and Gardening Demonstartions

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Contact Peter Donegan

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  • call 087-6594688 or 01-8078712 – if you don’t get an answer please do leave a message and I will call you back as soon as is possible. I am possibly up a tree and it may be dangerous to take your call at that time.

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Gardening Time

Ireland has been on an absolute brilliant streak of beautiful weather over the two consecutive bank holiday weekends. The sun has been blasting from the skies like the greatest ever bill board for all things green and outdoors and of course not only does that make my life a bit more hectic but it also brings that rush to the local gardening and do it yourself supermarkets.

This weekend had me speaking gardens at the Oldbridge country Fair in Drogheda alongside a list of great great outdoor enthusiasts covering topics like bee keeping, community gardening [Dee Seewell], gardening on a window ledge [Tricia Sheehy Skeffington], elder flower champagne making to name but a few, to the very simplistic view of gardening just three metres squared, even though the gentleman in question Philip Murtagh owns a one acre garden. Philip had of course read, as have you my article called the cheaters guide to growing your own.

What I realised quite quickly was that whilst the interest in such a wide variety of topics from the visiting public was brilliant, those attending were not actually working in their own gardens, allotments or whatever spaces they had available. Myself included. In my own garden there are many things that I have done over the last fourteen days, but I still and it seems will always have a long running list of what I do not want to label chores.

My patio furniture needs some repair or replacing entirely. I’m hesitant to choose the latter, instead I think replacing the damaged wood will be the easier choice followed by a repaint. In the colour department the usual choice seems to be to go for the brown, black or green fencing advert type paints. But I think I’ll go for a big bright canary coloured yellow. This will do two things. First, the big obvious smile from guests who will pass it by and also unknowns to most it will take their eye away from the fact that there are two different woods now supporting their bones as they sit. The furniture, if I might call it that is about five years old at least you see.

I have already invested in a mulching lawn mower. The greatest time saving contraption I have ever purchased. No grass collecting. Less fuel is used as one doesn’t need to stop and restart every time the box fills with clippings. There is no waste heap with a pile of rotting green either and for those who have a pile of grass down the back of their garden will tell you, grass doesn’t really rot so well. Instead it turns into a sloppy clumpy mess. More than that, you pull the chord and push the mower until you have walked the area of your lawn and then you walk straight to the shed. All done I would suggest it has cut the time it normally took for me to cut my lawn by about 65%.

Tie this in with the previously mentioned cheaters guide to growing to growing your own and you might just be getting a gist of what and how I garden for myself. My point is not to be lazy or haphazzard about what I do. More it is to be savvy with the time that I have to spare in my great outdoors, understanding that I have a family, baby, three hens and two dogs…. you get were I’m coming from here. On Friday when I returned from work I did intend to water my plants. All of them and by watering can, from my butts. But I didn’t. I was passed a wee human that stands about twenty inches tall. Answers on a postcard to that one, but sometimes plants simply cannot come first.

Today as I write this piece sitting outside on brightly coloured red bench in my shorts, I know I’m going to the park with two ladies. I will buy the yellow paint and might get a first coat on it by this evening. I know it will have to ready for next weekend. The lawn unfortunately might just have to wait…. Til next weekend. Whatever and however you spend your time in your great outdoors, enjoy.

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Brown & Black Leaves ?

In north Dublin last week I recorded temperatures just over -8 celcius and although the wind chill factor was something a lot greater than that, with the recent weather and the subsequent thaw….what one can see now is [maybe] mildly uncertain regarding what plants have survived the minus temperatures due to the fact that a lot are at present leafless and dormant.

A plants cells are made up essentially of water and in extreme conditions that water in the plant cells expands resulting in the cells bursting. The bit that’s important to you, the plant owner, is that once the plant cell has burst it is dead – and – put very simply beyond resurrection.

The question is how far or how much of the plant is actually dead, if it has just burnt some of the leaves or it has actually made it’s way into the ‘heart’ of the plant. For this there’s really no one definitive answer, but [for example] for my own bay laurel hedge [above] I’ll simply cut out the brown and work my way down the stems until I can only see green. It may well look a bit sparse and patchy after, but it’ll come back for next season. Smaller and younger plants may not have been so fortunate.

My advice is to get out into the garden and have a good rustle through the aftermath and give each plant a good close up inspection. In fear of a frost return you may consider mulching around the base of your plants which will aid them that little bit better – and – they will thank you for it come the new year.

Unsure if one of your plants has survived [?] you can contact me in the following ways…

See the image above…. this is [image below] the exact same hedge plant just 7 days ago.