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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 😉

the sodshow

The #SodShow Gardeners Guide For April

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

Dublin’s Only Garden Radio Show. The SodShow – with Peter Donegan & Brian Greene – Every Friday 3pm.

garden radio ireland the sodshow
Listen to The SodShow Live @ 3pm:

  • Tune in: 103.2fm on your radio dial if you are in the Dublin area
  • Listen live online: every Friday 3pm via TuneIn.com – on your phone or desktop

Listen Later:

On The Show This Week:

On this weeks show it’s all the garden advice you need to see you through the month of April.

From man tools and man chores outdoors, to growing your own and from looking after the garden shrubs to get that lawn back in order for the Euro 2012 barbeque’s. All the garden advice you could ever need, some dates for your calender and so much more….. it’s all in this Dublin’s only garden radio show, The SodShow.

Make Contact with The SodShow:

The #SodShow. A Gardeners Guide This March.

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

The #SodShow. A Gardeners Guide This March (mp3)

The SodShow – with Peter Donegan & Brian Greene – Every Friday 3pm

Listen to The SodShow Live @ 3pm:

  • Tune in: 103.2fm on your radio dial if you are in the Dublin area
  • Listen live online: every Friday 3pm via TuneIn.com – on your phone or desktop

Listen Later:

On The Show This Week:

garden radio ireland the sodshow

On this weeks show it’s a touch of garden advice to see you through the month of March.

Everything from a little landscape design to a little of what I’m doing in mine and from getting that lawnmower started to the easiest herb garden you could ever think of. All that, some garden dates for your calender and so much more….. it’s all in this Dublin’s only garden radio show, The SodShow.

Make Contact with The SodShow:

Links To The Show:

Anything else just hollar 😉

About The SodShow:

The SodShow, Ireland’s Garden Radio Show and Podcast with horticulturist Peter Donegan and armchair gardener Brian Greene airs on Dublin City FM Friday’s at 3PM.

The Sodshow is podcasted, blogged, streamed and live tweeted to the world via its internet site: http://blog.DoneganLandscaping.com/category/podcast

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

Garden Design

Last week I vented some of my frustrations out on the keyboard of my computerised typewriter. In short I think my piece can be easily summised as follows:

I’d rather get a hug from my one year old daughter than watch some big old political laundry pile churn around in the washing machine on every radio and television show, all pretty much asking which state departments whites come out whitest in the hot whites wash.

To this I know two things: I can pick up snippets of todays news on twitter in around two minutes and then I’m back in the real world. Two: the evolution of my daughters mumbles mean much more to me that of any politician.

And back to gardening…..

Hello…. My name is Peter Donegan and I am a gardener. A garden designer. A horticulturist. A landscaper….. I am the Johannes factotum of the gardening world.

And for those of you who figure out what that means, do note:

The earliest recorded versions of the phrase do not contain the second part. Indeed they are broadly positive in tone.

Thank God for wikipedia and moving swiftly on.

As always there is relevance in both of the aforementioned quotes. Because whether I am considered a gardener or a garden designer the question I am asked, most probably the most, apart from the usual about my dashing good looks…. yes Mister Potato head, I hear the panto crowd shout back, is:

I was thinking about getting something done with the garden…. how much would you charge for…. when is the best time to….?

There are a few ways of making your garden pretty-er. But to put logic to my previous writings, no matter how great a garden design may appear on paper, in order for it to be actually made a reality, it has to be realistically possible to build it. In every possible way.

Two examples: I have known of gardens were the trees, paid for and delivered, could not actually fit into the back garden. I have also met homeowners who, after paying for a garden to be designed have asked for it to be priced and realised it could never be afforded. But as The Family Fortunes buzzer resonates between my ears, I know of those gardens that I have made and been involved in that have started and finished on time, fitted the clients budget and the image they had in their head and look absolutely stunning.

In saying this I would like to note: I love a challenge. More than that, when I get to work with a client as versus for, from a behind the scenes perspective, we both end up smiling as versus the Da Vinci type benefactor and me possibly hoping she or he likes it.

As regards the best time to get the garden done. It is the time that suits you best. The calender for my planting, is quite simply done in autumn and winter. Why only as for me it means I don’t have to water the plants. Don’t  get me wrong I’ve no problem tending to my own garden it’s just for me, I feel that the plant is under less stress when temperatures are lower and it’s on the verge of going asleep for a few months. Think of it like going to Torremolinos [?] or some such holiday resort, in November as versus June.

If you are of the belief that time is money and you believe you can save yourself a few bob by doing a bit yourself. Do yourself, me and your family a favour – play to your strengths and do only what you are very good at.

I personally don’t mind if your brothers, cousins, sister in laws, dog minder is great at doing decking and is willing to do it at the weekend, but you may well be better off in the greater scheme of things saving yourself the money it might cost and not install it in the first place.

If you are looking to make something of your garden and you wish to have a go even in part by yourself. Here’s were you start.

Step 1 : Measure up the garden.

Step 2: garner some idea of the theme you want in your garden. Ensure that everything you fit into the theme after that fits it. To analagise, would you put antique furniture in a room with linoleum ? It may work, but it probably won’t.

Step 3: consider the practical wish list:

  • shed – what size and type? Brick or timber
  • washing/ clothes line – Rotary/ retractable
  • barbecue – built in or movable. Gas or coal.
  • Kids play area – Swings, slides and pits. Sand or bark mulch. Movable or resident
  • Lighting – Security or decorative. Sunken or above ground level.
  • Outdoor electricity points – where
  • water source – water butts or outdoor tap
  • Table and chairs area – Just for two or the entire Partridge family
  • Raised timber structure or Patio
  • Green waste area

I am The El Guapo

After that you are now hopefully at a point were ergonomics and some creativity is required. This is were you can choose to call somebody very talented like myself. Simple as it may sound, but as I referred to in last weeks article, it is perfectly allowed to pay for a rough ‘outline overview sketch’ and some paint by numbers type instructions of how to put the garden together. That is unless you will need to use it to apply for planning permission. Assuming that is not the case, the only suggestion I will make is that you let the gardener know how much time and what gardening tasks you are willing to spend/ do in the garden. And please be honest and realistic.

I have said this many times before, remember:

  • Know your budget limit but be realistic.
  • don’t end up with a very expensive piece of paper that will never become a creation
  • Agree all prices before your contract starts.
  • Stonework requires dry weather and plants/ lawns need water.
  • Don’t pay for contractors tools to sit in their shed on ‘down time’ and don’t end up paying a contractor to water you plants
  • You don’t have to do it all at once.
  • Gardens can be phased in over a period of time. It may take a little longer but you will get that dream.
  • Don’t be afraid to do something different
  • Quality products cost more and cheap can be often tearful rather than cheerful.

And finally – a garden is more than just some pieces of furniture or a new feature. It needs plants. Plants to suit, your soil, your space – your garden. It joins the dots, it makes intrigue in winter and spring. It is flowers on your table and a road side pollinating café for fruit trees. It can be the defining factor as to whether you will have the sound of birds chirp in your garden. It is what makes sitting in the shade reading poetry looking at the sun, cast shadows on your lawn. It is what makes the difference between a house and a home. It will be what defines you and your garden and makes it something beautiful and creative.

Honestly, I can tell you that the gardens I remember making and further to hold dear in my heart, were not those that had the power to buy a medal nor any amount of awards – money, size, and style aside – but those within the journey of which I and the person who would live with the garden after, smiled.