How To Sow Seeds in Pots

broad bean seeds

As I get my self ready for the winter season of potential self sufficiency these are two of the seeds that I have have started to sow and grow this September.

  • Broad Bean – Meteor
  • Pea – Douce Provencal

As Philip had just purchased and wanted to trial his new camera and I was actually sowing seeds when he called around for a cuppa, we decided to do this instructional video as a sort of tester. It’s also been a while since I appeared in one of my own videos.

Either or here’s how easy it is to have a go yourself.

Grow Your Own Raised Beds

raised vegetable beds

If you are going to invest in raised vegetable beds for the purposes of growing your own kitchen garden or more, then there is only one real way to do it. Enquires, getting some built suited to your space outside or changes in design and style…. my contact details are below.

Build requirements:

  • Well built. Structurally sound, strong and solid.
  • Built to last for the future, well able for the Irish weather
  • Fit their intended use aesthetically

making raised vegetable beds making raised vegetable beds

Main ingredients:

  • 10cm x 22cm x 240cm new timber sleepers [10 x 8.5 inch timber]
  • 6.3 x 200 mm [8″ long] corrosion resistant In-Dex screws
  • butyl rubber lining

in-dex screw in dex screw hex driver

Of note:

  • The screws are expensive but – they are the modern version of a coach bolt and are seriously strong. So strong that a standard drill would not do the job of churning them in. Then again, they are 8″ long. Also they use an 8mm hex driver bit. Again, for the long term quality will matter.

dewalt saw draper spirit level

Know in Advance:

  • Timber can vary in length by up to/ about 10mm. When one is 230cm and the next 245cm – as precision goes, it matters and is is extremely important, for me. Measure twice – cut once.
  • Wood can twist and bend, slightly. This is not unusual – it’s just what wood is and what it does. It may need some working.
  • Spirit level is one thing – aesthic levels are far more important. This is not a swimming pool.

making raised vegetable beds making raised vegetable beds


One could reduce on timber quality and timber dimensions, but each of these beds will have 2- 4 tonne of wet soil forcing against it’s sides. Strong, durable and tough matters here and hence why the screws/ bolts are the quality that they are.

The lining could be done cheaper. However, butyl rubber is generally noted for lining ponds and again that amount of wet soil lying constantly against timber sides…. you simply won’t find a stronger longer lasting liner than this.

Quality counts:

The ground here had three different levels from three different sides. A spirit level is of benefit but so is a good eye for appearance. A mattock will dig perfect trenches.

The timbers are [the tallest] three high on their side – 66cm – the largest area of which is 240cm x 180cm. I didn’t want them to look like [silly as it may sound] big boxes. The alternated end corners help for that reason.

Above all the right tools for the right job and life will be made much easier less complex. The tools I use are not that that will put together an ikea type book shelf.

raised timber beds

After Construction:

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.

Next for this garden space, from the same timber I’m going to build a garden bench. If I could, I put a matching espresso machine in there too – hand-made, from wood of course. Select planting to the peripherals will also help make this more of a home. But, Rome was, in this case, very well built in a matter of days – phase 2, the growing, begins soon after the soil is hand balled in. 😉

Enquiries or further information on your made to measure grow your own raised beds ?

Ask for Peter

timber for landscaping

Wanted: Gardener Volunteers – Peter McVerry Trust

The Peter McVerry Trust have a garden section type facility based about 15 minutes from Dublin Airport, in Garristown North Dublin. There’s one gardening employee of the trust that looks after their six acre holding.

They are looking for volunteers who are gardeners, or people who simply like to garden to help out. One could do two hours per week or I’m sure two hours a month. More if you so choose.

If nothing else it sounds to me just a bit more logic than an allotment for those with busier schedules who really don’t have the time or even better for some who maybe were thinking of giving gardening or growing your own a go, it really wouldn’t be a bad place to start to learn the ropes.

I also know that the facility has been used for team building days, most recently by some of the IBM staff in helping to celebrate being 100 years old. [see IBM/ PmcV video] and also for the Google volunteer day.

Joanne Lindsay Martin [Fundraising Officer] and Liam Doyle [Gardener] of The Peter McVerry Trust will be guests on The SodShow this Friday – they explain a lot better than I can the work of the trust and that at the gardening facility and volunteering there as a gardener. I will add the audio in here after.

The trust can be contacted on

The Fruit Garden

plum tree fruitI returned from my August bank holiday, after four nights camping it out in the great outdoors to a scenario that I thought mildly beyond my belief.

Branches of my plum trees were touching ground level making life really easy for the creatures that aren’t that tall to take a quick nibble of the now purple fruits. The birds, it was obvious to see were quite easily covering the sections a little higher in altitude.

Of a more neglected feel to my great outdoors, the grass was much longer than usual. I’ll very simply put this down to the infrequent yet high enough levels of rainfall and temperatures in their teens that had dappled my sun factor versus rain coat trials, all the while making my grass cutting quite difficult.

But my fruit tree investments are, it seems starting to pay off. The five plum trees from which I have never cropped fruit from before have at last returned a decent harvest. Decent enough I should add to warrant searching for a recipe to prolong their stay in my pantry that is. One should also bear in mind that three of the trees pretty much did nothing at all, but then that’s why I bought five of them.

It goes a little further than that as the pear trees are also starting to dish out their deserts [see what I did there…] and the apple trees, of which I have about four varieties are coming along quite nicely too. Some of them have even started to fall, something I discovered as the ride on lawnmower began to chug slightly across the long grass and the apple squash began to splatter across the nearest window. More chores I thought….

But the trees and bushes aren’t really chores. Not once you plant them that is.

To the other fruits; I have one fig tree and whilst there are some figs, they are nothing really of worth bragging about. Two or three little ones. But in the wee trees defence, it has spent most of its energy fighting the most recent frost it had taken a severe battering from, so I’m more concerned in it getting bigger and stronger for next year than this.

Stepping it down in height from tree to bush, the currants have already delivered and the berries are in the freezer compartment ready for any given Sundays ice cream to be made that little more colourful.

Other than that I have some peach trees, but I have to admit, this pair and I, aren’t really on talking terms at the moment.

As you may have read in my previous writings, I have to move some of the trees come the off season and they’ll also need their usual pruning in a month or three. But then a good decent hair cut never really did hurt anyone and the peaches are top of that pile.

All in all, I look at the fruit I have taken from the investment I made about three years ago now and I wonder, on a sunny Sunday, why would anyone want to go out and start digging the garden so regularly. Why not just dig one hole. And wait.

And in between all of this pondering I’ve got my eye on the brambles that are still in flower flowing out of the neat and not so neatly cut hedges and hedgerows. I’m reminded of my time at the caravan park in Arklow where I spent a lot of my pre-teen summer years. The pots of jam that my Mother used to make when we went picking fruit from the scrub growth I remember eating with a ladle, if I could have fitted it into the jar that is.

This was all so long before I had ever heard of growing your own, or at the very least the cliché of. I somehow seem to prefer planting my my own. Much, much easier I think you’ll agree.

Contact Peter Donegan

10 Plants for an Irish Garden

mary mcaleese

I did ten plants that would be suitable for a small garden, they also work for large obviously – these 10 – are those that you may, or not, have seen that often that I believe will bring a smile. Not all in flower in the images – but then it is also a case of something for all [or some] of the seasons.

All I have used before in urban and rural Irish gardens, from Galway to Dublin and from Cork to Donegal. Enjoy.

1. Rudbeckia

rudbeckia in flower

The Rudbeckia [asteraceae/ compositae] are a genus of around 20 species originating from North Africa. In short and as the image shows they are big daisy like flowers with a green/ black/ brown centre borne more often singular on long stems from summer to autumn. Brilliant in any garden and a real cheer-me-up when used as a cut flower. I absolutely love it !

2. Rhodanthemum ‘African Eyes’

rhodanthemum african eyes

The Rhodanthemum [asteraceae/ compositae] are a genus of about 10 species that are all clump forming plants. The more famed part of the plant is quite obvious in its daisy like flowers that form in spring – summer. More than that in any variety it won’t grow much taller than 12″. Another great one for the plant swapper.

3. Callistemon rigidus


I always [and usually only ever] see this plant in flower when in ‘the books’. This is what the bottlebrush looks like when it’s not being enetered into Ireland Next Top Model competition.

The Callistemon [myrtaceae] is a genus of about 25 species originating in Austalia. Famed as a cut flower arrangers favourite, the flowers litterally look like a brush you would use for washing a babies bottle. The spikes are more commonly red but are can also be found in green, purple, white, yellow or pink. Worth it just for the flowers, which depending on the variety can flower anytime from Spring to Autumn and can grow anything up to 12′ tall. I wouldn’t let that put you off though.

The rigidus hits about 8′ tall by about 10′ wide. Its flowers in summer get to about 2/3″ long.

4. Tanecetum coccineum ‘Robinsons Red’

tanecetum coccineum robinsons red

A genus of about 70 species, the Tanecetum [asteraceae/ compositae] leaves that are a bit silver and a bit hairy…. Not on this particular type though, of which some say, the foliage can irritate the skin slightly. Commonly known as ‘the painted daisy, the flowers are like like something one should see one could see in a children’s playground, are great for cut flowers and do quite well in just about any space really from pots to borders. It can grow to about 3′ tall and 1.5′ wide and flowers in early summer.

5.Fuchsia magellanica ‘Riccartonii’


fuchsia magellanica riccartonii

The fuchsia [onagraceae] are one where you really need to do a little homework on what exactly you are buying before you take it home. A genus of about 100 species that range from a bedding plant to a tree there are over 8000 known cultivars.

Outside of being a great plant for seasiders [salt air/ wind tolerant], this bad boy, the F. magellanica is the hardiest [frost tolerant in short] of the lot.  The flowers of the Ricartonii are made of scarlet sepals/ tubes and have purple corollas. Be warned it can grow to 10′ tall and 6′ wide. Every Irish garden needs a fuchsia though…. doesn’t it ?

6. Stipa tenuisimma ‘Pony Tails’

stipa tenuisimma pony tails

The Stipa [gramineae/ poaceae] are a great plant, when, en mass in my opinion and remind me personally, of a field of barley. I simply love them. A genus of about 300 species, S. tenuisimma is a brightly green leafed deciduous perennial. It can grow to about 1′ tall whilst it’s panicles [think of the flowers of oats] can grow to about twice that height. It will only get to about 1′ wide so don’t go skimping on the planting…. you’ll thank me for it.

7. Salvia nemerosa ‘East Friesland’

salvia nemerosa east friesland

The Salvia [labiatae/ lamiaceae] are a genus of about 900 species and this is another example of why I am not a professional photographer…. one in ten, you’ll let me away with it ! The East Friesland [ostfriesland] grows to about 1.5′ tall and has deep blue flowers from about summer to autumn. This one is clump forming.

8. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

skimmia japonica rubella

The Skimmia [rutaceae] are a genus of just 4 species. They are dioecious meaning the male and female reproductive organs are on seperate plants. This compact Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is the male which starts with pink buds opening to white flowers in spring. Surprisingly there were a few on this plant when today [august 8th].

I think its nice that it needs to be planted next to a mate… it always made me smile thinking of that. That aside, a real pretty stalwart that brings me right back to the 1980’s. Love it!

9.Potentilla fruticosa ‘Red Ace’

potentilla fruticosa red ace

Potentilla [roseaceae] are a genus of about 500 species. This the ‘Red Ace’ is one of the better looking of the family, in and out of flower. The rose family member can grow to about 1.5′ tall, about 3′ wide and has bright orange/ red flowers with yellow backs.

10. Helleborus orientalis ‘Lady Series’

helleborus orientalis lady series

A genus of about 15 species, this Hellebores [ranunculaceae] orientalis is commonly known as the Lenten rose. Whilst it only grows to about 1.5′ tall, why I love it…. [?] it saucer shape like flowers, about 3″ in size, slightly arch out from the middle of winter straight through to spring. The foliage doesn’t do it for me, personally, but all the way through winter, it means fresh cut flowers on the table.

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