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

Grow Your Own Logic

I’ve been gardening and all things outdoors since I was about five years of age or younger. It became a source of extra pocket money to buy seeds and compost back in the days of thirty pence per week end pocket money when compost, bagged, would cost about one pound. That, in very simple mathematics, at the time was many chocolate-less weekends and that before I bought any seeds.

In the time frame since then I’ve seen garden trends in Ireland go from a bed of blue white, blue white allysum and lobelia under the front window sill with a cherry tree in the corner to streets of driveways turning to cobble in the late eighties and early nineties. Decking then became the choice of room outside improvements as the pitch and putt clubs were left for a day on the golf course and microwaves dropped in price from several hundred pounds to just double figures. Most recently as we are all so well aware, what I can only describe as a grow your own pandemic has take the country by storm. Pardon the weather related pun.

Stepping back to the eighties and my childhood days… what I realise is that there was no rocket science to what was or is now labelled growing my own bits and bobs. As a family we had two apple trees that were never pruned, unless that is a branch got in the way of the washing line. The rhubarb sat there next to the ‘compost’ heap and equally just kept on giving year after year. The stools were never split as is considered best practice and on that note when I say compost heap what I really mean is the corner of the garden where anything green or brown got dumped.

Our parsley got exactly the same treatment, the same as mine does today. None. I pick it and it grows. Alright and fair enough there may be some weeding in between, but again nothing that would require a Haynes manual.

Recently in the UK the first ever Edible Garden Show took place. Their website comes notes that More and more people are turning to growing their own produce as it provides fresh food, exercise and can save money. A bold statement from a show were sales, stands and sponsorship from the likes of Miracle Grow ensure that 2012 bookings are now taking place. The fact that there is an edible garden show brimmed to capacity is testament as to what consumers are looking at.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discourage anything gardening, great outdoors or grow your own. Far from it and I will agree with the fresh food and exercise bit. But in a world gone mad I know that my investment in a garden soil sieve way back when, that I still have, probably doesn’t help a show like this to continue in the slightest, commercially.

During my recent appearance on RTE’s Four Live show I spoke about and demonstrated growing your own from produce that may warrant being chucked on the compost heap. At the [Fingal] libraries grow your own talks and to the very recent Oldbridge Country fair garden talks that I gave recently it was all about making sure that if you are going to grow your own pot of potatoes [for example] that it should at the very least cost less than it does to buy a bag in any supermarket.

This isn’t a case of me flying my own flag and suggesting how eloquengt in this department of horticulture I am, far from it. I am a Dublin based gardener writing for a newspaper available only in Galway. But there’s a logic in there somewhere that I speak about, that I practice and therefore speak of. It’s the way I do it, the way I practice and therefore the way in which I type. It is one might say like second nature to me.

I have seen people purchase grow your own kits that are so readily available for sale and I merely think to myself jam jar. No offence and once again if you are growing anything in whatever format you choose then you have my applause.

But no matter what I say, I realise that the farmers who grow near where I live own fields. Fields of soil. They don’t own raised beds. They don’t use composts with miraculous powers and in their book under the chapter titled how to grow [insert name of vegetable of choice here] they most likely have one line that says: pop the seed in the ground.

For me gardening made and present tense, makes me smile. My local library is where my research took place into why it went possibly wrong. But in the ideal world of commercial-less gardening it was noted to me recently that the only time growing vegetables ever went dramatically wrong in this country was 1847 and it wasn’t because of they used the wrong fertiliser.

Growing Seeds… Without Compost

I was asked about my thoughts on growing seeds and what compost type one should buy last week.

I have written many times on why I prefer were possible to sow my seeds, in particular when growing my own food stuffs as compost-less as possible. Whilst it is great to see the growing at home movement very much en vogue… I hope the big [logic] picture isn’t left behind.

This video summises my thoughts on the logic of this posts title quite well.


Growing Onions

I’ve mentioned onions here before. But I was asked for an instructional video on how to plant… so here it is. Let me know how you get on. More importantly…. enjoy 😉


Growing Your Own [Seeds] On A Budget

I spoke with Philip Voice on Fridays SodShow about how growing your own, although often sold with the attached tagline ‘and save yourself money’, it can sometimes prove more expensive than actually buying the finished product in the most expensive supermarket.

To this an email came in quite promptly after asking, in short, that I prove my worth, so to speak. Fair enough and I agree rightly so, I should give both sides of the tale.

As the video very simply explains these are just you average builders cavity blocks. I’ve decided to grow beetroot in mine. I planted two seeds in each. One for the slug, one for me. What more can I say….

Any questions thoughts or comments… simply leave a comment below.

also: This post may also prove of interest for growing more delicate seeds