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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. 🙂

Basil – Ocimum basilicum

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The Ocimum [labiatae/ lamiaceae] are a genus of about 365 species of aromatic annuals and evergreen herbs. But – this is not lavender we are discussing. This is the herb we know as basil. With that in mind I am only interested in one type.

There are other varieties, but I have chose what I regard a the more common basil [to me] or what is know commercially as sweet basil. It is an annual and therefore completes its life cycle in one season.

Either or the entire of the ocimum basilicum’s are renowned as either short lived perennials or annuals. They are tender little things that, horticulture aside most people have very little, or less luck with. Any deviation from that truth and your pants are on fire or you work for NASA – and yes they can hear you. Back to the herbs…

For me, I prefer to grow mine from seed and there literally is no major secret [there is of course 😉 ] to doing so. Simply fill a jam jar with compost. Firm slightly and place on the kitchen window ledge. Add a little patience and play the waiting game. Some say, sow them in rediculous rows 8″ apart – but I like to scatter a few across the top and stuff the rule book. Its more fun as well.

The scent from them is amazing. I chose not to feed them either. Its just me and food crops. And if I end up with too much from cropping…. I freeze them to get me through the winter. Next year, I’ll start all over again. As a btw, you should get about 300 seeds in a pack… use what you must and put the rest [in the packet] in the freezer.

Gardening…. It’s Kids Stuff

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You may remember I was asked to do a gardening class at the La Leche League of Ireland annual conference. On Saturday 6th March I travelled to Maynooth Co. Kildare to do just that.

I know I’ll be doing a gardening course soon, but, there are some obvious major differences in the populus breakdown of those attending on March 20th.

Most can drive cars. Legally. On a motorway. At speeds of up to 75km per hour. Some will shave and in general I will assume most have their house not in a tree.The class mates on this occasion where very much the opposite. 😉

If I did have a plan…. it went straight out the window within the first 10 seconds. The general idea was to grow some seeds. To get the hands dirty. To do so inside and to have some fun with gardening in mind.

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In a previous class the children had decorated old glass jars and these were used instead of pots. Compost was felt and softened, hardened and softened again. It was stuffed into jars and emptied. The seeds were opened and compared; the large broad bean seed versus the speckle of dust like lettuce seed. Funnily enough, most of the boys chose the big broad bean while the girls chose chives. So much more practical and logic they decided.

All in all and in just under 2 hours the class was completed. Some asked for extra advice on how to care for theirs… others already knew. My only fault, in hindsight, was the fact that I was an Arsenal fan and that didn’t go down so well with the boys…

The jars were sealed up ready for some to take their seeds on a long journey to their new home. Either or it was gardening and it was great fun. I just hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. 🙂

Many thanks to Joan Broe and Jennifer Foxe for being so nice. Really appreciated 🙂

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How Do I Know So Much About Breast Feeding …?

peter donegan

I must have the most varied career I have ever known. Definitely in the context of the great outdoors…. Here’s some of what I did for the year 2009. Anyhow….

Last week I got a phone call asking if I would speak at a conference.

J: Hi Peter its Jenny can you talk…?

P: Yeah sure Jen how are you and the garden and all that…?

J: Yeah good. Listen I put your name forward to speak at a conference. It’s for the….

P: Excellent stuff, thanks Jenny, thats great, really appreciated. What is the Leche League anyway…?

J: Well its a group thats been on the go since….. breast feeding….. and you know…. breasts and feeding and breast feeding…..

Fair enough that’s not what she said…. but it was all I could hear.

I admit I am of the male sex. I was born pre 1980. You know. Boys out room – the girls need to talk sort of genre. I still walk on the outside of the road. I didn’t know my Father had a voicebox until I was 32. Back to it…

P: So you want me to speak to all the Mothers about…..

J: Eh Peter no…

P: I mean I could do a sort of

J: Peter…

P: Well the last time I did a talk I did a…

J: Peter! It’s more for the children …of the mothers like 30 – 40 children about 8-12 years of age…

P: Sure… yeah Jen that’d be great….

I had put it to one side. Not ignoring it. Far from it. More I guess I didn’t realise forgot that a small country [in amount] of women are so far better organised than the U.S. Army.  That is a compliment by the way 😉 On Saturday when I got this email in. I rang Jane after and signed my name down.

Hi Peter,
The La Leche League Conference is on this year on Saturday the 6th and Sunday 7th of March in the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
La Leche League ( la leche means, The milk) is a voluntary organisation founded in 1956 that is dedicated to providing information and encouragement to breastfeeding mothers. We are a worldwide organisation with over 3,000 groups. Ireland currently has over 100 accredited Leaders and 38 active Groups.
The conference is a family affair and while Moms and Dads attend the various sessions on this years exciting programme the children need to be kept entertained too.
This is where you come in.
I have perused your website with much interest (I love the video of pink boat) and your sheer enthusism for gardening, (and life) is wonderful. I love the story of you growing plants under your bed at 5 years old, you certainly knew what you wanted to do from such an early age and now you are living the dream, you are truly blessed.
We would be absolutely delighted if you could come along and do an hour and a half session with the 7 to 12 year olds on Saturday afternoon.
One of the La Leche League Philosophys is “Good nutrition means eating a well balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible”.
It would be so good for the children to hear your story and then learn how to plant up little containers and grow their own fresh, organic herbs at home on a window ledge.
Hopefully there will be more then just “herb seeds” planted on the day, would’t it be brilliant for the “seed of enthusism” for gardening to take root in the children.
See you then
Joan Broe
As always, I am all organised. And some how or another I can see this making the list of all the things I did for the year 2010 😉 Intersting gig…. looking forward to it.

Nollaig 09

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Unknowns to most, possibly, in Ireland  we buy approximately 500,000 trees every year and it takes roughly 7 years to grow one tree.

At an average retail price of €30 – 40 thats not bad value 😉

Without getting into the horticultural technical stuff… [just for todays anyway] I like to go and help pick mine fresh from the field… something kinda Christmas-eeeee about it.

And thats exactly what I did this year once again…. except I didn’t choose the tree. In fact its the only time of the year I don’t 😉 I don’t do the decorating either…. Looks a bit bare without a selection box and wooly red reindeer jumper underneath, wouldn’t you say 😆 and yes I’m the Christmas star on top was the one my niece Lilly made for me last year 😉

As a by the way….. I’ll be putting these photos in the Bord Gáis Nollaig 09 Pix.ie folder. I went out on a photo walk with some really cool guys on Saturday and some of The Bord Gáis team [thank you ! ]- I’ll put my other Pix up there too…. feel like popping out and buying a reindeer now 😆

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