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how to grow your own – from seed

behind the scenes of a bloom show garden

it is for you....

it is for you....

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The slogan that runs under the bloom logo is ‘celebrate garden life’. This year more than ever I hope we as a nation do just that. To quote my good friend Eugene Higgins article in the Irish Mail on Sunday…

It’s not that long ago that garden shows in Ireland were poor to say the least. They were mostly a selecion of neglected plants and muddy pathways with a few burger stands thrown in. But then in 2007 Bloom came to the rescue…

I remember in 2007 cold calling suppliers looking for help. They didn’t even know what Bloom was. Nobody did. Now into the third year it is the Irish Garden event of the year. If you have never been to Chelsea flower show – this is as good as it gets.

what you won't see...

what you won't see...

I’ve built gardens  in 2007 and 2008 and I know it is not as easy as it looks. The garden build time is usually about 2-3 weeks [this varies on garden size]. Some gardens will have had little or no sponsorship [like myself for both years] and whether it rains [and by God it did this year!] or not the garden must be complete 2 days before opening for the judging to take place.

This is the bit you may not know… For me I start planning a show garden garden at least 12 months in advance. My first year, I was answering emails on my honeymoon. 🙄  This was the January before, designs had been submitted the October before that. You might say one simply just can’t switch off. For me anyway, the sleepless nights continue……

Fast track to the garden build and with 27 other gardens being built around me, almost 35 different trades involved in my garden alone, over 250 thank you cards sent out after the show… I then awake at 6am to make it to the park to see what or if I have won a medal. The result was always immaterial, to me anyway. Pink boats don’t win awards. But as my Father would say…

Elvis didn’t wear that white suit cutting the grass son…. Only in Vegas!

It is a show garden. It is a show. I have 5 days to stand at my garden to greet you the paying visitors, the reason I have built the gardens I did.

almost there....

almost there....

It doesn’t end there. When everyone has left on the Bank holiday Monday I must then within one week disassemble my entire 3 weeks 1 years works and reinstate the grounds to how they were before I arrived. And breath…… All whilst trying to keep a business running or for some holding down a full time job.

Why amn’t I building a garden this year, to be honest I guess I just needed a little bit of a break. To reflect, to ponder, to rejuvinate the brain cells…. to spend time with the people in my life. I guess it was not easy, at times.

**That said, I love every single second of it 😉

No matter what medal a garden and it’s designer recieve, no matter who is you’re favourite or who gets the most press coverage – if you do meet the designer at their garden…. congratulate them, shake their hands, damn it – give them a big hug and wish them only the very best. They really do deserve it.

Most of all, Enjoy the show !!

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the ultimate guide to chick-hens

big smile...

big smile...

Since I last wrote about ‘The Supremes’, things have really settled down. In the last ‘snappy’ post, the day they arrived, the set-up wasn’t exactly complete.

the complete hen runhomemade chicken hen perchchicken hen feature old tree stump

  • The chicken wire I got wasn’t 6 foot tall [more 3′ approximately] and I only had enough to go once around. I completed the upper level with that green tennis court kind of mesh… [see pics above].
  • I made a little perch for them using the pole off a broken sweeping brush. And I threw in an old lump of a tree stump as a sort of feature. They use both to sit upon.

I know that the hens food can be expensive; [depending on what you buy] AND as a result of that…. I now realise the amount of S*** one can be sold and how the products and prices are figured out is almost beyond me. In some cases, disgraceful to be very honest. It almost makes me a little angry. Bad bandwagon jumping where nurturing and encouragement should be given….

To that…. I’ve seen such varient & useless paraphernalia; most of which I can only describe as ‘dog kennels on stilts’ and all sorts of fancy bags of ‘super dooper hen feed’ and honestly, 99% of it is all crap. FACT. Something I’d hope the likes of Richard Corrigan will point out on his show…. ? Whats worse is a lot of these bandwagon jumping guys are getting in touch with me…. ? A lot of them don’t even have chickens!! Some have even taken the notes from my blog…. hmmmm 😯

It’s a ‘family’ way. It’s a way of living. It has F*** all to do with this word as the media constantly suggests it does [and as does The RTE/ Corrigan show]. Not when a shed costs €360. A good ‘buy right & buy one once’ shed by the way. In my honest experience – anyone who has hens, fowl, chickens…. etc… [and to all of the press out there….] It is cheaper to buy a tray of eggs, for the first few years at least. If you do write anything else – you’ve never lived the good life and know nothing about it.

feed for hens barleyhen water feederhen feeder

  • Back to the nice business… the big bag of barley 40kg costs about €10 in a good old style honest farm supplies shop. This and the kitchen green waste will feed them. They absolutely love potatoes and the peels…. but not so much carrots it seems 🙂 I might change this to a bag of wheat when that runs out.
  • The water container [white kind of upside down bucket – see pics above with a red bottom trim] is only for baby chicks so they don’t fall in. Any bucket that will hold water will do. Even I can be sold ‘stuff’ that is unnecessary…..
  • The steel feeder is necessary if you have a daily job… but keep it inside so as to keep the food dry – otherwise it turns to slop.
  • The four hens cost me €12 each. That will give you a good guide on how much to pay.
hen-eggs-just-layed

...all this for an egg

And after all of that… and just 11 days after arrival…… I got my first egg 🙂

There was a bit more of a hullabulooo in the run today [see pics below]. I stepped in to see the ‘nest’ being prepared. Poor thing didn’t know what was happening…. but all is good. The other guys were faffing around like…. like, well headless chickens I suppose… 😉

I can now walk in and pet them. The dogs have grown accustomed to them. It has however been a learning curve and a journey of sorts; yet,  one I am glad to have taken part in and I do love dearly, still. I always have

Most of my materials came for free… or I had them already. Maybe in a year or 2 it will pay for itself…. but not this year. But then, I am happy. I am 99.9% of the time a very happy chappy and that’s something no amount of money can buy 😆

the other hens want to see whats going onhens perparing to layhen making the nest

Was it worth the money? every penny! Would I recommend it? 110% Whatever you do and however you choose to do it…. have fun, smile and above all enjoy…. I promise you, for the first egg alone, it’s worth it!!

this video is courtesy of my friend Blaithín.

All my weblog articles of hens [so far] are here:

The Chicken Hen House


I had chickens… Long story all covered very recently. I now have four new ones….I have learned a lot recently. A real case of if I knew then what I know now. In brief snippet format here’s what I know

  • These hens are just over 6 months old.
  • All hens start laying at approximately 7 months
  • The run I have is over 6′ tall.
  • Its very sturdy [and built from old timber]
  • The wire mesh runs to the top and is very well attached
  • Foxes wont go in if there are dogs present
  • The shed faces away so I can collect the eggs/ clean out easily
  • The hens will only sit in the hatches if they are laying
  • They will eat anything… within reason!
  • It will take them 2 weeks to settle in
  • They are very friendly
  • I have called them The Supremes
  • Cocks are very loud – I didn’t take one
  • They will be fed on barley and whatever is leftover
  • My green waste bin should be very empty from now on
  • there’s a lot of money to be wasted on bad ‘eco’ books
  • not one book on sale could tell me what it would be like
  • Eggs are expensive
  • Eggs can be bartered for potatoes
  • Don’t cut the grass for the hens before they arrive – they will mow it for you
  • hens like a little bit of height a pole to perch upon

Regarding what I built for the hens… here’s the facts

  • the area of the run is 5m x 2.3m and just over 2 metres tall
  • the shed I got is a 6′ x 4′
  • the hens ‘boxes’/ rooms [?] are the shed width divided by 4-ish and are 40cm off the ground. Do include a lip so the eggs don’t fall out.
  • the wire mesh is just ordinary chicken wire – as its called
  • I used the green ‘tennis court’ type mesh because it was left over and I had ran out of chicken wire
  • the timber is approx 1.5″ x 2.5″ – it was whatever I had lying around
  • the timbers are 2′ below ground level and compacted in. No concrete was used.

anything else I’ve missed out on? what do you think… ?

Oh and have a happy easter 😆

Damien… Thursday garden guest #4

If you’d like to know more about Thursday garden guest time – click here

peter and damien

peter and damien

For the moment writer #4 is Damien Mulley. When I first suggested that I do a garden guest slot… suprisingly, possibly, the first person to contact me on twitter was Damien.

He owns Mulley Communications runs the Irish Blog Awards; the Irish Web Awards; writes; speaks; teaches; does tv/ radio on the subject – the list is endless. One might say he is to computers what I am to horticulture. hmmmm….? 😉 That wry wit of mine aside and when with a minute to spare one pretty quickly realises outside of a passion for ‘techie things’ – Damien is, genuinely, a really cool gentleman.

Ladies & Gentlemen please be upstanding and enjoy:

The Garden – what I like about…

Actually, let’s call this My Mum, Mr. Roycroft and my Nana.
Oh and hello. I’m actually going to talk about three people who encouraged me to like plants and gardening and getting things to grow. My mother was always and still is into gardening and when we lived up in the Northside we had a small garden front and back with really crappy soil. She had roses and lillies and bulbs and all the usuals. She used to then get “slips” off my Nana, her mother-in-law amongst other people and grow loads of shrubs as well as buying the odd few plants when we could afford those luxuries which only happened much later in life.

My grandmother was still very much in the background at this stage when it came to her influence. I used to like helping my mother out in the garden and eventually when I was 6-7 she gave me a little patch of the garden to call my own and I didn’t do too much except rake the tonnes of stones that were in it.

Then in school we got this great teacher called Mr Roycroft who was older than old and I can’t even remember what he first thought us but it was all to do with flowers and plants and so forth. Mr. Roycroft popped up again when I went into 4th class in primary or rather 5th class. I was deemed very bright so as an experiment in the school they took the brightest from those going into 4th year and the brightest of those going into 5th year and they created a new class and Mr. Roycroft would foster all those kids. Best year ever. We learned so much stuff from maths to Geography to Irish (lots of Irish) to nature to botany. Ahhh flowers and plants and things. Roycroft not also thought us the green agenda way before consultants ripped people off wholesale to teach them about it but he also taught us latin by tellng us the latin names of the plants and the families they came from. He then explained what each one meant in English so we had a good grasp of the basics when we finished with him. That year was a very happy year for me in school and was also the last year that I ever applied myself in the schooling system.

We moved house into the country and I lost touch with all my non-schoolfriends. Me and myself and sometimes I. Only kid in the family, big feckoff gardens and instead of a small patch I had the whole wall outside our house and a kind of a rockery which over a few years I expanded and expanded so much so that I started to become the “consultant” about plants at home. I don’t think I was yet 9 at this stage.

Around the same time I became the “chosen one” of my grandmother and grandfather and every Sunday I would be brought along to Skibereen with them, driving down one route and taking the back route home through Iniskeen and Ballineen where we’d stop off at my Nana’s sister’s place. On the way down and back I would basically help my grandmother to vandalise gardens by taking “slips” from shrubs, which if you don’t know what slips are, are small cuttings, though we used to just yank them off. Spring time was worse. That was trowel and bucket time as we dug up West Cork to get Bluebells and Primroses AND very special and rare “wild dafodils”. No idea were they wild or just went native but they had a scent and were big and leafy.

One Christmas I got the very sad (perhaps) present of a propogator and holy crap but it became the best value for money present ever. So I started growing things from seed. Lots and lots and lots of seed. Eventually the parents got a glasshouse which pretty much was for me. Our garden had some fantastic stuff grown for it then. Annuals to start with and then I just didn’t think they were worth all the effort if they were dead at the end of the season so it became perennials and shrubs and that ilk.

There’s not been a lot of calm for me in the past few years but I could literally spend 5 hours in the glass house with a break for lunch and plant seed after seed. I didn’t just feck the seed down in rows, no, I placed each individual seed down and spaced them. A huge amount of work but I enjoyed it.

We moved house again then and at this stage I was in my teens, listening to heavy metal, spotty as fuck but I still grew things, still went out for a bit of peace (no Internet then helped). In the new old house the garden was a heap, the front garden was grass and hedging and nothing more so we got rid of the hedging and threw in a few borders but it was boring. I then started thinking up of proper designs for the Garden and what was needed. The before and after for the front and back are stunning but that’s for another time and another blog post.

I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did and learn so much about nature, life and science if it wasn’t for those three main people educating me but more importantly encouraging me to explore. Exploration is mostly not the physical. I don’t do much gardening anymore but I know I’ll go back to it eventually, it’s a strong part of my psyche and always will be. That’s my gardening story, tell us yours.