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Things To Do: Gardening With Children

Speaking with Hector on 2fm a few weeks ago I noted that when I was 5 and into my gardening, 1981 really wasn’t a fashionable era to be seen as green fingered.

April 2012, my daughter Ella was 2 years old and I nearly fell off my stool when I spotted the lego one of her delightful aunties and Uncles got her came with flowers, picket fencing, carrots and rabbits. All I could think, was the sleepless nights she might have should that rabbit make it the far side of the paling. On a serious note, it is pretty much, for me and gardening, a more than welcome sign of the times.

In the Donegan household, we like a fine mix of simplistic and pretty. The balance is hugely important. To note, the following are a mix of pressies Ella received, garden stuff Dad picked up and a little of how we like to garden. Also important to note is that Ella has approximately 10 sets of wonderful Aunties and Uncles who are ever so kind to her. I’d have got her an Arsenal watering can…..

The Equipment

peppa pig watering can

A gift for Ella’s birthday, I’ve observed Ella’s posture as she attempts to stand, as I wanted to when I was younger, like my/ her Dad. The wheel barrow garden kit above is really simplistic and with/ out the piggy stickers, it’s actually quite smart. The watering can works really well and aged 2 she now instinctively heads to the water butts when suggested…. d’ye follow 😉 We also put her seeds in there and some wee pots when we go gardening together. Personally, I like the yellow handles.

The tools in this pack are actually quite handy and the quality surprisingly good. So much sow, the trowel almost came to work with me this morning. Not a joke. Back to home lands, we used the trowel to put seeds on when we sowed the Homebase bunny tails Grow Your Own Kit. That aside, I think all gardeners tools should be this colourful.

Things To Do

I picked these up at The Garden Fair at Huntstown community Centre – tip: watch out for your local one and turn up late for the bargains and early for the best kit. I think I paid about 50 pence a packet which is really good value. We planted the Natures Haven, attracts bees packet out by the washing line [away from the house]. I like pretty flowers on our kitchen table and I feel it important for Ella to understand that bees don’t eat vegetables.

Understanding the life cycle of the caterpillar, the butterfly packet was sown away from the vegetable pots in some hanging baskets and a planter that Dad made. Like sowing lettuce, fill a pot and just scatter the seeds roughly across the top. It is that simple.

These were also picked up at The Garden Fair. Ella likes their faces. When we don’t water them their hair wilts like some sort of Spandau Ballet no hair spray hair-do. We’ll trim them soon and they won’t last forever, I know. In context, it’s the eating, trimming and taking part that counts. I like the fact that perfecting the art of being gentle [when pruning] will allow for wee mishaps here. These two also make me smile. We gave one to Grandad. Giving is good. It also made Grandad smile. We might make our own next year with some old socks and our own seeds…

I made 6 of these last week for work and kept one for home. Very much a blog post for another day, our hen-house is really a 6 x 4 shed painted very girlie pink and white. I was thinking I might paint this planter pink and white for Ella, to match. What should be by far much better fun is that we paint it white together. Let it dry. And then let her go a bit doolally, under some form of supervision of course, with a pot of pink paint. The sunflower seeds will look perfectly in here I think.

These came as a gift from another of Ella’s Uncles and Aunties ~ you can see where this is going…. The pot is really cool, and it looks good without the seeds germinated. It also matches her hat. And like the Unwins bee/ butterfly mixes, just fill a container with compost and scatter the seeds on top. I think this took us about an hour. Totally unnecessary timing levels I can assure you. But again, that’s not the point….

Lagurus ovatus

I noted the Homebase Grow my Own kit on the blog last week. You can of course make your own with a jam jar and a handful of compost. We did this with some Chilli and Basil seeds in an old tin can. I think we may decorate them on a random rainy day with some wallpaper; Another blog post for another day maybe…

Seed kits and junior gardening paraphernalia aside I like the fact that Ella will have parts in the garden that she was involved in creating, as versus elements I wanted her to appreciate that were handed to her. That, the infrastructure I will note [double underline] is also good and hugely important. But there is a difference between a house and a home, if you get me.

Don’t get me wrong gardening for me as a child was always about being outside in the rain with my raincoat on, feeling the rain on my tongue, the figuring out why my hair went wavy in high humidity, questioning the ‘rule books’ and doing the opposite of what they said just to see what would happen if….

Far, far more important than that though, is the memories I have with my Dad and Grandad helping me in the garden [or the other way round if you like]. And in hindsight, I realise that the gardening was very simply the bit that had us spending time together. I don’t have any major ambitions for Ella to be a big horticulture brain.  That’s for her own wee little head to figure out as she grows up. What I do  know and hope is that she too has memories, happy ones of time spent together.


Audio courtesy The SodShow

Hanging The Hanging Basket Brackets

It may well be a little late in the year for this one but, you may just thank me for it at a later date. The reality is I know of more than 3 who still have them brackets sitting in the shed, the plastic bag [still] and one who hid them in the boot of the car in the pretence that he ‘cannot find them’.

Step 1: make sure the drill battery is recharged. Or you have an extension lead at he ready. Also make sure you have a philips head screw bit/ screwdriver. Flat head screws are not advisable.

Step 2: You will need masonary drill bit number 6. Hardware store. Go!

Step 3: You’re back…. mark the points on the wall were you wish to hang them. Get Mary to take a look and agree in writing that that really is where she wants them. Use a pencil and ensure that they are level and straight. You do not want excess holes in your external walls. Remember the measure twice and cut once rule.

Step 4: drill the holes….. make sure they are exaactly were you want them….. I made the external of the hole slightly wider in this case for good reason….

Step 5: Tap in your raw plugs. Make sure to use a block of timber to do this so you don’t damage the wall.

Step 6: Line up the brackets and screw them in.

Tip: whatever screws you got in the pack – bin them and buy the most expensive brass ones possible. See the difference between the one on the right and left in the first image below.

Step 7: don’t forget the baskets 😉

Note: You don’t need any special drill for this. A spirit level and a measuring tape are advisable.

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Coriander – Coriandrum

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Some say it is used as an aphrodisiac. Others know it as chinese parsley or the parsley substitute. But whilst it maybe most used in abundance in cooking… it maybe a lesser known fact to some that the seeds are that used to make curry powder.

Amn’t I just a mind full of trivial information. 😯

The Coriandrum [apiaceae/ umbelliferae] are a genus of 2 species of annuals that are quite suceptable to fungal wilt – so a good airy drafty spot in the glasshouse or kitchen window sill is essential.

That said they are one of the easiest herbs I have ever grown – this was very much a case of fill up some pots with compost and drop the seeds on top. Simple as. I sowed these on February 4th so they were actually one of few that made it through the really low [sub zero temeratures] that we had.

Got a spot on your window ledge or balcony…? buy a packet of seeds. Should cost about 3 euro. Fill and old broken mug with some compost. Water first and then scatter about 5 seeds on top. Easy peezy chalky cheezy 😀

December In The Garden

And what an end to November and a start to the month it has been…

Firstly to those affected in any way by the adverse weather conditions…. my sincerest best wishes to you all, I hope it sorts itself out as soon as possible. To those who chose to stand up to the Green Party politicos  [especially on RTE’s The frontline yesterday] more concerned with defending the amount of action groups who solve extreme weather conditions by sitting at a round table…. I applaud you. I also think Fionn has a point…

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But thats another days work…. and on to Gardens we go…. well, as best as is feasably possible….

You see gardening is a funny business. It’s not a subject that one can put off. The elements maybe against the preferred conditions – but if [for example] the bulbs aren’t planted in the garden this December… it’s now spring 2011 before you will see them pop up… you follow? If you put it off last month…. you’d better get them wellies on or be a very fancy dancer – one that can dodge rain droplets 😉

Despite the weather, I’ve still been working out there. You heard me 😆 It has to be done.

hedge cutting gardening-dublin landscaping-in-dublin-

first up is hedge cutting – some prefer to do it in the summer…. but if you have something like the forsythia which flowers on bare stems in and then goes into leaf – you’d be mad not to. Some say the best time is…blah blah blah 😉 I say, this when I’m doing my crataegus and my fagus. Its also when I’ve been cutting others escallonia… get the rakes, secateurs and the lopping shears out and go for it.

landscaping-in-dublin cutting back plants gardening-dublin

It is also a time for more select pruning. Maybe in this case the hedgecutters maybe a little too harsh. In this category I would add the removal of suckering growth – see the difference in leaves on the Corkscrew hazel [corylus avellana contorta – first image] ; the pruning back of smaller plants that have been let go a little – in this case the likes of the helichrysum [second image above – and similar in habit to lavender]; and also the pruning by hand saw of branches that have become a little elongated – almost tree like when it should appear as a shrub. Moreso, it is also to do with good garden hygiene.  

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But the biggest gig that most may possibly forget is the fact that it is tree planting season. The season when dormant and mostly native Irish trees get to go in the ground in their over wintering state. If you are looking for some ideas and names of, see this post on Irelands favourite native trees which can be planted now – I said now !!! Don’t forget the straps, buckles and tree stakes.

If you have existing trees – check the straps and buckles aren’t choking the trees – if they are – remove or loosen them.

Regarding your lawn…. you may get a cut in before the Christmas. Once again, the ye olde garden fraternity may suggest this is the wrong time – which is perfectly fine if it is the local croquet club… but if you are my Dad… well, you’ll be picking up the phone and telling asking me when am I getting my butt over to the house to cut that grass.

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After that – the bird feeders still need filling, the shed needs to be painted and I’ll guess you never did the new-ish garden furniture last month ….well don’t say I didn’t tell you 🙄

If you take my advice – sure get it all sorted – then go and buy some instant colour in the form of winter planters, window boxes and hanging baskets. Really brighten the place up…. God knows you deserve it. Now all you need to do is to go and get that Christmas tree 😉

Whatever you do and if you are doing it yourself… stay warm, dry and be careful. If you are getting the gardeners [at least for me anyways…!] in…. put the kettle on and give ’em a nice cuppa and a mince pie. If ever I wondered what a kite must go through…. recently is the closest I’ve ever come to realising it 😆 Oh and in case I forget…. do enjoy 🙂  

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the NMTT gardeners family weekend line up

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