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Plants. Watering. In Warm Weather

hand made bbq

A lovely image of my home-made barbecue to go with the audio.

Whilst the audio above discusses emergency water inducing measures. That aside and of note, there are some points to watch for. The first, silly as it may sound is compost drying.

compost dry

Compost is in short generally peat based, mixed with lime to raise the pH, a wetting agent and some plant feed. When it gets really dry, its colour changes from a wet black to a light woody brown ~ point of note numero uno.

More than that, the peat based product gels itself together and retracts away from the pot [see above]. You may need to ruffle the top of the growing medium [compost] before you soak it in water, but and as noted in the audio, by capillary action is the most efficient watering method.

donegan gardens

The semi- alternate to this is to be smart with your existing or new planting layout. The image above is from the courtyard garden I created some time ago now at Ché Max, Baggot Street. Plant choice decisions of note here, include the use of taller plants with a thin stem but a large bract/ head to create shading for the younger plants below. This therefore reduces the amount of light getting through to the soils surface and slowing evaporation. More than that it also reduces transpiration from the younger plants below.

glasshouse irrigation system phototropism

On a slight side note, in the last few extreme heat [for us pale and freckly Paddy’s] days I’ve noticed the phototropic effects on my younger plants in particular, that is the turning towards the stronger light just that little bit quicker than usual. Something I should note that might only happen if you left a plant in your north facing pantry.

If you do have window boxes, hanging baskets or the like, the best thing one can do is drop ’em straight into a large container of water and allow ’em to soak up exactly what they need water volume wise. Far, far better I think you’ll find that the water running down your arm and ruining that new frock you just bought. With that in mind, I did these window boxes for the wonderful folks at The Chilli Banana restaurant and I’m wondering how they are managing their watering, especially with customers walking by underneath. 😉

My advice, in a world gone all water conservation conversation, get two or three water butts and use the half wheelie bin approach. Keep an eye out for wilted plants. Super saturate your plants before planting, plant plan smart-er and make life a little less complex by allowing your planters soak it all up from below; all the while of course you being a lot greener. Water usage aside, it also leaves you with far more time to enjoy your space outdoors.

Any thoughts or comments ? Hit me on facebook, leave a comment below or pop me an email and I’ll note it this Friday on the garden radio show. In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine 😉

the sodshow

The #SodShow. Friday 18th November – @ScienceGallery Surface Tension Special

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.

The #SodShow. Friday 18th November. @ScienceGallery Surface Tension Special (mp3)

The SodShow – with Peter Donegan & Brian Greene – Every Friday 3pm – Live

Listen to The SodShow Live @ 3pm:

  • Tune in: 103.2fm on your radio dial if you are in the Dublin area
  • Listen live online: every Friday 3pm via TuneIn.com – on your phone or desktop

With thanks to: 

The Science Gallery. Their Exhibition is:

Surface Tension – The Future of Water

science gallery - surface tension

I reviewed Surface Tension it here before –

Listen Later:

Making Contact:

the sodshow

About The SodShow:

The SodShow, Dublin City’s Garden Radio Show with landscape gardener Peter Donegan and armchair gardener Brian Greene airs on Dublin City FM Friday’s at 3PM.

Join Peter & Brian for an alternative view of all things outdoors with studio guests, field recordings, educational talks in a fun and unique garden radio style. With tools, plants & garden work for the week and trip to Dublin’s famous and well hidden parks & gardens the SodShow is fast growing to be a permanent fixture on Dublin’s radio dial since its launch in March 2011.

The SodShow is quite unique in that it started life as a popular podcast crossing over to live radio due to its growing demand.

Forget those Botanical Latin names (the presenters do as a rule) and roll up your sleeves. From gardening with a window box in an apartment to camping at oxegen, from chitting potatoes to making elderflower champagne you get it all on Dublin’s zaniest radio show.

The Sodshow is podcasted, blogged, streamed and live tweeted to the world via its internet site: http://blog.DoneganLandscaping.com/category/podcast

Gardening Doesn’t Have To Be Hard Landscaping

It was very recently when building a patio for a client that I realised my garden blog may just have proved of some worth to another. I’ll get to the patio in a little, but to begin with my usual sidetrack, I don’t particularly know why I started to write a gardening weblog being quite honest. I think it was more just a way to put my extra curricular thoughts, albeit still gardening, somewhere.

I see things in newspapers you see, I read them and I wonder what planet has this person come from ?

you see the hens will eat the weeds in between my plants and….

And I wonder have the author and the said omnivorous creature ever lived together. I’m almost tempted to ask their opinion on which come first. And before anyone queries the meat eating bit, I have allowed edible mollusc’s to be entered into the newly elected category named fodder.

There are a few things in my garden that I know are sacred. They are surprisingly, maybe, the things that require very little attention. The smart moves. The pat yourself on the back at some stage in the future moments when you realise, you just saved yourself a lot of hassle.

Being honest, anyone who believes that there is a maintenance free solution to the great outdoors has most likely lost the plot [see what I did there… ]. One may believe that tarmacadam or even concrete is a viable solution to the prevention of photosynthetic life in their great outdoors, but the opposing  argument nee conclusion is that so long as it is possible – and it is – for any plant to find a means of setting up its home in the chimney stack of a house that is taller than me and you, then plant life will find a way of defeating man made. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

The alternate as I noted in my article on camping last week is not to try to beat the elements. The reality is man will never win.

…one develops a feeling, almost an understanding, not of how all the elements work, more how to work in tandem with them.

Instead, I found it better from a very early age in gardening to admit that weeds will always grow, that the plant we love best will always have an aggressor, a potential successor and also that understanding their life cycle is so much better that trying to change it.

When for the aforementioned client I laid the last area of paving, this being the something that was read on my gardening blog, the request was to leave gaps in between the patio slabs.

But the options when laying paving are very limited. On the one hand one covers a surface area with a solid surface that will, whether intentionally or not, attempt to keep water from penetrating that particular space. This may appear to have zero holding over a client who owns a garden the size of a small farm, but in a new garden, where space is limited, the drainage is poor and the soil not so great, one is quite simply pushing the water onto the part of the garden that is already finding it difficult to cope with draining that amount of water away. The other option, I shall come to shortly.

En mass, hard landscaping [?] is having major repercussions to the point that, as reported by The BBC, the London Assembly environment committee is asking for legislation to be introduced to limit the number of gardens that can be turned into paved areas. That bad, you might ask ? Worse. In January The Guardian reported London is losing 7410 acres per annum as a result of driveways being concreted in.

In Ireland some may believe that we don’t have issues of the Hydrogen Dioxide type. We may not, so long as the tap continues dripping and nobody complains. But as individuals when water metering does become statute, I see many Dads in sandals with socks, buying much aqua saving clap trap. And just as Johnny Cash kicks off on the wireless, the paraphernalia will be loaded onto the bandwagons and it is coming down the track. I have seen the future and that it the way it shall be.

So what the fork has this got to do with gardening….?

If you have been following my Tribesman articles you’d be aware I did a list for those that may wish to make changes to their gardens some weeks ago. A make a start sort of a wish list. But wishes aside we are at the cross roads were I may need to consider re-watching that Michael J Fox film from 1985.

I have planted trees to deal with the excess of weather stress testing to provide shade, to ease dehydration but also in places where the soil would water log. They are my gardens AirTex t-shirt, that splash of water on my face, my wind break and the thirstiest friend on a wet day. My grass is allowed to grow long in sections to attract wild flowers and my planting is loosely chosen but somehow includes flowering for almost every month of the year. My water butts mean my garden is disconnected from the mains and the fact that I use the word biodiversity as it suits me, at will and as an excuse for the non croquet parts means I don’t need to sprinkle my lawn.

Don’t get me wrong I made a built in barbecue. In my defence it was from recycled cobbles and although it used cement, it only used recycled rain water. As versus the 1880 invention by Thomas Campbell.

I may well just be the greenest man on earth as far as Galway is concerned but my garden is just that. The quest is to first strike a balance. And from there, together we shall proceed. This really does deserve a four page piece but alas I’m all out of words and I’ll hit more detail on this next week.

Use Water Sensibly

The weather quite recently in Ireland has been tipping the 20 celcius mark. For some, the purchase of some plants from that good looking gardener [ 😉 ] that you intend to plant may not actually take place as the vinyl player speakers are popped out the window and the bottle of wine comes out of the fridge. And rightly so….

It was over this bank holiday weekend, the second one in too short a spell for this gardener, only from a one who does it for a living full time perspective that I have moaned, to myself and very much under my breath. Because you see, the sun has been shining so brightly and of course this is a glorious thing in all of its formats. But that said like the law of diminishing returns, there is also the too much of a good thing with all of the down sides syndrome that may occur.

With the short weeks this has meant that there is of course more time for me to spend in my own garden; but again basing this now on others experiences and also the flurry of emails that pounded my inbox, I realised what had happened with two consecutive long weekends was that the trip to the garden supermarkets and plant purchases from good looking gardeners had been made and the living products still sat outside or very near the back door. Not for all, but for many. Or some. Well at the least the very many who had contacted me. All that time while, myself included, chose to relax in the great outdoors and then returned to work. The plants I’m told [for some bold enough to admit it] may still be there. I am of course excluded from this category entirely.

I did a quick video which I uploaded to youtube and posted to the blog. Nothing too scientific about it as such. Let me side track slightly. A show garden of sorts I had done some time ago involved some wheelie bins and a consaw and what I had been left with was the bottom [half] of one. Sidetracking over, I filled this half a wheelie bin with water obtained from my water butts [which as a by the way one buys with bin tags – which as a by the way you claim back of your tax at the year end…] and submerged the plants below the surface of the water covering the foliage in its entirety.

This has a two fold effect. It is the splash of water on your face after a long sunny days jog and also [analogising plants with humans now complete] it replaces every pocket of air with water. One could call this drowning, if the plant varieties were of a heart beating type. They are not. I then placed all of my plants into the shadiest part of my garden with the lowest amount of air movement.

Let me delve a little further. Water or watering on plant leaves placed in the sun will act like a magnifying glass of sorts and tend to scorch the plants leaves. They, the plants, of course rely upon the green pigment in their leaves for photosynthesis, the process by which all plants make their own food and energy and therefore grow.

If the factors required for the growth of any plant are reduced, not eliminated, but reduced… we therefore reduce plant growth. This conundrum requires water and carbon dioxide [air] for the first part of the photosynthetic equation. And whilst one can’t reduce the amount of air in the planet one can reduce a plants requirement for water. Thus allowing you to enjoy your weekend and logically neglect your plants…. am I good or am I good !

Assuming any plant is growing in soil, it has a suitable temperature, light, air and moisture it should do as it is supposed to, which is grow. But to the the big killer of plants and the reason I put such emphasis on this, is that it is usually done by lack of water. Of course those who had minus Celsius and a few inches of snow a few months ago are of course pardoned with a bonafide horticultural explanation.

But with the greatest logic in the world too much such sun light will use too much water and so on the logic goes. To the more practical. A potential mild trickle or even a day of rain most likely will not penetrate down three or four inches of Irish soil. Unless of course you live on a golden beach of pure sand. And if you have purchased plants this or last weekend and allowed both of them to rest in the garden… but yet you wish to get them grooving and planted as soon as, here is the logic to do them an added bonus favour.

Drown them, as explained above until all water has been expelled from the plants pot. You’ll know when this has happened as the water will stop sending bubbles to the surface. Having your hole dug and your soil ready to firm back in your plant in advance will also help.

I did mention this process last week to a friend of mine who said he followed all of these steps, but planted and then extra watered just after nine o’clock in the evening. He woke up to find the slugs had eaten his plants in their entirety….

Gardening. Don’t you just love it!

The Weekend Garden Outdoors Podcast

sodshow, garden podcast

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.


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On The Blog This Week:

Interesting snippets:

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And finally:

Straight from the European Union and more organic information:
DG ENV informed the Group about the EU Ecolabel scheme, which has been in place since 1992. The scheme has to be reviewed and the Commission has proposed appropriate amendments to the Regulation – and the Ecolabel scheme would now cover food and drink products as well. This will not be implemented now, but only after a study has been made by the end of 2011. The study will involve consumers and assess whether the Ecolabel will be compatible with the EU organic logo.
CIAA, IFOAM and COPA-COGECA expressed their concerns – including the major risk that consumers would be confused and misled and they called for some kind of communication strategy.
ECVC pointed out that the Ecolabel scheme has been used more traditionally and this calls for cautiousness and that the creation of a new scheme would not benefit anyone. In FairTrade’s view it would be essential not to devaluate the organic EU-logo. CIAA suggested that not only consumers become involved in the study but that the Commission
used other alternatives such as round table meetings. They also presented the argument that the study should not be rushed through with the sole purpose of carrying out new initiatives. EOCC addressed the certified system; separated or single out for the revised scheme.
DG ENV stated that the criteria will be improved and strengthened every 3-5 years and that the Commission was aware of the dilemma between fair trade end eco. The Chair concluded that the Group needs to be informed, so that the concerns can be addressed.

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Answers on a postcard and  have a great bank holiday weekend 😀