There is a lot going on at the moment, now the snow has departed there is some warmth in the air and signs of life are stirring. It is National Tree Week in Ireland, not a very public affair, there aren’t people running around the place with tree in hand planting with joyous abandon, in fact I doubt the vast majority of people even know about it. But we are going to celebrate it in our Community Garden this Sunday. It is an excuse to highlight our new garden and we are inviting members of our local community council to come along and plant a tree.
The community council is a voluntary body which represents 8 districts, 2 councillors in each district are voted in every 3 years and we then organise things including the community centre and sports pitch, our social centre which provides meals for the older people and co-ordinates things like the Tidy Towns group, a defibrillator group and events like our Summer Festival, Christmas Market and a lot more besides. It now over sees the new Community Garden and as Secretary of the Community Council and project co-ordinator of the Community Garden I am up to my eyes in it!
I have bought 4 bare rooted Hawthorn or Whitethorn as it is called in Ireland and 4 Crab Apple which we are going to add to a few smaller Hawthorns that I have already planted. The idea it to try and establish a hedge around the garden as it is a bit exposed and both these trees are native to the area. We have a couple of willows as well and I intend to add some Rosa rugosa and a couple of Buddleja from my own garden.
The ground is very shallow and rocky so it will be difficult to establish flower beds for awhile but in the short term I brought in some old car tyres and I planted them up with some gladioli bulbs and a few other native plants I have propagated like Milk Thistle, Teasel and Evening primrose.
I have a new Community Garden Pod Cast available if you want to hear about it….
I have bought 4kg of new seed potatoes from Fruit Hill Farm, the variety is Bionica and they are a new blight resistant variety. I have read that Bionica is a potato which has a history of about 35 years. The story begins in the Andes of South America. Researchers of Wageningen University discovered wild varieties that looked like potatoes. Some were growing in trees and others had hardly any tubers. However the miracle was that they didn’t get any blight.
Scientists invested in the search for a stronger potato variety based on the wild species of the Andes. After 15 years of breeding they found something that looked like a potato. Another 10 years later the potato Firm Meyer in Kruiningen had made a crossing from which about 500 seeds were harvested.
One plant of all these 500 trials of the seeds stood out. This new variety has been named Bionica. This selection process took another 10 years at the farm of Niek Vos in Holland.
This is the first batch to come from Holland and I’m going to try them out in our own Community Garden along-side some Orla which are probably one of the most popular early potatoes around here. We hope to have them planted in traditional the lazy beds on or around St. Patrick’s Day (17th March) which is the traditional date for planting spuds.
The polytunnels are producing very well at the moment but some of the Pak Choi and salads like Mizuna are beginning to go to seed, they have been supplying salad leaves since November so we have had a great crop from them and there are more on the way, the same with our Komatsuna which we have been using in stir fries as it got bigger. The Kohl Rabi has proved very tasty even though it is a bit too unusual for the social centre. We have Japanese Snowball Turnips, some purple sprouting broccoli, kale and the first of our cabbages are producing so there is a great selection for the table. The garlic is well established and the Elephant Garlic looks very healthy, I am a bit concerned about having it in the tunnel as it might well try to flower early but you have to try these things.
It is also a busy time at college as we missed quite a few days with the bad weather. We have a number of assignments due, thankfully I am up to date with most of it and have submitted my salad report, soil analysis, soil profile, seed propagation and marketing assignments all this week. I have another 3 assignments nearly finished off and I am just awaiting some results to write the conclusions.
We also have a communications module and today I am giving my oral presentation. I am doing a “Potted History” of gardening, it only has to be a 5 minute presentation so it is a very short history! I really enjoyed doing the research and I am starting with the Garden of Eden, the history of Tell Aswad, one of the first examples of crop cultivation and the more recent discoveries at Ohalo by the Sea of Galilee where there is evidence of cultivation that dates back 23,000 years. A bit on Wapato farming near Vancouver and on to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Celtic Iron Age and then a few leaps forward touching on Saint Fiachra the Patron Saint of Gardening, always good to throw in a Saint or two. We have Sir Walter Raleigh and then a big jump to Ellen Hutchins a local who was a very interesting woman who collected and illustrated over 1000 plants, she lived in Ballylicky, another Irish gardening great William Robinson who we owe a lot to in regards to creating and popularising the cottage garden. I am also hoping to show a few photos of my own garden. I think there is a strong chance it will be over 5 minutes but whose counting.
As for my own poor neglected garden there are also signs of growth with a few tulips poking their heads skywards and I am still clearing the hedges so the birds can move in. We have had a lot a feathered visitors as the weather has been so bad, we have had flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares and we even had a visit to our garden from Lapwings and a pair of Black Guillemots which I have never seen on land before.
I think that is more than enough to be getting on with I am doing a couple of on line courses at the moment, one is Citizen Science: From Soil to Sky from University of Dundee, I am into week 3 and it would deserve an article all by itself and the other is on the use of Medicinal Herbs and Traditional Chinese Medicine which I will talk about on another occasion.
Phew! I am exhausted just thinking about it but I like to keep busy and as you can imagine I have a few things to do so I will catch you next time.