Thursday, March 5, 2015

March in the garden

Hi all,
              Please have a read of my jobs to do and getting ready for the growing season.


Vegetable & Fruit March Growing Guide
March is the month when things really start to move in the growing season. In fact the start of the year used to be, 25th March until 1752 in Ireland when we adopted the Gregorian calendar and started our year on the 1st January. From a horticultural viewpoint, it would have made sense to have stuck with the old system, starting the year on the spring equinox, in link with the seasons

   Comfrey Blocking 14 the most useful herb you can grow on your plot.

Sowing & Planting in March on the Vegetable Plot
If the weather is cold but otherwise reasonable, you can steal some time and start early by cloching and fleecing, although cloches have been around for many years, nowadays we can get cheap polythene tunnel cloches and even cheaper fleece.Place the cloche or fleece a week or two before planting and the soil will have warmed up nicely as well as being dry and easy to work. Water well into the drill prior to sowing and replacing the cloche. Do remember to water weekly or more frequently in sunny weather under cloches.
To hold down fleece without tearing, save plastic 2 litre milk containers and fill with sand or water although water tends to leak. The smooth surface will weigh down the fleece but not damage it. It's surprising how just a layer of fleece can raise the temperature of the underlying soil.Plant out your onion and shallot sets. If growing onions from seed started earlier in the year under cover these can also go out now. You can also direct sow onions, thinning to the eventual spacing. Cloching will help them establish and also stop pigeons from pulling them up.
March is the right time to establish an asparagus bed if you are starting from crowns. Do make sure you get it in the right position as it will be there permanently.
Mid-March should let you start planting out those potatoes you've had chitting. If you want some really early potatoes, start some in a black polythene sack in the greenhouse or tunnel. Punch drainage holes in the sack and use a multi-purpose compost.
Staying with root crops, you can plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers now. Be aware that getting them all up at harvest time is very difficult and any tubers left in the ground will grow so effectively a permanent bed.
Things to Sow
Broad Beans
Early Peas (but they may do best started in a gutter in the greenhouse then slipped into a trench or in seed trays)
Brussels sprouts – early varieties like Peer Gynt will be ready in September
Kohl Rabi
Spinach Beet
Early Turnips
Under Cover in Greenhouse, Coldframe and Polytunnel
Sow in Heat
Windowsill or a propagator in the greenhouse will come into use now to start off your tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers.
Under Cloche
Many of the crops you can sow directly will also benefit from cloching, especially as you move northwards or started off in modules in a cool greenhouse or coldframe and then planted out later.
Planting & Pruning
There is still time to finish planting bare rooted fruit trees and bushes, especially raspberries and other cane fruits.
Early this month you can still prune apple and pear trees while they are still dormant. There is also time to prune gooseberries and currants. With currants shorten the side shoots to just one bud and remove old stems from the centre of the bushes.
They'll benefit from some compost spread around the base as well or some general purpose fertiliser. Trees will appreciate some wood ash spreading under them.
Any leeks left standing should come up now – you can freeze them for use in soups and stews or make concentrated leek & potato soup to freeze and thin out when used.
Parsnips too should come up in early March before they try and re-grow. They'll store for a month or so in damp sand but the plant knows it is growing time again. If you turn them into a mash, perhaps with carrots, they'll freeze well taking up little room
You may have spinach beet and chards available, the last of the late Brussels sprouts, winter cauliflowers, kale, swedes, salsify and scorzonera.
Don't forget to keep checking the purple sprouting!
General Jobs on the Plot

Have a good tidy up and finish those odd construction jobs because you are going to be busier still later in the year!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hardwood cuttings

       Please see information on taken hardwood cuttings,



Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood and Propagating cuttings for this time of the year, making more plants from some plants you have already or from taking cuttings from other sources (plants that you fancy from your neighbourhood, parks, gardens etc.) There are plenty of shrubs at this time of the year to take cuttings they should be straight and no thicker than a pencil about 30cm long most are deciduous. Among the easiest are Willows (Salix alba) Dogwood (Cornus alba) and their different colours stems. The following shrubs are likely candidates Buddleia, Callicarpa, Deutzia, Euonymus,Forsyithia,Philadelphus,Ribes,Viburnum,Weigela. Roses can also be grown from cuttings but be mindful that modern roses are grown from the method called Grafting, which means that the cutting is grafted onto a root stock. So if you take a cutting from a rose and plant it up you will not get what you thought when you took the cutting in the first place.
                                                                                                      Some climbers can take cuttings from like, Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Grape Vine,  Parthenocissus can be propagated from hardwood cuttings as can Gooseberries and all the currents. So there is plenty to make more offspring of the chosen plants you want. Next prepare a place to do you cuttings and if you are out and about taken cuttings and with the consent if you are in some ones  garden, place the cutting in a plastic bag so as not to let the cutting dry out and keep it safe. Be sure your cutting implement is sharp and if you have a secateurs this is the ideal tool to use. Next you will need a small dedicated bed to put your cuttings into, the soil must be light and well drained if your soil is heavy and claggy add some horticulture grit or sand. Choose straight strong growth with no blemishes as propagating material. Cut the stem you have chosen with clean sharp secateurs you will be using material no thicker than a pencil and about 30cm long, but prune the shoot back to the base or other logical point. Make individual cuttings by snipping straight across directly below a bud, then moving up the stem about 35cm you are using as a cutting cut a diagonal cut on top of a bud slopping away from the bud. This indicates which is top and which is bottom of cutting, the sloping angle is the top portion and this also allows water to drain away from the bud.
                                                                  Insert the cutting/cuttings into the space you have already prepared for them bury them about ¾ deep into prepared space. Make sure they are firmly in by gently pressing down on the soil around the cutting, water and leave for about a year or so, but always checking on them to make sure they do not dry out or are damaged in some way. Hopefully in about 9/12 months new green leaves start to show, in the meantime if they start to show green leaves they will not have rooted enough so avoid pulling them or digging up to see. The exception to this rule is the Willow which will root very easily as they are full of rooting hormones.    



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jobs in the Community Garden

Hi all,
    Hope you all had a good break, now time to start thinking about the garden and doing some odd jobs to be done. The seasons are starting to make their way back, so no time like the present to get out and about. See attach to get an idea on the jobs to be carried out this month coming Feb.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Dublin Bee Keepers in Rathgar

Hi ,
        I was not in the community garden on Saturday due to the bad weather (Raining all day). So I went along to a talk and display of the Dublin Bee Keepers in Rathgar instead. It was a very good talk on Beginners Bee Keeping in Ireland most informative, I brought some 100% Irish honey, Bees Wax candles and homemade soaps to finish off. I have included some of the photo`s I took on the day.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Invasive Species alert

     Reading in the Irish Sunday Times about 2 new invasive species in Ireland.One is the Japanese Kelp and other is the Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner. I enclose information on these in a more detail form.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Plant sale

Hi all,
           On Saturday I went to the plant sale in the Trinity College Botanic Gardens,it was well attended and allot of plants sold the weather held up great. I have taken some photos of the event and of the plants held in Trinity`s Botanic garden and I also brought a plant called
Osmanthus x buckwoodii.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Swift nest boxes

Hi all,
           Please find some useful information on Swifts.Hope you enjoy the information as I hope this will spur your interest in protecting our Swifts when they come back next year 2015 as they are finding it difficult to find nesting sites due to the building boom, and disturbance of existing nesting areas.


    Common Swift (Apus Apus) Guidance
Habitat: Swift nests are generally located high up on the roof space under the eaves of old houses, historic and industrial buildings, where the swifts are able to drop into the air from the nest entrance. The nest is constructed from  material such as hay, paper, feathers and seeds collected in flight, and then cemented together with their saliva. Once swifts have identified and occupied a nest site, they will use it for the rest of their lives, if it stays available.
Legislation: Swifts and their nests are fully protected which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild birds. It is also an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the eggs, young or nest of a swift whilst it is being built or in use.

 Identification: The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird which is dark brown in colour with a whitish patch on their throat; although in flight against the sky it can appear black. Swifts have long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. The feet are specially adapted to grasp onto vertical surfaces, meaning that when the common swift roosts, it can occupy habitats like chimneys and building eaves, which other birds cannot. Swifts are summer visitors, breeding in Ireland between May and July, staying on average only 100 days, as they migrate back to South Africa for the winter.

Threats: The main threat to Swifts is the considerable loss of suitable nesting sites.

Renovations and building works:
Swifts are extremely vulnerable as they are very site specific. Nest sites can be destroyed via buildings being demolished, renovated, reroofed, or even being repaired. The use of PVC or plastic fascia’s and soffits are not viable for swift nests unless holes are cut to replicate the original nest sites before the PVC was fitted.

Blocking Access:
Blocking access to a nest not only prevents swifts from returning to the nest the following year but may trap swifts inside causing them to starve and possibly die. The loss of a nest to a swift is detrimental as swifts are very site faithful, therefore may spend another couple of summers trying to find a suitable nest.

Ø   Disturb a nest
Ø   Obstruct access to a nest
Ø   Undertake work that could damage
Ø   Nest
Ø   Stop work and advise your supervisor/manager if you suspect swifts/swift nests in your area of work
Ø   Inform relevant staff/contractors of the presence of any nests that need to be accommodated
Ø   Work with a specialist consultant on any mitigation work

Swift Signs
Swifts tend to be most active in good weather and can be seen in Ireland between May and the end of July. Aside from sightings, evidence of their presence in an area can be obtained by identification of their droppings. Generally below a swift nest along the wall of a building, small white streaks (bird droppings) are often visible, indicating the presence of swifts in the building.
Surveys can be carried out during the summer, generally from the beginning of May to the end of July. Ideal conditions to survey would be on a warm summer’s evening after 8pm. In order to identify a nesting site, a large concentration of swifts needs to be identified first. By following this colony, they should move into their nesting site where ‘screaming’ and swooping occurs. This is used by swifts as a defensive technique against other swifts and a way to bond with the colony.

Managing habitats and structures appropriately is a key element to swift conservation. Best practice is to leave nest sites undisturbed; however if rebuild or renovation is necessary, leave existing holes or make sure new identical access holes are made. When replacing or designing new buildings, the provision for swifts should be made, for example the insertion of external nest bricks could be incorporated or various built in or external nest boxes. Any of the useful web links noted below can be used as great resources for this.

• They eat, drink, preen, sleep and mate while flying
• Their scientific name is Apus apus, that means ‘no foot no foot’
• Actually, they have small feet with sharp claws which they only use at their nest site.
Swifts have been around a long time; one of their ancestors, who died 49 million years ago, was found in Germany.
They fly about 500 miles (800kms) a day. During their lives, they fly about 2 million miles - equivalent to more than four trips to the Moon and back! They eat flying insects like flies, mosquitoes, midges, and greenflies as well as airborne spiders.
• They come to Europe each summer arriving in this country at the end of April/ beginning of May
• They make their way back to Africa in August
• A round trip of 1400 miles!
• They are one of the very best fliers
• They have very rapid wing-beats: 8 wing-beats per second, followed by gliding and zooming about at very high speed, usually screaming as they go
• You will hear and see ‘screaming parties’ around the houses.
• At night they sleep as high as 3,000 metres
• They approach their nests at more than 40 miles per hour and come to a stop without slowing down
• They do not normally land on the ground because it is difficult for them to take off.
• Swifts usually stay with the same partners for their whole lives
• They can live for at least 21 years!
• Mostly, their nests are in spaces under roofs and nooks and crannies in old buildings.
• They catch bits of stuff from the air, like feathers, leaves, petals and pieces of paper, then stick them together to make a cosy nest for laying their eggs
• They lay white eggs, usually 2 or 3
• Both partners take it in turns to sit on the eggs to keep them warm until they hatch
• The eggs hatch after about 18 days.
• When the chicks hatch, they are blind and have no feathers
• Many times a day, the male and female bring the chicks balls of 300-500 insects, collected in a big pouch under the beak
• The chicks open their eyes about 6 days after hatching
• Their feathers grow and they get quite fat.
Chicks have an area of white around their beaks so the parents can see them in the dark nests.
• The chicks stop eating and lose weight before they leave the nest - you can’t fly if you are too fat!
• They do push-ups on their wings and tails to make them strong enough for flying
• Once they can hold a push-up for 10 seconds and they weigh about 45 grams, they are ready to fly away; they are 6-8 weeks old when they leave.

If you find a grounded Swift
Most grounded Swifts are likely to be fledglings that have fallen out of the nest before they are ready to fly, so they will need fostering. Occasionally an adult will meet with an accident and plummet to the ground, in which case it may need rehabilitating. If you find a grounded Swift, the priority is to make it safe by carefully picking it up and putting it in a box, then closing the lid to enable it to calm down. Swifts are difficult to care for, as they need a special diet. Swifts are not for beginners, so your next step should be to get in touch with someone who is a specialist in this field. If you pick up an adult and consider that it is ready to fly, the technique for releasing it safely is not to throw it into the air, but to hold it in the palms of your hands, raise your hands high and the bird should go. Make sure you are releasing it INTO the wind, and choose a place where, if it should come to ground again, you can easily find it.

You will find comprehensive advice on the following websites:

Useful Web Links
Swift Conservation, Bird Watch Ireland,, Northern Ireland Swift Group,, General Information,
The DSPCA or your nearest wildlife hospital may be another source of help.

• Swifts nest in old buildings
• Old buildings are being knocked down or repaired
• New buildings have no nooks and crannies for Swifts
• So when Swifts arrive back from Africa to raise a new family, they find their nesting places have gone - they are homeless!

Leave existing nest sites undisturbed
• When repairing buildings, make sure new access holes match exactly the location of the old ones
• When providing new nest sites make internal nest spaces, as they last longer
• If you can’t make internal spaces, put up nest boxes
• Tell Swift Conservation Ireland where you see Swifts nesting.

South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project

The South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project started in April 2007. We have a derelict site on loan from ST Salvage Company that we have converted into a community food garden. This is a continuation of the initial successful Dolphins Barn Community squatted food garden that was on the canal from 2005 -2007.