Keen birdwatcher Jim Malone studying Little Egrets on the mudflat along the estuary of the River Nanny at Sonairte, just below the 2 acre walled organic garden.
Saturday 14th July was a day of celebrating the acquatic biodiversity between the River Nanny estuary at Sonairte and nearby seashore at Laytown and the Irish Sea fishing traditions off the coast. Johnny Woodlock, marine wildlife expert and John Daly, a third generation fisherman took an interested group of visitors along the estuary and the seashore after viewing the Irish Sea from the 5th century rath above Sonairte.
In between the estuarine and sea shore walks, the visitors passed throught the walled garden. The ripening fruit bushes and crops, many almost ready for harvesting caught the interest of those involved in this free family ‘welly walk’. Today was not the day for weeding the herb patch, or tidying up the flower beds. However, volunteers with a regular hour or two to spare are needed to help keep the place right as a food producing two acres and a walled garden which welcomes visitors. Contact Sonairte on 041 982 75 72 or email: email@example.com.
Lovely to see the Sunflower Garden Cafe in Sonairte using the herbs and vegetables from the walled organic garden in soups and curries for the lunch on the day. The good name of the Sunflower Garden Cafe for tasty, healthy food is spreading far and wide. On Saturday, there were visitors dining at lunch who had travelled from as far away as South Dublin and North Belfast. Drop in when in the Julianstown - Laytown area. Free admission. Open Wednesday – Sunday each week from 10.30am – 5.30pm daily. www.sonairte.ie.
Compost rejuvenates the soil in the garden every six months.
The oldest occupation in the world is not what you might think, it is (as far as I am concerned), composting! Before humans fashioned forks, moulded plastic composters, or constructed wooden, brick or straw compost containers, Nature has recruited myriads of micro-organisms to turn un-used food, fallen leaves, seaweed etc in to friable soil-like compost. Worms then mix this with the existing soil, returning nutrients to the roots of new plants, which later die, get composted, and the cycle goes on.
In my garden, I allow one year for converting vegetable waste in to friable soil-like compost. During the first 6 months the vegetable waste is collected from the kitchen and stored and partially composted in a plastic compost tumbler. Turning the tumbler helps aerate the mixture preventing any bad odours. Before the next 6 months, that tumbler mixture is transferred to the brick compost maker, a 1 cubic metre box. This mixture is interlayered with hedge clippings and coarser garden waste. This compost box is closed off and opened in 6 months time, when the mixture will have become proper compost, ready for digging in around the garden
I hope you enjoy this short video which Lorcan and I made the other day. The benefits of composting are many but include, (1). tidying the garden, (2). getting some good exercise (3). improving soil structure and (4). making food for healthy plants. Two things I forgot to mention in the video (a) place on old piece of carpet or even cardboard on top of the compost mix before replacing the lid to keep off rain. This ensures the composting making bugs are happier in this dry, dark and warmer environment. (b) Some people (discreetly) add a high nitrogen activator to the compost mix in liquid or in powdered form. The composting bugs tend to like it as it speeds up their work. They won ‘t really mind if you buy it in powdered form in the garden centre or otherwise!
Pea, beetroot, sunflower, courgette, leek seeds all thriving on one of the greenhouse side shelves.
Last year, I had no greenhouse, this year I do. The compact 6 by 6 foot structure has two side shelves at chest height which hold seed sowing trays and pots, thus increasing the range of plants in the garden I can bring on from seed at any one time.
Some of the opened seed packets (first used in 2009) I finished off by sowing the remaining seeds in them. I am pleasantly surprised that most have done really well. The 2009 Sugar Dwarf Sweet Green Mange Tout Pea (what a mouthful!) has given me a 100% germination on the tray of seeds sown, bought from the Organic Centre www.theorganiccentre.ie. However Cosmos grown as beautiful tall daisy like multi-coloured flowers gave very patchy results from the 2009 opened seed packet. But excellent germination from the Lettuce Baby Leaf Mix 2009 packet, not 100% mind you.
Folks with bigger gardens may want to do more direct sowing outdoors now. My small patches are all occupied still with last years plants like purple sprouting broccoli or simply with piles of organic matter, hedge clippings etc waitung for me to shove in to the empty compost making brick box. Therefore almost all fruit, veg, herb and flower seeds are being sown in pots or trays in the greenhouse first, before transplanting outdoors in a couple of weeks.
The only direct sowing outdoors I have done is radish and carrot seed. Minimal root disturbance is the rule-of-thumb for all plants with ‘carrot-like’ roots. To withstand slug attacks, either use nemotodes, organic slug pellets, stand guard all night with a torch (not a serious suggestion!) or protect the seedbed by covering it with dry smashed up egg shells. A combination of these and other options seems to be working for me. I have not yet had to eat my own words, as written in the new book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden (www.orpenpress.com) on the many proven ways of avoiding slug and snail predation. If you have bought a copy, I hope you are enjoying it. It is selling well which is good news for SEED the school gardening charity. The SEED organic centres are currently preparing an impressive garden and stand for the BLOOM festival over the June bank holiday.
Female sparrowhawk (accipiter nisus) taking a break from hunting to do some manwatching.
After clearing weeds, it is not unusual for a robin, a blackbird, song thrush or some starlings or sparrows to arrive for a feed when they see upturned soil. Bird food in the form of insects and worms attracts garden birds as readily as the peanut or sunflower seed feeders hanging from the birdtable. However the other day a very unusual visitor caused a panic among the small birds when it landed on one of the rowan trees in the front garden.
A very imposing and self-confident sparrowhawk was in no hurry to move on from my small 20 by 30 foot front garden. I had time to get my camera, go to an upstairs window and take a few snaps of this imposing bird of prey below in the rowan tree outside. It seemed the sparrowhawk was studying me as much as I was observing her. Meanwhile, all the sparrows and other small birds made themselves scarce. Only when a neighbour’s car pulled in to the driveway next door did this acrobat of the air blithely take off. With all the young fledgling garden birds starting to leave their nests, this is probably the easiest time of year to get a meal if you are a sparrowhawk, so plenty of time for this beautiful bird of prey to hang out a do a bit of manwatching.