Welcome to Trevor’s Kitchen Garden.
This is where I will post information and ideas on growing your own food, based mostly on my own experience. I’ve been growing my own food for some years now and find it a great source of pleasure, nourishing for body, mind and spirit.
Now that the book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ is published, I hope this will add a useful new resource to kitchen gardening with over 60 hand drawn illustrations and colourful photographs.
This website, meanwhile, is intended for beginners who want to grow their own food. I know that a great many people want to do this but just don’t know how to get started. I’ll keep things simple throughout; after all, growing food is a simple, natural activity. As well as creating a diary of what I’m doing in my own garden each week, I’ll include some video clips to show you just how easy it is.
So, thanks for visting Trevor’s Kitchen Garden. Come back soon so see how my garden grows. Better still, why not copy what I’m doing and we can compare results!
1 February 2009 (updated 24 March 2012)
If truth be known, our plan was to have a 7m by 24 m polytunnel, from Highbank Ltd. (www.highbank.ie) in Kilkenny, constructed in early May. However, the requirement to have drainage work on the field in question carried out led to postponement of the polytunnel plan.
As luck would have it, the delay made for a better polytunnel job in the end. Liam and his father Tom were the experts from Highbank who undertook the construction work. A third helper on site was the CALM WARM WEATHER. Understandably, the less wind, the better when handling the second biggest sheet of plastic I have ever seen. The biggest was in Co. Clare where I helped organic farmer Jim Cronin and his friend to construct a slightly longer polytunnel (pictured).
However, because plastic expands and becomes more pliable when warm, a sunny day is the best day to cover and tighten the polytunnel plastic. The result is that now we have a sturdy tunnel which sounds a bit like a bodhrán when you tap the tightly stretched plastic.
Now it is over to us to wheelbarrow in a few tonnes of well rotted horse manure and to get the tunnel producing. It will take a while to make a return on the investment, but here goes!
Maybe cleaning out a hen-house is not everybody’s idea of fun. Call me ‘sad’, but I find the chore satisfying, especially as constructing the structure took me longer than anticipated, but that is another story.
One key consideration in designing the hen-house was that it should be easy to clean, with the whole front lifting off and ladders and perches being removable so as to have no obstacles in the way of the brush.
The cleaning kit includes:
1. Wheelbarrow for removing soiled paper, straw and droppings to the compost heap.
2. Wallpaper scraper to remove droppings from perches and ladders.
3. Yard brush to sweep out loose straw and any loose dirt.
4. Old newspapers and fresh straw.
Another aid to an easy cleaning routine is a removable old lino base on the floor of the hen-house. This pulls out with the soiled paper and straw when cleaning is required. I reckon cleaning should be weekly, for the health of the hens and to keep the whole operation relatively inoffensive to the nostrils, especially when hen loving visitors often call around!
When I was working with Co. Clare organic grower and teacher, Jim Cronin, I got to see the amazing ability of a few ducks to ‘hoover’ up slugs. However, ducks understandably get bored with slugs after a while and look for some variety in their diet. This is where supervision is important, especially in a polytunnel where tender salad plants may be vulnerable to nibbling ducks. Jim allows the ducks come in to the polytunnel for slugs, but then shoos them out before they turn to the salad plants.
Enthused by all that, work is now underway here in Ballytory Upper to build a pen, duck housing and a pond so we can keep a few ducks ourselves.
The picture shows Adam, Brian and Conor, Áine’s nephews lending their combined strength and humour to the task of digging out a hole which in due course will become a duck pond. The challenge will be to install no ordinary garden pond. A duck pond gets very mucky. The water will need to be changed atleast weekly, I am told by duck keeping friends. We thought of sinking an old bath and releasing water via the plughole. However, the aperture is too narrow, I’m told. A plughole the diameter of a 6 inch Wavin pipe is required to do the job, so more of all this anon.
After a few months working in a quiet field, the prospect of meeting dozens of people at the Dublin Garden Festival in the grounds of Christchurch Cathedral is a welcome contrast to the quietness of market gardening.
The invitation to speak was open ended. I was simply asked to name a topic. The choice was easy this year as 2015 has been designated The International Year of Soils by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation.
A goodly number attended the presentation and the result was a lively discussion about all manner of soil related topics, composting, green manures, climate change, planting trees, mulching and the need for legislation to protect the best growing soils from being lost forever under concrete.
There are some very sturdy and large fruit cages on the market, but they are an expensive investment. The large number of various fruit bushes and canes we have planted make fruit cages also impractical.
Blackcurrants don’t seem to be eaten by birds, but red and white currants and raspberries need protection as they ripen. For this reason, I have been developing a temporary bird net covered frame which is moveable and can also be stacked for compact winter storage.
The basic components are 2 by 1 treated timber and hydrodare flexible water pipe. Drill and bits, screws, saw and screwdriver are needed too, but no fancy stuff. The bird netting is bought in a local hardware or garden centre. Finally a staplegun is needed to secure the netting to the wooden frame.
Our preference has always been to disturb the soil as little as possible, by using mulches and sowing green manure seeds wherever bare soil is created after harvesting a crop, for instance.
However, after the disruption of getting drains put under the top soil and the compaction of the associated machinery, we succumbed to the need for a tractor and plough to turn the rough ground and begin to make it even enough to harrow and sow. This is the area where our polytunnel is to be located so site preparation is needed for that development too.
Thanks to our farming neighbour, Sam Hawkins, who made time to plough the 1 acre field with his own tractor and plough.
Other than a barrel connected to a gutter downpipe, our rainwater harvesting plans are still largely to be realised. Amongst these plans, are ideas to harvest rainwater which falls on the polytunnel.
While visiting a cousin in England, we came across this ingenious guttering on each side of a polytunnel. Nothing like the metering of , and paying for, mains water to focus the mind.