Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category


Made a start on clearing the spent pea and bean stalks and haulms. I did not dig them out, just chopped them at ground level so their roots remained in the soil. These legume roots have nodules of nitrogen fixed from the air during their growing season. I’m told this is valuable for the cabbage plants I hope to plant in this patch shortly as all the brassica family are hungry for nitrogen.

Still have beetroot to dig up and bottle for storage over the winter. Before long I will need to spread the mature compost from the composter around the garden and make a new batch by layering the compost tumbler contents with the greenery from spent veg and hedge clipping. However I’ll need to set aside a Sunday sometime soon to get a good run at that job which comes around every 6 months, autumn and spring.



Ar an chéad lá de Dheireadh Fómhair, d’fhreastail a lán daoine ar Fhéile Bia Bhaile Brigín a bhí urraithe as Bridgestone. Deireadh Fómhair or October literally means ‘end of Harvest’ so the first of October was a good day for the first ever Balbriggan Food Festival. The sponsorship of Bridgestone was a big help and linked the Bridgestone Food Guide with the town where Bridgestone in Ireland is based and employs many local people.

Joe English as Chairperson of Balbriggan Chamber of Commerce and Zoe Nelson, a local business woman along with the Organizing Committee deserve huge credit for the effort and intelligent planning they brought to the project. All this resulted in over 40 stands showcasing a huge range of local businesses. The scope covered hobbyist food producers like me, GIY Balbriggan and Fingal North Dublin Beekeepers….to local restaurants….to nearby farmers like Clarkes Fruit Farm and Countrycrest feeding Ireland throught supplying the big supermarkets.

About 8 of the stalls were displaying under the award winning Balbriggan Fish and Farmers’ Market which feeds the town every Friday morning on the Square from 9am – 2pm as well as being a sociable place to start or finish a shopping trip to other town centre shops and businesses.

At my own stall (below) the apples, apple juice and honey from my 2 hives were a popular sampling point at the Festival.

Aisling Kennedy of the Fingal North Dublin Beekepers Association shares a glass of apple juice with Trevor

Michael Griimes, Co-ordinator of Balbriggan Fish & Farmers Market and John McKenna, Bridgestone Food Guide author, sampling some of Trevor's apple juice


Monday, September 13th was the start of National Organic Week which An Bord Bia organises every year to shine a light on who and what is growing organically and where of course. A couple of months ago the invitation was extended to farmers, restaurants and growers big and small to put on an event to highlight the range of organic activities in the country. As I was going to juice some apples on that day anyway, I decided to throw open the door and host a workshop.

So the Bord Bia calendar of over 30 events in Organic Week 2010 included Trevor’s Kitchen Garden for the first time. The Irish Times was good enough to mention the event as part of the Organic Week events, even if the reference was a bit tongue in cheek! ‘Fancy a nosey around Trevor Sargent’s garden?’ was the opening line in the magazine section last Saturday.

As a result a genuinely interested  and interesting range of people dropped in. Some neighbours walked. Some came by train while others drove from nearby counties of Meath, Kildare and friends from Wexford aswell. My own trusty ‘James Grieve’ apple tree has cropped well again this year but to paraphrase a saying, ‘it takes more than one variety of apple to make a juicing demonstration and workshop’.

So, earlier I had collected from Sonairte, the National Ecology Centre, near Laytown, Co Meath, three other varieties, with the help of Sonairte gardener, Kathy Marsh. I also appreciated the use of the Sonairte juicer which I had sponsored a couple of years ago.

Not only could we compare the flavours of different apple varieties when juiced but thanks to Sonairte we could also compare cost, speed and result from the two types of juicer in use. What began as a juicing demonstration turned into a workshop quickly enough when Caoimhghín answered the call to try juicing while I washed a few more empty bottles for people to take home some flavoursome samples for the breakfast in the morning or the school going lunch boxes.

‘Worcester Pomerain’, which yield up a pink juice was quite sweet and popular with Rita. The ‘James Grieve’, I’m happy to say, had everyone licking their lips in approval. A couple of the hard men in the company liked ‘Golden Spire’ because like a spire, it was a bit sharp! ‘Lady Sudeley’ was sweet and almost strawberry flavoured at first sip but then the after-taste was a little watery to my palate. Very pleasant nonetheless.

As my guests left clutching a couple of bottles of fresh apple juice a piece, thoughts turned to cleaning up. The key thing to do is wash juicers immediately or at least soak the disassembled parts in water. If the pulp is allowed to dry the cleaning becomes a chore. Lots more apples on the tree so the cleaned juicer will be pressed into service a few more times this month and the resulting juice frozen in container to be thawed in the months to come.


Another week or two and leaf buds will be opening and the growing season will pick up momentum. Time to get out  in spite of the icy showers to prune the trusty ‘James Grieve’ apple tree before it is too late when leaves appear and sap is in full flow once more. In January or February normally I prune this tree to keep it quite compact. This means pruning back new branches which are growing over the path. This also means taking off any skyward growing new branches. This stops the tree overly shading my herb patch. Apples on a low branch are less damaged if they do fall from the tree in the autumn. I also remove the less developed branches which are either rubbing off another branch or may end up rubbing  if left undisturbed. Rubbing of bark on bark creates tree wounds and risks the tree becoming infested.

The pruning tools are a secateurs for twigs, loppers for branches a centimetre or two thick and a saw for the thicker boughs. I must get myself a pruning saw to make life a little easier. The cleaner the cut the better. A half cut branch which then splits is likely to be a home for infestion whereas a clean cut will form a scab quickly and seal the wound aswell as look neater.

The prunings are useful in themselves for pea and bean supporting sticks. Any leftover twigs are stored with the other firewood and will be handy for starting the wood stove next winter. The resulting wood ash will go into the compost and may well feed the tree with potash and other minerals in years to come.

Meanwhile the pond nearby has seen the weed and reed growth expand over the years to the point where in the summer, hardly any water surface is visible. Now is the time before the rampant growth takes hold, to remove a good amount of roots along with pond weed. I’m astonished at how massive and thick the roots of these pond plants have become. Plenty of brute force is required with arms up to my armpits in fresh but murky water. In the end a fairly large heap of roots and pond weed lies on the edge of a much clearer and seemingly larger pond. I’m told that pond plants take much longer to compost as they are tough and resist the advances of composting microbes. I’ll see if experience bears this out in due course when I have had a go at composting this heap of greenery. I’ll leave the heap beside the pond for a few days in the hope that any pond life, water beetles, pond skaters etc. migrates back into the water.

Enough reeds and pondweed remain to grow up and create a diverse pond habitat. No shortage of rainwater meanwhile. The overflow pipe from the garden water butt ends up in the pond so the water levels are kept high. No luck so far attracting frog spawn. However birds, bees, wasps, beetles and many other species essential  to a healthy kitchen garden, all need water. Even Arthur the cat will hunker down to drink from the pond but turns his nose up at tap water.


Image: C.Finn

Image: C.Finn

After the joy of winning a first prize in the Naul Horticultural Show for parsley which grows well under the apple tree, I was then brought back down to earth to discover a white fungus on a branch of the apple tree above. I read up on the symptoms in ‘Natural Pest and Disease Control’ by Jim Hay, a Century Paperback from 1987.

The symptoms match apple powdery mildew, a fungus disease which overwinters on the tree in the dormant buds. I cut away the infested branch area using a saw. I took the infected wood indoors to further cut it up for the fire in winter. Some organic growers put bee’s wax on the wound left by the cut, others say leave it to heal on its own. Jim Hay says if the disease persists, spray with a lime sulphur solution immediately after the blossom has fallen in the Spring and again four weeks later.

Meanwhile, I will clear some of the vegetation under the apple tree as lack of air circulating could be a contributory factor in creating conditions for apple powdery mildew which is also quite sticky, a bit like candy floss.

Image: C.Finn

Image: C.Finn


The ‘Indian summer’ has arrived and high pressure from mid-week on is good news for harvesting and sowing. I open up the seed catalogues therefore and order seeds for autumn sowing such as: 1. Radar – autumn onion sets, 2. autumn shallots, 3. garlic, 4. Aquadulce – broad beans, 5. cress, 6. mustard.

Seeing these sets and seeds becoming established before winter will ensure the spring growth will begin sooner and give me garden produce earlier in 2010. I’m experimenting with growing radish and lettuce in the ‘telephone box’ sized greenhouse by placing window boxes on shelves against a south facing wall under glass. I know David Langan in Rush as a professional grower is able to produce Irish butterhead lettuce for 52 weeks of the year growing under glass, so we’ll see what I can produce in a 2 foot square glass ‘telephone box’.

I hope this spell of fine weather will encourage gardeners with lawns to turn the sod and put in a few onion sets as a start to a new kitchen garden. To further encourage food growing at the Electric Picnic last weekend in Stradbally, Co. Laois, I was speaking on a panels with other growers and Bord Bia about appreciating Irish fresh produce and supporting Irish farmers in the interests of Irish food security. I also handed out a few Radar autumn onion sets to anyone who undertook to sow them when they got home.

Next weekend, I’ll have some time on Sunday hopefully to lift the remainder of my own few mature onions which I will then leave lying on paper indoors to dry before tying them and hanging them in the shed for use over the winter. Juicing garden apples continues and I am giving away bottles as I fill them. An apple juice connoisseur I work with in the Dept of Ag tells me this year the juice is not as sweet as last year which he prefers. Nature provides, I just dispense!

With the onions lifted, I will compost that area, cover it with old carpet and have it ready to sow the broad bean seeds in November. Where the beetroot was will also be enriched with compost and some wood ash  in readiness for the new onion sets and shallot sets to be planted in September. I’ll leave the garlic cloves until early December before sowing in colder weather which they seem to like to get started.

Meanwhile, off to Waterford Institute of Technology on Saturday to launch a fantastic new initiative to organise, help and develop kitchen gardens in homes, schools and institutions throughout Ireland. Michael Kelly, the writer and Irish Times journalist the man who planted the seed of what I hope will become as well known as the GAA in every county in Ireland. Michael who wrote ‘Trading Paces’ also has a good website worth checking out if you Google his name.


Harvesting continues throughout the garden. Onions, peas, beans, cabbage, kale and courgettes all need regular picking. The biggest job this week is setting up the apple juicer, retrieving empty bottles from the attic and containers  to keep juice in the freezer for the months ahead.

Someone with a larger kitchen garden would be thinking at this time of preserving and storing many types of fruit and vegetables. Any USA or Canadian kitchen garden website would be more helpful perhaps. The coming winter on a larger landmass brings snow and ice. Unless root vegetables are dug up before the freeze there, they must remain in the ground until the thaw. In Winnipeg, Canada, which has good farmers’ markets, the winter temperature reaches minus 40 centigrade creating one metre thick ice on the Red River.

However juicing is the best way for me not to  waste the crop of apples on my solitary James Grieve apple tree. This variety gives a generous crop of large mottled red and green apples. In July, they are a little bitter but can be used as cookers. By the end of August, they have ripened further as a good dessert apple. However, once picked they are good for about a week after which they deteriorate. I have found over the years that they juice very well and once defrosted they are available until next August and September’s crop is ready for harvesting.

So thank you James Grieve, the Edinburgh apple breeder who crossed a Pott’s Seedling and a Cox’s Orange Pippin in 1893 to create my juicy apple tree. I need to prune this venerable tree back each winter so that there is enough space and light in the garden to grow the other crops, but that is a story for another day.