HIVING A SWARM – 2nd wk in April 2015

The key to hiving a swarm is to have a few things ready in advance. Swarms do hang about for an hour or two, but then they fly off and when that happens, all one can say is ‘there goes the potential new hive’. Lucky for me, I had a empty brood box on hand complete with frames, lid, floor etc. It is also handy to have a super box without frames to sit on the brood box, so that when you pour the bees in to the brood box, the lid can be put back on the super above the brood box and bees don’t get squashed.

The swarm on the branch can either be shaken in to a large cardboard box or the branch cut off.  Then this is put with the attached DSC07090-001bees in the box. The box is then put upside down on old pale coloured curtain or sheet. The sheet is useful to wrap around the box. This box full of bees is then emptied in to the empty brood box. Once the queen is amongst the bees, they will settle in to their new home.


DRAINAGE WORK ON VEG GARDEN -1st wk in April 2015

There is no good time to get drainage work done in a busy market garden. However, Denis Carroll, our local drainage contractor is in much demand, so the best time was spring when he was available and before the summer growth had made moving machinery around our place even more difficult.

The approach taken was to dig 2 – 3 feet trenches and half back fill these with 1 -2 inch diameter stones. The trenches are topped with soil so they don’t interfere with veg and fruit growing areas. DSC07081All trenches drain to the lowest point on the land, an old marl hole. This is like a woodland lake. It will be next winter and maybe even the winter after that before we hopefully appreciate all this drainage work. More related postings then!


Mindful that a fox failed to grab one of our 8 hens in broad daylight, we make sure to be working in the garden before letting them out of their run. They don’t like slugs much, but they’ll pick at most small animal or plant matter in the soil. It is interesting to see them gobble away on horsetail and dandelion leaves. Their hit and miss approach makes little impression however. That being said, t

Varak, the lucky hen which escaped the fox, here scratching around a self seeded sunflower.

Varak, the lucky hen which escaped the fox, here scratching around a self seeded sunflower.

heir daily egg laying makes them well worthwhile at the end of the day.


In our windy location in Tacumshin, Co. Wexford, near the south east coast, we will always be grateful to organic horticulture lecturer, Klaus Laitenberger, for running a course in Sonairte, Co. Meath, where I learned how to make strong, simple, low cost cloches. The main cost is the Enviromesh, a strong fine netting which allows in light and rain, but excludes small predators like carrot fly and cabbage white butterflies. (Available from

The principal ingredients are 2 by 1 rough timber lengths, one inch hydrodare, flexible piping which plumbers use to carry pressurised water to taps, plus nails to hold it all together and some screws to improve the strength of the cloche. A drill bit for the 1 inch holes plus an electric drill are needed to secure  the hydrodare loops.  A staple-gun with long staples is needed to secure the enviromesh over the hydrodare loops.

This cloche design is not only effective, but it is ergonomic and stream-lined enough to deflect and filter the strong winds we get in these parts. There was a good turn-out of about 40 keen

Once the cloche was made, it was displayed on the table, while the meeting broke into smaller 'pods' to discuss the seasonal highs and lows of each other's gardens.

Once cloche was made, it was displayed on table, while meeting broke into smaller ‘pods’ to discuss the seasonal highs and lows of each other’s gardens.

GIY-ers recently at our local Wexford meeting in the Riverbank Hotel to go through the practical steps of making a sample cloche. If you are reading this and live anywhere near Wexford town, you’ll be made very welcome at our GIY monthly meetings on the 3rd Monday of every month at 7.30pm in the Riverbank Hotel. Worth checking out the GIY website also for seasonal tips and news of other GIY demos and meetings elsewhere. (


It may still be too cold outdoors for hoeing. Growth is not yet vigorous and the soil may still be too damp. However, in a polytunnel conditions are drier and warmer. So, while doing my organic work experience in Co. Clare with Jim Cronin, hoeing in the tunnels was all in a day’s work.

Jim asked us to hoe the paths as well as the raised beds. He explained that the loose soil on the paths can afterwards be pushed up on to the beds. This all helps to add more friable fertile soil to the beds, where it can be used by the plants being grown.

Hoeing is not only about weed control then, it also gets air in to the soil surface to spur on soil activity and plant growth.  However, the commonly seen wooden sides used to edge raised beds would stimey this path hoeing idea. I had thought about putting in wooden edges on our own raised beds in Tacumshin, when we get a polytunnel

Hoeing paths and raised beds keeps both weed free, but also shifts fertile loose soil to when veg are growing.

Hoeing paths & raised beds keeps all weed free, but also shifts fertile loose soil to when veg are growing.

. Now I have a positive reason not to go to all that trouble – thanks Jim!

SOWING FRENCH BEANS, 4 TO A POT – 1st wk in March 2015

When growing in a small garden, I rarely sowed seed directly in the soil. Instead, seeds were grown in seed

French bean placed on wet seed compost. Dry compost will cover them and each pot will be watered from next day on.

French bean seeds placed, 4 to a pot in wet seed compost. Dry compost will cover them and each pot will then be watered as needed  from next day on.

trays, modules or small pots. This was a more space efficient way of producing seedlings, than waiting for seeds to germinate in open soil. A few seeds, however, like radish and carrot, were better sown direct as their tap roots do not like to be disturbed once the seed has germinated.

Having worked on Jim Cronin’s commercial organic farm, I now see that even on a larger scale, it is worth sowing seed in modules. This also facilitates earlier crops and the seedlings can be nurtured in a greenhouse, before planting out in the open soil.

In the case of French beans, Jim likes to put 4 seeds in each square pot. The resulting four seedlings ( if they all grow), can then be planted out as a clump of four plants and they seem happy to find their own way in the open soil and give a good harvest later in the summer.


I recall writing in some detail about suitable times to grow various ‘green manure’ crops in the book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ ( pp. 195 – 9). Now I realise, after working with organic guru, Jim Cronin in Co. Clare, that sowing these soil improving crops can be an almost weekly occurrence. This applies

Bowl of 'green manure' rye seeds ready for broadcast sowing by hand along vacant veg bed in polytunnel

Bowl of ‘green manure’ rye seeds ready for broadcast sowing by hand  along vacant veg beds in polytunnel

especially when growing in polytunnels where soil temperatures are generally higher than outside.

Whenever Jim has cleared a patch of soil, a green manure is sown, even if the patch will be required to plant vegetable seedlings in a fortnight’s time. If one sees bare soil – scatter a few seeds of rye or phacelia or red clover. This is a good rule of thumb which lies at the heart of maintaining good microbial life in well managed soil.