Posts Tagged ‘Co. Clare’

WARM DAY HELPS IN COVERING A POLYTUNNEL -1st wk in June 2015

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 soundsDSC06996 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!

 

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DIGGING A POND FOR FUTURE DUCKS – 3rd wk in May 2015

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 DSC07138to 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.

HOEING FOR FERTILITY AS WELL AS WEED CONTROL – 2nd wk in March 2015

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 ‘GREEN MANURE’ CROPS IN POLYTUNNEL ON BARE SOIL – 4th wk in February 2015

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.