Posts Tagged ‘fruit tree disease’

School Gardening Q&A at Bloom draws a crowd – First Week in June 2012

Michael Kelly (GIY), Paddy Madden (SEED) and Cathy Eastman (SEED) in front of a large crowd at Bloom, listen to Hans Wieland (SEED) stress the importance of the School Caretaker for School Gardens.

The proven educational benefits of school gardening being a part of the curriculum were highlighted in BLOOM, the Bord Bia gardening festival on its first day. Michael Kelly, for GIY Ireland, hosted a lively question and answer session in the big marquee at the famous Phoenix Park annual extravaganza. The panel from SEED, the Earth Education network, comprised of Paddy Madden, school gardening lecturer and earth education author from the Marino College of Education, Dublin; Cathy Eastman from the award winning Gortbrack Earth Education Farm, near Tralee; Hans Wieland, from the Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim and Trevor Sargent, a former school principal and Minister for Food and Horticulture was there for Sonairte, the Ecology Centre at Laytown, Co. Meath, as well as being the author of Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, a fundraiser for school gardening projects.

The rudiments of establishing a school garden were teased out by the panel. The success of a school garden project generally requires the support of the Principal, the engagement of the Caretaker and the drive of a designated teacher, perhaps the Green School Co-ordinator. The first step is to plan on paper how the garden is ideally to be laid out. The locations of hedging, fruit bushes and trees, raised beds, etc. Then set about an introductory three year plan.

–         Year 1: In ALL the vegetable patches, sow potatoes as an easy first crop, which leaves the soil friable after the crop is harvested.

–         Year 2: In the same clear patches, sow peas. This improves soil health by adding nitrogen, and peas are a favourite for many children.

–         Year 3: Begin a planned rotation with at least four plots growing different veg family groups (a) potato/onions (b) peas/beans (c) cabbage/kale (d) carrots/beetroot.

Given that school summer holiday coincide with the main harvest for most GIY-ers, the school garden suits crops which can be harvested in June before schools close for July and August.

–         Early potatoes sown in strong potato bags started in early February indoors, can be put outside after the risk of frost has passed (generally after Easter) for a June harvest. Strawberries likewise make for a popular June harvest.

–         Short term crops like lettuce, radish or scallion are likewise sown in the spring for a May and June harvest.

–         Perennial fruit bushes, trees, herbs and rhubarb etc help support a wide biodiversity in the school grounds as well as yielding healthy food for the school community year after year.

–         Produce which ripens over the holiday period is often harvested and frozen, to be savoured when pupils return in the autumn. A rota of parents and/or the caretaker are required to water over the summer but manicuring the garden is not necessary. Pupils learn important lessons about biodiversity from seeing weeds on their return in the autumn.

An easy way to construct raised beds on a existing lawn area was outlined. No digging up of grass sods is required. Place a raised bed wooden frame, one metre wide and as long as you like, on top of the grass. Inside the frame of four planks (ideally 1 foot /30cm high), place a couple of layers of cardboard on top of the grass. Cover this biodegradable floor with soil. The children can be asked to each bring a bag or carton of soil to school for the raised bed. Plant strawberries or potatoes. Over time, the cardboard with decompose as will the grass underneath it. However the bed will need weeding from time to time.

Appeals were heard for the Department of Education to plan schools with school gardens in mind. The present sterile school landscaping policy is at variance with the curriculum which encourages outdoor education. Also school canteens are needed so school grown produce can be cooked and enjoyed as part of a healthy eating habit.

GIY and SEED, the 6 organic centres around Ireland providing School Earth Education, will continue to co-operate so more schools can benefit from good quality earth education and school gardening.

Trevor Sargent, Patron of SEED.



Atlast, after a year of research, writing and illustrating, the book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ is printed and ready to be launched on Tuesday 27th March at 7.15pm in Hodges & Figgis bookshop. Top chef and all round good guy, Neven Maguire, will do the honours and Séamus Sheridan, of the famous cheesemongers, will be providing something to nibble, while you are welcome to browse, mingle and hopefully buy a reasonably priced copy.

All royalties from book sales will go to the charity S.E.E.D. (School Earth Education Developments), the network of organic centres around Ireland which provide courses in growing, cooking and storing your own food, and also help schools set up school gardens. I look forward to meeting you at the launch along with many of the 24 guest writers whose own styles and experiences are published from all parts of Ireland and from many walks of life.


1. This book shows how growing some of your own food simply, is an option for everyone (even busy people), no matter how small the pot or plot. For example, it covers growing potatoes in a bag, radish in a window box, growing mint under a tree and starting a fruit and veg raised bed on top of part of a lawn (without digging up the grass!).

2. 24 guest writers feature throughout the book answering questions about food growing. Curiously, the majority cited ‘potatoes’ as their favourite food to harvest, including former President Mary Mc Aleese, Michael Kelly of GIY Ireland, broadcaster Stiofán Nutty, journalist Joe Barry, Éamon Ryan, Green leader & allotmenteer, and Garraí Glas TG4 presenter Síle Nic Chonaonaigh who enthuses in Irish about her home grown ‘fataí’. Neven Maguire makes use of courgette flowers while Darina Allen likes all food in season.

3. The most surprising aspect of Trevor’s kitchen garden is the one prolific apple tree. The apples annually from this one tree make juice and various apple dishes. The book shows that apples can be stored for use the whole year round.

4. The book devotes a chapter to each week over 12 months, from the first week in February (Lá ‘le Bríde) to the fourth week in January. At the end of each chapter, there is a short topical essay about food called ‘The Bigger Picture’. For example, around    St. Patrick’s Day, the origin of why people plant potatoes on March 17th is explored. Around Bastille Day, Napoleon’s interest in establishing French farmers’ markets is recounted. Essays on saving money and making a job from food growing are topical.

5. The book provides contact details of places around Ireland to go to see food grow, as well as a map (one of 60 line drawings by the author). Royalties from the book all go to funding SEED, a charity network of these demonstration and educational centres so that more food growing courses for kitchen gardeners can be provided, near where people live.

Contact: Trevor Sargent’s Kitchen Garden  – 087 2547 836 or email

Plum tree removal

Mid April 2009

After many years of faithful service, producing lots of delicious fruit, this plum tree has to go because it has contracted Silver Leaf disease. This is fatal for the tree and it got it because I pruned the tree in winter. Most fruit trees can be safely pruned then but plum is an exception. Ideally, it should never be pruned, but if it has to be done, it should be in the summer.

It’s important to burn the diseased wood to prevent spread of the infection. Once the current tree and soil have been removed, I’ll be planting another tree in the same location.