Posts Tagged ‘GIY’


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. (



Thanks to Micháel Ó Cadhla and the Grow It Yourself (GIY) organisation for inviting Áine and myself to the GIY Family Fun Day at the Athenaeum House Hotel on the outskirts of Waterford city held on Sunday 8th June. Workshops on growing food and various crafts were on display. We were asked to do a demo about apples and juicing. In my book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’

Giving a workshop at the GIY Family Fun Day in Waterford about storing apples by freezing the juice.

Giving a workshop at the GIY Family Fun Day in Waterford about storing apples by freezing the juice.

(in a revised edition in the bookshops or from, the apple juicing tips are in the 2nd week of August chapter. However, this June  event was a useful opportunity to talk about growing apple trees, caring for them and how to handle the harvest which is developing quite well so far.

After a spell of dry weather, be sure to give any spare water from the kitchen or bathroom to your apple trees. For example, water left after washing dishes at home is generally thrown around the base of our fruit trees. Drought can cause undeveloped fruit to drop, whereas proper watering can swell the developing fruit.


School Gardening Teacher, Caroline Jolly, with one of the St Brigid's School hens.

School Gardening Teacher, Caroline Jolly, with one of the St Brigid’s School hens.

I was very impressed after speaking to Dundrum GIY group in the Goat, Goatstown, recently, to then be brought by local GIY Champion, Shane Maher, to see a famous school garden in Stillorgan nearby. Teacher Caroline Jolly has been the inspirational driving force behind developing this educational oasis. Caroline is a protégé of Marino Institute of Education lecturer, Paddy Madden, author of  ‘Go Wild at School’.

The grown-up community helps the students, especially during the school holidays in keeping St. Brigid’s  School Garden looking great all year round. Daily attention is needed also for the hens. Food and water for the hens is one responsibility, but so is protecting poultry from the increasingly brazen foxes in this suburban environment. Amazingly, a honeybee brood box was set up empty and after  a few months a swarm took up residence in the midst of the wildflower meadow. Seeds for this wildlife oasis came from in Scariff, Co. Clare.

It is important to also appreciate the legacy of fertility which underpins the thriving nature of this school garden. The site was before now part of the Rectory garden for St. Brigid’s Church of Ireland in Stillorgan. A previous Rector kept a couple of donkeys there in years gone by. Geoff, Caroline’s uncle and godfather and Patsy who also works in the school garden, expressed their appreciation for all the fertility which the donkeys bequeathed to the present generation of young horticulturalists. Good fertility and soil structure is being maintained now by a fine three bay composting system which decomposes a diverse mixture of plant matter and poultry poo.

My sincere thanks to Caroline and crew for the very kind bottle of elderflower champagne, old coffee grinds for deterring slugs and the finest of St. Brigid’s hens’ eggs. One of the bigger eggs had a delicious double yoke. Congratulations to Shane and all at Dundrum GIY for all their work in lending a hand whenever required in this wonderfully inspirational outdoor living classroom.


Some of the eclectic family gardeners, allotmenteers & GIYers who dropped in on Trevor's Kitchen Garden recently.

Some of the eclectic family gardeners, allotmenteers & GIYers who dropped in on Trevor’s Kitchen Garden recently.

There are pros and cons to a small garden when a visit by fellow gardeners takes place. The downside can be congestion, but on a wet evening, the comfort of a cup of tea and the shelter of the kitchen is on the doorstep. Eleonor Turner from Cuidiú, the Malahide based family support group initiated the visit to ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’. Soon word got around and a few GIY groups heard about the appointment. In the end the group was quite cosmopolitan, but all Fingal based.

It was a win win for me as I could offload some spare everlasting cabbage cuttings and black peppermint plants, so my very friendly guests went home happy. I was grateful for a gift of a jar of plum jam and some currant buns to go with my couple of pots of hot tea and coffee. I also gleaned some advice on how not to propagate aloe vera. It is really a house plant in Ireland and is not happy in direct sunlight. This might explain why it died in my greenhouse! You live and learn. Having visitors drop in to the garden is an enjoyable way of picking up tips in return for giving away cuttings.


No shortage of rain at present. To prevent leaching of fertility from the soil, the ground is better covered either with a crop or a sheet of something – but what? Everyone I meet seems to have an opinion on this so take your pick.

Clear plastic: Gaining support because it is multifunctional. The soil warms when the sun is out and the light helps germinate weed seed. When plastic is removed to prepare a veg seed bed, the weed seedlings can firstly be hoed away and left on the surface to wither while the soil hopefully dries out a bit.

Black plastic: Still favoured as the soil is easy to work when the plastic is removed, but the BBC Radio 4 ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ panel tell us the soil is warmed better with clear than black plastic. The slugs gather under the black plastic, but they were in the soil anyway, so just pick them off when removing the plastic to prepare for sowing.

Cardboard: The Sonairte Organic Walled Garden (2 acres) at Laytown, Co. Meath, is currently looking for cardboard boxes to flatten and use as covering on the veg and fruit patches. Good way of using a biodegradeable ‘waste product’. Encourages good worm activity especially if a layer of compost is spread on the soil before the cardboard covering is applied. In Sonairte, we put grass clippings on top of the cardboard coverings which takes the ‘cardboard city’ look off the garden!

Carpet: I use off cuts of old carpet. Arthur my cat enjoys lying on them, but carpet prevents the sun’s heat getting to the soil. Hence in February, I will remove the carpet to begin preparing the beds for sowing and planting in late spring. Carpet works better for covering over a compost layer on the soil in the autumn and winter to retain heat and encourage soil life activity. The compost heap also needs covering to keep in the heat it is generating. Carpet is my preferred choice for covering a compost heap.

Jane Moore, head gardener at Bath Priory Hotel looking for more carpet to cover her compost heaps in the rain with Áine Neville of

Jane Moore, head gardener at Bath Priory Hotel looking for more carpet to cover her compost heaps in the rain with Áine Neville of

Fleece: I was very impressed with how Dermot Carey, the renowned organic horticulturalist uses thin white fleeces in Harry’s Restaurant organic walled garden in Inishowen, Co. Donegal. Unlike the above mulch matrials, fleece mainly works best AFTER planting has taken place, keeping the soil warmer than un-fleeced areas nearby. The difference in comparable plant growth was amazing.

The garden centres offer all manner of membranes to mulch patches big and small. If you have the disposable income, you’d be welcomed with open arms at any garden centre, no doubt. However, the above low-cost or no-cost options serve me fine.

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.


The sociable side of growing fruit and veg got a boost last Saturday 18th September when the second Grow It Yourself Conference took place in the intoxicating environs of the Guinness Storehouse  Conference Centre. It was great to meet up with so many experts and enthusiasts. The No.1 guest was Uachtarán na hEireann and GIY enthusiast, Mary Mc Aleese who brought a certain gravitas to proceedings.

Michael and Eilish Kelly, Feargal, Dave and the Waterford GIY pioneers were there in force proving again they are great organizers. The line up of speakers made the day worthwhile too.

Duncan Stewart spoke well and from the heart about the unsustainability of the way humans right now feed themselves in the main. The energy humans consume has us heading for 6 degree centigrade above pre industrial level wheareas we need to not go over 2 degrees if runaway climate chaos is to be avoided – is that a wake up call OR is that a wake up call? Let us grow more of the food we currently have to import and grow it without fossil fuel derived fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. Using harvested rainwater and supporting the local Country Market, Farmers’ Market and local shops are also good ways to reduce the ‘carbon footprint’.

Klaus Laitenberger gave us the reality check of growing fruit and veg in Irish conditions, particularly in the West, where land is sold by ‘the gallon, instead of by the acre’! He urged us to be patient, not to sow too early. Often better to sow in May than in March. Klaus can meet all his family’s fruit and veg need from his 20 by 10 metre patch.

Workshops and diverse sessions with Nicky Kyle about polytunnels and John Carney about Community Supported Agriculture and Fionnula Fallon about Walled Gardens etc all added to good memories of the day

Congrats to Joe Hurley who was awarded the prize as GIY-er of the Year and the Bray GIY Group as Top Group.

Now back to the juicing which I did on Tuesday evening, freezing another 13 litres for use at Christmas or when another GIY event is organized in Trevor’s Kitchen Garden.