Posts Tagged ‘September’


The bad harvest reports in the news this year prove, once again, that farming is very different from organic kitchen gardening. Not everything did well in the garden, but in general, I have to admit it was my best year ever. The brassicas suffered but are recovering now. My fault entirely, I should have covered the cabbage patch with fleece to prevent the cabbage white caterpillars making flitters of the lovely healthy green leaves. Such is life, thankfully the rainbow chard leaves have kept me going as a fall back leafy vegetable. Meanwhile, everything else has come good, more or less, apples, blackcurrants, peas, beans, beetroot, basil, parsley, potatoes etc. Leeks coming along nicely for harvesting over the winter and early spring hungry gap.

The glut at present is the Black Plum Tomato crop (Lycopersicon lycopersicon). I bought seeds from and they are described as ‘productive heirloom from Russia. A cordon, ripening from mid-August. Rich red mahogany plum-shaped fruits, delicious in salads and sauces’. The south facing greenhouse, rich soil and a regular comfrey liquid feed gave these Russian plants a good chance to produce prolifically. Glad they are good for sauces, as they will all find their way into various dishes requiring bruschetta topping

Black Plum Tomatoes on one of four plants, two in the ‘phone box’ and two more in the ‘Fingal Greens Greenhouse’. South facing garden helps tomatoes ripen fully on the cordon.

, pasta sauces and for the remainder, good old chutney. Thank you people of Russia ( and the Irish Sed Savers Association in Scarriff) for the ‘black plum tomato’.



Although there is work to be done in the garden, this is the best time of year to go for a walk and see what else is growing, sometimes wild, but often as a legacy of some long gone gardener from a different era. Last Sunday, we gathered in Ballyboughal about 8 miles away to follow Ann Lynch, Ballyboughal Hedgerow School Co-ordinator, on a foraging walk.

Crab Apples and  apple varieties like ‘Sheep’s Nose’ indicate the presence of an old orchard or atleast a multi – purpose boundary hedge planted to provide food for the owner  aswell as marking a boundary. Ann has now collected together almost all the apples picked to make crab apple jelly with the permission of the landowner. Some of the crab apples never made it to the bags due to the very sociable horse which followed us around chewing on our apples as he went.

Dr Declan Doogue of the Dublin Field Naturalists’ Club again astounded us with his depth of knowledge in botany, local geography and history. I had not appreciated before how many species of Dog Rose can be found on a leisurely walk!

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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.




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.


Any visit to Sligo would not be complete without a visit to Lissadell House and Gardens. After a hearty breakfast at Seashore B&B nearby, the Saturday was clear to meet up with Dermot Carey, the dedicated and very talented head gardener at Lissadell. The walled garden has recently been awarded full organic certification and is a brilliant show-case for organic growing methods.

The rotation of crop families is followed but on this scale and with this diversity of crops it needs some explanation for the casual visitor. the diversity of colour and vegetable types is what strikes a visitor as truly impressive.


The garden is beginning to look neglected but is nonetheless very productive with apples, courgettes, tomatoes, parsley, runner beans, cavello nero kale, perpetual spinach and carrots looking and tasting well.

I’m lucky to get time just to keep the grass cut, under glass plants and potted plants watered. Most garden work these days is done late at night indoors juicing the prolific crop of large James Grieve apples. Some juice is frozen for thawing out to drink in months to come. Most is bottled and GIVEN to friends who have dropped a hint that a bottle would go down well. No complaints so far!

However this interest in growing fruit and veg is gathering momentum. As a result, I was invited to speak about ‘getting started’ at the Electric Picnic and just last weekend I was honoured to open the first  national Grow It Yourself conference  held in Waterford Institute of Technology. My home town of Balbriggan was well represented there so I am hopeful GIY Balbriggan will soon be up and running. A network of GIY groups around the country will be a significant way of empowering communities. Even if it does cause me to neglect my own garden, this is a part of the important work which needs to be done to make us a self reliant and resiliant country where healthy diets will reduce obesity related sickness which is wasting 4 billion euro a year and causing otherwise avoidable stress and grief for many.

Visit the GIY Website at


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.