Ready for summer

Currant bush starting to flower, 29 April 2018.

In Ireland, some people consider May to be the start of summer.

This weekend certainly felt like summer in Dublin, with hours of beautiful sunshine (and frosty ciders in the garden).

In preparation for summer’s ‘official’ beginning, we’ve done a huge amount in the garden this month – mostly painting, moving mounds of earth and rubble and putting up fencing, as opposed to planting.

We’ve come a long way since summer 2016 when we moved into our house, with its overgrown jungle of a garden.

The garden in early spring 2017. Cut back, but still overrun with ivy and muck.
The garden today, 29 April 2018.


And now we’re touching distance from finally ‘completing’ the garden design.

It’s been a hard graft, with much heavy lifting and repurposing of existing elements (we were quoted crazy-money to clear away the old wreckage, and couldn’t face dragging tonnes of muck and rubbish through the house).

Nearly there!

The potatoes looking leafy and healthy
First shoots of spring onions coming through
Not long till strawberries.
Tomato seedlings nearly ready to go out – just need to build the glasshouse now!

Growth spurt

Radishes: First crop of 2018!

The last week or so has seen unprecedented growth, as the weather has turned just a little bit warmer (still with plenty of wet).

The sudden appearance of sturdy green potato leaves has been particularly exciting.

Healthy potato leaves are showing for every seed potato planted, just under a month since they went into the soil.
The shallots too are looking great – and starting to split into new bulbs.
lemon balm
Every time I look at this lemon balm it seems bigger and bushier. I’ve been very liberal with the chicken manure, extra compost and diluted worm castings to ensure good soil health for the potted crops.


Sharing surplus seeds, seedlings and produce

Kale, spinach and chard – cut and ready for sharing last year.

Growing for our household of two humans inevitably means surplus crops and seeds.

Last year, I totally overdid the leafy greens and had an abundance of kale, chard and spinach to share with colleagues and friends in raw and cooked form (a leafy greens, lentil and cumin soup).

This year, having learned a lesson about what not to grow, I dispatched with my surplus  seeds – quality organic lettuce, kale, chard, and purple broccoli seeds -and my surplus chitted seed potatoes via WeShare.

The WeShare initiative is a not just about purging unwanted furniture and household goods (Freecycle, the ‘free stuff’ section of do that just fine), it’s also about sharing skills and lending things to others. Right now you can take part in a tin whistle learning opportunity in Dublin 8, receive a DIY helping hand in Waterford, do a language exchange, or pick up a Boyzone necklace!

(Actually – it should be noted that both and Freecycle can be pretty good for getting free stuff to help your growing. There’s always plenty of top soil going for one thing.)

My friend Johannah drew my attention to WeShare a couple of years ago. Specifically, their  local fruit harvesting venture, Falling Fruit, which encourages people with surplus fruit from trees or bushes to share with others in the community.

I didn’t get involved then, and largely  forgot all about them, until earlier this year that is – when I wanted to give my seeds and spuds away.

They went to very good homes and it was really nice to engage, albeit briefly, with people who are trying to live sustainably and develop a sharing culture.

My seeds would probably have only cost around €15 if bought new, but a family of four travelled from Bray to the city centre to make a day out of collecting them instead.

My dozen chitted seed potatoes were maybe €1-2 tops – but again the fact that they were being shared by a well-intentioned fellow gardener, increased their value in a wholly different, non-monetary way.

In both instances, I was contacted by multiple people who wanted to give me something for the garden in return.

I’ll continue to share the surplus, though I might link in with a local community garden (there are two gardens and two allotments within a two-mile radius – as yet uncontacted and unexplored) for a swapping session for next season.

When I was involved in a community garden in the north inner city, I witnessed generous inter-garden sharing. I also organised a couple of ‘meitheal’* events myself – where friends from the nearby Dublin Buddhist Centre helped paint the garden walls and do a big clear-up in the Spring of 2016, and again later that year, lay tonnes of new bark chips (donated by another community gardener) on the garden paths, and do some cutting back and weeding.

Myself, Johannah and Olivia painting the walls at Summer Row Community Garden, early 2016.
Summer Row garden in full swing, June 2016
Bark laid and (vegetarian) BBQ sparked up, June 2016
The troops

I miss the community of the community garden. Though, I thoroughly enjoy being the chief gardener at home.

To find you local garden, visit Community Gardens Ireland.

*Meitheal is the Irish word for a work team, gang, or party, and denotes the old cooperative labour system in Ireland where groups of neighbours helped each other in turn with farming work, such as harvesting crops.