i joined some of the 14,000 people who took advantage of the amazing sunshine and visited the North West Garden Show in Castlefin. Now in its 3rd year (i'll re-word that, only its 3rd year), the Castlefin show has an amazing energy about it, ran by a small commitee and an army of volunteers (between 80+100 on each of the two days) this show is well worth the trip. With 145 exhibitors and as many marquees as would put a royal wedding to shame!! The parking and the Park'n'Ride facilities were second to none.
Held within the CPI complex on the main Lifford - Ballybofey road the site itself has a year-round allotment project, showcasing many traditional growing techniques, such as the lazy bed, and a full size working polytunnel and various vintage farm tools (this is open for anyoen to visit and see all year round)
now back to the show itself, apart from the glamour of Tim Austen and Diarmuid Gavin (we'll come to this later) there was lots going on, the first thing that caught my eye was a super wee display of 'Pallet Gardens' from various local primary schools, each had their own wee story and were nice and varied...(i love the wooden turtle one...that was my favourite)...i didn't see who won best in show but they were all fab! ( as i was taking these pics there were eager kids hauling parents up to show them 'their garden')
sunday was the perfect day for selling garden furniture, and off the 145 exhibitors there were about 6 stalls dedicated to garden furniture. Wood seemed to be right out of fashion with outdoor hessian style, wrought iron and steel seeming to be the more fashionable offerings..
something I really enjoyed was the Tree Surgery display by Colin Farrell Tree Services, every hour the lads winched themselves 30' up a tree (in full tree surgery get up) and gave a great wee talk explaining all their equipment and the methods they were using to gradually cut down a big ash tree, all this in 27C heat...and yer man was never out of breath (he was using a microphone headset but i was amazed he wasn't out of breath!)
There were some super displays from Garden Centres, this swan was a real feature piece on the Ashtree Garden Centre stand, now there wasn't the 'unusual choice' that you would get a Hillsborough but the garden centres and nurseries all had stellar displays of plants which were in bloom or in great colour.
there was also a strong Grow-your-own showing too, with lots of the garden centres selling vegetable plants and fruit bushes (amazing 5' tall blackcurrents!). Also on show there were 2 polytunnel manufacturers, giving great dislays and info on the benefits associated with polytunnel growing, Colm Warren Polytunnels said it was their first time at the show and were delighted with the crowds and the interest in polytunnel growing
now I wasn't there entirely as an interested spectator, I was helping out at the Cookeryschoollive.com pavilion, working with Brian McDermott (communitychef.ie) on spreading the healthy eating and healthy gardening message, providing advice on growing your herbs and tasty salad crops throughout the day. Everytime Brian took to the stage it was standing room only! Within the same pavilian as Brian there were a super display of local food producers, buns, meats, oils, breads etc etc (I ate nothing - i'm still inspired by Ivan Blacks slimdown lol!)
Something which the north west garden show doesn't have it ShowGardens. Now Hillsborough had a number of nice gardens (not enough but it had some), but in Castlefin there are none. Something show director Michael Carlin is doing very bold and brave to address. They have great plans to construct a Diarmuid Gavin designed garden on the site for 2013. Titled 'An Irish garden for the White House' its a walled garden with flavours of ireland through it, designed to fit in the grounds of the White House it will surely become a great tourist attraction all year round for the CPI centre. (anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of Diarmuid were needing to be quick, he was in and out in 15 mins on sunday.......)
Somethign which i really enjoyed were the Landscape dsigne talks given by RTE's Tim Austen, in each talk he covered conception, planning, implementation and had some great pictures of gardens 6 months later to see how they matured. Over the day i think he gave 4 talks aswell as walking the crowd giving garden advice in his stride, a true horticultural gent. This is Tims second year at the show and he was giving the mighty task of performing the opening on the Saturday. heres McDermott, Austin and Austen....
Like Hillsborough foodie types were spoiled for choice with the yummies on offer here, Rathmullan House were in attendance aswell as a number of food sellers doing barbecues and there must have been a dozen ice cream vans lined up at the front entrance! and as much free sampling of stuff as you could stomach.....
a pink sink.....sure why not! Fleming Steel had a querky stand shwoing all the colours and things they've coated over the years, cinks, wheels, doors, shutters, gates all in every colour under the sun.....
All in all the 2012 North West Garden Show was a triumph for the commitee and the volunteers, show director Michael Carlin told me that over 21,000 people attended the show over the 2 says....a startling achievement for something only in its third year. The weather was the true star of the weekend, it made everything look better, smell better and made the flowers and the plants more attractive. The main thing which got me was the 'buzz' of the show, the eagerness of the people attending, the eagerness of the people showing and the great feeling of positivity you get from hanging around thousands of gardeners. If you didn't go this year its well worth a trip in 2013...even to see the new Diarmuid Gavin garden alone...
Today we were chatting abotu side shoot removal on tomatoes (we'll get to that later), but first I wanted to explain and show a few pics on how we grow some of our tomatoes, using an old fashioned technique called 'ring culture', to explain simply, rather than just planting the tomatoes and leavign them be, you plant them and then add a cyclinder over the top of them (a pot with the bottom cut off), you then fill the pot up with compost, as the plant grows, until its filled to the top. This style of growing encourages the plant to produce more feeder roots, thus giving you a bigger harvest. In this pic we're planting the first of our plants down in Gillespie Polytunnel and placing the empty pots over the top.
By covering the lower part of the stem with compost, this encourages the plants to develop more feeder roots, and a thicker stem in the plant. In this picture you can see the new root growth obtained on the stem as a result of ring culture growing.
To ensure your plants don't turn into big bushy messes, you should manage the growth by removing 'side shoots' as they appear. This controls the amount of over all branches and in turn flowers on the plant to ensure a better quality of fruit.
Wait until the side shoots are a size your happy to handle before removing them, say 3" or so in length
Also we chatted about the New Zealand Flatworm, something which has been in northern ireland since the 60's.
"The New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus sensu Jones
& Gerard, 1999), was first recorded in the UK in Belfast
(1963) and shortly afterwards in Edinburgh (1965), but is now widely
distributed throughout much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and, to a lesser
extent northern England (Cannon et al., 1999). In Scotland, A.
triangulatus occurs predominantly in botanical and domestic gardens, and
currently is not generally considered to be a problem on agricultural land. In
Northern Ireland it is found in domestic gardens but also appears to have
colonized grass leys in many localities.
However, its impact on earthworm populations remains ambiguous, with evidence
of numbers in areas with large NZF populations being reduced temporarily before
recovering to levels recorded prior to invasion. Other studies have suggested a
differential susceptibility of earthworm species to A. triangulatus
predation, with recovering populations exhibiting an altered species profile.
Results of a large-scale survey of earthworms and A. triangulatus
populations in grass fields in Northern Ireland has shown a marked increase in
occurrence of NZF's, particularly in field margins (Murchie et al., 1999; Cannon et al., 1999)." - Queens University report
Sunday was daddy and daughter trip to Hillsborough Castle, decided to take connie as the event said 'lots for kids to do' and we weren't dissapointed. We headed up for the 10am opening, beat the crowd, and get in and out before its all 'mudded up'...(clever eh!?)
The Hillsborough Garden Festival is magically set in the walled garden of Hillsborough Castle, the show itself covers the entire walledgarden (and a bit at the front) and then you get to visit the impressive gardens during the show too....well worth the tenner to get it in. (under 16's free)
There are themed gardens, show gardens, stands, stalls, food, music, picnic areas, kids activities.....its cheesy to say, but something for all the family!!
of all the Show gardens Connie loved the B+Q one, there was lots for kids and the staff manning the display were as keen as punch for kids to stroll on and explore the garden, connie loved the houses, the water, the plants, the swing...everything about it. A real family back garden...and you could buy nearly every plants shwon in the garden on the day too...(clever selling!!)
Now where the B+Q garden was all coloured sheds and shiny water the garden which won Best in Show (from www.gardenersfriendni.com ) was a different kettle of fish completely. Using a purpose built cottage front as a backdrop this garden was all about 'old time ireland'. Heavily planted with natives to "celebrate what is possible with an irish floral palette", the guggling stream (200 litres a minute) was an attractive but not overpowering sounds, and the multi stemmed white birch and the mass planting of foxgloves worked wonderfully with the moss covered stones lining the streams edge. This was a true show-garden in that you weren't allowed into it, but from behind the hawthorn hedge there was lots to be admired, and the helpful leaflets being handed out by designer Johnny Knox was packed full of plant lists.
Now talking of winners, Conservation Volunteers from Derry won the U105 team build challange with a garden build around the theme of the new Derry peace bridge and the citys proud history of music. a fine bit of wood carving from Ivan Black and the guys.
and the Titanic theme from the schools gardens was impressive, with each having a unique slant or angle to the theme, i loved this one, which had a working beehive incorporated into the bow of the doomed vessel... (see the right hand side picture below)
Now where there was a wee bit of bee-hive action going on in the Titanic, Ards Borough Council were all about the bees and biodiversity in their Silver Medal winning garden. With lots of habitats, native planting, wildflowers and marshland this was all about being big-friendly. A show garden which was nice and open, and we were all allowed to get up close and personal and have a good rummage around...
The stand from Wilow Tree Wood Products was fantastic. a selection of hen houses and the candle on the top of the cake was a baby goat they had. Connie was highly impressed here!!. The hens always seemed to have kids around them and there was always a buzz about their stand. The Hen houses were great pieces, with handy wheels on them to cart them about the garden too....
The Greenmount College stand was another highly impressive affair, winning a silver medal in the Small Garden section, combining some show-garden display with smaller themed areas highlighting skills training and courses on offer in the College. The Stainless Steel waterfall and stepping stones were great against the black woodwork, and the mini putting green was a hoot to practice on....
And the Best in Show in the Small Garden catergory was this 'Hobbit House' from GreenleafNI, a fabulous space....i know how Alice in Wonderland felt..i wass mad keen to go through the door too!!! The rickety fence added to the charm, and the grass roof was a nice touch..
Plants plants and plants!!.....now apart from the show gardens and the stands there were also some great plant stands, selling all the weird and the wonderful and a massive range inbetween!...the stands all seemed to be doing brisk business...with lots of plant enthuiasts about, and the stand holders offering specialist knowledge, I especially admired the Carnivirous plant display...
There was lots on show and lots of offer at Hillsborough, the weather was good on the Sunday and the car parks were in good condition, but due to the rain on friday there was a superb shuttle bus service running from the nearby Park-in-Ride areas, overall a very well run show, lots for the family to see and do (in the pic connie is making a wee chick out of playdoh - she was showing it off proudly in the b+q garden earlier!), from the show gardens to the scarecrows to the jazz, to the gourmet burgers to the lawnmowers.....everything from A-Z!....if you didn't go this year make sure you go next year, and if you did go this year let me know what you thought of the show?
Another week another radio show....Big focus on Herbs this week both on the radio and in the community
this weeks focus on our attention has been Herbs, we've been sowing them, planting them and growing them. Herbs should suit most of our gardens, in that they do well on neglect. Most herbs are form warm climates - so they are naturally drought resistant, so do well in areas of neglect. Herbs love good drainage so i'd recommend you plant them in pots. Container growing affords the herbs nice warm soil and lots of good drainage. Here is some Oregano being potted into pots in Fountain Primary School. by growing herbs in pots you also allow for them to be moved about the garden indeed moving them closer to the back door when you're most in need of them in the kitchen. I'd recomend you grow the herbs you eat, Communitychef.ie Brian McDermott recommends you use no more than 3 in any dish, so thats good advise when you come to grow them, grow a selection that you know you'd eat!
With that in mind, up in Blighs Lane Nursery they grow a selection of herbs in pots, here Coriander, Chives, Parsley, Oregano, Thyme and Mint. Herbs are ideal companion plants for the garden, their uncomplicated flowers are a magnet for beneficial insects
When we decided to plant Herbs in Trinity Court in Newtowncunningham, the folks asked for loads of Parsley, so they planted a bed of French Parsley (far nicer than curled parsley...trust me, try it and you'll never go back!), some Sorrel and a load of celery.
Here is a picture of the famous 'Glen Herb Snake', every year we plant a wide range of herbs for the front of the Glen Community Centre for anyone living nearby to come and harvest from
Lots of flat leaved parsley being planted in amongst Garlic in Groarty Primary School
Here are trays of Garlic Chives sown from seed in Belmont School by the P7's (the goldy stuff is Vermiculite), sown en masse in a tray and then lifted and planted into clumps into pots later
I'm getting great feedback from folks about the Comfrey fertiliser we're always yapping about. Here is a bucket just getting made lots of leaves packed inot a bucket and then add water. Stir every week and after 6 weeks drain off the liquid and this you use as a concentrated tomato fertiliser. (beware after 4 weeks is starts to honky tonk!)
And this Comfrey stuff isn't for your 'fansy smansy' gardeners...we even make it and use it in Blighs Lane Nursery!
If your on the look-out for comfrey head down to the Inch Island WildFowl Reserve (wonderful place for a stroll), and look out for this plant. Thats Comfrey.
Another busy show guys....lots talked about, lots discussed, here i'll try to give you a reminder and some more info.....
Broom is a plant I adore, every garden should have one. An easy to grow plants for a sunny site on poor soil (indeed if you feed them too much the volume of flowers decrease). You'll get broom in reds, orange, yellow, lemon, white and pink and they all smell amazing. Remember to trim them back every year after flowering, remeove the old flowering branches, this stops it getting too leggy.
Clematis montana is a plant i also adore. Mad vigorous climber, managing 8' and more a year. It need something to climb up, but will easily cover fances and walls on north facing angles too. Caller was complaining about a lack of flowers. Clematis montana are like most clematis in that they don't like a warm root so ensure plants are well mulched with garden compost or bark and don't be scared to give them an auld hard prune to keep the coming fresh.
Vinegar makes a great weedkiller. Apply it neat to a plants leaf in direct sunshine and the acid will destroy the plant, with results sometimes appearing in a few hours. This is a contact weedkiller so it'll kill the foliage of nearly all weeds very quickly, some deep-rooted weeds such as Dandelion will re-grow back so these are normally best dug up root and all, but vinegar is fierce handy for grass (as per the picture on the left)
A wee cloche tunnel, like this one bought in B&Q, is a handy piece of kit. Not only will it keep your bedding plants, vegetables etc frost free but it will aso keep them as snug as a bug in a rug, thus promoting growth and bringing all your plants on quicker. There is frost forecast this week so a wee fellow like this or some Fleece will be a must for many. Ask at any garden centre for fleece and it'll only cost you about 1.50 a m2 so very good value. The picture shows City &Guilds Horticulture students in the NWRC installing a cloche over Cauliflower and Broccoli plants.
Our spuds bags we planted should all be flying now and will need regular topping up, the spuds should be growing about 4inches a week so after 3/4 top-ups your coal bag will be full. If you planted them over St Patricks weekend you shoudl start to feed them weekly now with Tomato Fertiliser. The picture shows the kids in Groarty Primary School earthing up their spud bags.
Gardening on Radio Foyle
A summary of each weeks gardening on Mark Patterson Show and beyond