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Early April 2023
yes, I missed my March deadline...
So, here we are in early April, and in spite of my best intentions, I didn’t send out a March newsletter. And when I tell you about all the stuff that happened in March, you’ll understand why!
The first 2 weeks in March were a flurry of funding applications. One for a Shared Ireland project with our flower farmer colleagues in Northern Ireland. Next up was a Creative Westmeath application, followed closely by a Creative Ireland application, both with The Refill Mill. I don’t know if we’ll be successful in any of these, but the work we did to complete them is and will be helpful for some time, so I don’t mind the time that it took.
At the same time, I was doing an amazing course with my good friend (since the 90s) Cathy Fitzgerald of Haumea. This course gave me a whole new perspective on what I’m doing, and introduced me to some really interesting people - both attendees and writers. So a great investment in myself. I’d highly recommend all the courses she runs - click here for more information.
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I met up with a good few of my geographically close Flower farmer colleagues in early March. We had a lovely get together in Amelias beautiful home and garden - what a treat to be able to sit with like minded people, drink tea, eat cake, and talk about so many aspects of the flower farming business. And as usual, no one went home empty handed. Flower farmers are such a generous bunch!
I ran lots of workshops!
Dried Flower Wreaths were popular with a few groups, and amazingly I still have lots of dried flowers left from last year! So if that’s something you’d be interested in doing let me know here.
Thanks to the Westmeath Public Participation Network, I ran a plant propagation course in Clonmellon, and participants all went home with loads of plants. I also was lucky to be able to use the Horticulture school at Belvedere to run a Gardening for Biodiversity course on April 1st, that was a great success also. Everyone went home with free seeds and plants. Also with the Westmeath Public Participation Network, I’m running a composting course in May in the beautiful surrounds of An Ghrian Glas, a fabulous farm in Ballymore- click here to book your place
Cuige Studio are doing a great job of building community here in the midlands. They have a conversational salon for their Coterie on the 4th Wednesday of every month. (all welcome) They gave me the chance in March to start a conversation about growing, and I gave away some seeds. There were lots of artists there, so the poppy seed heads were very popular. Giving away seeds is one of my favourite things - I always save so many in the autumn, it’s so easy to do - and then I have loads to share for the next 6 months.
First and second early spuds were planted on St Patricks Day with CooleCalm, we are looking forward to harvesting then in late June. I have a few of the same potatoes in styrofoam boxes in my polytunnel, they have already sprouted. I’ll be keeping them in there for a while yet, but I’ll move them outside when I need the space for flowers and tomatoes. Potatoes really don’t like frost, and while it won’t kill them outright, it will set them back a few weeks. These ones are planted in homemade compost, and they are loving the heat in the tunnel - I earthed them up during the week and they have grown so much since - if I had time to stand and watch them I’m sure that you could see them grow. Thats chaff from Bell Lane on top - I’m trialling it as a weed suppressing mulch everywhere. Worms love it!
I also began working with Brighids Academy. I’m teaching the herbalists about growing using permaculture and regenerative principles. This month we were talking a lot about nettles. It’s a great time to get out and pick some yourself - I pick mine at my brother Joe’s organic farm (Did you spot him on Neven Maguires show? I was so proud.)
What am I doing with the nettles? I’ll add them to water to make a nettle tea fertiliser. I’ll make tea (for drinking myself) with them. I’ll make soup. I’ll dry them to use in soap making. And if you make nettle tea, and don’t finish it, your houseplants would love a drink too! (Assuming that you haven’t added anything like milk or a sweetener to it)
So, deep breath, and now it’s time to get out into my garden! I have been a bit behind with seed planting, so I’ll be getting all the hardy annuals planted now, and also later in the month the half-hardy annuals and things like pumpkins, courgettes and French beans.
I planted tomatoes and chillis much earlier in the year, they are doing really well now - I’m keeping the chillis warm and well lit. The tomatoes don’t need heat, they only need light. My wonderful husband has rigged up an old hard disk fan, so that we can make the tomatoes a bit hardier with some wind every so often. If you don’t have a fan, it’s good to run your hand over them occasionally, it has the same effect. And you get a whiff of that distinctive tomato scent. I have a couple of new tomato varieties from Brown Envelope Seeds this year - they promise to be early and good for outdoors in Ireland, I’m excited to see how they turn out.
As you can see the plants are pretty healthy looking, but I’ll be giving them a good seaweed feed, as I’d imagine that the compost will run out of nutrients soon. I have heard other flower farmers say that a seaweed feed will help plants with disease and pest resistance, so it can’t hurt to try! I’ll be ordering seaweed in dried and liquid form, and Ollie from Better Plants gave me a link to share with my community https://betterplants.ie/product/big-sky-growers/ And you may have spotted that those plants also need to be turned around so that they grow straight….
Flowers are blooming again, praise be!
I’m running a jam jar flower workshop in the refill mill . I’ll have ranunculus, anemones, tulips, daffodils and lots of interesting foliage to work with. People generally go home with more than one arrangement, so that might make a nice Easter gift? Click here to book your place.
Also, with the long awaited arrival of spring flowers, I’m able to fulfil subscriptions - it’s only €50 for 4 weeks of flowers, that you’ll collect weekly - click here for more details.
Eiblin (from the Refill Mill) and I were trying to plan some courses in April, May and June - and there are so many workshops we can offer, we couldn’t choose! So we’d like your help. We’d like to find out what you’re interested in - please click this link to tell us what workshops we should run and when you’d like us to run them.
I’m attending a pottery course in Athlone this week, I’m very excited about that. I hope I’ll have something to share in my late April newsletter. I’ll also be attending the graduation for my horticulture course in An T-ionad Glas. I miss my fellow students, so it will be marvellous to catch up. I’m also looking forward to attending Composting course, at Gerry Deegans farm in Mullingar - Johnson Su Bioreactor.
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I’ll leave you this a song as always. I seem to be spending a lot of time around dogs lately, so this one spoke to me. “What is a dog but a machine for loving”. Enjoy this and don’t forget to tell us what you want us to run next, click this link to participate in our (anonymous) survey. Happy Easter all!