Category Archives: Design

It’s the International Year of Soils. So eat some dirt.

This time of year there are only two things to do: Catch up on your reading from this last year. I myself have just finished my gardening magazines from Summer 2014 which means some of my thoughts might seem a little out of season BUT it takes me to the only other thing that you can do this time of year which is: Plan your garden for 2015!!!

So here a couple of things to consider for the upcoming year

1. Eat more dirt. It’s the thing to do in the International Year of Soils

My biggest pet peeve, BIGGEST pet peeve, is sand in my food. I just can’t continue once I crunch down on even one grain of sand. ESPECIALLY in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I have almost learned to get on with it when eating greens and there is that horrendous, unexpected granule discovered mid chew. But, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with just one grain of sand are revolting. I can’t even consider eating one at the beach. The thought is revolting.

BUT, dirt is a whole other story and now, it’s actually being proven (again??? wasn’t this a key element of colloquial, indigenous wisdom until about, oh maybe ten years ago when anti-bacterial EVERYTHING became ubiquitous?) that eating dirt might even be actually kind of good for you.

Dirty Carrots

Check out this video produced by GIY:Ireland to see people eating dirt. Klaus Laitenberger imparts invaluable information on planting and growing carrots and eating dirt in the process.

Take away info on sowing Carrots in case you don’t watch it:

1. Don’t sow carrots on the surface. Make the trenches for the seeds deep, much deeper than you would think. About 2cm deep or 8″.

2. Use a peaty growing medium and they will grow straighter

3. Sow outside towards the end of May to avoid rootfly

Once you’ve grown them, here is my FAVORITE carrot recipe

2. Think about how you are going to improve your soil

Your garden, both plants and lawn, are telling you a story about your soil. Have a look, reflect back on the year that it was in your garden and try and determine what your soil is telling you. Then plan for the new year. 

3. Plan a destination in your garden

We have become more and more and more urban.  Which means we are more and more surrounded by urban surfaces. For years and years we have been focusing on the integration of buildings in the gardens: the seamless transition from kitchen to patio, vegetable gardens that are accessible so that we don’t forget to get in there and take care of them. And while I still think these are very, very important when planning the layout of your garden, how about a destination in your garden?

Is there somewhere you can create a space away from all of those things…away from the kitchen, away from chores, away from the internet, away from it all. A rooftop, a corner, heck I would even set up a chair behind the shed and try and make it nice back there if that was the only space in the garden. Winter is a good time of year to stretch those creative fibers and plan a new space in the garden:

A little secret hiding place where if you’re lucky, no one can find you.

4. Lastly, did you know plants KNOW??

As in, they can see, smell and feel.

To summarize the fascinating book I just finished What Plants Know by Daniel Chamovitz

Don’t worry too much about them feeling those sharp pruners and shears (another GREAT thing to be doing right now: sharpening tools) as they don’t feel pain but yes, they do respond to light, touch and smells more than you might realize.

And despite what we all may have heard: There is no scientific evidence to prove plants respond to sound. Not to Mozart, not to Talking Heads. You can sing all you want but don’t expect your plants to care.

My knowing Plant of the Month Nomination goes to: Persicaria amplexicaulis

Why? Because it is mildly invasive (not too bad really but it can fill some sizeable holes if you have any), pest resistant, likes damp clay soils, takes a bit of shade and blooms from about July through to December.

Who has it: Mount Venus Nursery, Dublin

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Primulas! You know it is winter…



Primulas are gaudy. They are triffids (extraterrestrial!).They are obnoxious, nauseating, pest and disease prone and generally useless.

Yet, when I walked around the corner of Hanley’s Garden Centre in Cork one grey day and came upon the Primula display, my heart stopped for a minute, I smiled and there was the most beautiful, colorful Primula display smiling back at me.

Have I truly turned a corner with Primulas? Maybe not, but what I think is most important about Primulas, and how to use them properly, was demonstrated by Hanleys.

If you are going to use Primulas for some much needed winter cheer: Pack them in!

They lose all their impact if they are planted too far away from each other or too far away from other plants. They are not going to last long so don’t allow for that bit of dirt for them to ‘grow into’. The Primulas purpose is fleeting joy. They’ll be eaten by vine weevils, caterpillars or rot away before they have time to grow anywhere.

Dot them in underneath shrubs and trees, smoosh them up against some evergreen foliage, plant a swathe of 5-7 on their own.

Just remember: NO DIRT between. They are not filler plants, they are accent plants.

And, I know occasionally you get the survivors. The Primulas that some how manage to last a season, or even two. Getting smaller and weaker but still flowering and maybe even spreading. I appreciate these survivors and they should be treated well. But, don’t count on them; they’d be as rare as a moving statue.

*This is the garden centre variety of Primulas. There are some truly beautiful ones like Primula bulleyana, florindae and the native, Primula veris.

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