COVID-19: Growing Your Own Organic Food at Home

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity for us to reevaluate our economy, our relationship with people and with the rest of Nature. Hopefully if we learn the right lessons we can build a better future based on a circular economy using local resources as much as possible.
We can become more skillful, more respectful towards others, and more aware of biodiversity.
At present, many of us are learning to cook, to bake, to paint, to repair, to grow fruits and vegetables as well as to value the key things in life such as family, friends, the birds and the bees.
In order to help people during this crisis, as mentioned previously, I compiled last week an easy-to-follow guide on how to set up and maintain one's very own home organic food garden.
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Yesterday I completed Phase 1 of my new extended vegetable garden. Over an extended weekend, I had dug up part of my back lawn; marked off out three sections for annual crop rotation; fertilised the soil; then planted seed potatoes, onion sets and lettuce; and finally surrounded the area with fencing (to keep the cats and dogs out).
Nothing went to waste. The top layer of grass turf that I took up was used in repairing the front lawn that had been badly damaged by our very energetic dog (he was trying to recreate a WW1 battlefield!); the stones from the soils were used to reinforce the base of some decking. The water I used for the plants comes from our rainwater harvesting barrel.
Tomorrow I will harvest the rhubarb that we already had in the back garden and use it to make a fruit tart. Good to see that the buds on the Apple trees are starting to open!

The Yellow Flowers of Spring: the Daffodil

Ever notice how so many of the flowers that bloom in Spring are yellow in colour?
The photo shows daffodils in the Dún na Coiribe section of Terryland Forest Park. These and thousands of other daffodils were planted one Sunday in October 2003 by the children of Educate Together School in Newcastle.
Terryland Forest is also home at present to a myriad of other yellow flowering plants including gorse, primrose, dandelion and celandine.
With 125 million years of experimenting and engineering with flowers Nature has come up with some amazing ways to ensure the survival of all of its species of flora. With a natural background foliage of green, bright colours such as yellow are easily spotted by the small number of pollinators that are flying around in the cooler weather of early Springtime.
The colour yellow also soaks up the warmth from a weaker sun during winter and early spring better than the foliage and the darker coloured flowers that generally bloom in late spring and summer. This allows these plants to develop better even in colder temperatures

Menlo March 2020: Last Tree Planting of Galway Science Festival 2019.

From March 16th until March 18th, the last trees provided by the Galway Science & Technology Festival were planted. The planting was carried out in Menlo by the 32nd Galway (Menlo) Scouts. This was very symbolic as the area is a nature-endowed rural Gaeltacht heritage village lying within the boundaries of the city with the scouts being the original movement that promoted young people of all social classes connecting with and respecting wildlife and the natural world.
Originally it was planned that native hazel trees would be planted on Sunday March 15th in the lead up to National Tree Week by the cubs and beavers on lands made available by the diocese and school near the playing pitches. But the COVID-19 crisis meant this could not happen. So it was decided by the organisers that the trees would be planted separately by local families across Menlo.
A big 'Bualadh Bos' has to be given to Karen McGuire of the 32nd Scouts for her leadership on this issue; to Anne Murray who as manager ensured that tree planting by children and families was a prominent part of the Climate Action-themed Galway Science & Technology Festival 2019; and to Aerogen who sponsored the native Irish trees provided to all schools, as well as many community and youth groups, across Galway city and county. SFI and Coillte also need to be praised for providing the trees planted in a great public Plantathon that took place in Terryland Forest Park during November.
I look forward to all these groups taking on a leading role in the 'National Park City for Galway initiative' whose roll-out with an exciting programme has sadly been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

A Beginner's Guide to Home Gardening-Part 1

At a time when our abuse of the natural world has led to COVID-19 and the confinement of so many of us to our homes, it represents a unique opportunity to consider growing one's own food but in a way that is benign to the soil, air and water.
So to support this process and to help overcome the negativity of isolation and 'cabin fever' that can be a consequence of this 'lockdown' that we find ourselves unexpectedly in I have put together, as part of the Open Innovation Emergency Research Response Initiative of the Nature Response Unit at the Ryan Institute NUI Galway, a simple easy-to-follow "Beginners' Guide to Home Gardening". It contains information on preparing the ground, the tools needed for such an enterprise, the benefits of outdoor gardening and of growing food organically.
I selected three popular vegetables (potatoes, onions and lettuce) that require relatively low maintenance, are easy-to-grow and can be planted during the March/April period.
Using their professional in-house scientific expertise, the Ryan Institute's Nature Response Unit is rolling out a wonderful series of pioneering nature programmes designed to keep us all happy and active in the Great Outdoors.

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Good News Story- The 'Big Apple' goes Green!

New York City may have hosted no St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Irish celebratory festivities this month but in 2020 it is more green than ever before.
Two weeks ago I came back from one of my favourite places on Earth. As a UCG student many decades ago, I took advantage of the J1-Visa programme to undertake summer work in the apartments and hotels (the world famous Plaza!) of Manhattan. Staying at Columbia University, eating in the nearby Tom's Diner and living there in the halcyon days of disco (Donna Summer, Bee Gees, Gloria Gaynor, Village People, Anita Ward…), I remember every glorious mad moment as if it was yesterday. I have loved the affectionately known Big Apple ever since.
Two years ago Cepta, my sons and myself decided that we would save hard to be able to take a family trip there each year for as long as possible. It was an opportunity as well to meet up with my American cousins- Good to finally meet you Ed Eccles ‘in the flesh’!
What impresses me so much in the last few years about New York is that, even though it has been synonymous for over a hundred years as the ultimate city of skyscrapers, concrete, tarmac, consumerism and high energy consumption, it is now brilliantly reinventing itself as a Green and sustainable city. It was of course always famous for its fantastic public transport subway system and the great Central Park. But it is in the last few years becoming populated with neighbourhood gardens, rooftop gardens, urban apiaries, cyclists/pedestrians Greenways, organic food outlets, urban farmer markets, outdoor street cafes along a once traffic-congested Broadway, environmental science research centres, natural heritage learning museums, public parks teeming with wildlife and wonderful community/schools/business initiatives to clean up the once heavily polluted New York Bay and Hudson River.
Though a lot more needs to be done to make it a truly eco-friendly environment, nevertheless the Big Apple is moving in the right direction.
Over the next few weeks, I will post every few days a different thematic story on the Big (Green) Apple and provide details of our very own partnership initiative to make Galway a National Park City (coming soon!). As this time of crisis, we need some good news stories!

Library for all ages set up in Eglinton Direct Provision Centre.

Supporting Community during the COVID-19 crisis
Thanks to the support of staff (well done Carole!), management (Patrick) and residents (thanks Adelina & Jihad in photo) we managed, after weeks of hard work, to convert a former nightclub counter bar into a library. What was once stocked with whiskeys, gins, vodkas, brandies and liqueurs is today populated with books catering for all ages. It is divided into sections for adult male and female, teenagers, children, parents with babies, education and ecology. We also have a myriad of boardgames, jigsaw puzzles, guitars and sewing machines. It is now a facility that will become an important resource to the residents during the coronavirus crisis and help overcome boredom whilst also acting as a centre for learning and entertainment.
Note: The ‘Library/Leabharlann’ image in the centre of the photo represents the large sign displayed in front of this new facility.