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Some photographs from our site in Co. Clare, Ireland in 2000

...and more photos from 2001 2001 and 2003
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Left: The little tour starts in front of our house in the Spring 2000 - a splash of colour on the 2.5 acre (1 ha) green slate we started off with... In the background along the driveway we have planted old apple tree varieties from the Irish Seedsavers' Association.
Right: Our 'millennium project', a new 3-row 130 metre hedgerow, consisting of about 30 different species and varieties. The middle row contains higher trees ('standards') such as ash, birch, edible rowan, oak, and alder. The south-facing row (towards the sun in the northern hemisphere) consists mostly of fruiting species such as elderberry, currants, gooseberries, wild roses, and crabapple while the northfacing side contains species that can tolerate more shade. Hazel, willow, hawthorn, holly, wild cherries and early flowering shrubs for bees such as flowering currant and dogwood are interspersed.

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We urgently needed shelter for the tunnel, erected in 1997, to protect it from the wild westerly winds. A 'deadwood hedge' of hawthorn prunings was piled up 4-5 ft high in the winter of 1996/7 and willow cuttings planted on the westward side to take over the shelter function as the deadwood rotted away. The eastward (sheltered) side was planted with black currants, Aronia, Viburnum, wild roses, Eleagnus etc. The pictures were taken in 1999.

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Now, in 2000, the shelterbelt serves its function well, the shrubs have begun to produce fruit and the willows can be pruned for fodder and cuttings.We will repeat that pattern to section off another area of the same long field for a second tunnel.

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The space between the shelterbelt and the tunnel has become a productive little garden, this year with broad beans, runner beans, squash, sunflowers, evening primroses, parsnips, wormwood, yarrow, broccoli, chard and cardoon.

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In this cool, wet climate (Jan ave. 6C, July ave. 15C, >1000mm rain) the tunnel is indispensable for starting off plants and for tender crops. We start all our plants in here, grow tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, kiwanos, some herbs and beneficial flowers such as Calendula, nasturtiums, Tagetes, and borage as well as lettuces, corn salad, radishes, spinach, forcing chicory, and cauliflowers in the winter/spring.

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By late summer the tunnel has taken on a life of its own and looks pretty wild. Nasturtiums are everywhere and suppress weeds. We eat some, feed some to the goats and clear out more when they interfere with other crops. The flowers attract loads of bees and hoverflies, ground beetles and frogs take care of slugs and birds come in regularly for a dinner of insects.

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Left: Intercropping is not only advantageous from the point of view of pest and disease control but is also pleasing to the eye.
Right: Our 'flower bed' also contains edibles such as borage, mustard, nasturtium and cardoon.

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Left: I was surprised to see that the flowers of the birdhouse gourd are white, not yellow like all the other Cucurbits I know.
Right: Old-time favourite - the hollyhock

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Left: A different kind of crop...
Right: The previous owner had planted 50 or so ash, sycamore, hawthorn, oak and larch along the driveway in 1995. We underplanted them (towards the drive, as in a forest edge situation) with black and red currants, jostas, worcesterberries, filberts, crabapples, elderberry and shrub roses in 1999. Now patience is the order of the day...

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Left: Because of the high rainfall we grow most of our crops in raised beds, with no fixed rotation but lots of interplanting based on a companion planting chart. Even though black plastic is totally ugly we'e started using it for covering beds when they are not in use. This should lighten the workload in the spring when beds need to be prepared for the . The weeds never seem to stop growing, even in the winter...!
Right: Raised beds dry off more quickly. One April morning I found them steaming in the spring sun!

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Left: This plot is so prone to slug damage (we are talking slugs in the thousands here...) that we had to adopt a 'scorched earth policy'. The companion plants here are onions, celery, celeriac, leeks and cabbages.
Right: Nasturtiums are my favourite edible flowers, looking great in salads and the leaves are tasty as well.

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Left: Root crops that go well together are scorzonera, onions and carrots.
Right: The rare frosts we get quite literally shed some light on existing microclimates. The apple trees are planted above the area that is still shaded by a shed late on a spring morning.

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Left: Half a dozen apple trees were planted in 1997. Until such time as we finally get to set up our chicken run in this plot (...) the trees are mulched every spring. We underplanted them with comfrey which provides more mulch later in the season and valuable potassium for fruit formation. Other plants we tried to underplant, such as horseradish and Umbellifers did not survive the slugs.
Right: The willows along the shed shelter the building, reduce run-off from the sloping plot and provide cuttings and goat fodder. Sea buckthorn was planted as shelter and to provide berries rich in vitamin C. Mind you I have yet to see any berries. Maybe we've been sold all male plants or all female plants? Sea buckthorn is diaceous.

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Left: Our first apples on this James Grieve on M26, planted in 1997. The %^&*! crows destroyed half of them. Next year we'll put our old computer CDs to work as bird scares.
Right: This spring we stocked up on pears and plums. These 2 plums (Opal and Czar) as indicated by the arrows have (I hope) sufficient shelter from the prevailing westerly winds.

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Left: The 0.5 acre (2000 m2) goat field is divided into seven paddocks, with permanent access to the goat shed (goats hate rain!). Unfortunately our land ends at the stone wall... In between the stonewall and the electric fence (high-voltage, mains-powered) we've planted tons of willows and some ash, dogwood and sea-buckthorn to take up nutrients from any run-off/seepage from the sloping ground, and to provide shelter and fodder for the goats. The goats provide milk, meat and manure for the garden and fruit trees.
Right:Good ol' Emily (8) with one of her kids.

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Left: Three quarters of this year's crop of kids enjoying the sun.
Right: Right beside the goat field is another fruit patch with red and black currants, worcesterberries, raspberries, tummelberries, jostas, gooseberries, damsons, filberts, roses for rosehips, and a plum. In the background you can see just how treeless this landscape is!

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Left: Tummelberries grow on a trellis along the south-facing wall.
Right:Inspired by Heather's forest garden pictures I did a trial planting this summer around a young filbert. The mulched area was planted with false quinces, walking onions, wild garlic, lemon balm, parsley, calendula and some hollyhocks. So far, so good.

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Left:A bit of colour is good for the soul. These are two of my favourite heritage crop varieties: Runner bean 'Painted Lady' and a purple-flowered pea.
Hope you enjoyed the little tour. There's much to do yet, especially on the buildings but at least we have managed to get a bit of structure onto our 'green slate' and produce a lot of our own food. Any hints, tips, questions and inspirations are welcome
ps. I've put together a list of trees and shrubs we've planted. I hope it may be of use to others in the cool temperate regions of Europe.


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