This Summer didn’t end up being the Summer we had all been hoping for. Wetter, windier and colder than the previous years, it proved to be a challenging season for many growers. It was as though we were all waiting all Summer for Summer to actually arrive with its golden beams of light to warm our damp bones up from months of cold rain and wind and nurture our little seedlings. Yet, we cannot forget some of the beautiful sunny days we enjoyed and because they were so far and few between, it made us appreciate them all the more being able to walk around barefoot in the soil and spends long hours down in the garden. Nevertheless, we are now in September and it seems as though Summer might have forgotten us. It was a difficult season to grow in however it was also a season in which we learnt the most.
The West Coast of Ireland is renowned as one of the hardest places to grow in as it is constantly battered by howling, salty winds straight off the Atlantic and one of the wettest regions on the Emerald Isle. However, this did not deter us from falling in love with the rolling green hills of County Clare! This Summer, we discovered the need to be flexible growers and made us find new ways in which to make the most out of the imperfections of this beautiful corner of the earth in which we live in. By the end of Summer we had fallen in love with Clare all the more.
Over the Summer the high winds meant we had to find ways to protect our young seedlings especially the courgettes and squashes who are the most fragile at their early growing stages. We built cloches over them which are like mini poly tunnels out of metal stakes, plastic piping and clear plastic sheeting so that they would protected form the wind but were still be able to feel the rays of sunshine on their leaves.
We also have started planning ahead to protect our crops from the strong sea winds by creating shelter belts or wind breaks with native trees such as Alder or Hawthorn. You can do this simply by planting these trees in rows, one or two trees thick and then leaving enough space between each row to grow your vegetables. It means you can plant a wider range of vegetables, not just the hardier ones. It’s also a great way to provide protection from harsh weather conditions for our friendly bee’s so that they can pollinate more of our plants. It’s a lovely way to work alongside nature by following the foundations of the principles used in permaculture.
By practising sustainable agriculture such as shelter-belts, we are finding long term solutions to age old problems and creating minimal impact on our precious earth as possible. After all, it is our our carbon footprints on Mother Earth that are cause these erratic and tumultuous weather patterns. The more ‘green’ growing methods we can adopt, the more we can help Mother Earth as well as ourselves in the long run.
So let’s find the silver linings in these grey clouds and rise up to the constant challenges nature presents us with to help us become more adaptable and innovative growers.