Friday, October 23, 2009

Sweet Success!!

In Spring 2008 we brought our first Sweet Potato plants into our laboratory with the very kind help of the people at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge USA. We have never ventrued into the production of Sweet Potato (Ipomea batatas) before. It was a new area for our nursery and we found some very helpful people in the form of Don LaBonte of Louisiana State University Louisiana USA. Don gave me some valuable advice and helped me along my way in sourcing true to type virus clean plants of Ipomea batatas Beauregard. Beauregard was the exact variety my book research had shown to be most suitable for our climate. In my book research the variety Georgia Jet was also highly recommended but Beauregard seemed to be a better quality variety for storage and skin colour. Funnily enough in our cooking we found Beauregard also to be a better taste than the shop bought ones which are most likely Georgia Jet.
Having secured clean material we propagated mother plants at our laboratory in 2008 and proceeded to see if it was viable to make plug plants from this stock and we found this to be successful. In 2009 we went into limited propagation and produced over 10,000 plants whihc were sold into UK mail order and we planted our own trials at Kildalton College of Horticulture under supervision of Mr Jim Kelleher Senior Horticulture Advisor.

So where to from now with our development of Sweet Potato as an allotment crop in Ireland?

Year 1 Conclusions
The results of the first years commercial propagation trial and crop trial has been very positive. It is conclusive that at the very least this sweet potato variety will give a sufficient yield maturity, excellent quality and flavour under protected growing environment.

Year 2 trial proposal
Having established that Sweet Potato is without doubt a viable crop for the amateur gardener. In 2010 we will undertake a wider trial to assess the merits of Sweet potato as a commercial crop in protected and outdoor conditions. Organic growing techniques will be used and the project will seek collaboration from interested organic growers to participate in a wider trial.

See the short PowerPoint presentation here.

See this article on growing of Sweet Potato in your garden from RHS

I would like to thank Jim Kelleher of Teagasc who organised and supervised the growing trial at Kildalton College. Special thanks goes also to Professor Don LaBonte and Lori Buckley at Louisiana State University research facility. Special thanks also to Dr Stanley J Kays of University of Georgia and to Dr Alan Amitage who introduced me to the initial contact that made all this happen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Famine Garden at Newmarket Co, Kilkenny

Last Friday was yet another one of those wonderful Autumn days that shorten the winter in this part of the world. On my way from our local Horticultural College I dropped into a project we had donated some Irish yew to many years ago. This was a wonderful concept executed with dilegence and dedication by the local community in Newmarket led by Mr Christy Twomey the local schoool principal of many years.

In the decade 1841 to 1851 Ireland changed dramatically. Two million people disappeared, one million died and one million emigrated. 1851 marked the end of the potato blight, however, disease and destitution remained. Emigration peaked in 1854 and thereafter remained a fact of life in the 19th century. Community spirit is a defining characteristic of pre-famine Ireland. Communities worked together sharing food, skills and labour. This system of communal sharing without the use of money was called Meitheal or Comhar. The spirit of community pervaded through the rich culture of musicmaking, poetry and storytelling. Irish society before the famine was rich in artistic expression and social values.

This wonderful garden is well worth visiting yourself as words can not describe the journey through the garden. The poignant design features and story uncovered as you walk through the garden brings the visitor down to earth. The garden is truly a garden of rememberance and a reminder that despite current economic difficulties there were and will be bigger and more traumatic times than these in all our countries. Every turn one makes in this garden has meaning and at the end of your visit there is hope. The eternal spirit and ability of mankind to recover from disaster through community spirit is highlighted by Gáirdín an Dochas agus na Síochána (Garden of Hope and Rememberance).

"Gáirdín an Ghorta This is the garden of remembrance. The path through the garden is a metaphor for Irish history. The journey along the path is synonymous with the journey of the Irish people from pre-famine era to the future.

For anyone wanting to know how to get there or a little more about the garden there is a website. Gaírdín an Ghorta website shows the garden shortly after planting but the matured article has to be seen for yourself. The garden has matured beautifully and the Irish yews we donated are looking fantastic and were in berry when I visited. Maintenance of the Garden is meticulous. Its very easy to see that Gaírdín an Ghorta is a valued part of the community and shows great respect to the design and commitment that went into the concept from the start. Gáirdín an Ghorta (The Famine Garden) was opened on the 15th of October 1999. I visited by coincidence 10 years later to the day. It has matured into a tiny national treasure giving testament to a momentues and history changing event for many people around the world whose ansectors fled a God foresaken land. This all hidden away in a small country village in County Kilkenny.

You can find a video tour posted here.!/video/?id=1817283211