Skerries…

Just a smallish town in one of the fastest-growing counties in Ireland.

Only about 10,000 of the nearly 300,000 people in Fingal live here. That’s just over three per cent.

But to us, Skerries is number one.

So let’s make sure that the vision for Skerries that will be in the next Fingal Development Plan is our vision!

The motto of Sustainable Skerries is: Empowering our community towards a sustainable and resilient future for Skerries.

We take the UN Sustainable Development Goals as our guidance and see the social and economic aspects of sustainability as important parts of sustainability.

Join us to explore how this can guide our submissions to the next Fingal Development Plan!

You are invited to an information and discussion event for individuals, groups, organisations living or working in Skerries.

So often, we feel that we have little control over the direction in which developments go in Skerries. The facts set out in the Fingal County Development Plan in particular can leave us at times with a feeling of helpless frustration.

Well, here is our opportunity to have a say in the vision and strategic direction for the next Fingal Development Plan!

The initial public consultation on the overall strategic approach is currently open.

This online meeting, organised by Sustainable Skerries and is intended to help create a strong voice for Skerries during this phase.

Join us on Zoom on Thurs 8 April 2021 from 8 to 10 p.m. – secure your seat on the form at the bottom of this page or via Eventbrite.

It offers you the opportunity to learn about the current consultation process: 

You will be offered a basic understanding of 

  • the planning process and its current stage, 
  • the consultation framework, 
  • and the themes along which the plan will be structured. 

You’ll see how to make your own (individual or group) submission.

The meeting will also offer the space and time to discuss some of the issues that are most important to Skerries. 

Sustainable Skerries is going to draft its own submission, and the 8 April meeting is going to inform that submission significantly. You could say it’s going to be a listening exercise for us. 

We are hoping to bring some of our ideas, to hear those of other people and groups in our town, and to tease out where our common priorities may lie.

If you’d like to read up on the whole process, you can do so on the County Council’s Development Plan Webpage. And you probably have received their brochure through your letterbox! Their full Strategic Issues Paper (80 pages) is available here.

Submissions on this first strategic part of the planning process will be accepted by Fingal County Council until Wednesday 12 May.

This online event will help clarify our views, and we are sure it will improve our submissions – the one we are going to make as Sustainable Skerries, and the ones we hope you might submit yourselves.

Please help us spread the word! 

The Sustainable Skerries team.

Sustainable Skerries is a committee of the Skerries Community Association.

Managed for wildlife – that’s what all our gardens and other green spaces ought to be, according to horticulturalist and sustainability expert Aoife Munn.

She zoomed in on Sat 20 March 2021 for a super-engaging and interesting online gardening class, attended by three dozen of eager Skerries people.

This seminar, which was part of our Biodiversity / Pollinator Action Plan, focused on the importance of a positive, integrated approach to gardening for pollinators.

No chemicals, and a multi-pronged way of dealing with pests, as well as choosing the right plants for the right season – those were just a few of the ideas Aoife shared with us.

As a community, we ought to be thinking of corridors for pollinators, for the bumblebees and their winged friends can not travel very far, so having places to snack in between is very, very useful.

The “Managed for Wildlife” sign, by the way, is available to download on the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan website pollinators.ie

Aoife currently runs weekly classes online for Fingal County Council, which are announced on Mondays on their Social Media pages – you’ll have to make it to the FCC Facebook or Instagram page fast, though, as by Tuesday the spaces tend to be filled!

This week, Aoife has kindly sent us the following pointers regarding wildflowers:

Wildflowers – tips by Aoife Munn

  1. Do not use any chemicals like weedkiller or bug spray anywhere (but particularly not close to your wildflower area).    These have a huge effect on biodiversity in your area and if you are thinking about setting up a wildflower area, have a chat to people living in the area to see if you can discourage them from using chemicals too.
  2. Where you get your seed really matters.  The only three places to get Irish seed in Ireland are: www.wildflowers.ie or Traditional Irish Native Wildflower Mix or https://www.thegardenshop.ie/seeds/flowers/wild-flowers/ (only the own brand ones here!)
  1. Sow your wildflowers on specially prepared soil where there is no grass (Fork it, Rake it, Gardeners shuffle, Rake it again).  Edge the beds well to stop grass encroaching. 
  2. Remember sowing rates are important to get a good mix of species (1.5g -3g per meter)
  3. Yellow rattle can be used to supress grass.
  4. Or if it is poor bare soil just rough it up with a rake and sprinkle the seeds.
  5. Sow when the soil is warm and moist so Spring and Autumn are best
  6. If we get a very dry spell give them some water.
  7. Use signage from biodiversity Ireland to let people know what you are doing. https://pollinators.ie/resources/ 
  8. Collect the seed when it is ripe (it is brown and rattles)
  9. Cut the area back once a year  
  10. Take lots of pictures and when posting on social media use the hashtag #Communities4Environment

Our plan was always going to be about enhancing pollinator habitat throughout Skerries and still is. Despite all the setbacks and constraints of Covid we’ve managed to pull it together and a draft of the plan has now been sent to Fingal.

This is really important because Fingal are by far the biggest single landowner, having control of the open green spaces, road verges, parks and everything else. Without their support and agreement it would be very difficult to achieve anything at all. The document as sent is not only intended to demonstrate our intentions but also to open dialogue with the Council as to what we can all achieve together.

We very much look forward to working with them.

So what is the ethos of the plan?

Throughout the world we are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. Species are dying out and going extinct. Ireland is no exception. Much of this is because of the collapse of food chains. We cannot for instance expect to see insectivorous birds if there are no insects for them to feed on. By the same token we cannot have insects if their habitat has been destroyed. Pollinating insects are doubly important because, well, they’re pollinators.

By protecting and enhancing habitat at the bottom we support everything that exists further up the food chain.

What’s so important about a plan for Skerries?

Well, firstly it’s a town

That might not sound like much of an answer but the fact is that towns and urban areas now play a crucial role in the conservation of pollinating insects. The reason for this is that because of modern farming with its monoculture, herbicides and insecticides there is very little room in the countryside for insects. They are being both starved out and poisoned.

By contrast a town is full of back gardens and flowers; it is already a comparatively flower rich environment. Check for yourself this summer: take a walk around town taking note of what you see and then do a similar length walk round a 50 acre field of barley.

Some cultivated flowers are excellent for pollinators (see above!); others are useless, they’ve had all the pollen and nectar bred out of them. By choosing pollinator friendly flowers we can make a big difference. Revised mowing regimes have a big part to play by letting wildflowers bloom. Much of this applies to roadside verges, which is where agreement with FCC will come in.

All of the above could apply to any town in Ireland but where Skerries is different is that we have several residual populations of a threatened bumblebee, the Large Carder Bee. This puts us in a unique position to lead by example and make a real difference with an initiative to save a bee from extinction. Where we lead it is hoped that others will follow

OK, so how is this to be achieved?

Getting as many people as possible aboard with pollinator friendly gardens is hugely important but is not sufficient in itself.

In any conservation project involving fragmented populations of a species the key thing is to link them all together. As isolated pockets of individuals they are highly susceptible. If something changes in their immediate habitat and they can’t move on, they perish. Inbreeding, with all its attendant problems, is also a factor. The secret is to join these populations with ‘biodiversity corridors’. This is exactly what we intend to do.

Our Large Carder Bees are found on the South Strand, the Allotments, Ballast Pit and a small colony near the Educate Together School. The Barnageerah Road lends itself as a main artery and this is where Fingal will come in. This will directly join the Ballast Pit with our newly created wildflower meadow in the school grounds. A little further down the road Fingal themselves are due to sow another wildflower meadow this year. In the other direction, strategic planting in Townparks extends the corridor out towards the South Strand and many other smaller pockets can be created. Together they join the dots.

Anyone not living on or near these routes should not feel excluded. Far from it. There is plenty more scope throughout the town and every single garden is important.

Let’s get this town buzzing!

Aoife Munn

Sustainable Skerries Presents: Gardening for Pollinators, an online talk with Aoife Munn, horticulturalist and sustainability expert

  • Sat 20 March 2021, starting 4 p.m. sharp (Zoom opens at about 3.50 p.m.)
  • A one-hour talk followed by time for questions and answers
  • Attend on Zoom and book via Eventbrite
  • Limited to 50 attendees!

How can we make our garden more bee-friendly? That’s a question many have asked us recently. Surely the longer brighter days play a part in that! 

We are delighted that we have managed to arrange a talk with just the person to answer your questions: Aoife Munn, who has made quite a name for herself as horticulturalist and sustainability expert. 

Her gardening courses with Fingal, Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and others are usually fully booked nearly as fast as they can be put on. 

This one is for us here in Skerries, and it’s part of the Sustainable Skerries drive to make our town more pollinator friendly.

By the way, Aoife was a Tidy Towns adjudicator for a number of years, and was known for giving extra points for front gardens with pollinator-friendly flowers!

This is a free event, donations for the work of Sustainable Skerries are appreciated.

Limited capacity, book early!

Our next online gardening course will be held as part of the Sustainable Skerries Food Festival: “Food Gardening with Klaus Laitenberger,” on the morning of Sunday 25 April 2021 – subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already, and you’ll know when booking opens just after Easter.

Gardening is about so much more than gardening! All of you who are seasoned gardeners know that, and those of us newer to the area got a glimpse of this during Klaus Laitenberger’s Gardening Workshop recently.

Klaus who? Not many active gardeners in Ireland would ask this, as Klaus Laitenberger (according to GreenVegetableSeeds.com, his website) is the author of three vegetable gardening books. He was the Head Gardener at the Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim and restored the gardens of Lissadell House in Co. Sligo. He is a regular contributor to the Irish Garden magazine (and was recently featured in both the Irish Times and The Irish News, on the occasion of the publication of his latest book, The Self-Sufficient Garden).

Klaus also works as a gardening consultant and gives lectures and talks nationwide on growing food.  His books have attained excellent reviews from other horticulturists and top gardening newspaper & magazine writers and other gardeners alike.

This workshop was funded through the Department of Justice’s Communities Integration Grant and had been intended as a full-day course in April 2020. Guess what? It was not possible to run it.

Luckily for us, when Mary Marsden, who had organised this course, asked Klaus would he do it online, he agreed. So the one-day real-life course for a maximum of 20 people changed into two half-day courses (read on regarding the second one, which you will not want to miss!) which can cater for a lot more people. Great!

(Mary is, by the way, the chair of Skerries Allotments and centrally involved in the Community Garden which is to start up this year. She is also the previous chair of Sustainable Skerries.)

A wonderfully mixed group attended the course via Zoom – beginners, old hands with years of allotments and / or other gardening experience, and some who were just curious. Most are living in Skerries. Klaus had prepared a wide-ranging presentation – see for yourself…

He often added to what was on the screen – and luckily, was happy to answer questions as well. The time flew, and if you were there and would like more of the same, or missed it and would like to NOT miss the next one, make sure you’re subscribed to our Newsletter (you can sign up on our website)!

Here are just a few takeaways from the course – you’ll see why I said that gardening is about so much more than, well, gardening:

  • Get outside! Feel the ground! Did you know that there is research that says we all should be outside for at least 90 min daily? How much do we get? We need the great outdoors!
  • Food gardening and market gardening can make a major contribution to drawing down CO2 from the air. 
  • 50% of organic matter is carbon – climate change can be mitigated by increasing soil fertility!
  • The secret is in the soil and its quality… and its microcosm of helpful, interconnected microorganisms.
  • Organic matters! Especially for those foods known as the “dirty dozen” – pay the extra money for your health and your family’s health.
  • And while hummus is very tasty, it’s humus, the black gold, that matters most in organic matter for growing food.
  • We should all be willing to spend more on our food so that it can be grown to a better standard… the average Irish household spends some 8% of their disposable income on food, down from 50% just five decades ago! 
  • Organic farm produce follows demand. The more we ask for it, the more it will pop up in our shops.
  • Find out where you can get good food locally! McNally’s, Paddy Byrne’s Skerries Organic Farm, SuperValu’s organic and local Farmers’ Market… Speaking of which, help Sustainable Skerries put together a local sustainable shopping guide, please!
  • Ireland could grow vegetables for 25 million people (yes, organically) yet we only produce food for one million at the moment – Ireland is not food secure but could be!

That was all fascinating (and heady) stuff, and it was followed by a lot of hands-on gardening tips as well. Just a few that struck a chord with me:

  • Don’t sow and plant too early! 
    • St Patrick’s Day weekend is good for onion sets, jerusalem artichokes, early potatoes… no earlier!
    • Always be prepared for late frost in Ireland in May. Hold back on those pumpkins until early June!
  • Grow lots of nitrogen-fixing plants like beans, peas, clover to improve your soil.
  • Seaweed (collected above the high water mark only, e.g. after storms!) is super as mulch / fertilizer.
  • What the bees are to plants above ground, the earthworms are to them beneath… respect and value them!
  • Planning is super important. Learn from books or experienced gardeners. Rotate especially potatoes and the onion family. And carrots..
  • For a beginning gardener, grow:
    • perpetual spinach or rainbow chard (3 plants will keep your family supplied)
    • kale (3 plants) Start harvesting from the lower leaves, do not cut the top leaves! The plant will stop growing then.
    • One courgette (should yield 2 courgettes a week) – not before the 1st of June!
    • Cut and come again salad leaves
  • Growing your own apples makes super sense for taste as well as financially! (Plus it reduces your exposure to chemicals: Conventional apple orchards are sprayed every week…) 
  • Get young trees from reputable sources like English’s Fruit Nursery. Katie, James Grieve (not as sweet), Boskop are very good for Irish conditions.
  • Get the right root stock for your garden: M9 for smaller gardens, M26 for larger ones.
  • As for berries, you may have to share especially currants with the birds…

There was a lot more, but those are the bits that stuck in my mind most.

Thank you, Klaus, for a super morning, and we’re looking forward to the next one on Sunday 25 April 2021! (Booking will open on our Eventbrite page after Easter.)

Apologies for inaccuracies, I’m quoting all the above from memory and don’t have the exact sources handy. If in doubt, google it! 😀 Sabine

We’d like to thank the Communities Integration Fund for making this event possible. Out of the attendees who answered our question as to where they grew up, 30% grew up outside of Ireland, in six different countries. Of the other 70%, ten came from counties outside of Dublin – amazingly ten separate, individual, different counties! Quite a spread.

What to do next:

  • Go outside if you haven’t been in a while! 🌞
  • Get gardening, or keep growing it yourself if you’re already on the way.
  • Come to Klaus’ next online course, which will be part of our first Sustainable Skerries Food Festival – subscribe to our Newsletter so you don’t miss it. Booking will open after Easter. Until then, get his books, order some of the seeds he sells. (Very prompt service, I found. Great illustrations & detailed info in the Self Sufficient Garden! S.)
  • When out shopping for food, ask for seasonal, local, organic, waste-minimising food – let’s create the demand!
  • Join us – follow us on Facebook, join our Skerries Food Gardening Group on Facebook, subscribe to our Newsletter… send us an email if you’d like to get even more involved! SustSkerries@gmail.com 

Some links that were shared during the presentation on the chat (thanks to all attendees who were contributing!):

Committee member Tamara is compiling a list for a Sustainable Shopping Guide for Skerries.

There are so many good places, so many eco-friendly ways to shop – only people aren’t aware of them!

Please share your knowledge and experience in this quick form.

You can alternatively just send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com if you prefer. Looking forward to all your inputs 🙂. Thank you in advance!

When it comes to pollinator friendly gardening one question a lot of people ask is “I’ve only got a patio/balcony/window-box/roof terrace, can I really make a contribution?” The answer is an emphatic “Yes, yes, yes and yes!”

We’re not all blessed with a large garden with the potential to make a significant difference, but that doesn’t matter; if everyone does what they can the impact will be huge. So get planting and, equally importantly, spread the word and encourage others around you to do the same. And don’t worry that your flowers might be too high; they won’t be. Bees, after all, can fly. They’ll find them.

So what to plant? Pollinator friendly obviously, but beyond that it’s up to you. Grow what you also like yourself. It’s also a very good idea to grow a few different plants that will flower at different times through the Spring and Summer for continuity of supply of nectar and pollen.

You might like to grow herbs, and why not? The bees use the flowers; you use the rest.

Rosemary is a good bet. It’s pretty much bomb proof in that it will grow as well in a pot as in open ground and will survive a haphazard watering regime. It flowers early, from February onwards, and carries on till late Spring, going well with roast lamb all year round. Chives could be used to follow, flowering as they do in late Spring and early Summer. Pinch off the flower heads as they die to prolong the season. For later in the Summer you might consider one of the numerous mints. It might not be the best for culinary purposes (I don’t know, I’m a lousy cook!) but bees go mad for catmint.

These days most good garden centres have their pot plants labelled with information as to their pollinator friendliness. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future we’ll be able to wander round reading them again.

If you prefer flowers to herbs that’s fine too, just try and pick the right ones. But it might be easiest to talk first about what constitutes a ‘wrong one’.

It would be fair to say that any wildflower is pollinator friendly. After all, plants have evolved their flowers to attract pollinators; that’s their job. But cultivated flowers can be a different matter. Don’t worry, some are excellent, but others are useless. The reason being that they have been so intensely selectively bred that, while they might be incredibly showy, the pollen and nectar has been all but bred out of them.

A good example, particularly as we’re talking here about this type of environment, is that old hanging basket favourite of banks and supermarkets alike, the petunia.

It’s incredibly showy and totally useless. Avoid it if you can bring yourself to do so.

Sunflowers are generally an excellent bet, but there are a few cultivars that are not. This is because they too have had the pollen deliberately bred out of them. The reason? So that as cut flowers they don’t drop a yellow dust of pollen over the sideboard. Check what you’re getting at the time of purchase.

In general ‘double’ flowers of any type are of very little use. Through selective breeding the stamens have been effectively turned into petals. No stamens equals no pollen. An example would be open faced dahlias (good); pom pom dahlias (bad). The same applies to roses: the more ‘natural’ and open centred they look the better they probably are.

So that’s a brief guide to what you shouldn’t plant; what about what you should be?

Here’s a list of possibles for starters:

Now, you’re not likely to grow Comfrey or Broom on a balcony, there just isn’t the room. But most of the rest are contenders. There are many,many others of course. Go to https://pollinators.ie/gardens/ to find out more. Check out the Garden Centres and scrutinise the labels.

Above all, watch your own patch this Spring and Summer and see which plants attract the most insects. Do it too for neighbouring gardens and planted areas; the bees will tell you what they like best.

The Sustainable Energy Future of Skerries – A Community Effort!

We all try to do our bit to make our way of life more sustainable. We recycle, try to reduce our water usage, maybe buy more organic food and reduce food waste. The way we heat our homes and use electricity and other sources of energy is no different – there is a lot we can do to be more sustainable energy users. But how do we prioritise what to do first, and how do we help each other to make a sustainable energy difference in our community?

Skerries recently joined the SEAI Sustainable Energy Communities and we would like to talk to you about ideas for how to make sustainable energy projects in Skerries – driven by the ideas of the community, and supported by the SEAI and others.

 We invite you to come along to our first online community engagement event:

  • Wednesday 17 February from 8pm. 

This information and consultation evening will take place on Zoom, and you can register for it here:

The Skerries Sustainable Energy Community committee will introduce itself and you will hear more about how the Sustainable Energy Community program works. We will open the floor for discussion groups and capture all the great ideas about how we can make Skerries a sustainable energy community.

All interested parties from Skerries and the surrounding area are welcome to attend, from interested individuals / families to businesses, sports clubs and not-for-profit organisations.

 For any further information or questions about Skerries Sustainable Energy Community, please write to the Committee Chair, Michael Mullan-Jensen at skerries.seci@gmail.com

From the reactions of the participants and feedback received it would appear that our first online meeting about the Biodiversity Action Plan was a success!

Ballast Pit, 21/07/20

Having been frustrated by Covid and waiting all year for things to get better in order to be able to host a real-life public meeting it finally became apparent that this was not going to happen any time soon. We went online and hosted via Zoom.

Because we wished (and still do!) to reach as many people as possible, every effort was made to get the word out and attract as many as we could. Our efforts paid off and we had an excellent attendance. What’s more, there was equally excellent interaction from all present.

Charlie Heasman opened with an introduction to the plan: who funded it (Community Foundation of Ireland); what we were expected to do and how we were expected to do it; and what we have achieved so far.

This can be summarised thus:

  1. 2019; application made and grant awarded for phase 1 of the plan.

2. Work was to start Feb 2020 and be completed by end of year. Because of covid the deadline for completion was extended to June 2021.

3. Professional ecologist (Simon Barron) engaged as per terms of the grant.

4. Site surveys and assessments carried out, mapping, research, desktop surveys etc.

5. Our first Public Meeting; Jan 13th 2021!

6. Further work by our ecologist, direct discussions with other stakeholders, especially Fingal County Council, and possibly another public meeting.

7. Once this stage is completed, in June, we apply for further funding to implement these plans and move to phase 2 of the plan where we actually do the work!

Charlie then went on to talk briefly about the bees we have in Skerries and the fact that we have one special bumblebee in particular: the Large Carder Bee. He then handed over to the next speaker.

——————————————————-

We were delighted to welcome Dr Úna FitzPatrick from the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Úna is head of the Irish National Pollinator Plan and there could be no better guest speaker to talk about pollinators.

The four year Pollinator Plan for 2016-2020 has drawn to a close and the new 2021-2025 plan will be published shortly. Una told us that a major focus of the new plan will be the protection of two species of bumblebee. One is the very much endangered Great Yellow, which we in Skerries can do nothing about because it is now only found on the Mullet Peninsular in County Mayo. We actually did have it here once. The other is the aforementioned Large Carder Bee, which has gone into significant decline in recent years.

Una professed herself absolutely delighted that Skerries is the first town in Ireland to come up with a plan specifically aimed at this bee and hopes that if we are successful we will be a role model for other communities.

She went on to say that the bee needs both a flower-rich environment and nesting habitat and that wherever possible the individual populations should be joined with corridors in order to safeguard against inbreeding and localised extinction. Happily all these actions are on our list.

She also stressed that while a project might be aimed at one specific species this does not mean that this one species is being helped to the exclusion of all else; quite the reverse.

If a threatened species of bumblebee is protected than all the other bumblebees in the area benefit. So in turn do other pollinators such as moths, butterflies, hover flies and solitary bees. In fact insects in general increase. Insectivorous birds with a renewed food source start making a comeback as do seed eating birds such as goldfinches (assuming wildflowers are left unmown for long enough to bear seeds!). Enhanced habitat benefits bats, voles, hedgehogs and other small mammals.

Biodiversity rebuilt from the ground up.

Una’s slides can be found here:

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Third to speak was Simon Barron, our resident ecologist.

Simon presented maps of Skerries which not only showed where the Carder Bee has been recorded but also which areas have promise and potential for improving habitat and establishing biodiversity corridors and pointed out what actions could be taken in these locations. All of which, happily, tied in with what Úna had said previously.

He also said that he had been an ecologist for some 20 years and in all that time all he ever seemed to do was document decline; it was a nice change to be working with a group of people who were actually attempting something positive. A nice thought.

————————————————-

In between these talks we had two breakout sessions where four or five people would chat together and then report back their collective thoughts to the meeting as a whole. The first was focused on what has already been done in Skerries; the second on what could be improved. This concluded with a general discussion involving everyone.

This in itself proved interesting and informative. There was a lot of discussion around revised mowing regimes and the need to let flowers grow instead of keeping everything cut tight at all times. One man said that he was involved with one of the lodal football clubs and that they’d always badgered the council to mow the grass round the football pitches; now they were beginning to have a change of heart. Councillor Joan Hopkins, from Baldoyle, was able to tell us that quite often councils put out their grass cutting on four year contracts, so they might themselves sometimes not be able to make changes as quickly as they’d like. She added that local authorities in general have tended to revise their attitudes to grass mowing in recent years, and if we were to press for more liberal mowing regimes we would probably find ourselves pushing at an open door.

Signage in order to let the public know what is going on was uppermost on many people’s minds. Rest assured everyone, plans are afoot but we’ll largely have to wait for stage 2 of the funding before we can proceed fully. One respondent wondered could we not have customised signs for Skerries. Answer: good idea, we’re working on that too!

‘Are rooftops and balconies any good?’ asked one lady. Answer: they most certainly are. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a large garden but every little helps and the bees will find your flowers.

Most people were asking what’s the best thing they can do in their garden and many were looking for advice on what to plant. We may be able to get hold of a few copies of Gardening for Biodiversity’ – by Juanita Browne to hand out. Alternatively it’s in PDF form: https://www.fingal.ie/sites/default/files/2020-04/gardening-for-biodiversity-booklet.pdf

The NBDC website has a wealth of information and is well worth a look: https://pollinators.ie/

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Thanks to all who attended, it was great to have you. Most have already subscribed to our email newsletter, and if you haven’t, maybe now is a good time! We will be in touch that way with further information. Keep your eyes out for it in your inbox! Also follow our web-page: sustainableskerries.com which has plenty of posts on the subject with more being added all the time. If you have comments or suggestions, you can also send us an email to SustSkerries@gmail.com in general or, if it’s to do with the pollinator plan in particular, Charlie Heasman’s email is  charleseheasman@gmail.com, and he’d be more than happy to communicate!

Which just leaves me to thank Sabine McKenna for all the time and effort she put into organising the event. Her IT skills made it run smoothly and without them it would not have been possible. Thank you Sabine!

Charlie Heasman:19th Jan 2021

[This post should have gone up last October; due to an oversight it did not. Here it is now]

South Strand – what nature can achieve if given the chance

Sustainable Skerries have partnered with the Educate Together School to create Skerries’ first wildflower meadow.  This is part of our Biodiversity Action Plan and it is hoped that it will prove to be the first of many such areas..

The site is particularly well located in that it runs the length of the school grounds just inside the fence where everyone can see it.  If we achieve the colour and diversity that we hope for next summer it may inspire other clubs, organizations and resident’s associations to do the same.

So what’s involved?

The first thing to consider is that (rather paradoxically for anyone with a gardening or growing background) the soil is probably too fertile.  Rich soil encourages strong grass growth which outcompetes and swamps the intended wildflowers.  Again, we appear to be lucky with this site in that the builders of the school look to have done an excellent job back in the day of spreading low grade subsoil when they levelled the site

Nonetheless, we decided to remove as much organic matter as we could.

First step was to stake out the area and get the school groundsman to mow it as tight as possible.  Unfortunately this proved ineffective; he cut it as tight as he could, but nowhere near tight enough.  Having considered our options we decided to strim it.

This was the most tedious and protracted part of the operation.  It took four days in total but at the end of it we had the whole lot down to bare earth.  The result was threefold: not only could we remove the cuttings, but having done so we would have good ground contact for our seeds.  Meanwhile the grass had been knocked back hard in order to give the seeds a chance to germinate and grow.

Next was the fun part.

The call went out and last Saturday a team of volunteers turned up armed with garden rakes.  Every last inch was combed and the spoil barrowed away for composting elsewhere.  With a plot 100 meters long and ten wide crowding was not an issue and everyone could spread out into an empty space.  More than one person was heard to remark that it was pleasant to get out and about and actually meet people again.

Emily Mullen-Jensen hard at work with her Dad.

At the time of writing it looks like we’ll soon be back in lockdown, so once again we were lucky in that we did it when we did.

The next day we scattered our seeds and now all we have to do is sit back and wait.

But where did the seeds come from and what were they?

To answer that we go back to last summer.

With a project such as this it is highly recommended that seed should be sourced as locally as possible, thus protecting its genetic purity. Local species have evolved over time to match local conditions, and are thus best suited to thrive in them. Most of our seeds came from either Ardgillan or the Ballast Pit.  Marion could be seen out and about collecting, then taking them home to dry and store.

Naturally we concentrated on the most important pollinator friendly flowers and these included Red Clover, various Vetches, Campion, Mallow, Knapweed and Poppies.  Because we want not only a lot of flowers, but also a long flowering season, we also included Devil’s Bit Scabious, a late flowering species that will go on way into September and is a lot prettier than its name might suggest.  This is another native but we had to go a little further afield to collect it; County Wicklow in fact.

Finally, and possibly most important of all, Yellow Rattle.

This unassuming little plant only grows to a height of 15” and is easily overlooked, but it has one important trait: it parasitizes grasses.  By tapping into their roots and sucking out nutrients and moisture it keeps them in check; one of its colloquial names is Meadowmaker.  It will never completely eradicate grass because then it would have deprived itself of its own food source, a balance is reached.

So that’s it, all done, now we have to see how it turns out.  I’m off to hibernate for the winter, wake me up in May.