The Skerries Open Orchards Project is about to put down roots… and is inviting you to join the journey!
What is happening here?!?
If you live close to the large Kelly’s Bay green, you know, the one along Kelly’s Bay Promenade, you may have noticed small groups of people congregating on the triangle just north of the little path.
What was going on, you ask? Well, they were members of a team connected with Sustainable Skerries: The Skerries Open Orchards Project people! And they were scoping out their first open orchard.
Skerries Open Orchards Projects conveniently abbreviates to SkOOP, and the main aim of SkOOP is to let fruit trees blossom all over Skerries, starting in that very spot in Kelly’s Bay.
Planting an idea for change
When an organisation called ChangeX recently offered funding for open orchard projects, a few members of the Sustainable Skerries committee jumped on it and formed SkOOP. We moved fast:
- We have drawn up a plan,
- We have picked our first location, the one in Kelly’s Bay – one of many, we hope – and met a couple of times there,
- We have looked at fruit trees in Ardgillan (on invitation by Dominica McKevitt, head gardener, who thankfully joined SkOOP) and at a small an apartment block in Strand Street, where another of our SkOOP members instigated a mini orchard just last summer,
- We talked to, and met with, Fingal County Council, who have been very supportive, hooray again,
- And we have put information leaflets through the doors of those living closest to the proposed Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard (KBOO – Kay-Booh?) , inviting them to become Tree Guardians.
Ready to start the first Open Orchard
We now have over a dozen Tree Guardians, who will look after the trees especially when they are young, making sure that any prolonged droughts don’t stress them out, that the bases are kept weed free, that any windfall is picked up before it becomes a bother, and so on.
There will also be work parties, starting with preparing the ground for planting, and in the not-too-distant future, when the trees have been established, fruit parties and so on.
All our Guardians will be invited to these parties, as well as the larger group of all those on the Skerries Open Orchards Projects.
And as is the norm with open orchards, the fruit will be there for all to enjoy!
Open orchards, with apples, pears, possibly other fruit trees, and a harvest for all to share, bringing all the benefits which fruit trees have for biodiversity, for improving the local air, for the climate… Every little helps! So here is your opportunity to get involved.
- Do you like this idea of open orchards throughout Skerries?
- Can you see a possible location near your house?
- Would you like to help this effort?
If you answered Yes to one or more of these questions, then just go to SustainableSkerries.com/orchards and join us!
Why start an Open Orchard?
The Skerries Open Orchards Project aims to plant fruit trees in public places in Skerries.
The trees will provide free fruit to local residents and greenery to the open spaces in our town, but there are other benefits too. A newly planted tree will offer some extra pollination opportunities and absorb a small amount of carbon dioxide as well as rainwater that might otherwise have stayed on the surface. And as the trees grow, so do these positive effects.
Of course there are already many fruit trees around the town, but by planting fruit trees on public land, the project is an investment in our shared public space. The trees embellish our greens and provide an opportunity for residents’ groups to work together to protect and nurture them. The trees will start to produce fruit, but it’s the process of caring for them that produces the most important harvest: strengthening our community and improving our public space.
Hans Zomer, SkOOP
This text was written for Skerries News. You may find it in their final edition for 2021 (08/12/2021)!
German environmentalist Arnd Drossel is on the way to Glasgow. In July, he set off in his 160 kg steel ball, which he welded together with his son. And his goal is to get to Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference #COP26 in Glasgow the UN Climate Change Conference #COP26 in November… gathering promises on the way.
Every day, he covers between eight and ten kilometres. Wherever he rolls, people stop him to ask about his project. He explains it simply:
“I’m doing this for our children. For their future. We humans have to take the issues of climate change and environmental protection into our own hands. Every contribution, no matter how small, is absolutely useful and indispensable! The UN climate conference will take place in Glasgow on November 1, 2021. We bring every single promise you make on our website there.”
When the opportunity arose at very short notice to bring him en route from Dublin to Belfast through Skerries, we jumped. A few dozen Skerries residents gave Arnd and his human hamsterball a very warm welcome today (Sat 2 October 2021).
Charlie Heasman, 12th Sept 2021
It’s exactly a year since we started the wildflower meadow in the Educate Together School so it was recently due its first haircut.
The basic idea was to leave the area unmown all through the Spring and Summer and see what came up, once it had flowered and set seeds it was time to cut it to the ground and carry away the grass. We left it as late in the year as possible to allow the seeds to develop and fall.
It’s generally held that it takes about ten years for a meadow such as this to fully develop so we cheated a little by collecting seeds locally and scattering them last Autumn. It turned out we almost not needed to have bothered at all, much of our seed didn’t take and instead nature provided Ox eye Daisies, Knapweed, Campion and many others. One totally unexpected surprise was the appearance of Cowslips, an iconic Irish wildflower now very much in decline. Stop mowing and you’ll be surprised what happens!Read More
Reduce. Refuse. Reuse. Recycle. In that order, pleas!
The recent Government announcement that soft plastics can now also be put into the recycling bin is great – unless it means we now are less careful to avoid soft plastic in the first place!
Plastic continues to be a huge waste of resources, even if recycled. Yet only about half of the soft plastic that might hit our recycling bins is likely to be recycled, according to the waste management industry.
So what should we do?
The less plastic we bring into our household, the better. We all can do more of the following:
- Avoid plastic!
- Bring keep cups, refillable containers, reusable bags for loose items when shopping
- Leave packaging in the shops – Skerries Tidy Towns have been actively working with shops to make this easier
- Use waste-free shops like the Greener Grocer in Balbriggan or various stalls at the Skerries Farmer’s Market
- Recycle what you bring home properly:
- Put clean, hard and soft plastic loosely into your recycling bin so it can be recycled more easily. (Dirty plastic is only good for incineration, it seems.)
- Compostable is a more complex problem than we originally thought. We have contacted Panda to find out whether it can be put into the brown bin. Unless it is “homecompostable” it is not suitable for our normal home compost, as it needs higher temperatures to be broken down. However, a bit of web research showed that in some instances (e.g. in one UK case we came across), it proved too complex for the waste company to sort through all coffee cups etc. that found their way into the food waste bin, so that they were all taken out of the composting process. For now, it seems, it’s best to stay away from compostable / degradable cups. Use your Keep Cup instead.
Sources / further reading:
- RTÉ, accessed version: 6 September 20221: Soft plastic can now be put in recycling bins
- Irish Times, 6 September 2021: Household recycling upgrade accepts soft plastics
- The Journal.ie, 7 September 2021: Soft plastic: How much of it will actually be recycled and what difference will it make?
- My Waste FAQs https://www.mywaste.ie/why-faq/
- Compostable, Degradable, Biodegradable…: http://www.lesswaste.org.uk/recycle/compostable-degradable-biodegradable-and-oxodegradable-plastics/
Last December, we started collecting crisp packets for recycling… hoping that the box we put up in SuperValu would be full now and again… and we were blown away with the amount of packets that came together!
Above, you can see Cristina with no less than 8 kg of crisp packets, all sorted and ready to be sent to TerraCycle! Cristina is the Sustainable Skerries committee member who had the idea for the crip packet collection scheme and is the lead on it.
Cristina is also the person who had to sort out all the things that can not be recycled. And she asked us to remind you:
Please only put empty crisp packets into those boxes!Read More
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
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- Remember sowing rates are important to get a good mix of species (1.5g -3g per meter)
- Yellow rattle can be used to supress grass.
- Or if it is poor bare soil just rough it up with a rake and sprinkle the seeds.
- Sow when the soil is warm and moist so Spring and Autumn are best
- If we get a very dry spell give them some water.
- Use signage from biodiversity Ireland to let people know what you are doing. https://pollinators.ie/resources/
- Collect the seed when it is ripe (it is brown and rattles)
- Cut the area back once a year
- 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!
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!):
- https://zachbushmd.com/ for Zach Bush MD (very strong on the role of food, dangers of chemicals in agriculture etc)
- www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php Dirty Dozen