Blessed be the growers! I’m a GIY fan, one apple at a time...

Kathriona Devereux is a novice to the GIY movement... but she's loving every minute of growing her own food
Blessed be the growers! I’m a GIY fan, one apple at a time...

APPLE OF HER EYE: Kathriona Devereux will have a small crop of apples in her garden this autumn. Picture: iStock/posed by model

EVER heard of June drop, woolly aphids, or apple canker?

Nope, me neither, until I spotted that I am going to have a very modest crop of apples this year.

Come Autumn, when the black-berries start dripping from the hedgerows and it is time to reap the fruits of my labour in anticipation of the long winter ahead, I can expect to enjoy the princely amount of three apples!

Just three small little green golf balls are clung to my apple tree and are going to be the sum total of my 2022 crop. That’s if apple scab doesn’t get them!

I’m not exactly running an orchard and my apple tree is still young, but some years we might get enough apples so we didn’t have to buy an apple for a week or two.

This year, the harvest of three apples will barely cover snack time, an apple and blackberry tart if I’m lucky.

The first year I had the tree, in complete ignorance and naivety, I watched a beautiful goldfinch eat every single flower blossom off the tree.

I was so mesmerised by the scene, I never thought to shoo him away because he was eating my future produce, but something similar might have happened this year behind my back.

In an effort to grow a few apples, my eyes have been opened to the myriad of fungi, diseases, lichens and moulds that can befall a tree, and I have found myself washing my tree to rid it of woolly aphids!

If you had told my younger self that I would care about an apple tree enough to wash it with warm, soapy water, she would have scoffed. If you told her she’d go on snail-killing escapades with a torch in her garden at night to protect her courgettes, she would’ve said you were mad, but it’s true.

I am a novice to the ‘Grow-It-Yourself’ movement. The first lockdown of 2020 left me with plenty of time on my hands, so I happily spent my days turning repurposed loo rolls into seedling containers, and that first year I had a very respectable harvest of tomatoes and didn’t buy a single courgette all summer.

Last year was less successful, with some funny mould blighting my courgettes, and I swore this year I wouldn’t take on the GIY thing again.

However, the satisfaction and flavour that comes from pulling a cherry tomato off the vine and popping it straight in my mouth is so rewarding, it drew me back.

Plus, it’s so easy in the beginning - bung a seed into compost, water it, and leave it alone. The magic of green shoots appearing never fails to thrill me, and especially the kids.

While the plants are maturing indoors, it’s all a doddle, but once you start planting them outside and have to contend with the weather, aphids and those bloody snails, that’s when the real work starts.

So, despite my own protestations, here I am in summer, 2022, tending a few slightly neglected courgette and tomato plants, harvesting strawberries in single figures, watering two lettuce heads that are giving me enough leaves for one salad a week, and picking tiny courgettes the size of an index finger.

The only crop thriving is mange- tout, but no-one in the house eats them except me!

The most significant outcome I can reap from my GIY efforts is a deep respect and appreciation for all the growers and farmers that keep us fed throughout the seasons.

The reason that modern society functions as it does is because farmers and growers invest an enormous amount of time and effort in making our food so we don’t have to.

There’s nothing like spending months watching a tomato plant grow slowly to make you appreciate every precious one.

I counted each cherry tomato in the last punnet I bought, marvelling at the ease of eating 14 tomatoes for dinner, and wondering how long it would take me to produce the same. And just 99c!

With rising food prices, it is important to remember that the problem in our food systems is not the growers or the farmers. Supermarkets and processors make enormous profits, not farmers.

Cork chef Darina Allen has an ongoing campaign to re-embed practical cooking and other life skills, including growing food, into the national and secondary school curricula, saying no child should leave school without being able to cook for themselves.

When I was in 6th class, we had a series of cooking classes and learned how to make brown bread, soup and a scotch egg. I’m sure there were other dishes, but the scotch egg was a foul creation so has stuck in my mind.

The classes stayed with me because if you know how to make brown bread and a soup, you’ll never go hungry, and will always be able to make some class of a meal.

If I had also learned how to grow food back then, I would have carried that skill throughout life and growing my own would surely be much easier now.

I’m wishing a fairy godmother type gardener would magic my garden into the abundant and self-sufficient food forest I’d like it to be, but I’m just going to have to keep slogging away myself in a process of trial and error, enjoying one strawberry at a time!

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