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Gardening made easy: novel idea takes root

Judy Murphy

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Lifestyle  – JUDY MURPHY finds  how the recession has  helped a hobby become  a thriving business

After father-of-four Eoin Flaherty lost his job during the economic crash, his life took a new and unexpected direction.

Eoin has drawn on his love of gardening to create a new product designed to make fruit and vegetable growing easier, for beginner and experienced gardener alike.

There’s nothing like it on sale in Ireland, or anywhere else in Europe, says Headford based Eoin, who shakes his head in disbelief as he describes how simple his GrowGrid mat is.

He had developed a series of polypropylene mats, which have holes pre-punched in them, with the distance between the holes varying in size to cater for different types of fruit and veg. Mats are designed to allow people to grow a mix of vegetables in a small area – everything from potatoes to spinach and strawberries, with holes for the seeds or plant plugs.

The GrowGrid mats, which come in large and small sizes, might be simple in design but they are highly effective, as a walk around his beautifully ordered garden in Ballycasey, outside Headford demonstrates.

There are several raised beds where herbs including lovage, curry and parsley are thriving, while garlic is also doing well. The potatoes are slower than usual, he says, but that’s because of the weather.

Further down there’s a polytunnel, where the mats are laid out in perfect symmetry and a range of food – strawberries, celery, chard, tomatoes, peas, beans and lettuce – are all in various stage of growth.

The holes in the GrowGrid mats are heat sealed to stop the fabric from fraying and the big advantage is that the membrane prevents weeds from growing so the plant is not competing with them for light or nutrients. 

Eoin, who is originally from Inis Mór on the Aran Islands, was always interested in food. After school, he trained as a chef at the then RTC in Galway and gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry, working in restaurants from Roly’s Bistro in Dublin, to Park House here in Galway.

But when the property boom came, he changed careers and went into the construction industry. He was newly married and the father of a small family and needed a change.  Working as a chef, with long and often late hours, is not a family friendly occupation, he says.

“I had a great career and worked at the higher end of it, but it’s a young man’s game. We were married, and both working shifts, so something had to give.”

However, like thousands of others, Eoin was left without a job when the property bubble burst. His wife, Catriona, is a nurse, so they made the pragmatic decision that, rather than returning to cheffing, he would become a stay-at-home father, while Catriona continued to work.

That’s when the idea for the pre-punched GrowGrid mats first came about.

Eoin had been growing vegetables all his life, except for the period when he was working fulltime, when he was too busy. But once he decided to stay at home, he returned to gardening – the family home is on a three-quarter acre site, which offered plenty of scope. However, a combination of bad weather, which saw weeds flourish, and having four small children to mind, left him strapped for time.

He originally put the matting down around copper beech to inhibit weed growth and it was then he realised its potential in the vegetable patch, as did other people who saw it.

“So I developed the pre-punched matting myself.  It’s much the same as membranes you’d put on soil except for the holes. There are four different spaces depending on what you want to grow.”

The mats are made of treated polypropylene and each will last up to five years if properly maintained, but he has several that are older than that. Each one comes with biodegradable pegging which secure the mat onto the ground. The small ones are 1.5 metres wide and 2.2 metres long while the large ones are the same width and are four metres long.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Sharon goes global for lockdown album The Reckoning

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Sharon's new album will be available from this Friday.

Despite Covid-19 travel restrictions, Sharon Shannon has gone global for her latest studio album, The Reckoning, which is being released this Friday, November 27.

The Reckoning, which was composed, written and recorded during lockdown, features more than dozen remote collaborations from locations across the world.

All the twelve tracks have been co-written by Sharon and band members and various guest collaborators.

The full-on method in which it was recorded marks a new departure for the Clare-born musician who lives in Galway City, she says.

“Normally when we work on an album, we do one track at a time,” Sharon explains. “But with this, it seems to be an avalanche when you’re working on 13 or 14 tracks every day. It’s like a minefield!”

One of the key tracks, The Jolly Roger, resulted from a challenge which rugby player Robbie Henshaw presented to Sharon during the first Covid lockdown. Issued via Facebook, her task was to learn a new skill. And she did. After five days of intense practice, she created The Jolly Roger Facebook video . That clip of Sharon and her electric guitar has attracted more than 289,000 views since it was uploaded earlier this year.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Artists going to dogs in aid of annual auction

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Work donated to MADRA by Galway artist Grace Cunningham and Achill Island’s Padraig McCaul.

Works by some of Ireland’s top artists, including Grace Cunningham and Finbar McHugh from Galway as well as Padraig McCaul from Achill Island and Charles Harper from Valentia Island, will go under the hammer at this year’s MADRA Dog Rescue Charity Art Auction.

The popular event, which kicks off for viewing next week, will take place online year due to Covid restrictions.

The event, will open for registration and online bids next Thursday, December 3 and will remain available to view and bid online until Monday, December 7 .

The goal is to raise €3,000 to contribute towards vet bills for the Connemara-based dog rescue and adoption charity. MADRA is facing major bills, all without the financial support that’s normally generated by its two charity shops – they have been closed for months this year due to the pandemic.

“We have stunning artworks available with an amazing variety of subjects and styles,” explains MADRA co-founder and director, Marina Fiddler, adding that the organisation is “honoured that so many talented artists have donated such beautiful pieces to support the homeless dogs in our care”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Celebrating Romania on Great Union Day

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ConTempo, will perform a programme from thier native Romania for next Tuesday's lunchthime concert.

The next instalment of the lunchtime music series, From Europe with Love, will take place next Tuesday, December 1, at 1pm. Hosted by Galway Music Residency, it’s the last one for 2020.

It promises to be a special event as Galway’s Ensemble in Residence, the ConTempo Quartet, who are from Romania, celebrate their homeland on what’s known as Great Union Day. This national holiday marks the unification of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina with the Romanian Kingdom in 1918.

ConTempo will perform a varied programme, showcasing the best of Romanian music. This will feature works by celebrated composers George Enescu and Theodor Grigoriu alongside lesser-known musical treasures. There will be a strong folk theme throughout, making for a lively lunchtime show.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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