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An Interview With Renata Visser

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Renata’s Rooftop Garden

a rooftop garden in ireland

I walked in Renata’s door to be greeted by an abundance of life growing on a table by her window. She had apple seeds, courgettes, tomatoes, mustard seeds, pumpkin seeds, dahlias, gherkins and artichoke and a mix of flower seedlings. All green stems reaching for the sun, quite beautiful. Looking out her window into her garden I see that Renata is very artistic and makes sculptures and features in her garden from branches and anything that can be upcycled into something useful. I sat down to a mug of coffee and her delightful homemade cake and started my interview for our third blog post.

What are your three money saving tips in gardening?

  1. Make your own compost, gather three parts brown material (twigs, paper, cardboard, cotton fabric) to one-part green material (grass & plant clippings, veg & fruit scraps, coffee grounds & tea bags, eggshells, seaweed, animal manure etc;).
  2. Perennials are a worthwhile investment for your garden knowing they will return year after year.
  3. Learn to take cuttings, make your plant the gift that keeps on giving.

Renata showed me apple tree cuttings that were thriving and her propagated root veggies from kitchen scrapes such as celery, leeks, green onions, and carrots planted under her kitchen window.

Seeds soaked in Donegal Seaweed’s liquid extract germinate more rapidly, have larger root mass, stronger plant growth and higher survival rates. Soaking plant roots in the extract also reduces transplant shock and speeds root growth. Liquid seaweed fertilisers are strong; therefore, dilution is essential to avoid burning seeds and roots. Always check the instructions for dilution rates. Not all plants are the same, so it’s not one size fits all.

Spring and early summer is the ideal time to take a cutting from a fuchsia shrub, she gave me step by step instructions.

  • Look for a young shoot that is about 10cm long that has 3 or 4 sets of leaves on it,
  • With a sharp knife cut on a slant just below a leaf node.
  • Remove the lower leaves and cut the upper leaves in half.
  • Dip the end in water, then dip in root powder,
  • Fill a 3in pot with a mixture of compost and gravelly sand. Make a hole with your finger and insert your cutting. The leaves should not touch the compost.
  • Cover with a transparent plastic bag. Sit in a warm place but not in direct sunlight. After 3 to 4 weeks, they should establish good roots. Plant out  the second week in May the following year.

What are your favourite plants?

I love the Viburnum (snowball) bush and lime and hazel trees.

Renata recommends these three books:

creating a forest garden book cover the wildflowers of ireland book cover edible shrubs book cover

What brings you joy in the garden?

I have a keen interest in medicinal herbalism. It is so rewarding to forage healing foods, and it gives me immense joy to make my own essential oils and herbal tinctures and homemade wine and cider. I love to study the benefits that plants & herbs give to us. I have read so many books on the subject and during lockdown I have taken online university courses and there is always more to learn.

Renata gave me a pot of Golden Rod Oxymel that she made herself. Derived from the Greek word oxymel, which translates to “acid & honey.” Both apple cider vinegar and raw honey are common kitchen allies that can be used to help soothe the throat, calm a cough, and help strengthen your immune system against colds and flu and quelling allergy symptoms also. She gave me another gift of Rock Rose Oil which is an essential oil for wounds and skin care.

She has a neat filing system for her seeds, nothing left to chance.  A zipped freezer bag for each set of seeds placed side by side in a dark closed box. In each bag a photo of what they will look like after germination and as a mature plant, labelled and placed in order of the date the seeds were harvested and the date they should be planted.

To begin her seed collection, she placed an online order with from Westport, County Mayo and she was very happy with their organic seeds and service. They gave an information leaflet about each plant seed, how to care for it and what its uses were, she has kept them all for future reference.

A Big Thanks

Thank you so much Renata for taking the time to share your valuable knowledge with me and thank you for the potted cuttings. Hopefully I’ll have a photo of my homegrown Pumpkin for my Halloween blog.

a plat wreath with easter eggs in the centre

Happy Easter folks from all the staff at Donegal Seaweed. Take care out there, hope to see you back with us soon. Make time for your garden however big or small.

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