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Get ready to grow some rhubarb 

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert 

In the vegetable garden this week I planted rhubarb. I know, one of the old staples which everyone can grow - except me! I have the worst luck when it comes to these plants, but have decided it probably comes down to my awful soil. Rhubarb prefers free draining soil, which retains moisture.

This sounds paradoxical, but waterlogging is not good! Add plenty of compost or well rotted manure, as fertile soil is key. It needs space to grow, so one plant per square metre is sufficient. Watering during dry summer months is important, as is cutting out any flowers that appear. Rhubarb prefers a sunny, or partially shaded site.

The best way to grow rhubarb is from crowns. These are divisions from a parent plant, and can be cut from a vigorous plant in autumn. Make sure there is at least one bud per offset, and I prefer to plant them in a pot until the following spring, so that I can keep an eye on them and ensure they root properly. Rhubarb can also be grown from seed – sow it thinly in May, outdoors in a prepared seedbed. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 20cm, then again to 40cm, before choosing the strongest plants to keep. The advantage of growing from seed is that you can get some different varieties, the disadvantage is that it will take a few years before you can harvest.

Rhubarb will remain productive for about a decade, but this is very dependant on the richness of the soil. It is a very hungry and thirsty plant so mulching in the summer/autumn is imperative – use manure, homemade compost or leaf mould. Liquid feed in the spring can also give them a boost. I find seaweed based liquid feeds best. When your plants are well established and strong, you can try forcing them in early spring. This just involves putting a bucket, or special terracotta rhubarb forcer, over the plant. This induces them to grow, due to lack of light they will produce tender, pale, sweet stems. To do this, a lot of energy is required from the plant, which is why it is best not to do it with a young plant.

The only real problem you will encounter when growing rhubarb is ‘crown rot’ – which is a fungus which attacks the base of the stems, causing the crown to rot. I have had this problem repeatedly, and I suspect heavy soil and wet weather. I have now planted my new plants in a specially prepared bed which is sloped. Hopefully this will prevent water from sitting on the crowns in the future. I have also moved away from planting the most popular variety, ‘Timperley early’, and tried ‘Victoria’, a very old variety which has a good reputation for being strong! ‘Stockbridge Arrow’ is another good variety to try, especially in a smaller garden as it does not take up as much space.

Finally, please remember the leaves are poisonous, but ideal for composting!

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Housing Will Never Be The Same

Last week I wrote about the pathetic investment options out there for Irish investors. Despite high ongoing fees (mortgage, maintenance, insurance etc.) and the actual headache of being a landlord, […]

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Last week I wrote about the pathetic investment options out there for Irish investors.

Despite high ongoing fees (mortgage, maintenance, insurance etc.) and the actual headache of being a landlord, it’s easy to see why real estate functioned as the de facto investment portfolio for an entire generation.

Wealth creation was a rinse-and-repeat function where couples put money away until they had enough for the ‘next house’. As a result, we have an economy where 70% of household wealth is tied up in real estate.

Driven by the profits it created, Ireland became obsessed with owning real estate.

But real estate as an investment won’t be nearly as successful for our generation. (If you are able to get a house, that is)

All you have to do is look at the anecdotal evidence all around us to confirm this.

My parents bought the house they currently live in for 30k (pounds) 35 years ago. The house is now worth roughly 450k.

I typically despise these back-of-the-envelope calculations when It comes to property, given the endless variables and ongoing costs involved, but bear with me.

That’s a gross return of 15 times the original value. Now there are upgrades, a change in currency and other adjustments to consider here, so for argument’s sake, let’s call it 10X.

To achieve the same level of growth over the next 35 years, you would be left paying 4,500,000 euros for what is a pretty modest house.

Sure, we will still see property prices increase over time, but the rate of growth won’t be anywhere near as meaningful for one simple reason.

Interest rates.

Artificial Growth

Over the last 30 years, real economic growth has been stagnant, yet Ireland has experienced enviable nominal growth.

How did we manage it?

We created imaginary wealth.

We pushed interest rates lower and lower to stimulate economic growth.

And it worked.

After all, if you make 100k/year you can probably afford a 400k mortgage at 4%. At 2%, with the same 100k/year salary you can now take on 600k in debt.

So, were we getting richer, or was the debt just easier to afford?

Where do we go from here?

We have now squeezed interest rates as low as they can go.

The house price appreciation we have seen was justifiable because the mortgage rates on housing continued to fall in recent decades. This allowed people to take on more debt without severely impacting their ability to repay that debt.

If we go back to my parents, they were paying 14% on their mortgage. Mortgage rates are currently between 2 to 3%.

A relentless drop in interest rates gave way to higher and higher prices for houses, but interest rates are now on the floor.

The juice has been squeezed.

In fact, the trend has started to reverse, with rates expected to rise 1.5% in the first half of 2023

Be mindful that the same credit expansion cannot happen again.

How the next generation thinks about their investment options has to change.

Banks offering 0% returns for the use of your money and a housing ladder you can’t get on are not your only two options.

If you need help creating your own investment portfolio, just reach out to me at mike@theislandinvestor or simply scan the QR code above.

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Biddies performance celebrates St Brigid

Two local Biddies groups performed at Muckross House as part of St Brigid’s Day celebrations in aid of Kerry Parents and Friends Association. The Killarney Parents and Friends Biddy Group – formerly […]

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Two local Biddies groups performed at Muckross House as part of St Brigid’s Day celebrations in aid of Kerry Parents and Friends Association.

The Killarney Parents and Friends Biddy Group – formerly known as the Beaufort Biddy Group – and Kilgobnet Biddies came together for the event.

The tradition of the Biddies is one of the oldest and most colourful customs in Ireland, a blend of pagan and Christian pageantry, held on February 1 each year, heralding the beginning of springtime and honouring St Bríd the patron saint of the farming community.

Master traditional craftsman, Pat Broderick, at Muckross House, was also part of St Brigid’s Day celebrations, making a St Brigid’s Cross as part of the traditions.

 

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