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It’s time to take care of your lawn

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

Living in Kerry is a real treat at this time of year when Magnolias shine.

There are so many beautiful specimens in gardens, and it is now they are spectacular. In February they are instantly recognisable by their large soft flower buds reaching up to the sky, but in March we are treated to an unsurpassed show!

Magnolia soulangeana will grow to quite a tree, but Magnolia stellata is suitable for smaller gardens. For a shady spot in your garden, possibly under a magnolia, I recommend Bergenias. These are evergreen, hardy, low-growing perennials, which are now flowering in many shades of pink. Pink Dragonfly, Bressingham white and Silberlicht are just a few of the many varieties available.

Lawn care really begins in March. If your lawn is looking thin, or has a lot of moss, you may need to remove old thatch and moss in order to re-seed. There are a lot of types of grass seed, that which is suitable for a shady garden, or “tough grass”, and even “smart seed”, which incorporates a water retaining gel. However, aeration and nutrients are the key to a healthy lawn. If reseeding, and especially when sowing a new lawn, consider mixing in an amount of white clover. Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil, eliminating the need for chemical fertilisers, as well as providing bees with a great source of nectar. White clover stays low, and will not ruin the look of your lawn. It is, in my opinion, definitely the way to go.

There are many types of fertilisers for sale, and I thought I would quickly go through a few of them today. Sequestered Iron, or Sulphate of Iron, is one which many people ask about. It helps ericaceous plants which are struggling to grow stronger and produce flowers. Apply in early spring.

Sulphate of Ammonia is a fast-acting nitrogen supplement, suitable for greening up plants.
Sulphate of Potash is high in potassium promoting flowers and fruit, as well as helping the plant to resist pests and diseases.

Superphosphate helps to ripen fruit, and can be applied throughout the summer.
Epsom salts are high in magnesium, which is needed for healthy foliage and is also very good for tomatoes.
Fish blood and bone is a general fertiliser, but is “natural” as opposed to chemical.
Bonemeal is also a natural product, and is excellent for root growth.

Garden lime is also an important additive, especially if you have very acidic soil. Slightly alkaline conditions are especially good for cabbage varieties, as it prevents clubroot.
As always, read the labels, and when you can use organic products.

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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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