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Planning and preparing a vegetable garden




By Debby Looney, gardening expert

The glorious sunshine we have had has really inspired me to get stuck in and start preparing a new vegetable garden for next year.


I, as many of the readers of this column, have had several attempts and failures at vegetable gardening, and I have decided 2022 is going to be different. So I have begun from scratch, on a smaller scale than before, and armed with a plan.

The ground, though wet, is not as saturated as it could be, so I thought it a good time to start off my raised beds for veggie planting. As my topsoil is fairly shallow - only about 20cm in many places - and I have a solid clay underneath, I decided to dig out paths using that topsoil to raise my beds. I have put weed suppressant on the clay path, run a drainage pipe along the path and put a good layer of gravel on top. I am determined to have a sound structure to work from, so ease of use must come first! My paths are wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow and the corners of my beds are rounded to make it easier to manoeuvre said wheelbarrow.

My beds are 16ft long by 4ft - as that is the length timber comes in, and who wants to waste time and energy sawing? In the past, I felt I had to use every bit of space in the bed to grow something but I have placed stepping stones at handy intervals throughout, rather than standing on the soil. These are small things, but in the haste to buy seeds and start growing, I have always made a sort of a slap dash job of the actual ground.


Next, I built three new compost bins. I have a large garden, and, to be honest, the compost bins available to buy are just too small. Previously, I have used the three pallet system - which is basically a bay made out of three pallets nailed together. Five pallets will give you two bays, and so on. I am a firm believer in the need for three bays. Bay 1: where current matter is deposited. Bay 2: untouched and composting for a year. Bay 3: the oldest, which should be useable compost. For me, this corresponds to a three year cycle, as I find my compost takes that long to develop. The one thing which I have changed to this system is that I have used reconstituted decking boards rather than pallets. It looks so much neater, and will be far more sturdy and durable.

Unfortunately my garden has become riddled with a most tenacious and prolific weed, called Woundwort. There are several types, all identifiable by the square, hairy stems, purple flower spikes and slightly pungent smell. I don’t know where mine came from as I have not seen them in my area, but it really likes where it is. Not realising its true nature, I left it alone last year. To be fair to it, pollinators, especially bumblebees, absolutely love it and land on it in amazing numbers. This year, the original square meter has expanded to at least 10 square meters, and as it grows easily from seed, it is absolutely everywhere now. Oh, and did I mention its underground network of rhizomes? Take care, fellow gardener, if you see it, burn it! This area has been painstakingly dug up, as many roots as possible removed, and covered in black polythene. And so it will remain for at least a year - I am not taking chances!

The rest of my beds I have covered with a thick layer of compost and old farmyard manure. To prevent weeds establishing before we even get started, I have covered each bed with weed suppressant - from experience I know that our mild winters will not stop some weeds from growing.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have included a good few seating possibilities - as I am beginning to feel my age... though, apart from age, sometimes it is just wonderful to sit and plan, or ponder, or just watch nature do its thing – that is part of being a gardener, don’t you agree?

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Five questions to ask yourself before buying a stock

By Michael O’Connor, When it comes to investing, nothing is certain. There are no perfect stocks to buy because there’s no way of predicting the future with 100% accuracy. […]




By Michael O’Connor,

When it comes to investing, nothing is certain.

There are no perfect stocks to buy because there’s no way of predicting the future with 100% accuracy.

The truth is, investing is hard, and building a portfolio of top stocks that beat the market is something that even financial professionals have trouble doing consistently.

For most people, investing in index funds is the perfect hands-off approach, providing broad exposure to the stock market at a very low fee. Even my own personal portfolio is made up of roughly 70% ETFs despite the fact I invest in the market for a living.

But I believe some stock picking is a good strategy for many hands-on people.

Taking a small portion of your overall portfolio and diligently selecting a small number of companies to invest in gives you an opportunity to learn about the investing process and fully understand the businesses you are investing in, which helps to build conviction in your positions.

From a psychological standpoint “collector’s instinct” kicks in, enabling people to participate and invest more money over time.

Lastly, for Irish investors, there are tax benefits to consider. If you invest in individual stocks, you are taxed at the CGT rate of 33%, and the first €1,270 of your gains are exempt from CGT each year. When investing in index funds or ETFs, you are taxed at the exit tax rate of 41% with no annual exemption.

For those interested in picking individual stocks, here are five questions you should ask yourself before investing in any company.

Do I understand the business?

Too many people invest in businesses they don’t understand because it ‘sounds good’. If you have no idea how the company works, you won’t have the conviction needed to hold onto the stock when an inevitable downturn comes.

Can the balance sheet withstand severe, temporary adversity?

This seems obvious, but so many people invest in companies without understanding how much money a company holds and who they owe money to. Economic cycles are guaranteed. You must ensure that the company has enough cash-on-hand to avoid becoming obsolete when activity slows.

Will the company benefit from long-term trends?

Make sure the company will remain relevant into the future. If the stock is cheap now, it may be cheap for a reason.

Is the company enjoying profitable growth?

Not growth at all costs, but a combination of sustainable growth and value. All this information can be found online at sites like

What are the risk factors?

Is the company trying something new and untested? If yes, who are its competitors and how successful are they? If other players are more established, this company may have a tough time breaking into the market.


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Ballyspillane staff open up mental health conversation

By Michelle Crean “Hello, How Are You?” that’s the question staff at Ballyspillane Community Centre will be asking next week as part of a new campaign. It’s all in partnership […]




By Michelle Crean

“Hello, How Are You?” that’s the question staff at Ballyspillane Community Centre will be asking next week as part of a new campaign.

It’s all in partnership with Mental Health Ireland (MHI) and the centre will host an information/coffee morning on Thursday next (March 30) at 12.30pm at their centre and all are welcome to attend.

The campaign initiated by MHI identifies the need for positive engagement and connections with the people around us.

It asks people to engage in open conversations about mental health and prompts us all to ask the question “How Are You?”

The word HELLO is a useful acronym to guide everyone through such conversations, H: Hello, E: Engage positively with the person, L: Listen actively, L: Learn about the person and O: seek options to assist the person if required.

“We all need a listening and compassionate ear sometimes to get us through some challenges in our lives and I think the pandemic has opened a new way of looking at the world, where we can all recognise the challenges that people experience more readily,” Derek O’Leary, Manager of Ballyspillane Community & Family Resource Centre, said.

“Our team here are in the business of supporting families and individuals across the Killarney area and beyond and see the challenges that people face first hand. We also see the positive impact that a caring person can have in such circumstances and this campaign that encourages positive engagement, regarding mental health is a great reminder to us all, the role we can play is assisting others who are struggling.”

Ballyspillane Community & Family Resource Centre provide a suite of support and intervention services including family supports, social prescribing/community connection services and physiotherapeutic services across the Killarney municipal area and beyond.


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