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Potatoes are a fantastic beginner’s crop




By Debby Looney, gardening expert

Every year I do an article about potatoes, which might seem repetitive, but there are always gardeners new to this.

It seems that this year there are more people than ever growing their own veg and spuds, maybe the joy of it, or the situation in Eastern Europe is the reason. In any case, I think planting potatoes is one of the most rewarding crops, for adults and especially children. You don’t need a lot of land to grow spuds, they can even be grown in potato bags or pots - or tyres stacked on top of each other.

There are also great pots available with a basket in them which you can lift out to watch the progress!

Seed potatoes are available from February onwards, but it is too cold to plant them out then. To give them a head start, a technique called chitting is employed. To chit, simply take your seed potatoes and put them on a cardboard tray, ensuring they do not touch. Alternatively use the molded side of an egg box. Place in a cool but bright spot, free from frost. They will sprout, but this is exactly what you want. You can start to chit potatoes from the beginning of February onwards, for planting out in mid March.

There are three main types of potatoes; first earlies, second earlies and maincrop. The difference between them is planting out times and harvesting times.

First early varieties are:

Duke of York, Orla, Sharpes express, Casablanca and Arran Pilot. They are planted out from March, but need to be protected from from frost. Plant them 30cm apart, 60cm between rows and 12cm deep. Harvest in June.

Second early varieties are:

British Queen, Homeguard, Nicola and Charlotte. Plant out from March, again protecting from frost, 30cm apart, 60cm between rows and 12cm deep. Harvest in July. Maincrop varieties are Rooster, Kerr Pinks, Setanta, Golden Wonder, Maris Piper and many more. Plant out from the beginning of April. Plant 40cm apart, 75cm between rows and 12cm deep. Harvest from August onwards.

Earthing up – what is it?

It is done when the potato plants are about 20-30cm tall. Pile soil loosely around the stems. This encourages potatoes to form higher up the plant than they would normally, increasing your yield quite substantially. With maincrop varieties it can be done twice.

Blight is caused by fungal spores which are airborne and particularly prevalent in warm humid weather. There is usually a blight warning given on weather forecasts. First symptoms are yellowing foliage, followed by dying foliage. Quickly after that the potatoes will rot. To prevent blight, you can spray with Copper Mixture. It works by sealing the leaves with a layer of copper, preventing the fungus from taking hold. If the disease takes hold, cut away all the foliage, take it away and if possible burn it. Leave the potatoes in the ground for several days, and hopefully they will not be affected.

There are blight resistant potatoes, such as Sarpo Mira. These are not as prone to getting the disease. Planting first and second earlies is also a good way to avoid blight, as they are usually harvested before the blight season begins.

If you are starting a vegetable garden, potatoes are a fantastic beginner’s crop. They loosen the soil in preparation for future crops, but they are also more or less trouble free and quick growing. They are an excellent crop when gardening with children, large enough to handle, resilient to being stood on in the garden, and the surprise young children get when you dig up that one small spud which has magically become a bucket full is something to see!



Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes



Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language.

The school signed up to Language Sampler scheme as part of the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ initiative in primary schools organised by Post Primary languages Ireland in 2021. This is the school’s third year running the module.

Hélène Olivier-Courtney, the school’s French teacher and director of French For All Killarney School of French, covers ten schools in Kerry over the three terms.

The success of the initiative relies on an all-school approach and the active involvement of class teachers and management.

“The whole staff in Fossa certainly helped make this new journey a special and enjoyable experience for the children as we learnt French through art, songs, games and food tasting! This year, we also organised a catwalk on our last day. Our sixth-class students will have such a head start before secondary school and most importantly will have develop curiosity interest and love for the language,” said Hélène.


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Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate



By Chris Davies

Last Friday’s Dublin Riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone. It has been bubbling under the surface of Irish society for a good number of years now. The actions of a small minority last week was a culmination of years of racism, hatred and misinformation shared online by far-right groups.

Late on Friday night a disturbing WhatsApp voice note was doing the rounds on social media where a far-right actor could clearly be heard encouraging violence on the streets of Dublin. 

“’Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up…Any foreigner, just kill them”

Watching the Riots unfold on social media brought me back to when I was working in Dublin a number of years back. My morning commute from Skerries to the city centre involved a dart to Connolly Station followed by a short trip on the Luas to the Jervis. Every week, without fail, I would witness at least one racial slur or attack on someone who didn’t fit the narrow minded view of what an Irish person should look, dress or talk like. I don’t know if it is the eerie silence of public transport that seems to amplify the situation, but that’s where I found it to be most common. The abuse was usually perpetrated by a group of youths or someone who was clearly under the influence of drink or drugs. The victims were always of colour, often dressed smartly enough to presume they were on their way, or coming from work. A far cry from the perpetrators who you could tell were roaming aimlessly around the city looking for trouble.

While shameful to admit, I would often look on and watch the abuse unfold, only to spend the rest of my work day thinking about the poor person who was told to “F*&K off back to your own country”. I would sit at my desk questioning why I didn’t step in and say something. There were one or two occasions where I did step in and call it out, but not nearly often enough.  

This disgusting behaviour is much more visible in our cities. Since moving back to Killarney I wouldn’t witness as much direct abuse on the streets but working with the Killarney Advertiser I would be tuned in to local news and some of the comments I read on our social platforms are far worse than anything I witnessed during my time in Dublin.  

There is a significant group of people in Ireland that I would call the ‘silent majority’. We are not as outspoken on issues we care about. We tend to observe and consume the news quietly, and only speak of our support or disgust on certain issues in close circles, too afraid we might offend someone. The problem with this is that we are leaving these far-right groups unchallenged, to become louder, more aggressive and more hostile as seen last week. 

The past week Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have been busy in the media expressing no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris but I would suggest that there is a large percentage of the Irish population that bears some of the responsibility. We witness racism in our communities and online every day and we need to start speaking up and calling it out. 

On the issue of immigration in Killarney, there is no doubt resources are being stretched and our tourism industry is suffering as a result of an influx of immigration. Locals have also raised concerns in relation to the placement of so many male international protection applicants in one setting and we only have to look back on the incident in Hotel Killarney last year where a number of men were involved in a harrowing stabbing incident to see how that played out.  

However, being concerned around immigration is not the same as anti-immigration. It is important to raise these issues with local representatives and Kerry TD’s but also to separate ourselves from far-right groups who are only interested in encouraging violence.  

The anarchy we witnessed last week should never be the answer and research shows it is completely unnecessary. Harvard University have looked at hundreds of protests over the last century, and found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns and that it only takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

Let’s continue to protest peacefully for issues we believe in, but stand up and speak out against people and movements in our community that incite hate and violence. 

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