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Potatoes are a fantastic beginner’s crop

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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!

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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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