Shane McAuliffe, a renowned pig, beef, and tillage farmer from County Kerry, will feature in the next segment of Gardening Together with Diarmuid Gavin.
The new six-part series, which started on RTÉ One on Friday, July 17th, sees Gavin tap into this explosion of interest in all things green, sharing his passion for gardening with the people of Ireland direct from his own garden sanctuary.
In episode five, which airs at 8pm on RTÉ One tonight (Friday, August 14th), Gavin visits McAuliffe who wants to see a formal, grand garden from his window.
Relatively new gardener
Speaking to That’s Farming, McAuliffe, said: “I first got into gardening a number of years ago and it has developed more year-on-year.”
“I focus on gardening for wildlife, especially with the decline in important pollinators like bees in Ireland. I see the garden as another habitat within the farm.”
Each winter, the family plant hundreds of native trees and hedging on their farms and this year, they dug out wildlife ponds and sowed wild bird cover on two of their farms in Knocknagoshel to help enhance the habitat for the threatened Hen Harrier as they farm within the Hen Harrier SPA.
How an appearance on Gardening Together came about
“I saw the call to apply for Gardening Together back in June on a Friday evening at about 4.30pm and noticed the deadline was 5pm that day.”
“I sent a small email about my garden and my general planting style. The producer rang me straight away asking for videos and on Monday morning Diarmuid’s project manager, James, was down to take more photos and measurements.”
“Then on Tuesday, the TV crew arrived to film me having my first Facetime meeting with Diarmuid.”
“Parknageragh House was built in 1840 by an Anglo-Irish man called William Thompson. My father purchased the house and land in the mid-1990s and restored it to its former glory.”
A number of years ago, he bought a famine pot he saw on the internet and for the last few years, it was sitting in the corner of the stableyard.”
“These were brought to Ireland in 1847 by the Quakers when soup kitchens were set up to feed the people.”
“Each summer since, I had been telling my friends, Patrick Barrett and Martin Murphy, that this was the summer I wanted them to build a wall in the garden for the pot so I could use it as a new feature, I am glad I waited!”
“My brief to Diarmuid was to use this famine pot as a focal point in an area of large lawn I had that I wanted to convert to wildlife friendly planting.”
“Diarmuid came up with the design and it was then up to me to get it done in time for the deadline.” the farmer added.
‘Tough and challenging’
“Originally, I was given a deadline at the start of July, but my design was the biggest project in the series and thankfully, Diarmuid extended it to July 28th.”
“It was very tough and challenging to get it done in time but luckily, I had great support from my friends.”
Diarmuid’s design also included a gate leading into a courtyard so Shane was able to source a cast-iron gate from Blackwater Antiques in Dromtariffe. “It was extremely heavy and that brought its own challenges but thankfully, the skills my friends had in welding and block laying meant that they constructed this part of the build to absolute perfection.”
“I am delighted with the result and I hope it spreads the importance of planting for wildlife and biodiversity.”
“I think during Covid lockdown, many more people got out into their gardens and hopefully, they realised just how rewarding it can be and how positive it is for your mental health.”
“I travel abroad quite a lot each month for work and I love nothing more than flying back into Kerry Airport and going straight for a walk in my gardens to see the changes that have taken place since I was last there.”
“Because of lockdown, I spent so much time in the gardens and I set up a new Facebook page a few months ago to use as a sort of photo diary for myself for the gardens and also hope that others may learn a thing or two about gardening for wildlife.”
Efforts to improve biodiversity
“There can be so much beauty in our very own backyard! Farmers can always use their garden as an example of what they might plan in their farms.”
“Going forward, it is more important than ever for farmers to make the effort to improve biodiversity because after all we are custodians of the land.” he concluded.