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How will the garden grow?

DUBLIN — My dispatch on how the Irish are renewing their relationship with the potato and other home-grown vegetables had a personal resonance.

For months my wife Zhanna and I have been battling to reclaim an impenetrable patch of thorn trees and ferns behind our home in the Dublin mountains and make it into a garden. It involved cutting down 75 trees and then hiring a excavator to dig the stumps out of the ground.

Just as big a problem was the removal of the fern roots, which spread out deep underground like a mass of telephone cables. Every fork-full of earth brought up a tangle of the tubular roots, which eventually made a pile ten feet high. They dried out after a couple of days and we were able to get rid of them in a rather smoky bonfire.

Luckily the area was free of stones, indicating that it had been used for cultivation sometime in the distant past. If you ever wonder why Ireland has so many dry-stone walls, it is because farmers had to do something to dispose of the stones that litter much of the high ground.

Our next step was the erection of a high fence to keep out the sika deer that wander down from the forest and strip bare most unprotected bushes and flowers, though they dislike daffodils so we have daffodils everywhere around the house.

Finally, last weekend, we began planting in our new garden, starting with three rows of potatoes. It was tough work getting to this point but we loved it.

After a dry week the earth was rather dusty and for the first time in Ireland we found ourselves hoping it would rain. And it did, the next day. Soon we will be praying that it will stop.