I hope you have all survived the storm with not too much damage. We
were lucky here – there wasn’t even a breeze and not even a chance of
making a snowball. The children are so jealous of all the snowman and
igloos around the country.
My journey is just around the corner – just another few days before I
travel to the Netherlands and meet up with all the Nuffield Scholars
from around the world. The Australians and the New Zealanders have
probably the highest share, but there are Welsh, Scottish, Canadians,
Americans, Brazilians, Kenyans, Dutch, French and probably lots more.
We’ll meet for one week and then I’ll travel on with 7 scholars to
various destinations. I’m hoping to do a travel blog –in case anyone is
interested. In case you are interested in my travels of vegetable
plant discoveries – I’ll do a regular blog on our website https://greenvegetableseeds.com/category/blog/
- starting from mid March as well as regular tweets on #KLaitenberger.
I might also do a few videos and put them on my you tube channel: https://greenvegetableseeds.com/videos/
Onion Sets and Shallots
We now have excellent onion and shallot sets in stock.
A few practical tips:
Onion sets can be planted from mid March to mid April. They require a
reasonably fertile soil which should be quite firm. If planted into
loose soil – I think they are more prone to bolting as the roots can’t
get hold of the soil. Obviously I don’t mean a compacted soil. After
preparing the seedbed I lay a board of timber (about 3m long) on the bed
and stand on it to lightly and evenly compress the soil.
Onion sets are planted half into the soil and the tops sticking out.
Birds are a problem in many gardens and the sets may need to be
protected with a bird netting for the first few weeks until shoots
appear. The spacing is 10cm in the row and 30cm between the rows.
As you all heard many times – I’m proud to live in this beautiful county
Leitrim. Leitrim has great environmental campaigners. Yet again it’s
the small counties that are being targeted, but people in Leitrim can
fight back. They won the important battle against fracking and now they
are fighting against another invader - Sitka spruce monoculture. Just
to be clear – they are not opposed to trees – they are opposed to the
large-scale planting of one non-native species all over the county.
Leitrim is probably the most affected part of the country, but others
are nearly as badly affected.
The organisation “Save Leitrim” states that over 14,000ha (34,595acres)
of Leitrim land is now under commercial forestry. That’s 34.5 million
Sitka spruce trees. In 2017 alone 1710 acres were planted and forever
taken out of agricultural production. Apparently 50% of Leitrim is
already under Sitka spruce plantation.
I would campaign for an immediate stop of all monoculture plantings of
forest trees and especially non-native Sitka spruce. Have we not
learned anything? Any monoculture experiment will eventually fail as
the potato disaster has shown in the 1840’s. Already there are problems
with pests in Sitka spruce plantations which require regular spraying
and dipping of plants in dangerous pesticides (Cypermethrin)
Coillte was granted five-year licence to spray Cypermethrin in forests.
These pose a serious threat to wildlife, the environment and human
Generally forests are the most natural habitat where no inputs are
needed – this no longer applies. According to Save Leitrim, Coillte
has used 105,000 litres of pesticide.
Andrew St Ledger (Spokesperson of Environemntal Pillar): “It is high
time to move away from this outdated unsustainable forestry model to a
more natural forest model based on our native trees which are not
dependant on hazardous chemicals”.
This has to stop and thanks to the great people of “Save Leitrim” it will stop.
It’s an example on how global warming measures have gone wrong. These
forests now pose an environmental threat (due to pesticide use and soil
acidification) rather than acting as a carbon sink.
There is a far better alternative. We could plant community
woodlands/forests of mixed native trees.
The ultimate, however, would
be the large scale adoption of agroforestry. Agroforestry is the
marriage of agriculture and forestry. Instead of the mass planting of
Sitka spruce why not incentivise farmers to plant 10% of their land in
native woodlands in strategic places (even to absorb flood water)? Can
you imagine how beautiful Leitrim would look compared to the green
Sitka spruce patches littering the landscape?
Please follow “Save Leitrim” on Social Media.
Fitzgerald’s Nursery, Co. Kilkenny
I recently met up with Pat Fitzgerald from Fitzgerald’s nursery in Co.
Kilkenny. This was such an amazing experience for me to meet someone
with so much integrity and passion for plants. As it happens we share
the same passion – the Lost Crops of the Incas. Only one of Inca crops
made it to world-wide fame and the rest of them are still largely
undiscovered with just a few keen hobby gardeners around the world
growing them in their plots. I have grown numerous of them (oca,
mashua, ulluco, yacon, maca) on a very small scale but Pat is miles
ahead. Pat propagates these plants on a large scale – cleans them from
inherent virus diseases (using micro- propagation).
One of his main new enterprises is yacon – one of my favourite Inca
crops - and he plans to grow quite a large area and make it into the
famous yacon syrup. Watch out for this and also read up about it on the
internet. This could be the best sweetener of the future – with no
weight gains attached!
Pat’s biggest success to date though is the Sweet Potato. He propagates
numerous varieties and they will be available in May in all Irish Lidl
stores. They all come from Fitzgerald’s Nursery in Kilkenny. This
leads me on to the next topic:
Sweet Potato and Yacon Gardener’s Trial
I tried growing sweet potatoes in a greenhouse in Bundoran a few years
ago. I was so excited and the plants looked amazing, but when it came
to harvesting – there was nothing but stringy roots underneath. Last
month though – when I visited Kinsale Permaculture college – we dug out
two sweet potato plants in the polytunnel which came from Pat’s nursery
and I was amazed. They yielded at least 5kg of tubers per plant.
Pat offers to send out 4 different sweet potato varieties and 3
different yacon varieties to 6 keen hobby gardeners from different areas
in Ireland. The plants will be sent free of charge but you need to
promise to give us feedback on their performance. So anyone who is
interested in trialling these crops in their tunnel (sweet potato) and
outdoors (yacon) please contact me on this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
within the next couple of days. Please add your address and a few
words about your garden, tunnel, glasshouse etc. We’ll select 6
gardeners and pass the information on to Pat and he’ll post the plants
in May. Unfortunately the trial is limited to 6 people in different
location. For any unlucky applicants - Pat’s sweet potato plants will
be available in May in all Lidl shops around the country.