Growing Vegetable with Klaus Laitenberger
Added: 04/02/14 : 13:15:36
Dear Fellow Gardeners,
Welcome to the February Newsletter and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
February is generally the month when I get out of my gardening
hibernation. Finally there is work to be done. The days are getting
noticeably longer and every day we can notice the beginnings of new
growth and new life.
often think a seed is the most symbolic and miraculous being. If you
think of an annual plant a seed is the end of its lifecycle and at the
same time the beginning of its new life. No scientist has ever managed
to create a new seed in a laboratory. They can tamper with existing
seeds and add or delete some information but they have never managed to
create a seed from scratch. Isn’t it great that there are still some
miracles on earth?
The same miracle happens in a compost pile. We throw in all our
unwanted gardening and household waste – the end of many lifecycles. In
the compost pile new life is constantly being created. I would go as
far as claiming that a good compost is the beginning and a requirement
for new life in the garden.
Keen gardeners can really make a great start in February especially if you have a polytunnel or greenhouse.
In a tunnel you can now plant your first early ‘chitted’ potatoes, sow early carrots and beetroot directly into the ground.
Outdoors you can now plant garlic and Jerusalem artichokes
and sow broad beans directly into the ground as soon as the soil is
workable (when it doesn’t stick to your boots). An excellent variety of
spring sown broad bean is Witkeim.
you have failed to grow decent sized garlic in past simply increase the
spacing to 20cm x 25cm between cloves. It’s very simple: the wider
the spacing, the bigger the bulbs.
If you have a heating bench (or a large windowsill in your house) you
can start off a lot of crops that will later be planted outside or into
the tunnel. Crops that will be planted outside later include leeks
and very early cabbage. Crops that will be planted in a tunnel include
tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines and these ones you’ll need
to spoil them with warmth.
You can also sow lettuce, scallions, dill, coriander,
chervil, oriental salads, kohlrabi, early cabbage, spinach for planting
in a tunnel about 4-5 weeks after sowing. It’s great to get an early
and reliable crop from a tunnel.
If you sow an autumn variety ‘Hannibal’ and a winter variety ‘Bluegreen Winter’
in February (on the same date) you will get leeks from August right
through to next February. The autumn type will crop from August to
November and the winter type from October until February.
Watch your store:
I noticed last week that my parsnips, beetroot and potatoes are
starting to shoot and form white roots. This should only happen around
March. So I sorted them and rubbed off the shoots and roots and bury
them again in a soil clamp in my greenhouse. If you have a large
fridge you can place them in a plastic carrier bag in the fridge and
they’ll keep for months.
Update on my Huegelbeet:
Last week I made a new Huegelbeet in Croghan Organic Garden. I know
I was cheating a bit. I didn’t get the physical exercise that I
needed because I had plenty of help. With 8 people it was completed
within 2 hours. If you missed the previous article on how to make a
Huegelbeet have a look again in the January Newsletter.
Gardening and Wildlife Projects for Schools and Families
recently received some funding from Local Agenda 21 (Co. Leitrim) to
produce a publication on ‘Gardening and Wildlife Projects for Schools
and Families’. It’s available for free to download. If you have
children or are involved with schools please have a look at it. There
are a number of projects and games that will hopefully give children and
families an incentive to spend a few constructive hours outdoors.
- How to make a wildlife hotel
- Creating a tea herb garden
- Making a blindfold path
- Lazy gardening with seaweed
The publication can be downloaded if you click on the link below:
Gardening and Wildlife Projects for Schools
Gardening Courses at Milkwood
month we’ll start our first gardening course in Milkwood Farm, Co.
Leitrim – our home garden. The garden is about 15m x 30m and the
greenhouse is 6.5m x 13m. We are more or less self-sufficient in all
vegetables when in season. It only takes about 2-4 hours per week to
The first course takes place on Saturday 22nd March:
Beginners’ hands-on Gardening Course.
It’s a very practical workshop on how to start and maintain your
vegetable garden. This course will involve digging, sowing, planting,
making beds and composting. It is aimed at the complete novice to
vegetable gardening. During the day we’ll be sowing seeds indoors;
we’ll plant garlic, onions, shallot, early potatoes and broad beans
outside. You’ll also get some useful tips on how to prevent pests
and how to manage your weeds.
The course runs from 10am – 4pm and costs €65. The course is limited to 15 people and can be booked and reserved per email: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on other courses can be found on:
Coffee and scones will be served on arrival and a home-cooked lunch will be served.
is nothing simpler than growing your own apples and now is the time to
plant them. If you choose good varieties, a suitable rootstock and
plant them properly you will get delicious fruits for many years – with
hardly any work.
There are a few things you need to know:
- You can’t just have a single apple tree – you need a suitable
partner for pollination. There are three pollination groups: A, B
and C (A being the earliest flowering and C the latest flowering types).
The most unlucky scenario would be to have one of each type and they
miss each other. Two trees of one pollination group that flower around
the same time are ideal partners. Crab apples are perfect pollinators
for apples as they flower for a long period of time.
- I have mentioned this already in a previous article but it is very
important: Do not – under any circumstance – buy Golden Delicious,
Gala or Cox’s Orange Pippin trees. They don’t perform well in Ireland
and are very susceptible to scab and need to be sprayed regularly with a
fungicide. Unfortunately garden centres still predominantly sell
these varieties to unsuspecting gardeners. My favourite varieties are
Discovery, Katy (or Katya), Charles Ross, James Grieve, Elstar and Red
Boskoop (cooker/sour eater). It’s really worthwhile researching a
little bit and find out which varieties do best in your own area. The
Irish Seed Savers Association in Co. Clare will also be very helpful in
recommending their best heritage varieties.
- Apple trees are available as bare-root trees until early March.
They cost about half the amount compared to containerised plants.
Bare-root simply means that the trees have been dug up from the nursery,
packed in a bag with damp peat.
Some people dig out a large planting hole and replace the old soil
with excellent improved and fertilised soil. Obviously the apple trees
thrive in such a soil but what happens when they reach the end. Do
you think they are willing to leave this cosy environment to grow out
into the surrounding poorer soil?
I usually dig a planting hole about 60cm in diameter and about 40cm
deep and mix some old garden compost with the existing soil. The next
step is to drive in the stake firmly and then place the tree next to the
stake. Every tree has a pretty face so you should turn it around a
few times to see where it looks best. The stake should be on the side
of the prevailing wind. When you plant make sure that the soil level
is like it was in the nursery. You should never bury the grafting
union. First loosely fill the soil around and make sure it fills all
spaces. Every now and again firm the soil with your heels. When
finished fix a tie near the top of the stake. If you have a problem
with rabbits or hares you’ll need to protect the trunk with a tree
Every spring you can spread a mulch of compost or composted manure
around the base of the tree but make sure it doesn’t touch the tree
Excellent Gardening Websites
I first came across Nicky Kyle last year when she organised the
Totally Terrific Tomato Festival. I always admire people that have a
passion for edible crops and get excited about trying out different
varieties. Nicky has a wealth of knowledge and has a most informative
website and write regular blogs. Have a look at:
Another very inspirational website run by a well-known herbalist is
Co. Cork – Nikki Darrel. I recently took the MSc Horticulture students
to a field visit to her small garden that surrounds a restored church
with medicinal plants spilling over onto the adjacent graveyard. I
must admit that my first impression of the garden was a bit
disappointing but as soon as she showed us around and breathed life into
all the ‘weeds’ that we vegetable gardeners want to get rid off – I was
“The problems we face today cannot be solved by the minds that created them.” Albert Einstein
If you have found the newsletters interesting I’d be delighted if you
could send it on to other vegetable gardeners or get them to sign up
for it on my website.