|Dear Fellow Gardeners,
It appears that we are getting well compensated for the miserable wet
winter we had. Summer is here and more good weather is on the way.
There is really no place more beautiful than Ireland in the sun – with
the cow parsley in the hedgerows and the hawthorn in full bloom.
I’m still travelling throughout the country inspecting organic farms and
unfortunately I still notice lots of farmers and even County Councils
spraying Roundup weedkiller along hedgerows and along roadsides. I
always think it scars our beautiful landscapes with brown scorched
patches. Spraying Roundup makes no sense – the grass looks brown and
horrible for a month or two and then weeds will grow through again. Why
not leave the beautiful wildflowers as food for birds and butterflies
or if you want a tidier look simply strim or mow.
I’ll stop giving out about it – at least for now – because I have hopes
that the EU will finally ban glyphosate (the active ingredient in
Roundup). Glyphosate has been linked to cancer in last year’s WHO
(World Health Organisation) report.
What to do in June
Apart from a few more sowings and plantings there is relatively little
to do in the garden apart from maintaining your crops. Keep hoeing and
weeding. Your plants are still at a vulnerable stage where they can
very easily get swamped by weeds. Thin all your direct sown vegetables
when they are still quite small to the required spacing. If you neglect
thinning you will only be able to harvest tiny and often mis-shaped
vegetables. You should not replant thinnings especially from root
crops. During dry spells you may have to water your outdoor
Outdoor sowing: You can still sow carrots, beetroot and peas if you
missed the sowing in May. And you can continue with successional
sowings of radish, turnip and annual spinach.
Indoor sowing: You can still sow kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, Florence fennel, oriental salads, lettuce, and scallions into modular trays. June is a good time to sow your purple sprouting broccoli.
You can plant out your late leeks, winter cabbages, Brussels sprouts,
calabrese, kale, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, lettuce, scallions, celery,
celeriac, spinach and chard. Early June is also the best time to plant
out your courgettes, squash, pumpkin, sweetcorn, French beans and
runner beans after they have been hardened off. Only plant them out if
it is warm. They would benefit from a cloche for the first few weeks.
Finally you can get a reasonable harvest from your garden. You may have
some lettuce, scallions, radish, turnip, early cabbage, early potatoes
(towards the end of the month), early peas, broad beans, spinach and
Watch out for the cabbage white butterflies. When you see them flying
around you should check the undersides of any brassica leaves and look
out for the small yellow eggs which turn into caterpillars and ruin your
plants. The earlier you spot and remove them the
Good old cabbages and kale
Cabbages have grown a little out of fashion in the last few decades but
there appears to be a slight revival of this ancient vegetable which has
been cultivated for over 4,000 years in Asia. The revival of this
vegetable is partly due to its various attributed health benefits and
its slimming effect.
Kale on the other hand is nowadays one of the most fashionable vegetable
of all. Sports fanatics and health conscious people drink kale juice
and there are even kale crisps on the market. When I first came to
Ireland in 1999 there was no possibility of even selling a single bunch
Kale is by far the easiest of the brassicas to grow and it has the
massive benefit that you can harvest a few leaves every week for many
months. Five kale plants are more than sufficient for an average
family. My favourite varieties are Nero di Toscana, Red Russian and Redbor F1.
I recently got some kale seeds from Cloughjordan. They crossed a Red
Russian with Nero di Toscana. I have the seedlings growing already and
can’t wait to see the outcome.
Cabbages thrive in Irish soil conditions – a cool and damp climate is
ideal. In Ireland cabbages can be grown nearly all year round.
Potato breeding update
We have about 20 different varieties of potatoes growing in Bundoran
from which we’ll collect seeds to breed a new variety. They are all
thriving at the moment. I’m curious to see how the other two trial
plots in Kenmare and Ballina are doing.
I already saved seeds from last year’s crop of potatoes and sowed them
in February, pricked them out in March, potted on in April and planted
them out last week. I planted about 40 well-developed plants in 9cm
pots. Each one of them is a new variety. When I went back yesterday I
was horrified. Slugs had devastated about half of my new breeding
programme. Twenty potentially new excellent varieties have been wiped
out by the hunger of some poor slugs. Even the growth points of the
plants were eaten so there is not even hope.
After my initial shock and despair, I saw the positive side. Why did the slugs eat some but not the other plants?
The obvious answer is that they prefer some more than others. In
scientific terms – some are more resistant to slugs compared to others.
Breeding for slug resistance could be a really important criteria as
organic growers haven’t got the same methods of control as conventional
growers. So my mishap could work out fine after all.
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) – Immortality Plant
I bought this plant last year and planted it in the corner of a
greenhouse in Bundoran. It’s a vigorous climbing plant (3m tall)
belonging to the Pumpkin Family (Cucurbitaceae). It originates from a
remote area in China where people enjoy a very long and healthy life.
Health problems such as cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses
are unknown in this region. This is attributed to this herb and thus it
is also known as the “Immortality Herb”.
It’s a perennial plant which is winter hardy and can be grown outdoors
in any type of soil. Growing the plants in pots is also a possibility
and the pots can be moved indoors in autumn to prolong the harvest. The
growth dies back in winter and the plant survives as rhizomes
Apparently the plant is also very easy to propagate using layering of
branches and cuttings. Maybe we’ll have some available next year.
The leaves – especially the new shoots – are used to make a herbal tea.
Simply harvest about 10 fresh leaves and pour boiling water over the
leaves and let the tea steep for 3 minutes. Apparently if you drink
this daily it helps with heart problems, high blood pressure, problems
with the immune system and also for various women’s problems – thus its
other name “Lady’s Ginseng”.
Organic Vegetable production: Join Klaus
Laitenberger for a one day session on organic vegetable production and
controlling weeds, pests and disease organically. Klaus will take an
in-depth look at various crops and problems and offer a range of
solution s that will help you develop a healthy and productive vegetable
plot. Locations: 23rd of July Springmount Garden Centre, Gorey, Wexford and 30th of July Croghan Organic Gardens, Croghan, Roscommon. Start time:10am, Course cost is €30.00 per person. (limited free places for those who are unemployed.
For more NOTS courses on other subjects throughout the country have a look at their website: www.nots.ie
Enjoy the summer.