August Gardening Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

I hope that everyone in Ireland has got sufficient rain by now.  We were much luckier up here in the North West.  We also had a long dry period and the grass and crops slowed down a bit but it was nothing compared to what I’ve seen throughout the country.  I’ve seen one area in Kerry where all the grass was burnt while the docks with their deep systems flourished .

Let’s hope we’ll learn from this disaster and are able to make the necessary changes.  It can also make a case of organic or regenerative farming. Organic farms and gardens were much less affected by drought for two reasons.  Organic farms are generally not overstocked.  They produce whatever the land can give.  Conventional farms use artificial fertilisers and force the land to produce more and more with the disastrous side-effect of losing organic matter from the soil.  This is the second reason – organic farms and especially organic gardens contain more organic matter due to the simple reason that it is applied regularly in the form of composted manures and composts.  It’s  a well known fact that the organic matter in the soil can hold onto to moisture and to prevent it from drying out completely.


My Nuffield Travels

I’m now writing some articles in the Irish Examiner about my agricultural travels – if anyone is interested you can have a look:

Holland – Italy

Washington – Texas


Gardening Course

Saturday 8th September 2018 – to be confirmed

Venue: Walled Garden near Belfast

If anyone is interested or would like more information,  please email me on and I’ll forward the details to the organiser.


In the Garden

Layering cucumbers and climbing French beans

I’m advising a young grower (Colman Power) in Cork and a couple of weeks ago we layered the cucumbers and climbing French beans in the polytunnel.  Both crops reached the top of the tunnel and stopped producing at the bottom.  We untied the string (which is attached to an overhead wire) and tied additional string to it.  Then we dropped the plant to the ground and only left about one meter of growth upright.  After that we cut most of the leaves from the stem  and buried the part of the stem which lies on the ground well very well decomposed compost.

I’ve done this frequently with cucumbers and the yield literally doubles – the plants green up again quickly and with the new feed from the compost they get a new lease of life.  I’ve never done it with climbing French beans though so I hope they’ll be okay.


Yacon and sweet potato trial.

Together with Pat Fitzgerald from Fitzgerald’s Nursery in Kilkenny we carry out a gardener’s trial of yacon and sweet potatoes.  Many gardeners offered to take part, but we could only select 10.  We would like to ask them to take a photo of the crops now so we can compare the crops and please keep records on planting time and any other maintenance.  Many thanks.

Potato Breeding

My potato breeding experiment is in its third year now.   We selected about 10 varieties that were grown from true seed and they are now bulked up with about 10 to 15 plants each.  Some of them grow really well despite the dry weather while others are struggling.  That’s all part of the selection process.  I’d hope to get one or two delicious new varieties out of this trial.


2016:  Crossing potato varieties and collecting seeds

2017: Growing potatoes from seed and selecting the best varieties (over 300)

2018: Growing the ten best varieties on two sites (Bundoran and Innishannon) and further selection


Happy Gardening