Dear Fellow Gardeners,
August is a lovely month in the garden. You can sit back and reap the rewards from it. So many crops are ready now with the endless gluts of courgettes, beans, peas, perpetual spinach etc. All the hard work of spring has now reached fruition.
Watch out for blight!
This is the time of year when your potatoes are in real danger from blight. If your potato leaves are blighted already there is no cure apart from cutting off the leaves and disposing them. At least that way the blight won’t travel down the stem into the tubers. You should then leave the potatoes in the ground for a few weeks so the skins will harden. The best idea is to dig them as required in the kitchen. It’s better to save what you have.
If your potatoes have blight already – it is too late to spray and you need to act quickly to cut off infested leaves – initially only parts of the leaves that are affected but then all the leaves at ground level. If some of the potatoes are exposed to the light you should cover them with soil.
There are still a few vegetables you can sow in August: lettuce (especially loose-leaf types or Little Gem), scallions, radishes, baby turnips, annual spinach. August is also a good month to sow all your winter salads. They prefer to grow in the latter half of the year. The best ones are rocket, mizuna, mustard ‘Red Frills’ and ‘Green Frills’, pak choy, claytonia, tatsoi and corn salad. If you wish to grow over-wintering spring cabbage now is the time to sow it.
They are available on https://www.greenvegetableseeds.com
Gardening Weekend at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara
Date: 9th – 11th October 2019
With: Anja Gohlke (Head Gardener Kylemore Abbey) and Klaus Laitenberger
Ironically the Renvyle spring gardening course was the last course I gave this year before the lockdown and it will be the first again after it.
This gardening weekend course is usually booked out very quickly and it could be that numbers will be restricted in 2020 so early booking is essential
Tel: 095 46100
There will be talks and workshops on organic vegetable, fruit and herb growing by myself and Anja.
Weekend Price is E215.00pp and includes 2 Nights accommodation with breakfast each morning, 1 Dinner in the award winning restaurant, 1 Bar Food Meal.
Booking is through Renvyle House only.
Summer green manures
As soon as you have harvested and cleared a bed you should consider replanting it or sowing a green manure crop.
Soil should not be left bare for prolonged periods. In nature you will never find bare soil unless it has turned into a desert. After a forest fire, plants such as the fireweed (rosebay willowherb) will quickly recolonize the ground. A bare soil is bad for the soil structure, the soil life and it will quickly lose its nutrients.
So anytime your beds are empty and you don’t have any follow on crops ready, you can sow a green manure crop. All you do is to prepare a nice weed free seed bed and sprinkle (broadcast) green manure seeds at the recommended seed rate onto the beds and rake them in.
My favourite summer green manure is phacelia. The German name for this plant is ‘Bee’s Friend’. It’s a fantastic and very pretty plant that attracts a myriad of beneficial insect including hoverflies, lacewings, beetles and obviously bees.
The purpose of a summer green manure is to quickly cover the soil and the growing plant will absorb and use the available nutrients that are still in the soil and thus prevent them from being washed out. A green manure should ideally be dug into the soil just before flowering, but with phacelia you have to make an exception and let it flower. It will be slightly less beneficial for the soil but absolutely fantastic for wildlife. Studies have shown the massive increase of carabid beetle populations under a phacelia crop and these beetles eat slugs!
Other summer green manures include summer vetch and buckwheat. I would stay away from all the brassica green manures such as mustard, rape etc. as they would interfere with your crop rotation.
You can sow phacelia until the middle of September. From then onwards you should use winter green manures.
Climbing French bean recipe:
Here is a great way of using up the glut of French beans.
My favourite way to eat them is as a salad. This is my mum’s recipe.
Top and tail the beans (about 50), chop into 2inch long sections and steam for about 5-10 minutes until tender but not too soft. Chop half an onion very finely.
The dressing is half a teaspoon of organic bouillon (the Swiss one with the orange lid – I can’t remember the name), dissolved in half a cup of hot water, then add 1 tablespoon of white cider vinegar and 3 tablespoons of sunflower or olive oil, mix and then pour over the chopped onion. Let it sit for a while and when the beans have cooled down add them to it. Add salt and pepper. It’s even better the following day.
I only recently discovered Podcasts and had to get my friend to set it up for me. It’s one of the best new developments in my life. I’m still travelling a lot doing advisory work in Offaly, Kilkenny and Cork and podcasts are a great way of learning. I can pick whatever I want to listen to and learn.
One of the key things I learned is the link between soil health and gut health and how good gut health (and diversity) is the key to human health. The old pioneers of the organic farming movement – Lady Eve Balfour and Sir Albert Howard already knew this, but now there is scientific proof. We urgently need to enliven our soils again and eat health giving organic food – ideally fresh from your garden.
My favourite podcasts are with Dr Zach Bush and he compared a freshly harvested tomato with a shop bought one. I’m embarrassed that I never knew about it. A fresh tomato has thousands of little hairs growing out of its skin which harbour a myriad of health promoting microorganisms which are so important for our gut health. These hairs are not there any longer if the tomato is stored and washed.
I bought myself a good hand lens and it opened up a new world – many vegetables and fruits have these little hairs on the skin.
Dr. Zach Bush is also a major advocate in banning glyphosate (RoundUp) as it destroys soil life and human gut health.