Dear Fellow Gardeners,
Welcome to the August Gardening Newsletter.
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, perpetual spinach etc. Spring planted garlic will be ready as soon as some of the leaves have fallen over and turned yellow. Onions are best left until most of the leaves have fallen.
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 http://www.greenvegetableseeds.com/shop/
You can still plant out lettuce, scallions, kohlrabi, turnip, Chinese cabbage, Florence fennel.
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 attract 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.
Ban Roundup Campaign
Between organic inspections today I was wondering how to start a campaign in Ireland about getting glyphosate (eg. Roundup) banned. Just at that moment I got a phone call from Vivienne Campbell – a well – known herbalist from the Burren in Co. Clare about organic weed control. She told me that she wrote an article about “Organic gardening versus chemical treatments”. It’s an excellent and informative article and is well referenced for further reading. She kindly lets me share it. It’s at the bottom of the newsletter.
While travelling around Ireland inspecting organic farms and gardens I come across vast areas that have been sprayed with Roundup – most of these applications are completely useless. Many farmers spray it along road verges between the road and the hedge – completely destroying any insect life that may have been there. It also looks so ugly. I often wonder what tourists must think when they travel along these scorched areas. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the wildflowers that grow in these habitats. At the moment you’ll find a lot of meadowsweet, wild carrot, yarrow and even the true valerian as well as dozens more different flowers. Many of them have medicinal properties and provide important food and habitat for inspects and other animals.
When Roundup is sprayed it is a slow process – it’s systemic. It goes through the plant’s “system” (plant sap) right through the plant – down to the root and kills the plants. Obviously this sounds very practical, but I’m always suspicious of chemicals that are systemic and persistent as they will also persist in us and possibly accumulate in our system.
One interesting piece of information I learned today is that once the weeds are killed off the first plant that re-colonises the ground is the horsetail (Equisetum arvense). The reason for that is that horsetail is a great cleanser and purifier and its purpose is to clean up the mess of Roundup.
Apart from farmers I have seen it used by:
- County Councils spraying it along miles and miles of council managed roadsides
- In towns sprayed without protection right next to small children
- At schools and hospitals
- Teagasc – recommends it to all conventional farmers to kill off the grass before re-seeding
In fact the only safe places are organic farms and gardens where herbicides have always been prohibited.
Despite the fact that we now know that glyphosate is a “possible carcinogenic” as declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) we still use it as if nothing has changed. Farmers still spray the road verges and whole fields prior to re-seeding; they also spray and kill off potatoes and cereals to make harvesting easier – no wonder why a 1/3 of all bread in the UK contains Roundup residues (the same probably applies to Ireland).
The most dangerous development, however, is in the US. Monsanto who owns Roundup also produced genetically manipulated Roundup resistant crops such as Maize and Soy Bean. That means that farmers can spray the growing crops with Roundup and kill the weeds that emerge amongst the crops. Can you imagine a super soy bean that doesn’t get killed by Roundup even if it’s sprayed regularly with the poison? Roundup is now found in breast milk, urine, blood cells etc. – we wonder why.
With all the research that has been published recently about the ill effects of Roundup I think it’s a crucial time to start a campaign to ban Roundup in Ireland. We have such beautiful country and a green image worldwide – we should be amongst the first to act.
I have no idea yet how to start the campaign, but I think we should do it positively. A positive list of organisations, landscapers, garden centres, schools, even county councils that are banning herbicides.
Please let me know if anyone has a good idea.
Please read the following article by Vivienne Campbell (Herbalist in Co. Clare). Her website is www.theherbalhub.com
Organic gardening verses chemical treatments
I am not a qualified gardener but, I mention this topic more and more because I see the prolific use of conventional weed-killers and the staggering range of medical problems that research is now linking them to. Because in my clinical work, I work with people who are ill and because of my genuine love of protecting the environment I do whatever I can to raise awareness about this issue. For years I have worked closely with organic-certified organisations dedicated to protecting the environment and conserving our native supply of plants and foods. I refuse to work with organisations that deliberately pollute and poison the land and water supply.
Organic Gardening Cherishes the Earth
Organic gardening is about caring for plants, the soil, the water supply, human health and the health of wildlife. It encourages biodiversity and nourishes the soil. It is a way to try to ensure that the land is healthy and that plants will continue to grow and will continue to nourish future generations of humans and wildlife.
Gardening with chemicals
In contrast, applying chemicals to the garden depletes and exhausts the soil. It also damages the water supply. Currently the chemical that is causing the most alarm is glyphosate. It is in most brands of weed-killer e.g. Round-Up, Moss-Out etc. It is used prolifically by individuals spraying their own gardens, by farmers, by town/city councils, by large organisations managing land, fields, forests, parks etc. The evidence that is now coming out about glyphosates is horrifying. Here are some of the diseases and problems that there is now evidence to suggest that it is linked to:
Cancer (see the recent report by the World Health Organisation)
Fertility problems and infertility
Digestive problems including coeliac disease and gluten-intolerance
Kidney disease, in areas with hard water.
There is also evidence that it causes damage to the environment:
Damage to wild life e.g. honey bees. This is both directly and indirectly (e.g. the drastic decline in the monarch butterfly numbers: this is because Round-Up has been used to kill milk-weed, the main food source of these butterflies)
Gets into water supply, damaging health of fish and humans.
Appears to be even more dangerous in areas with hard water.
References for further reading
WHO report in the UK medical journal The Lancet, Oncology. This report stated that glyphosate was “classified as probably carcinogenic to humans” and that there is also “limited evidence” that the key ingredient was carcinogenic in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(15)70134-8/abstract
Monograph on Glyphosate: http://www.panap.net/sites/default/files/monograph_glyphosate.pdf
Friends of the Earth report: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/press_releases/foee_5_environmental_impacts_glyphosate.pdf
More general info on pesticides from Pesticide Action Network: http://www.pan-uk.org/
Possible link between use of glyphosates in areas with hard water and serious kidney damage: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945589/
Possible link between use of glyphosates and coeliac disease and gluten-intolerance: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/
Possible link to glyphosate use and antibiotic resistance http://mbio.asm.org/content/6/2/e00009-15.full.pdf+html
Potential damage to honey bees from glyphosates: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25063858
Link to dramatic decline in the population of the Monarch butterfly and use of glyphosate: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/nrdc-sues-epa-over-demise-monarch-butterfly-population-n314371
Open letter from doctors calling on EU to ban Glyphosates http://www.isde.org/Appeal_glyphosate_IARC.pdf
International Society of Doctors for the Environment. Linking human health and the environment. http://www.isde.org/
Countries that have banned Glyphosate
Following the WHO report the following countries and areas that have banned the sale of weed-killers containing Glyphosates:
And the following countries are currently trying to ban Glyphosate
Brazil (The Brazilian Federal Public Prosecutor has requested that the Justice Department suspend the use of glyphosate – the most widely used herbicide in Brazil).
Germany (German ministers are calling for an EU-wide ban on glyphosate)
Dublin City Council is currently looking in to alternatives for using Round-Up.
If you feel motivated to do something then you can take action in the following ways:
Back the legal campaign being mounted against Monsanto (Monsanto is the manufacturer of Round-Up). http://www.monsantoclassaction.org/
Avaaz often run campaigns questioning Monsanto, use of herbicides, environmental damage and human health https://www.avaaz.org/en/index.php
March against Monsanto. Every May marches take place around the world. http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/home/
Join the Pesticide Action Network/receive their newsletters http://www.pan-uk.org/
Petition to ban sale of glyphosate from shops in Ireland https://www.change.org/p/the-people-of-ireland-please-stop-using-glyphosate-this-is-a-dangerous-chemical-found-in-many-weed-killers-on-sale-in-many-retail-outlets-in-ireland?recruiter=55657385&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_responsive&utm_term=des-lg-notification-custom_msg&fb_ref=Default
Petition to ban sale of glyphosate from shops in Ireland: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Alan_Kelly_TD_Minister_for_the_Environment_Community_and_Local_Governmen_Ban_Glyphosate_the_main_ingredient_in_Monsantos/?sEDFtbb
Check-out just how much glyphosate you have absorbed (from non-organic food, from your drinking water etc.). Kits for testing your urine, breast-milk and/or water are available from http://feedtheworld.info/glyphosate-testing-test-yourself/ (currently USA-only)
Where to learn more about Organics
Learn to garden without using harmful weed-killers and improve the environment for everyone.
The Organic College, Co. Limerick http://organiccollege.com/
The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim http://www.theorganiccentre.ie/
Irish Seed Savers, Co. Clare http://www.irishseedsavers.ie/
Clough Jordan Ecovillage. Information on low-impact environmental living http://www.thevillage.ie/
Klaus Laitenberger, organic gardener and author of several books about gardening organically in Ireland, runs courses at his farm in Leitrim and at various venues around the country. http://www.greenvegetableseeds.com/
Charity with great tips for helping people to garden organically http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/
Organic certification body with courses and information about gardening organically http://www.soilassociation.org/practicalskills
List of organic gardening courses in the UK http://www.aboutorganics.co.uk/gardening-courses.html
List of foods most heavily contaminated with Glyphosate
Kits for testing glyphosates in urine, water and breast-milk
Check-out just how much glyphosate you have absorbed (from non-organic food, from your drinking water etc.). Kits for testing your urine, breast-milk and/or water are available from http://feedtheworld.info/glyphosate-testing-test-yourself/ (currently USA-only).