August Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardener,


August is supposed to be the hottest month of the year so let’s hope to get great drying weather for our onions and garlic.  Onions and garlic dry best if kept outdoors during a dry sunny spell.  Just a quick reminder: harvest your onions when nearly all the leaves have fallen over and harvest your garlic when the first few leaves start to fall over.  The big challenge then is to get the bulbs dry as quickly as you can otherwise they are likely to rot in storage.  My spring planted garlic is nearly ready now but the onions are nowhere near ready.

I always feel that I can take a quick break from the garden in August.  Even the weeds tend to slow down a bit.  Instead we can enjoy the bounty of our garden.  All the hard work of spring has now reached fruition.  Nearly all vegetables are now ready to harvest so hopefully you are at home to enjoy.

Watch out for blight!

In the last week I have seen potato blight nearly everywhere in the country.  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.  It’s better to save what you have.

In my own garden I used the new blight spray from Fruit Hill Farm twice (late June and early July) and it seems to have worked for me.

Climbing French bean recipe:

In a rush I sowed 5 seeds of the climbing bean ‘Cobra’ in the greenhouse about 6 weeks ago.  They climb up a single baler twine and are now laden with over 100 most delicious round 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 small).

The dressing is half a teaspoon of organic bouillon (the Swiss one – 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.



Garden Festivals

We were at two most amazing garden festivals earlier this month.  The first one was at the most beautifully restored Claregalway Castle – the Galway Garden Festival.  The atmosphere and the quality of the stalls, music and entertainment was incredible.

The second one was at Blarney Castle last week.  I always intended visiting Blarney but it seemed that I needed an excuse.  The garden festival was so well organised (by Carmen Cronin) and relaxed that you could have spent a whole day there. There were fabulous and wonderfully informative talks by Diarmud Gavin, Helen Dillon and Fiann O’Nuallain.

Luckily I had some time to visit the 60 acre gardens of Blarney Castle.  They are truly one of Ireland’s most amazing show gardens run in the capable hands of Head Gardener Adam Whitbourn.  If you ever pass by stop for a few hours.  If you meet Adam, I’m sure he’ll have a few minutes spare.  I was most impressed about their Poison Garden.

For more information on the gardens have a look at:


Ballymaloe Garden Festival

The next garden show we’ll attend with GreenVegetableSeeds is the Ballymaloe Garden Festival held on the 30th and 31st of August.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never visited Ballymaloe Gardens yet and I am so looking forward to it.  Obviously I have seen pictures in Joy Larkcom’s books and various magazines.


Caring for our soil

“There is nothing in the whole of nature which is more important than or deserves as much attention as the soil.  Truly it is the soil which makes the world a friendly environment for mankind.  It is the soil which nourishes and provides for the whole of nature; the whole of creation depends upon the soil which is the ultimate foundation of our existence”

Friedrich Albert Fallou – 1862

Already in 1862 a French agriculturalist recognised the importance of soil fertility and also the threat of its decline.  Not many people nowadays would share this view but the fact is that we all depend on the health of our topsoil – the top 20 to 30cm of soil which covers the earth like a mantle. Every ounce of food that we consume derives from it.  A good healthy topsoil is full of life.  In one handful of topsoil there could be more living creatures than there is people in the world.  Every great nation in our human history started to decline as soon as their agriculture was in decline.  Just imagine that Americans call it “dirt”.

Our soils worldwide are in serious danger.  An area the size of the US and Mexico combined has already been made infertile and is no longer suitable for agriculture.  With a growing world population and thus more pressure on the land we need to care more for it.  The main problem in the recent past was that we forced bigger and heavier crops from the land, kept heavier animals and used heavier machinery.  The soil was seen as an inert growing media very much like a sponge and plants were fed with synthetic fertilisers.  These fertilisers have no benefit whatsoever for the creatures that inhabit the soil and neither has it any benefit on the structure of the soil.  The use of traditional fertilisers (manure, compost, seaweed, green manures) imporoves the soil structure, improves drainage and compaction as well as feeding the life in the soil.  They also supply essential plant nutrients and trace elements – maybe not as quickly and as much as artificial fertilisers but they feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants.  A good environmentalist is one that makes good compost and leaves a plot of land in better shape than before.



9th August 2014: Open Day at the Ards Allotments in Newtownards from 10am to 4om.  For more info contact Maurice Patton on or look at their wenbsite:

30th/31st August: Ballymalloe Garden Festival, Co. Cork


6th September 2014: Course on Growing in Polytunnels and Greenhouses.

Course is held at our home in Milkwood Farm, Co. Leitrim

For more information on this course have a look at: