Book Reviews

Klaus Laitenberger Book Reviews

At present I have had 3 books published which are on general sale throughout Europe are are selling quite well.   Here are just a short selection of my book reviews written by some fellow gardening experts and writers who you may have heard of.

URBAN FARMER: Spend more time on the maths and you won’t have to palm off extra courgettes on friends, writes Fionnuala Flanagan

In defence of those who over-sow and overgrow (which is probably most gardeners), part of the problem is that there isn’t exactly a glut of available information when it comes to calculating how much to grow of any particular fruit or vegetable. That’s one of the reasons professional gardener Klaus Laitenberger’s new book, Vegetables For The Irish Garden, is very useful (we hope he’ll bring out an equivalent on fruit).

Take potatoes, for example, a staple crop for most gardeners yet one that many have difficulties with when it comes to calculating yield. While he points out that it all depends on how much you like them, Laitenberger suggests that an area of 40 square metres should provide “more than enough potatoes for a family of four from July until April. One square metre may yield 5 to 7kg of potatoes”.

Annual spinach? If you love it, successionally sow one square metre every three weeks, he suggests. Onions? Working on an average of five a week, Laitenberger points out that you’ll need to have stored away 140 onions to see you through from September to the following March (28 weeks). Lettuce? Sow 15 seeds every fortnight, he suggests, enough to give you five heads a week while allowing for losses from slug damage etc.

He’s good, too, when it comes to the lesser-known vegetables, such as the tuberous oca (“just a few to see if you like them”), asparagus (“ten plants are sufficient for a generous weekly helping for the six-week harvesting period”), and Jerusalem artichokes (“5 plants are more than sufficient as each tuber will yield around 2kg of artichokes”).

All of which is very useful advice for next year, but what to do with this summer’s gluts? Serious GYOers know that part of the answer lies in having a chest freezer, which goes a long way towards turning a summer glut into tasty winter dinners. Here also, Laitenberger’s book gives plenty of advice as to technique (always blanch first in boiling water) and as to which vegetables are best suited to freezing (asparagus, broad beans, runner beans, peas, calabrese, sweetcorn and Florence fennel amongst others).

There’s also advice on other storage methods, such as “clamping” and storing in boxes of sand, both of which techniques are best suited to root vegetables. But what about courgettes, which traditionally form the “gluttiest” of all the vegetable gluts? Laitenberger advises that these are best eaten fresh.

Fionnuala Fallon – The Irish Times

Toiling in the Irish  Soil                          

A new book by German-born gardener Klaus Laitenberger is tailored to the Irish vegetable grower

GARDENING BOOKS ARE like the proverbial buses. You’re waiting ages for the right one, and then, just like that, two of them come around the corner. For years we’ve been craving a book on growing vegetables in Ireland. Our conditions are not the same as those in the UK, from where most kitchen garden books emanate: our climate is wetter and milder, both in winter and in summer. So, advice tailored for gardeners across the water may not fit us properly.

I mentioned the first of these homegrown books, The Irish Gardener’s Handbook , by Michael Brenock (O’Brien, €9.99) when it appeared earlier this year. And the second, Vegetables for the Irish Garden by Klaus Laitenberger (Milkwood Farm Publishing, €14.95), has just been launched. Keen vegetable growers will already know the author – who has served as head gardener at both the Organic Centre in Leitrim and Lissadell in Sligo – through his lectures and classes in organic gardening.

Since the German-born Laitenberger came to Ireland in 1999, he has been adapting his methods of gardening to our more soggy and clement climate. His book is particularly relevant to gardeners in the northwest, as he is intimately acquainted with the soil in Sligo and Leitrim. He now lives on an 11-acre holding at the foot of Benwiskin in north Leitrim.

I visited some years ago, and was impressed at how he managed to coax exquisite vegetables out of the waterlogged and infertile peaty soil. His methods for gardening in a damp climate with saturated soil are several. Drainage, of course, is paramount, and it can be created by digging channels to carry excess water away from the vegetable-growing area. Raised beds are another solution. Adding properly decomposed compost and loosening the subsoil also help. Winter digging – which allows the cycles of freezing and thawing to break up the soil – is not something that he recommends, despite its popularity with many traditional gardeners.

As he points out in the book, we get more rain than frost in most parts of Ireland (although last winter was an exception), and the rain washes out the nutrients and turns the soil into “mash”. In such conditions, the soil pores become filled with water, and valuable underground dwellers such as earthworms are driven out or drowned.

Laitenberger has plenty of advice for new gardeners. I like that he suggests starting on a smallish scale, so that the garden doesn’t get out of hand and become a thing to daunt rather than delight. He also cautions against sowing seed too early – a mistake we’ve all made, in the rush to end winter’s doldrums. In most parts of Ireland vegetables should not be sown outdoors before May; broad beans, garlic, onions, peas, potatoes and shallots are the exceptions. Planting too closely, and choosing the wrong variety are also common errors.

The book, however, is more about getting it right than avoiding the wrong. The first half includes comprehensive instructions on raising more than vegetables, from artichokes to turnips. Besides all the expected advice on cultivation, and – importantly – varieties that he knows work well in Irish conditions, the author offers snippets of history and the odd pithy quote, such as the inimitable Charles Dudley Warner’s “Lettuce is like conversation. It must be fresh and crisp, and so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitterness in it.”

The second half considers practical matters such as planning, soil, ground preparation, composting, rotation, pests and so on. A month-by-month guide will keep new gardeners on track from one end of the year to the other. Laitenberger has chosen not to include tomatoes, peppers, aubergines or cucumbers (tender crops that do best in greenhouses or tunnels), which may disappoint some readers, especially those who have warm corners in their gardens. Notwithstanding this omission, it’s a book that Irish vegetable growers (myself included) will be very happy to dig into.

Jane Powers –  Irish Times Magazine

Plant it grow it harvest it eat it

The burgeoning interest in growing your own food may be recent, but Klaus Laitenberger has more than twenty years’ experience to share. Drawing on his years working as Head Gardener at the Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim, and restoring the garden at Lissadell House, Co. Sligo, Klaus has distilled his first-hand knowledge into an essential primer on growing vegetables for food, aimed at first time and experienced gardeners, called “Vegetables For the Irish Garden” (read more). Although our climate is broadly similar to that in the UK, there are subtle differences that you are not likely to glean from books aimed at the UK market; Klaus’s book is written specifically for sowing and planting, harvesting and storing vegetables in Ireland.


“Klaus Laitenberger has already written a general book on vegetable gardening and started a seed company. Now he’s produced a new book called “Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse”. What makes it unusual, if not unique, is that it’s firmly based on hands-on experience gained in one of the more difficult parts of the country for growing things. The approach is strictly organic, although most of the information is also relevant to gardeners who are not as purist. It’s self-published but excellently laid out and beautifully illustrated. He writes in a clear and orderly way in English that is fluent but occasionally has a turn of phrase that reminds you that it’s not his first language. And, although it’s aimed at beginners I learnt a lot from it, and I’m hardly a beginner at this stage.”

Dick Warner – The Irish Examiner

‘I don’t very often come across a book that I would recommend because what I like might not be your cup of tea. Having said that, if you are planning to grow your own veg this year, get yourself a copy of ‘Vegetables For The Irish Gardener’ by Klaus Laitenberger. It’s the sort of book that will grow old with you, full of hints and tips for growing veg in this country, written by someone who has a genuine love of growing organically and who has learned to adapt to this climate of ours. This book, along with his ‘Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse’ is easy to understand, and will become your best pal when you take the plunge and go organic in the veg garden this year.’

Marie Staunton – The Irish Independent

“Many of the books one sees about vegetables are full of style, but when stripped down often have little for those wishing to move on past the first few seed packets. Klaus Laitenberger’s book ‘Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse’, fills this large void, and presents comprehensive details on growing vegetables for the keen grower yet without leaving the beginner behind. What is most notable, is the friendly, enthusiastic style that informs without patronising, and leaves the reader feeling that he or she too could succeed. As a former nursery owner I was impressed by the practical advice on dealing with pests and diseases, and particularly the details of the organic sprays that can be used. Tables of germinating temperatures together with sowing time, and depth are vital details, often neglected, but presented here with great clarity. If you are trying to decide which book on vegetables to buy, you need look no further.”

Susan Young

‘I was brought up short when I came across an inspiring new book this week ‘Vegetables of the Polytunnel and Greenhouse’ by Klaus Laitenberger. Formerly the Head Gardener at the Organic Centre at Rossinver, Co. Leitrim he has been growing vegetables organically for 20 years in the UK and Ireland. He lays out a successional growing programme, month-by-month, vegetable-by-vegetable which will almost double the productivity of the plot and really keep you in vegetables all year round.’

Caroline Foley – The Guardian

Klaus Laitenberger’s first book ‘Vegetables for the Irish Garden’ quickly became a classic thanks to its no-nonsense, easy-to-read style – it was also specifically written with Irish growers in mind, which made it essential reading.

It included important information that is often left out in other growing guides – like, for example, how much of each vegetable to grow.

That book left out vegetables that simply don’t grow well in Irish gardens, among them tomatoes, peppers etc.

Thankfully, Klaus now returns to complete the series with the follow-up book, which covers vegetables like those mentioned that can be grown well here in Ireland as long as you have a polytunnel, greenhouse or a sunny conservatory.

The book covers the usual indoor crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers, but also some more unusual ones like Yakon and American Groundnut.

It is written in the same format and style as his first book – so it remains a joy to read and accessible to all levels of expertise.

Michael Kelly – The Irish Independent 05 /08/2013 

AFTER years of being out of fashion it seems that growing your own vegetables is finally in vogue in Ireland. Whatever the reason – the recession, worry about the amount of chemicals in shop bought food, or just the sheer pleasure of producing your own spuds or tomatoes – it’s a welcome development. But for those of us who are beginners, our little corner of earth can be a daunting place. Where do you start? How do you know what to plant? What do you do if things go wrong? There are lots of publications out there offering helpful tips for novice gardeners, but the problem with most of them, is that they are produced in the UK, where important factors like temperature and rainfall are not the same as in Ireland.

Now a new book has come on the market entitled ‘Vegetables for the Irish Garden’, written by Klaus Laitenberger who was head gardener in The Organic Centre at Rossinver in Leitrim for seven years and who more recently has overseen the restoration of the Victorian vegetable gardens at Lissadell.

 Judy Murphy