December Gardening Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

World Soil Day is next Monday 5th December.  We are organising a conference at the Botanic Gardens on the day but unfortunately for anyone who hasn’t got a ticket –  it is already fully booked.  We are hoping to film a few key lectures and make them available to whoever is interested.  Many thanks to Felicity Gaffney from the Botanic Gardens for making this wonderful venue available for the event.

I will also run a couple of courses for NOTS in December.  This Saturday (3rd Dec) I’ll give a course at the award winning Hydro Allotments in Blarney, Co. Cork.  The food they prepare for our lunch is worth the visit alone.  On Saturday 10th Dec there is a course in Croghan Organic Garden in Co. Roscommon.

In this newsletter I’ll cover a number of topics ranging from:

Growing hardy grapes and hardy mini kiwis

Programme of World Soil Day Conference and link to sign petition

How to plan your vegetable garden?

Introducing our special new tomato mix – Italian Tomato Gourmet Mix


To read the full newsletter please click on the this link      ——–


NOTS courses with Klaus:

Title: Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production

Booking info on:

Cost is €30 per day and free for unemployed.

Saturday 3rd December: Hydro Allotments in Blarney, Co. Cork

Saturday 10th December: Croghan Organic Garden, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

Image result for hydro allotments blarney

Zwena at the Hydro Allotments in Blarney


Outdoor grapes and kiwis in Ireland?

Who would have thought that we could grow grapes and kiwis in Ireland?  Maybe in Cork or in Wexford but certainly not in Leitrim or Roscommon.

I no longer have my big greenhouse with my Madeline d’Angevie and Black Hamburg grapes and already have withdrawal symptoms.  Luckily, I came across an article in a German gardening magazine about really hardy grape varieties and also some hardy kiwis.  Straight away we ordered them for a walled garden that is under restoration in Co. Roscommon.  We started off with planting apples and pears and other fruit as espaliers or fans along the walls and then I thought we could interplant them with grapes and hardy kiwis.  These will be trained with a single stem straight up and will fill the wall quickly and then trained above the apples with bunches of grapes hanging down above the apples

Anyway, the nursery in Germany specialises in really hardy grape varieties from Russia and other cold countries and I hope that on a south-facing red brick wall in a walled garden in Roscommon we’ll get a wonderful crop of table grapes.

Image result for unusual grape varieties

Here is the link to the supplier:

My experience with growing kiwis has been a disaster in the past.  I think I know my mistake – I chose a self-fertile variety of a “normal” kiwi (Jenny) and planted it in the corner of the greenhouse.  Unfortunately, it didn’t stay in the corner and never produced any fruit even after four years.  When it smashed a couple of the glass-panes of the greenhouse I dug it out and planted it outdoors and it still grows there without any kiwi fruits.

I only recently learned from a Swiss friend about hardy mini kiwis.  She has one male and female plant climbing up a trellis at her house and harvests around 25kg of mini kiwi every year.  We have ordered a dozen plants and hopefully will supply the whole of Connaught with delicious mini kiwis.  They really are delicious and you can eat them whole – skin and all.  You can definitely grow them in your greenhouse or polytunnel but you’ll need to prune them hard.

Here is the link to the supplier:



Image result for mini kiwi kiwi


Planning your vegetable garden                                                               

Make yourself comfortable with a nice fire and reflect on the past year.  Try to remember what crops or even what varieties have done well.  Try to remember which sowing and planting dates were the best.  Sometimes we can’t remember the varieties or the sowing dates for many crops.  So the first thing is to buy a nice diary and record all the essential cropping information the next year.

This will provide you with the most valuable information you can ever get:  you’ll be able to identify what does best in your very own garden.  If something does well you’ll know how to repeat it the following year and if something fails you know you’ll have to change something.  The most likely changes you’ll have to make is changing the variety, the sowing date (probably sow later) or the soil preparation/feeding technique.

Planning can be quite simple.  You can set it up in a table format – either handwritten or on the computer.  That’s the way I do it:


Bed Veg Variety Sow Qty Plant 1.Harvest Clear Ground


1 Swede Gowrie 15/4 30pl 15/5 August Sep Add FYM
2 Carrot Rothild 31/5 1 pack Direct October End Oct No FYM
3 Cabbage Stonehead 15/4 10pl 15/5 August Oct Add


4 etc


If you can use excel on the computer, it will allow you to sort your plan and will sort the data as a sowing plan.


Tomato Italian Gourmet Mix

Italian Gourmet Tomato Mix is our classic selection of the best Italian tomatoes. This packet includes one seed of the following varieties: Golden Gazzi (large pale yellow), Fragolino (oblong pointed), Apricot Salex (peachy orange, triangular), Yellow Egg (eggshaped), Black Ethiopian (dark round) and Pantano Romanesco (best beef tomato)

I received the seeds from an Italian gardening friend and saved a small quantity of seeds which we now offer as a mixed pack. There is only a very limited stock available. These are real tomatoes each one for a different purpose. They may not be the best snack tomatoes like Sungold or Sweet Aperitif but they are for connoisseurs that are willing to prepare these delicious fruits.  Detailed instructions are available if you click the following link:



World Soil Day Seminar      

Unfortunately the conference is fully booked – as an alternative maybe you have 90 minutes spare to watch an amazing video about soils.  I mentioned it at already at a previous newsletter – it’s called Symphony of the Soil. Have a look at their website:  

Mon 5th Dec              Launching the People4Soil Campaign

Venue:  National Botanic Garden

10.30 – 11.00             Registration Tea/Coffee

11 – 11 05                    Introduction and Welcome – Felicity Gaffney and Michael Ewing

11 05 – 11 30              Klaus Laitenberger.  “All of life depends on the physical, chemical and biological health of our soil – Stop Treating Soil Like Dirt”

11 30 – 11 55 Dr Matthew Jebb – Botanic Gardens  “Exploring relationships between the soil and the plant”

11.55– 12 20  Helen Kelly  “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves” – Gandhi

12 20 – 12 45              Cian O’Mahony – EPA  “Land Use and Soils in the EPA’s State of the Environment Report for 2016 – An Overview”

12.45-1.10                   Michael Ewing – Environmental Pillar Launching the People4Soil Campaign


1.10-1.50         Lunch

1.50-2.20               Joan Rogers Gardener – National Botanic Gardens,  A short walk in the organic vegetable garden to see the approaches taken in managing the soil for organic produce.

2 20 – 2 45             Rob Krawczyk – Head Chef of Brabazon Restaurant at Tankardstown House “Healthy Soils, Food and People”

2.45-3.10                 Nicky Kyle – “There is life after soil abuse – practical ways that gardeners can help to restore damaged soils”

3.10 – 3 35            Dr Michael H.B. Hayes – University of Limerick  “Humus, Humics, Humin: Importance in Soil Fertility and in Carbon Sequestration”

3.35                  Discussion Panel      Open Forum

4.00pm close


Please sign the petition to protect our soils on:


Happy Gardening

Klaus Laitenberger