December Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

This year was definitely one of the easiest gardening years I remember in Ireland.  All gardening jobs, especially hoeing and weeding are so much easier and more pleasant if we can do them in the sun.


This year I grew only the reliable potatoes – Orla (early), Sarpo Mira (main) and Bionica (main).  All three have excellent blight resistance and are – in my opinion – quite delicious.  Sarpo Mira was bred in Hungary by the Sarvari family and is now maintained and tested by the Sarvari Research Trust which is based in Bangor, North Wales.  They do amazing work in breeding blight resistant varieties.  They have other excellent varieties such as Blue Danube and Sarpo Axona amongst others and there are more blight resistant varieties in the pipeline. You can find more information on:  By the way Sarpo Mira potatoes improve during storage.  They are best eaten after Christmas.

The Bionica potato was bred in Holland and was developed by an organic farmer (Niek Vos) who I recently met at the organic farm walk in Thornhill Farm in Skibbereen.  Dutch researchers found blight resistant strains of potatoes in the Andes mountains in South America about 35 years ago.  These were then crossed with common Dutch varieties using traditional breeding techniques (not GM).  Finally after many years the Bionica potato was bred.

Trust me on this:

When all other maincrop potatoes have collapsed with blight, both the Sarpo Mira and Bionica will still stand strong.  They are well worth trying out to see if you like them even though the Irish taste leans more to the floury Queens or Kerr’s Pink potato which are very susceptible to blight.

 Garlic and Onions

It was also a great year for garlic and onions.  I was very impressed with the Casablanca garlic which produced delicious large white bulbs that keep extremely well.  Thanks to the dry summer is was quite easy to dry the onions and garlic.  They safely hang in bunches in the kitchen.


Our carrots are massive this year.  The reason is that I probably gave them too much space, but they still taste nice and keep well in a soil clamp in the tunnel.  Apart from my old-time favourite variety ‘Rothild’ I grew a new this year which is called ‘Sweet Candle F1’.  I was really blown away by it.  I never had a carrot that was so sweet and delicious.

Parsnip and beetroot

Parsnip ‘Javelin’ is as good as ever but I had a slow start with my beetroot.  The first sowing failed. I sowed it during a dry spell and didn’t water the beds. The second sowing was made only in late June and only produced tennis ball sized roots.  I usually get much larger beetroot and by the way it’s a myth that large beetroot is not as nice or even woody.  The ‘Pablo’ beetroot never turns woody at any size.  The beetroot mix was also good fun.

New Seeds:


We are now offering some Microgreen Mixes.  Microgreens have stormed the world in the last few years.  They are featured in cookery programmes, gardening magazines and newspapers.  Microgreens are so easy to grow and you don’t even need a garden.  A shallow seed tray or a pot with drainage holes, a little compost (around 5cm/2inches deep) and a sunny windowsill is all you need.  Sow the seeds thickly and cover them with a tiny bit of compost.  The seeds will germinate within 7 to 14 days (depending on the mix and room temperature) and will be ready for harvesting 2-3 weeks after germination.  You’ll have delicious microgreens for Christmas.  Apparently scientists have found that microgreens contain up to 40 times more vitamins than the “adult vegetable”.

We have three mixes available:

  1. Mild Micro Mix (fast growing)

Contains broccoli, kohlrabi, red cabbage, kale, leaf radish ‘Sangria’, cabbage ‘January King’

  1. Spicy Micro Mix (fast growing)

Contains mizuna, mibuna, mustard ‘Red Frills’, rocket ‘Dentallata’, mustard ‘Red Lace’, Pak Choi ‘Golden Yellow’, mustard ‘Pizzo’, tatsoi, mustard ’Red Zest’, Pak Choi ‘Canton White’, rocket ‘Napoli’

  1. Gourmet Mix (slower growing)

Contains dill, perilla, beetroot ‘Bulls Blood’, amaranth ‘Red Army’, basil, rocket ‘Victoria’, coriander, silver chard, orach, chard ‘Bright Lights’

Packets are €1.80 for 5g.

You may have read Fionnuala Fallon’s article in the Irish Times last week, if not have a look at:



Airfield House, Farm and Garden in Dublin

December is a great time to visit Airfield especially with children for a very special Christmas experience.  I was in Airfield House last month and was blown away by the amazing work that was done in the last year.  Just in case people haven’t heard about Airfield House yet – it was the home place of the Overend Family in Dundrum and was left to the Airfield Trust who did amazing work restoring and developing food and ornamental gardens as well as developing an educational working farm.  Every day you can watch live how a cow is being milked.  I bet there aren’t many children in the Dublin area who have seen that before.  The food gardens are managed by Kitty Scully – the well-known gardener, journalist and TV personality who exudes enthusiasm, skill as well as hard work.

They organise a wonderful Christmas event for the whole family.  It includes a carriage ride through the farm, a gingerbread village and fairies in the gardens and of course Santa with presents.

For more information look at:


More NOTS Courses:

Introduction to Organic Gardening

Last Sunday there were over 20 people at the Winter Polytunnel Course at the Hydro Allotments in Blarney.  This is a very special place and everyone can visit the allotments.  It won the price for best overall allotment as well as best individual allotment in the country this year.

In 2015 there will be new courses in January and February.  It will be an introduction course in organic gardening with special emphasis on ground preparation planning and seed sowing.

The courses will be held in Dublin, Wexford and Cork.  Again the courses are €30 for the day and free to the unemployed.  For more information contact Sean or Margaret on

More info on course will follow in the next newsletter.


In the meantime I would like to thank you for reading the newsletter and I wish you a wonderful and peaceful Christmas.

Klaus Laitenberger