Newsletter January 2014
Dear Fellow Gardeners
Another year has started but the gardening bug is still asleep. Probably only the hardiest gardeners will be out and about now. I always use a good excuse (a true one though) that it’s bad for the soil if you walk on it when it’s too wet. Especially when soil sticks to your boots it can become compacted.
There is little to do in your vegetable patch apart from harvesting your winter crops. You may still have some leeks, cabbages, sprouts as well as many stored vegetables. I had a great year for beetroot but unfortunately have already run out of carrots. When will I ever get it right?
If you have some fruit trees and bushes there is a good bit of pruning to be done. It’s also a great time to start planting trees. Everybody should have a few apple trees in their garden. It’s probably the best investment you could ever make. I have four excellent apple trees (Discovery, Katy, Charles Ross and James Grieve) and I spent about €60 for them in total about 8 years ago. Each tree produces between 100 and 300 apples every year from the third year onwards. One word of advice though – do not buy Golden Delicious, Cox Orange Pippin and Gala. They will not survive the Irish climate unless you spray them with chemicals every week.
This month we’ll introduce a few new seed varieties as well as a range of unusual vegetable tubers. I was often asked where to buy all these unusual crops so I started to propagate some. There is only a small amount of each available.
Beetroot – probably one of the healthiest vegetables
Beetroot has always been one of my favourite vegetables. It’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow as it has a natural resistance to pests and diseases. This makes it a great beginner’s vegetable. I often think that maybe this natural resistance could be carried on to us and this may be an explanation why beetroot is one of the healthiest vegetables around. It has been shown that the consumption of beetroot increases the blood flow to the brain, reduces the risk of heart attack and slows the progression of dementia. The Romans used it as an aphrodisiac and the Victorians used it to sweeten cakes. I also had the most delicious beetroot chocolate cake a few weeks ago.
If you are only used to the pickled stuff – rethink and give it another chance. Beetroot is a most delicious and versatile vegetable and you’ll find hundreds of recipes in books and websites. You can have it raw (grated as salad), baked or boiled.
There is an amazing range of beetroot varieties available ranging from the better known round red type to a white and golden variety as well as an Italian white and red striped variety.
This month we are introducing an amazing seed mix of all these varieties.
It includes the varieties Chioggia di Barbietola (red and white striped), Bulls Blood (darkest red root and leaves), Albina Veredura (white roots), Golden (yellow roots), Detroit Globe (a normal heritage variety) and Egyptian Long (cylindrical roots)
Inca and other unusual vegetables
For many years I have a passion for growing unusual vegetables especially from the Andes mountains in South America and other areas. We all know that the potato comes from the Andes and it grows quite happily in Ireland – so a change from thousands of metres altitude to nearly sea level didn’t affect the potato.
I then thought what about the other crops that were grown by the Incas – could they be grown in Ireland as well? So my search started and over the last 15 years I have grown a range of exciting new vegetables. Some of them I had lost over the years and got back again. The good thing about all these crops is that they grow so healthy with no particular pest or disease.
In the last couple of years I grew a few extra ones which are available for sale now. I have only low stock of each and I have to keep some back for next year.
We will have small quantities of the following vegetables available on our website: www.greenvegetableseeds.com
Yacon comes from South America and is related to sunflowers. It has huge soft downy leaves which were used by the natives as a toilet paper substitute. In warm years they produce small yellow flowers. They are very easy to grow and are not fuzzy about soils. The tubers are a bit like dahlia tubers. There are two types of tubers – knobbly ones with a growing tip and large smooth ones for eating. The edible tubers are surprisingly sweet and crunchy and I think best eaten raw. A delicious way is to peel and grate the tubers, add lemon juice and grated ginger and raisins with it and you’ll have a delicious dessert.
The knobbly growing tips can be divided and replanted the following year.
Yacon is a fantastic vegetable for diabetics and people that want to lose weight. The sugar is in the form of inulin (like Jerusalem Artichoke) and has almost no calorific value whatsoever, despite its sweetness.
More information on the other Inca crops will come in future newsletters and on the website.
A German Huegelbeet (Mound bed)
This winter I’m going to make a second Huegelbeet. The first one I made last year was a great success. I could even grow Sungold tomatoes on it (outside in Co. Donegal). I also need to treat myself to a wonderful day of hard work after the laziness. I’ve seen them on various occasions – in fact an American woman very close to us, lived in South Germany for many years and she has become a committed mound bed grower. I must admit I was a bit dubious about the amount of work that is involved in building one but taking the weather of the last few years into account I would have loved to have had the comfort and security of a mound bed.
How to build a ‘Huegelbeet’?
The first layer consists of small branches, herbaceous prunings etc. Start building the mound with these materials but only in the centre of the dug-out part (50cm wide and 40cm high).
The second layer consists of the grass sods turned upside down on top of the woody materials.
The third layer is a 10cm layer of soil and firm and model it to shape.
The fourth layer is a 20cm layer of leaf mould. This has to be moist.
The fifth layer is a 10cm layer of good semi-decomposed layer of farmyard manure with plenty of worms.
To finish place a 15cm layer of soil which was thoroughly mixed with good compost.
I’m sure we can add a layer of fresh seaweed somewhere.
You may wonder why to go through with all this effort but the benefits are manifold:
– The surface area is increased and you’ll achieve a much higher yield from a small area.
– The materials decompose and release heat so you can get much earlier crops.
– You can possibly grow vegetables that won’t grow naturally in Ireland.
– The drainage is massively improved. Even in a year like this our crops would have thrived.
– Improved root growth (more depth).
– There is enough fertility for at least three years.
I hope we will all have a wonderful new growing year.