Dear Fellow Gardener
We have finally moved again – last year we sold Milkwood Farm and rented for 6 months in Bundoran while we renovated a cottage in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim which is the village where I first moved to in 1999 when I worked at the Organic Centre.Â Rossinver is such a beautiful and unspoilt little place.Â We have just discovered probably the most beautiful and stunning walk along a gorgeous waterfall â€“ Fowleyâ€™s Falls in Rossinver.Â If this walk would be anywhere else it would be a major tourist destination.Â Itâ€™s wonderfully kept by the Leitrim Development Company and definitely worth a detour if you are in the area.
We will also have to start a new garden again.Â I had lots of challenges in the pastâ€“ blue dauby sticky soil at the Organic Centre which is better for pottery than gardening â€“ a wet boggy acid soil in Milkwood, which actually turned out amazing and now a garden that could get completely flooded after a couple of weeks of rain and with lots of trees around causing shade.Â I was toying with the idea of a floating garden, but Joannaâ€™s sense of aesthetics couldnâ€™t accept it.Â Anyway weâ€™ll have plenty of time to get it ready before next spring.Â We are also lucky to have a 3 acre woodland adjoining the house so I will definitely create a forest garden by interplanting Â a number of useful edible shrubs.
- New Book: Fruit and Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse
- A natural slug potion
- Joy Larkcomâ€™s revised book: The Salad Garden
- The Organic Market
New Book: â€œFruit and Vegetables for thePolytunnel and Greenhouseâ€ by Klaus Laitenberger
Just in case you missed my last newsletter â€“ we have just launched the new book on how to grow a very wide range of crops indoors.Â We still have the special offer available for all newsletter subscribers for another couple of days where the book is available at wholesale price.
A natural slug potion
This is a really efficient method of controlling slugs based on natural slug predators. I heard about it at a lecture from a scientist but could never find a link to it until recently at the Botanic Garden when a kind lady forwarded me a link to an article by Toby Buckland:
Slugs are prey to not just frogs, hedgehogs and birds but microscopic bacteria and nematodes that live in soils. It’s these nematodes (microscopic eelworms) that gardeners have been buying as a form of biological control since the early Nineties. They really work on those slugs that you don’t tend to see, but which do a lot of damage to underground shoots and potatoes. In a garden, micro-predators live in symbiosis with their slug hosts and only significantly dent the population when slug numbers become disproportionately high. The mail-order sachets of nematodes infected with deadly mollusc-killing bacteria temporarily raise the proportion of nematodes and brings down the slug population. I’ve been an advocate for years.
However, there is also an allotmenteers trick for making your own slug-killing nematode potion, using nothing more than a bucket, some weeds, tap water and the slugs from your own garden. If you are already used to killing slugs by drowning them in a bucket, you’ll find this method right up your street.
How to make your own slug killer
In any average garden some slugs will be carrying bacterial diseases or be infected by nematodes, but their low density means that they won’t devastate the rest of the population.
But, catch and confine the slugs and, if the disease or nematodes are present, you can concentrate these micro-predators and harness their natural slug-killing power.
Collect as many slugs as you can find in a jar that has a few small air holes punched in the lid with a hammer and nail and a few weed leaves for them to eat. The best time to hunt for slugs is after dark. In the gloom, slugs become quite brazen and eat on top of leaves as opposed to holing up in cool, dark and damp places as by day.
If stumbling around with a torch is a bridge too far, look for slugs during the day in the drainage holes of pots, beneath stones and hunkered in long grass. If they evade your efforts, set traps. A classic that works brilliantly for hard-to-find small ground-dwelling slugs is to place the scooped out half-shells of grapefruits near the crowns of vulnerable plants.
Come dawn, the slugs make for the damp yellow domes, as they love to chew the pith inside. Slugs also make a beeline for cardboard. Lay a sheet on the ground among long grass. Check your traps daily and gather your slimy harvest into a jar.
Once you have caught around 10 to 20 slugs – the more you have the better it works- decant them into a bucket with an inch or so of water in the bottom for humidity and a few more handfuls of leaves to make an edible floating island for your catch.
With the slugs safely inside, place a concrete slab (or any firm cover) over the top to seal them in. The bucket is the perfect environment for the nematodes and bacteria to breed. Nematodes spread in water, so check regularly, giving the slugs a stir with a stick. The idea isn’t to drown them but to keep them moist so the nematodes can hunt them out.
Top tip: This is cheating a bit, but you can use a bought pack of nematodes to the brew. Tap about a teaspoon of powder into the bucket to help it along.
After a fortnight a high level of nematodes will have built up inside the bucket and the slugs will have died from infection. Now, you can dilute the brew: fill the bucket to the top from the tap and decant into a watering can fitted with a rose.
Prevent the weed and slug mixture from falling into the can with a filter of chicken wire folded over the can so it stays put while you pour.
Water the sieved brew around vulnerable plants – the raised nematode population will seek out resident ground-dwelling slugs and see them off.
Like the shop-bought version, this slug killer gives up to six weeks of protection. Save the contents of the chicken wire sieve (uurrgh!) to start off your next nematode brew.
The Salad Garden by Joy Larkcom
I have always been a massive fan of Joy Larkcom and of all her books. I am so lucky that I got to know her and Don since they moved to Ireland. The Salad Garden is really the classic book on salads and not just salads as you would imagine. This book is wonderful for the beginner but even experienced gardeners will find it extremely valuable. I already took quite a few notes of salad crops and varieties that are new to me. Thank you Joy.
A fully revised and updated edition of the book of the century
When The Salad Garden was first published in 1984, it was heralded as a game changer by gardeners, chefs and the professional growers who supplied restaurants and supermarkets. The colour photographs, by renowned plant photographer Roger Phillips, brought to life a whole new world of salad plants which the author had discovered on her year long Grand Vegetable Tour in Europe with her young family, and in later experiments with oriental vegetables. Almost all the plants illustrated had been grown on her market garden in Suffolk. The book iconic status was crowned in a millennium BBC Food programme by horticulturalist Michael Michaud, who nominated it as his˜book of the century”.
In the 30 years since Salad Garden burst on the scene, the pace of life has accelerated, and changes have taken place in the horticultural world. The book ties in with the resurging popularity of accessible, casual, organic approaches to gardening and growing vegetables. Joy champions potager gardening a more relaxed, wildlife-friendly approach to vegetable growing and this fully revised and updated edition will appeal to the growing number of gardeners with smaller spaces. Salads lend themselves perfectly to window boxes, containers and small raised beds.
Updates to the text are inclusion of new varieties of leaves, new plants such as Cucamelon, marsh plant Salsola, February orchid as well as exciting new types of sorrel, salad rocket, cabbage and kales. This edition also features new and updated techniques for growing in containers and the latest developments in polytunnels, frames, cloches, low tunnels. Lastly, the recipes have been updated with a more contemporary feel, reflecting changes in eating habits; classic recipes rub shoulders with imaginative new ideas.
The Organic Market
Here are a few statistics about organic agriculture:
- 9 million hectares of organic agricultural land worldwide
- Organic market grows by more than 75 billion Euros
- Organic market in different countries: – United States 36 billion Euros, Germany 8.6 billion Euros, France 5.5 billion Euros and China 4.7 billion Euros.
- The highest per capita spending was in Switzerland â€“ 262 Euros
- Denmark has the highest organic market share (8.4 % of total food market)
- In 2015 there were 2.4 million organic producers
- In 2015, 50.9 million hectares were organically managed â€“ this was an increase of 6.5 million hectares from 2014.
- Australia is the country with the largest organic agricultural land area (22.7 million hectares)