Dear Fellow Gardeners,
Isn’t it a beautiful year in the garden? Everything is much easier and more beautiful when the sun shines. Also the crops are doing much better. There was no trouble with fruit. There are plenty of apples on the trees as there was no late frost or gales at blossom time, even the peach tree in the greenhouse is full of fruit. There is no sign of potato blight yet (despite the numerous blight warnings on the radio) and the potatoes look excellent. I was tempted to dig out some of the first earlies today but resisted. They still grow a good bit. Instead I sprayed them – for the first time in my life. I got a sample from Fruit Hill Farm – CuForte – it’s a copper based spray (like the old Bluestone – coppersulphate and washing soda). This one is much easier to use as it’s just mixed with water and you use much less copper. I also mixed in Herfomyc – an organic spray which is used as a preventative for all fungal diseases. Both sprays and many more are available by mail order from Fruit Hill Farm, Co. Cork (Tel. 027 50710).
There are two garden shows we’ll be attending in July
5-6th July: Galway Garden Festival in Claregalway Castle
12th July: Blarney Garden Festival in Blarney Castle
What to do in July?
July is a great month for reaping the benefits of your hard work. The first tomatoes, courgettes, salads, beans and peas and lots and lots more. This is the first year since I’m in Ireland (15 years) that I have ripe tomatoes in June. In some years I had to wait until August. Guess which one was the first one to ripen – again? Obviously Sungold F1.
Keep up the side shooting of tomatoes. Sometimes you’ll find one that’s over a foot or two long. It’s important to remove those – even if there are flowers or fruits on it, otherwise you’ll end up with a jungle. The same applies for cucumbers.
I still use my weekly spray of garlic concentrate and seaweed extract for the tunnel crops.
There are a few sowing that can be made in July:
From July onwards we can finally sow our autumn salads such as rocket, mizuna, pak choi, various mustard salads again and they will be less likely to bolt as compared to previous sowings. We may also be luckier with the fleabeetle – that’s not guaranteed though. Other excellent salads that can be sown from now onwards (until September) include the wonderful claytonia (also called winter purslane) and corn salad (also called lamb’s lettuce)
Also don’t forget the successional sowings for lettuce, scallions, dill, coriander, Florence fennel, kohlrabi, radish and turnip.
Vegetable Grower’s Smartphone App
I have just launched a new smartphone app. ‘The Vegetable Grower’s Handbook’. You can find the link on the following site: http://greenvegetableseeds.com/app/ .
The app was designed by David Horn from Tick Tock Design and was supported by Leitrim Development Company.
You need to open it with your smartphone. The cost is €1.99. Please let me know what you think.
Plant a tea herb garden
You can create the nicest tea herb garden if you have about 2-3 square metre of garden space available. If not you can grow them all in pots. I’m not really a fan of the pre-packed herbal tea bags, so please even if you don’t like herbal teas yet, give this one a go. This recipe is fabulous.
You need the following herbs plants:
1 Lemon balm
1 Green or Bronze Fennel
1 Golden Marjoram
1 Sage (Purple or Green)
1 Moroccan Mint (grown in a large pot and not in the herb garden!)
3 Lemon or Orange Thyme
These make up the basic mixture but you can add other tea herbs according to your taste:
Lemon Verbena (the most divine tea herb of all, but hard to get)
All those herbs are so easily grown. Apart from keeping them weed free and the occasional pruning there is very little else to do. Many of them are HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS. This simply means that they live for many years and all the leaves die back in winter before they start to grow again in early spring. This is their own protection from the cold. Examples of herbaceous perennials are lemon balm, mint, fennel, and other culinary herbs such as chives and bergamot. Herbaceous perennials should be pruned back at to ground level in winter. I also sometimes prune them to ground level in summer when they look a bit tired. New fresh shoots will appear soon after. EVERGREEN PERENNIALS include thyme, sage and other culinary herbs such as rosemary and lemon verbena.
How to make the tea?
Making a herbal tea is the easiest thing imaginable. You simply harvest shoots of the various herbs until you have a large handful, squeeze it in your hands to release the essential oils and then put them into a teapot, pour boiling water over it and wait for 3-5 minutes.
Luna Restaurant in Dromahair
Last night we had the most delicious meal in the most amazing restaurant. I know I’m a bit partial, because I know Bernadette O’Shea (author of: Pizza Defined) well. We were completely blown away – everything is home cooked – even the pasta is hand made by Bernadette. I can’t remember having had anything comparable. This is really well worth a trip for this ultimate food experience.
Making good compost – and compost extracts
Compost making is one of my favourite gardening activities. It is actually very easy to make excellent compost and we should all strive to achieve it as the benefits of good compost will more than reward you and your vegetables.
If you apply well-decomposed compost to your soil you’ll get the following benefits:
- Feed all soil inhabitants, micro-organisms, worms etc.
- Supply plant nutrients (N,P&K)
- Supply all trace elements
- Supply nutrients in a slow release form
- Improve the structure of your soil
- Improve drainage
- Lessen compaction
- Increase porosity
- Increase water holding capacity
- Darken the soil (so you can sow and plant a bit earlier)
Compost can suppress plant diseases
In the last twenty years scientists from all over the world have shown and proven that compost applications to soils can protect plants from whole range of diseases. They have performed pot experiments where compost was added to potting media and then injected various plant diseases. The ones with added compost showed a significant reduction in the disease. There are also numerous studies on’ compost teas’ or ‘compost extracts’.
How to make a compost extract?
Different researchers use different variants with different results. You can design your own system.
- Use and excellent, sweet smelling, well-decomposed compost
- Soak one part of compost with 10-20 parts water in a bucket.
- Leave for 7 to 14 days, stirring daily
- Strain it through a pillow case or muslin
- Dilute with water (1:10)
- Spray the extract onto your vegetables
Researcher s could control a multitude of plant diseases in laboratory conditions using this spray. However, the results can be quite variable depending on the quality of the compost, the soaking time and the disease pressure.
How does it work?
It is not fully clear how it works. Researchers suggest the following modes of action:
- There are billions of micro-organisms in the extract and they simply compete for space and food with the disease organisms
- There may be micro-organisms that feed on the disease organisms (parasitism). In some instances they have been isolated, propagated and used directly.
- There is a possibility that the extract provides a balanced liquid feed for plants and thus strengthens them and protects them from diseases.
- There is the possibility that the extract will induce resistance against certain diseases (very much like a vaccination)
The most important thing is to start off with a fabulous compost and actually I intended to write about how to make good compost! It will have to wait till next week.