Dear Fellow Gardeners,
Welcome to the June Gardening Newsletter.
It appears that we are getting well compensated for the miserable wet winter we had. Summer is here and more good weather is on the way. There is really no place more beautiful than Ireland in the sun – with the cow parsley in the hedgerows and the hawthorn in full bloom.
I’m still travelling throughout the country inspecting organic farms and unfortunately I still notice lots of farmers and even County Councils spraying Roundup weedkiller along hedgerows and along roadsides. I always think it scars our beautiful landscapes with brown scorched patches. Spraying Roundup makes no sense – the grass looks brown and horrible for a month or two and then weeds will grow through again. Why not leave the beautiful wildflowers as food for birds and butterflies or if you want a tidier look simply strim or mow.
I’ll stop giving out about it – at least for now – because I have hopes that the EU will finally ban glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup). Glyphosate has been linked to cancer in last year’s WHO (World Health Organisation) report.
What to do in June
Apart from a few more sowings and plantings there is relatively little to do in the garden apart from maintaining your crops. Keep hoeing and weeding. Your plants are still at a vulnerable stage where they can very easily get swamped by weeds. Thin all your direct sown vegetables when they are still quite small to the required spacing. If you neglect thinning you will only be able to harvest tiny and often mis-shaped vegetables. You should not replant thinnings especially from root crops. During dry spells you may have to water your outdoor seedlings.
Outdoor sowing: You can still sow carrots, beetroot and peas if you missed the sowing in May. And you can continue with successional sowings of radish, turnip and annual spinach.
Indoor sowing: You can still sow kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, Florence fennel, oriental salads, lettuce, and scallions into modular trays. June is a good time to sow your purple sprouting broccoli.
You can plant out your late leeks, winter cabbages, Brussels sprouts, calabrese, kale, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, lettuce, scallions, celery, celeriac, spinach and chard. Early June is also the best time to plant out your courgettes, squash, pumpkin, sweetcorn, French beans and runner beans after they have been hardened off. Only plant them out if it is warm. They would benefit from a cloche for the first few weeks.
Finally you can get a reasonable harvest from your garden. You may have some lettuce, scallions, radish, turnip, early cabbage, early potatoes (towards the end of the month), early peas, broad beans, spinach and chard.
Watch out for the cabbage white butterflies. When you see them flying around you should check the undersides of any brassica leaves and look out for the small yellow eggs which turn into caterpillars and ruin your plants. The earlier you spot and remove them the
Good old cabbages and kale
Cabbages have grown a little out of fashion in the last few decades but there appears to be a slight revival of this ancient vegetable which has been cultivated for over 4,000 years in Asia. The revival of this vegetable is partly due to its various attributed health benefits and its slimming effect.
Kale on the other hand is nowadays one of the most fashionable vegetable of all. Sports fanatics and health conscious people drink kale juice and there are even kale crisps on the market. When I first came to Ireland in 1999 there was no possibility of even selling a single bunch of kale.
Kale is by far the easiest of the brassicas to grow and it has the massive benefit that you can harvest a few leaves every week for many months. Five kale plants are more than sufficient for an average family. My favourite varieties are Nero di Toscana, Red Russian and Redbor F1. I recently got some kale seeds from Cloughjordan. They crossed a Red Russian with Nero di Toscana. I have the seedlings growing already and can’t wait to see the outcome.
Cabbages thrive in Irish soil conditions – a cool and damp climate is ideal. In Ireland cabbages can be grown nearly all year round.
Potato breeding update
We have about 20 different varieties of potatoes growing in Bundoran from which we’ll collect seeds to breed a new variety. They are all thriving at the moment. I’m curious to see how the other two trial plots in Kenmare and Ballina are doing.
I already saved seeds from last year’s crop of potatoes and sowed them in February, pricked them out in March, potted on in April and planted them out last week. I planted about 40 well-developed plants in 9cm pots. Each one of them is a new variety. When I went back yesterday I was horrified. Slugs had devastated about half of my new breeding programme. Twenty potentially new excellent varieties have been wiped out by the hunger of some poor slugs. Even the growth points of the plants were eaten so there is not even hope.
After my initial shock and despair, I saw the positive side. Why did the slugs eat some but not the other plants?
The obvious answer is that they prefer some more than others. In scientific terms – some are more resistant to slugs compared to others.
Breeding for slug resistance could be a really important criteria as organic growers haven’t got the same methods of control as conventional growers. So my mishap could work out fine after all.
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) – Immortality Plant
I bought this plant last year and planted it in the corner of a greenhouse in Bundoran. It’s a vigorous climbing plant (3m tall) belonging to the Pumpkin Family (Cucurbitaceae). It originates from a remote area in China where people enjoy a very long and healthy life. Health problems such as cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses are unknown in this region. This is attributed to this herb and thus it is also known as the “Immortality Herb”.
It’s a perennial plant which is winter hardy and can be grown outdoors in any type of soil. Growing the plants in pots is also a possibility and the pots can be moved indoors in autumn to prolong the harvest. The growth dies back in winter and the plant survives as rhizomes (herbaceous perennial).
Apparently the plant is also very easy to propagate using layering of branches and cuttings. Maybe we’ll have some available next year.
The leaves – especially the new shoots – are used to make a herbal tea. Simply harvest about 10 fresh leaves and pour boiling water over the leaves and let the tea steep for 3 minutes. Apparently if you drink this daily it helps with heart problems, high blood pressure, problems with the immune system and also for various women’s problems – thus its other name “Lady’s Ginseng”.
Organic Vegetable production: Join Klaus Laitenberger for a one day session on organic vegetable production and controlling weeds, pests and disease organically. Klaus will take an in-depth look at various crops and problems and offer a range of solution s that will help you develop a healthy and productive vegetable plot. Locations: 23rd of July Springmount Garden Centre, Gorey, Wexford and 30th of July Croghan Organic Gardens, Croghan, Roscommon. Start time:10am, Course cost is €30.00 per person. (limited free places for those who are unemployed.
For more NOTS courses on other subjects throughout the country have a look at their website: www.nots.ie
Enjoy the summer.