March Gardening Newsletter 2019

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

We certainly won’t get bored with the weather – from the summery spell last week to winter in the last few days. According to old gardener’s lore – this is called the blackthorn winter. For some reason – every year as soon as the blackthorn blossoms appear a wintery spell isn’t too far. The blackthorn is also called the sloe tree. It’s beautiful and this time of year with its snow white flowers on black branches. The leaves only appear after flowering. Once the cold spell is over and the soil has dried up a little you can sow or plant a few crops:


Direct sowing/planting outdoors:
Around the middle of the month you can plant your early potatoes, onion and shallot sets. To protect your onion and shallot sets from birds you can cover them with bird netting over wire hoops or alternatively cover with a cloche covered in bionet. If you haven’t sown broad beans yet there is still time. Jerusalem artichokes and garlic can also still be planted.

In a polytunnel or greenhouse you will really feel the warmth at this time of year and so do your plants. They start to grow quite rapidly now but be aware that the nights are still quite cold and there is still a high risk of frost. Many garden centres will try and sell you tomato plants from the end of March onwards. Don’t let them tempt you until May.

Direct sowing into tunnel beds:
In March you can still sow the following vegetables directly into the soil. However, if you sow carrots, beetroot and peas now they will only be ready in mid June which is far too late to plant your tomatoes or peppers.
Beetroot (Pablo F1)
Carrots (early types)
French beans (dwarf and climbing
Peas, Mangetout (Shiraz)
Radish – small amounts at regular intervals
Turnips (Milan Purple Top) – small amounts at regular intervals

Planting out into tunnel beds
You can now plant out the seedlings you raised earlier on your heating bench: lettuce, scallions, dill, coriander, chervil, early cabbage, calabrese, mini cauliflowers, early leeks, perpetual spinach, Swiss chard, salad rocket and all other oriental salads. Most seedlings take about 4-5 weeks from sowing until they are ready to plant.

Sowing into modules/pots (18-20°C)
Do not let your heating bench clutter up too much. Most vegetables only require some warmth for germination and in March the seedlings are better off if placed on a non-heated bench in the tunnel or greenhouse. Only your tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines, courgettes, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, celery, celeriac and basil should remain on the heating bench until they are planted in May. Really all other vegetables should be moved off the heating bench about a week after they have germinated.
In March you can sow the following vegetables into modular trays and place them in your propagator or warm, south-facing windowsill in the house:
Aubergine (Black Prince F1) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot, for pricking out later
Basil (Sweet Genovese) – 4 seeds per cell (only late in the month)
Calabrese (Chevalier F1) – 1 seed per cell
Cauliflower (for mini cauliflowers) – 1 seed per cell
Celery (Victoria F1) – broadcast in a tray for pricking out later
Chilli peppers (various varieties) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot – only early in the month
Courgette (Parthenon) – 1 seed per 7cm pot
Coriander, Dill and Chervil – 5 seeds per cell
French beans (climbing and dwarf) – 5 seeds per 9cm pot
Kohlrabi (Azur Star) – 1 seed per cell
Lettuce (various types) – 1 to 3 seeds per cell
Oriental salads (mizuna, rocket, tatsoi, etc.) – 5 seeds per cell
Pepper (Roberta F1, Bell Boy F1) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot, for pricking out
Scallions (Parade or Ishikura) – 5 to 10 seeds per cell, depending on how many you like in a bunch
Tomato (Sungold F1 & others) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot, for pricking out.

Do not sow your cucumbers and melons yet. You’ll get much better results if you wait until April to sow them.

Sowing indoors for planting outside later on
You can raise the following vegetables indoors for planting out into your vegetable garden later. Cabbage (early varieties) – 1 seed per cell
Calabrese (Chevalier F1) – 1 seed per cell
Celery (Victoria F1) – broadcast in a tray for pricking out later
Celer iac (Giant Prague) – broadcast in a tray for pricking out later
Kohlrabi (Azur Star) – 1 seed per cell
Leeks (Hannibal) – 2 seeds per cell
Lettuce (various) – 1 to 3 cells per cell
Onions (Golden Bear F1) – 4 seeds per cell
Scallions (Ishikura Bunching) – 10 seeds per cell

Seeds are available from our online seed shop

Renvyle Course
We were delighted to welcome one of our seed customers who came especially over to Ireland to join the Renvyle Gardening Weekend and to visit Irish gardens. I became quite jealous looking at her photos of her vegetable garden in China. She literally just throws the seeds onto the ground, rakes them in and only weeks later gets beautiful crops of salads, vegetables and flowers. In Ireland it’s not that easy and there are many steps in between – from windowsill to garden. We visited my gardening hero Joy Larkcom in Cork and saw Kitty Scully’s garden at Voxpro and visited Donal Chambers at the Permaculture College in Kinsale.
Despite the wet weather, the gardening weekend in Renvyle was a wonderful, informative as well as relaxing weekend. There were over 60 people at the course (apologies if people couldn’t get a place) and we all learned so much from each other. Fionnuala Fallon joined us and she gave talks and demonstrations on cut flower production – her new enterprise. We are all enthused and ready to start a new gardening year.

Upcoming Courses and Talks

Date: Wednesday 6th March 2019
Talk: Growing Healthy Organic Vegetables
Venue Howth, Dublin
Here is the link for more information:
Date: Saturday 9th March 2019
Venue: The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim (Tel: 0719854338)
Course: Lost Crops of the Incas €70
Our potato doesn’t come from Ireland. It originates in Peru and was developed by the ancient Incas. One of the biggest mysteries is that all the other amazing crops from the Incas haven’t made it to world fame. Some are becoming more popular especially due to their health benefits while others still await their turn. Most of them can be grown successfully in Ireland either outdoors or in a tunnel. Some of the Inca crops include: Oca, Yacon, Quinoa, Amaranth, Sweet Potato, Mashua (tuberous nasturtium), Ulluco, Tarwi, Maca, Achocha, Cape Gooseberry etc

Date: Thursday 21st March 2019 (evening)
Venue: Shells Cafe, Strandhill, Co. Sligo
Talk: Grow your own
Contact: or Tel: 071 9122938

Date: Saturday 23rd March 2019
Venue: Dalkey Garden School
Course: Grow your own healthy vegetables
Detail and booking on:

Date: Monday 25th March 2019
Venue: NUI Galway (6-7pm)
Talk: The benefits of organic produce

Date: Friday 29th March 2019
Venue: Hydro Farm Allotments, Tower, Blarney, Co. Cork
Course: Complete Vegetable Gardening Course
Klaus Laitenberger is giving a one day course at The Hydro Farm Allotments, Tower, Blarney, for both beginners and experienced growers. Including plant rotation, soil preparation, planting and tending till harvest. Questions welcomed.

The Hydro Farm Allotments (Voted ‘Best Growers’ and ‘Providers’ of allotments in Ireland by RDS) where the soil is deep, rich and fertile and the gardeners, old and young from more than 10 countries form a wonderful supportive community where sharing special days, seeds and harvests is the norm.

Klaus is recently back from a world-wide educational adventure in the quest to find new food crops. He will be sharing some of his experiences and showing photographs from this wonderful 10 week trip. This is not to be missed!

Cost. Full day including Lunch €35 or Bring your own lunch €25.
Booking or text/call 0872333183.

Date: Tuesday 9th April 2019
Venue: Kilkenny
Talk – Organic Gardening
More details to follow
Date: Sunday 12th May 2019
Venue: The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim (Tel: 0719854338)
Course: Profitable Polytunnel Growing

Visitor from Uganda
I’m just wondering if anyone would be interested in hosting a Ugandan farmer/horticulturist who will visit Ireland from the 1st to the 15th June.
I know Timothy for over 20 years when he studied as a key farmer with Kulika Trust to promote organic and sustainable farming in Uganda.
A colleague of his – Claire Namutebi visited Ireland in 2005 and stayed with us at the Organic Centre in Leitrim where I worked.
During her stay we raised a substantial amount of money to contribute in setting up an Organic Centre in Uganda. I visited Uganda in 2006 and saw the beginning of the Kasenge Organic Centre in Mukono. The Organic Centre is now fully operational. Timothy is one of the key drivers of the organic movement in Uganda and other parts of Africa.
Here is the link to his website:
Last winter a friend of mine (Colman Power) visited Kasenge Organic Centre and stayed and worked there for 3 weeks. It really was a unique experience – still a poor but very safe country. They are training hundreds of people every year in sustainable farming and growing. They also take in interns from Europe who can work and teach there as well as doing some cultural trips and see the main sites of Uganda (eg. the source of the Nile).
I think the main reason for Timothy’s trip to Ireland (and other European countries) is to promote the Kasenge Organic Centre with the hope to attract interns from colleges, training centres or other interested people.
Timothy is very experienced and also a charismatic speaker. It would be great if you could think of some opportunities for him to speak during his stay in Ireland or other contacts that may be useful. Any other suggestions or support would be very welcome.njh
It really is a lifetime’s experience and I often think of the amazing time I had in Uganda.

Happy Gardening,

Klaus Laitenberger