March Gardening Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

March Gardening Newsletter

The busy time in the garden should be starting now – if only the rains would stop! Lucky are the gardeners with polytunnels or greenhouses in these times.
This is my favourite time of the year when nature starts to wake up from its long slumber. This is also the time when gardeners get itchy fingers.
Don’t be too tempted though – these days are just teasers. There are not many crops that can be planted outdoors in March. I always argue that one of the biggest mistakes gardeners make is to be too impatient and sow or plant too early. Below is a short chapter on what to sow or plant in March.

What to do in March?
Outdoor sowings and plantings in March:

Early potatoes (mid March), onion and shallot sets, garlic bulbs, broad beans (Witkeim Manita), Jerusalem artichoke.

Indoor sowings for planting outdoors later:

Lettuce, scallions, early cabbage, celery, celeriac, leeks, coriander, dill, parsley, beetroot, calabrese, oriental salads, perpetual spinach, chard (from mid March onwards).

Indoor sowings direct into tunnel or greenhouse:

Early potatoes, radish, turnip, oriental salads, beetroot, carrot, annual spinach, coriander, dill.

Indoor sowing in trays for planting into tunnel or greenhouse:

Tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, chilli peppers, climbing French beans, sweetcorn, lettuce, scallions, celery, coriander, dill, parsley, calabrese, oriental salads.

Arrival of new stock:

Onion Sets – Stur BC 20
This is an excellent onion variety which I have grown for many years now and was always impressed. It’s an improved Sturon type which produces highly productive onions with excellent bolting resistance and excellent storage qualities. These sets are of excellent quality and well worth a try if you struggled with growing onions before.
Onion sets will be in stock by the end of next week.

Renvyle Gardening Course

Just to let you know there a still a few places left at the award winning Renvyle House Hotel Gardening weekend on the 6th – 8th March (see details below).

Biofach Organic Exhibition

Last week I went to Biofach in Nuremberg – probably the biggest exhibition of organic produce. This was an amazing experience as I always wanted to go there. It was great to see emerging trends.
Here is just a brief summary:
– High anthocyanin fruits such as Aronia (Aronia melanocarpa) and Haskap berry (Lonicera caerula) are becoming very popular.
– Jackfruit which I saw last in Uganda in 2002 is now in so many food dishes.
– Hemp in all its forms was everywhere.
– Unfortunately my real favourite crop – Jerusalem artichoke was nowhere to be found! It’ll be a long uphill battle to get this ancient supercrop out there.

Global Statistics

The latest Global Statistics of Organic Farming (2018) were recently released. Here are a few key points. The news is very uplifting amongst all the sad and negative news recently:
– There are over 71.5 million hectares of organic farmland
– Organic farmland increased by 2.0 million hectares, an increase of 2.9 percent compared to 2017
– There are 2.8 million organic producers (top two countries are India and Uganda)
– The global organic market continues to grow worldwide, passing 100 Billion US Dollars
– The US is the leading market for organic food followed by Germany and France
– Danish and Swiss consumers spent the most on organic food (312 Euros per capita)
– Australia has the largest organic agricultural area followed by Argentina and China
– Globally the average organic land area is 1.5 percent
– The countries with the highest share of organic farmland are Liechtenstein (38.5 percent), Samoa (34.5 percent), Austria (24.7 percent)
– Sixteen countries have a share of over 10 percent of organic farmland
– Ireland has 118,699ha of certified organic land (2018) or 2.39 percent of agricultural land area
For more information have a look at the following website

Bord na Mona

This year I am working as an organic horticultural advisor with Bord na Mona – a company that is very quickly changing and initiating a number of exciting green projects alongside their current bog rehabilitation projects.
I’m involved with the organic medicinal herb production – Bord na Mona has converted around 50,000ha of land to organic. Most of it will be to enable wildcrafting of native herbs (gathering wild herbs) as well as the production of 60ha of calendula, plantain, marshmallow, valerian and peppermint.
Imagine 50,000 ha of land with no spraying of Roundup!
Another exciting project is the collection of birch sap. I will give more updates from this project in the next newsletter.

New Crops

Brokali – Atlantis F1
This is a unique cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. It is grown for its delicious florets as well as the tender stems. It’s very easy to grow and can be sown in succession between March and end of May.

Courses and Workshops for 2020

Date: Saturday 29th February 2020
Course: Gardening Tips
Venue: The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim
Tips and tricks to make gardening easier; how to propagate herbs, fruit and vegetables; how to breed new vegetable varieties – eg potatoes, etc; how to create a free soft fruit orchard with little work.

Date: Friday 6th – Sunday 8th March 2020
Gardening Weekend at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara
With: Anja Gohlke (Head Gardener Kylemore Abbey) and Klaus Laitenberger
Book early to avoid disappointment.
Tel: 095 46100
There will be talks and workshops on organic vegetable, fruit and herb growing, a trip and guided tour to Kylemore Abbey Gardens as well as the very popular gardening quiz night.
This course quickly booked up in the last couple of years – early booking is essential.
For more information or booking:

Date: Saturday 14th March 2020
Course: Spring in the Tunnel
Venue: The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim
The first of our seasonal polytunnel workshops, designed to help you organise and make the best use of your polytunnel and enable you to harvest lots of produce throughout the year. Workshop will cover crop rotation, composting, sowing and planting, tips, pest and disease. Hands on experience with Klaus.

Date: Saturday 21th March 2020
Course: Beginner’s Gardening Course
Venue: Skerries, Co. Dublin
Contact: Mary Marsden

Date: Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th March 2020
Course: Complete Beginner’s Gardening Course
Venue: Featherfield Farm, Lullymore, Co. Kildare
This course is suited for anyone who plans to start a food garden. It is filled with practical tips and demonstrations on how to prepare the soil and make raised beds; compost making session, seed sowing demonstration and how to avoid pests and diseases. There will also be a session on growing fruit bushes and herbs. It will include classroom sessions on crop planning, rotations and tips on which crops are best suited for the small garden.
A hands-on course – so bring gardening gear.

Date: Saturday 4th April 2020
Course Title: Grow your own vegetables, herbs and salads
Venue: The Garden School, Dalkey, Dublin
Contact: Ann-Marie Bowring: 087 2256365

Date: Sunday 5th April 2020
Course Title: Growing your own healthy food
Venue: Coolamber, Co. Westmeath
Contact: Ann-Marie Durkin: 087 1436292
– This course is fully booked

Date: Saturday 18th April 2020
Talk: Organic Gardening
Venues: Ardcarne Garden Centres in Boyle and Roscommon Town

Date: 24th – 26th April 2020
Festival: Wildmind
Venue: Fenit, Co. Kerry
It’s an inspirational gathering of people who are concerned about the welfare of our environment and planet. The main ethos is to inform and empower people on environmental issues both local and international and how they can make a difference. The festival is also family focused with lots of events happening throughout the weekend.
More info on:

Date: Sunday 3rd May
Course Title: Summer in the Tunnel
Venue: The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim
A tunnel based, practical session focusing on: maintenance, plant care, ventilation, feeding and watering, preventing and dealing with pests and diseases. Designed to support your summer production.

Date: Saturday 9th May 2020
Course: Growing in Polytunnels and Greenhouses
Venue: Featherfield Farm, Lullymore, Co. Kildare
This course is for anyone who considers buying a polytunnel or greenhouse or who already has one. Polytunnel growing is far more productive and reliable than outdoor production. Instead of just producing one crop outdoors you could get up to 5 crops per year in one space. The course includes crop planning, detailed guidelines on growing a variety of crops, crop rotations and other practical aspects eg types of tunnels, ventilation, pest and disease control and general management.

Date: Saturday 16th May 2020
Course: Growing your own organic food
Venue: OURganic Gardens, Falcarragh, Co. Donegal
Contact: Joanne Butler: 086 1789971 or email:

Date: Saturday 30th May 2020
Course: Profitable Polytunnel Production
Venue: The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim
This course is for anyone who considers making a small income from their garden. Polytunnel production is far more productive than outdoor production. Instead of just producing one crop outdoors you could get up to 5 times the amount of crop. The course includes crop planning, crop rotations, selling produce, soil fertility, and other practical aspects eg types of tunnels, ventilation, pest and disease control and general management.

Autumn Courses:
12th Sep 2020: Course at the Hydro Allotments in Blarney (Contact Zwena: 087 2333183)
19th Sep 2020: Course at Featherfield Farm, Kildare (Contact Julian: 087 6240811)
26th Sep 2020: Course at the Organic Centre, Leitrim (Contact: 071 9854338)

Happy Gardening

Klaus Laitenberger