May Gardening Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

April was quite a cold month but luckily it stayed reasonably dry.  It was still a bit early to sow the majority of crops.  There is still plenty of time for anyone just starting off the gardening year.  Sowings in May are generally a lot more reliable – everything just wants to grow.

We just came back from the Mussel Festival in Tullycross, Connemara.  The rain kept off and David and I did a demonstration on the old traditional techniques on how potatoes were grown in the past.  This technique of making ‘Lazy Beds’ or ‘Ridges’ is highly suitable for hobby gardeners who want to convert their lawns.  That’s what we did at the back of the thatched cottages in Tullycross.  Everyone had a go at it and I really hope that this traditional technique will survive.  It’s unique to Ireland and nowhere else in the world is there a similar system.

In this newsletter you’ll find the following:

–          Gardening Tasks in May

–          How to make Lazy Beds

–          Living Land Campaign

–          Update on the People 4 Soil Campaign

Gardening Tasks in May

May is definitely the busiest month in your vegetable garden and hopefully you have managed to do all the other jobs such as bed preparation in the previous months. The soil has warmed up sufficiently to sow and plant nearly all vegetables. So make sure you take time off in May so that you can spend days in the garden!

–          Finish preparing the beds and keep the hoe and rake moving over them.

–          Watch out for late frosts and have some horticultural fleece handy to cover your potatoes if needed.

–          You should thin out your radish and turnip seedlings.



Outdoor sowing:

In the first half of May you can sow early beetroot, early carrots, parsnips, perpetual spinach, annual spinach, chard, radish, turnip, peas and runner beans directly into the ground.

Towards the end of the month you can sow maincrop carrots and beetroot and any crops you didn’t manage to sow at the beginning of the month.


Indoor sowing:

In May you can still sow the following vegetables into modular trays: winter cabbages, Brussels

sprouts, calabrese, kale, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, lettuce, scallions, spinach and chard.

If you haven’t sown courgettes, pumpkins, squash, runner beans and sweetcorn yet you can still do so at the first half of the month. Towards the end of the month you can sow Florence fennel and Chinese cabbage.



You can plant out the crops you sowed in the previous month: the first batch of leeks, cabbage,

cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, calabrese, kohlrabi, rocket, swede, turnip, lettuce, perpetual spinach, chard, annual spinach and scallions.



Towards the end of the month you may be able to harvest some oriental salads, radish, turnips and annual spinach.


Pest watch

Don’t forget to keep a check on your plants especially the seedlings outside. This is the time when they are most vulnerable to a slug attack. You also need to be wary of leatherjackets, the larva of the daddy-longlegs. They can be a terror during this month especially on newly planted lettuce. If a small lettuce suddenly dies, it was probably eaten by a leatherjacket. They actually just bite through the stem of the young plants. If you don’t find the culprit in the soil it will move on to the next plant.

If you had carrot root fly in previous years it is nearly essential that you cover the early sow carrots with a bionet.


How to make lazy beds?

  1. You start off with a lawn. The better the lawn the easier it will be to lift the sods.
  2. Mark out the area and stretch garden lines sloping downwards every three feet apart.
  3. Place manure on one side of the line about 20cm wide and 5-10cm high. This is on top of the grass.
  4. 4. Put the seed potatoes on top of the manure, 20cm apart for earlies, 30cm apart for maincrops.
  5. Place the garden line between the two bands of manure and cut the sod with a spade or edging tool.
  6. 6. Now comes the tough job. You cut under the sod and turn it onto the potatoes. When you finished the first line repeat this on the other side so the whole drill is covered with sods from either side.
  7. After that you shovel some soil from the pathways onto the drills.
  8. During the growing season earth up the potatoes once or twice.
  9. Harvesting is definitely the best fun: you simply open up the sods (with strong hands and gloves) and the potatoes just lie there on top of the manure which has since decomposed nicely.


The Living Land Campaign

Please have a look at this very important campaign to find a more sustainable way of farming and caring for the land.  It argues that our food and farming system is broken. And they are right.  We can no longer rely on pesticides that pollute our environment and possibly damage our own health.  We can also no longer rely on artificial fertilizers that bleed our soils dry of organic matter and starve or kill the essential life in the soil.  We can also no longer depend on the mass production of cheap commodities where millions of acres produce a single crop and where hundreds of thousands of animals (especially pigs and chickens) are confined in large sheds hidden away and pumped full of antibiotics so they can survive the torture.

There are alternatives – agribusiness can turn back into agriculture, which is the true culture of the land.

So let’s fix it – make your voice heard in the debate on the future of agriculture!

The European Commission has just launched a major online Public Consultation on the future of the CAP which runs until 2 May 2017. With the EU itself in crisis, now is the moment to show change is both needed and possible!

It is essential that as many organisations and individuals, from as wide a variety of sectors and countries as possible, seize this golden opportunity to tell the European Commission that the EU’s food and farming system is broken and that a reformed CAP must be:

  • Fair – for farmers and rural communities.
  • Environmentally Sustainable – for clean air and water, healthy soil, and thriving plant and animal life.
  • Healthy – for good food and the well-being of all people.
  • Globally Responsible – for the planet’s climate and sustainable development around the world.

For more information have a look at:


The following update on the People 4 Soil campaign was kindly summarized by David Hayden from the Environmental Pillar. You will also find a link to the lectures which were recorded at the Soils Conference at the Botanic Gardens last autumn.

‘Since the launch of People4Soil on December 5, 2016 the communications team at the Environmental Pillar have been busy finding ways to spread the word about People4Soil. We now have more than a quarter of the signatures needed and the growth rate has spiked in recent weeks. As of April 25, 2017 we have 2046 electronic signatures and approximately 200 paper signatures. We have added more than a thousand new signatures since December.

The series of lectures given at the launch are available online at the Environmental Pillar’s YouTube channel url: The Environmental Pillar launched a hashtag for the campaign #Selfie4Soil in an event held at Piglet wine bar in Dublin on April 19, with sweet and savory ‘edible soil’ dishes . The goal of the hashtag is to leverage social media influencers in support of People4Soil. Media response to the press release was very encouraging.

Darina Allen and Ballymaloe Cookery School made a video endorsement of People4Soil and Catherine Martin TD and Eamon Ryan Party Leader of the Greens, as well as TV presenter Duncan Stewart and many other well-known environmentalists took a #Selfie4Soil and encouraged people to sign the petition. The event was attended by food journalist and member of the food writers guild and chairperson of ‘Slow Food Dublin’ Dee Laffan, as well as the Secretary General of Euro-toques Ireland Caroline Byrne, co-owners Thibaud Harang and Enrico Fantasia as well as Dominique Dorman from Sheridan’s cheese, they generously participated in #Selfie4Soil and tweeted about the petition. Marie Claire Digby from the Irish Times covered the event and encouraged environmentalists and other stakeholder to sign and share the petition url:

Over the past week Environmental Pillar coordinator Michael Ewing gave an interview with Kildare Radio Station’s KFM,  Spokesperson Klaus Laitenberger spoke to Cork’s Cry104FM on Youghal Today with Justin Maher and David Hayden from the Environmental Pillar gave interviews to CRC Castlebar and Dublin City FM’s Good Morning Dublin Show about People4Soil and #Selfie4Soil.

Lots more to come!


Happy Gardening,

Klaus Laitenberger