Dear Fellow Gardeners
I am sincerely honoured at having been awarded the Nuffield Scholarship. In my 50th year I will be travelling around the globe searching for vegetables that have a potential for growing in Ireland as well as looking for the “Lost Crops of the Incas”. So next year you’ll hear more about my travels and discoveries.
I am also proud to be living here in Leitrim – first Leitrim led the way to ban fracking in Ireland and now Leitrim Co. Council bans pesticides in all public places. All other counties should take Leitrim as a positive example
Just a quick note for your diary – I’ll give a course at the Botanic Gardens on Wednesday 22nd November 2017. The course is organised and subsidised by the National Organic Training Skillsnet (NOTS) www.nots.ie – early booking is recommended as it usually fills up quickly at the Botanic Garden.
Onion sets in stock
We have just received our onion sets. I’m delighted with the quality – they are all firm round bulbs and ideal for planting out now and until the end of October. The variety is ‘Troy’ – an excellent variety that can be planted both in a polytunnel or outdoors. The bulbs mature around May if planted indoors or in early to mid June if planted outdoors. Unfortunately we don’t have any autumn garlic in stock.
In this newsletter you’ll find:
– What to do in October
– Putting the garden to bed
– Leitrim bans pesticides
– People 4 Soil campaign – Ireland achieved it’s target
What to do in October
October is the month to fill your larder. Many crops are harvested and stored safely, for the long winter months. It’s also the month to put your beds to bed for the winter.
As the ground becomes vacant after harvesting crops you can put the beds to bed for the winter. A thick cover of fresh seaweed is ideal. If you can’t get any seaweed you should either cover the beds with strong black plastic or grow an overwintering green manure crop. The most efficient method is to prepare the beds and work in some compost and then cover the beds securely with black plastic. You will have very little work to do in the following
spring. It is advisable to get as much of this work done before the weather turns unpleasant. Stake tall brassicas such as kale, Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli to prevent them from rocking and collapsing in the wind.
You may think it’s far too late to sow any vegetables so late in the year. In actual fact it is the ideal time to sow your overwintering broad beans and to plant your overwintering garlic. Just make sure that you use suitable varieties.
October is still a good month to sow green manures. You can sow grazing rye, vetch and field beans.
Harvest all your maincrop potatoes. Dig them out carefully, let them dry for an hour and then store them. Never wash them before storage. You can also dig out your carrots and beetroot and store them in boxes of sand in a frost free shed. The firm Dutch cabbages should also be harvested and stored in a cool shed but not in sand.
Celeriac, parsnips, leeks, savoy cabbage, kohlrabi, perpetual spinach and swede can be harvested as required. They can be left outdoors as they are very hardy. However, if your ground becomes very waterlogged in winter you better dig out your
parsnips, swedes and celeriac at the end of the month and store them in boxes of sand. The first Brussels sprouts may be ready by now.
The runner beans are probably finished by now. After your last picking you can clear the plants. It helps if you chop or cut the stems before putting them on the compost heap. If you leave the roots in the ground the nitrogen rich nodules will stay in the ground.
Putting the garden to bed
We often feel like abandoning our vegetable gardens at this time of the year. Gardening is the last thing we feel like doing but there will be a few sunny days left to do one last important job.
The most common (and bad) advice at this time of the year is to dig your garden over and leave the frost to break down the clumps of soil leaving a wonderful tilth.
Please don’t follow this advice. In Ireland we get hardly any frost in the winter and instead a lot of rain. The rain will saturate the soil and leach out a large amount of important plant nutrients. It will also be quite difficult for the little helpers in the soil to survive these waterlogged conditions.
Personally I think the best solution is to employ your worms to dig over your beds and in return we can pay them with some good food and a nice cosy ground cover.
From now on – as soon as a bed is cleared from vegetables – I spread a thin layer of compost or well composted manure on the beds (without digging) at a rate of one wheelbarrow per 5 square metres and then top it up with a thick layer of seaweed (15-20cm) that was washed up on the beach.
Worms absolutely love it under there and will do the digging for you. I generally leave the mulch until February/March. I’m always shocked on the number of worms under the seaweed – at least 100 in every square metre. So I remove the leftover seaweed carefully. Generally there is very little left as most of it has decomposed into the soil and what is left in spring I usually place around some fruit trees as a mulch. In some years the worms have done such a great job at digging that I just have to rake the beds over and I’m ready to sow or plant directly into them.
If you have no access to seaweed you can still spread the compost and cover the beds up with black plastic for the winter. This will stop the leaching of nutrients and leaves the soil in a very easy and manageable condition for the next year.
An ode to Leitrim – Leitrim bans pesticides in public places
Leitrim is really quite an amazing county. I have lived here since 1999 and have become increasingly proud of it. I was always aware of the beautiful secret hidden spots that no tourist could ever discover. It’s a county that still kept a lot of the old values and skills. Only last month I wrote about the Love Leitrim Groups success story of initiating a ban on Fracking in Ireland. We don’t fully know how lucky we are to be safe from such a dangerous intervention into the bowels of our Earth. We need to send some of the Leitrim campaigners up to Fermanagh now and hopefully we’ll get an all-Ireland ban on Fracking.
The latest news and it is of equal importance is that Leitrim County Council has banned the use of pesticides in all public places. This is such amazing news – only last week I saw two men in Co. Offaly in all their security gear spraying Round-Up in the middle of a small town amidst parents picking up their small children from school. I was so disgusted and equally disappointed with myself for not stopping and just asking the men in armoured suits if they have any concerns for any of the children around them. I know I said it before – but how can a County Council continue to spray a chemical so close to people if the World Health Organisation has declared this chemical as possibly carcinogenic? Can you imagine future lawsuits?
Back to more positive news – Leitrim is leading and paving the way for all other councils to follow suit. Leitrim should be placed on a pedestal as a showcase for sustainable and conscientious living and managing a county.
I also believe that Leitrim has the highest number of organic farmers in the country (pro rata).
Well done Leitrim!
People 4 Soil Campaign
Unfortunately the EU has failed to reach its target of 1,000,000 signatures to protect our soils. We have reached over 200,000 signatures which is a great start, but still soil is not fashionable enough. However, there were only 2 countries within the EU who have achieved their quorum – Italy and Ireland.
So thanks to everyone who signed this most important petition and especially to the staff and volunteers of the Environmental Pillar who mobilised people right up to the very end.
GIY TV Gardening Programme
A new gardening programme will be broadcast in the spring of next year on RTE 1 and is called GROW COOK EAT – a 7 part series presented by Michael Kelly and Karen O’Donohoe (our Head of Community). In each episode we (GIY) cover the growing and cooking of one vegetable from end to end – so, for example with tomatoes, you will see all the key milestones: sown back in Feb, potting on, planting out, side-shooting and finally harvesting. We have two visiting chefs who will be cooking up the produce with us. It was filmed on location at GROW HQ and is sponsored by the EPA and Bord Bia.