Dear Fellow Gardeners,
It must be the first year in living memory where farmers and gardeners aren’t complaining. It was definitely one of the easiest gardening years with great growth of all crops. There was plenty of warmth as well as occasional and in some areas – frequent showers.
I’m so thrilled about some of my new tomato varieties I am trialling. I’m very impressed by Rosella – an open pollinated cherry tomato with a most delicious flavour. One drawback is its colour though – a kind of dirty purple/brown colour. This shouldn’t put you off though. Another new variety I am growing this year is ‘Bite Size’. This must be the sweetest tomato of all. My little 3 year old girl harvests them daily and eats dozens of them. They are the ideal size and taste for children. Definitely the best tomato to get your kids started with vegetables. The yield is also incredible. There are well over 500 tomatoes per plant. Next week we’ll do an official tomato tasting session with the course participants at home and I’m looking forward to which one of the 15 varieties I’m growing will be the winner. To date ‘Sungold F1’ was the winner for well over 10 years only beaten last year by ‘Sweet Aperitif’.
Tomato – ‘Rosella’
New Organic Farming Scheme (OFS)
The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine will launch a new OFS scheme in the new year. The payments to farmers and growers who want to convert and farm organically will be increased substantially and hopefully increase organic production in Ireland. Ireland is still the country with the lowest percentage of organically farmed land in the EU with about 1.3% of the land farmed organically. Another shocking figure is that over 80% of organic fruit and vegetables are imported.
So hopefully this will all change and Ireland will become a really green island.
For more information ring Helen Scully at the Organic Trust on 01 8530271.
Commercial Organic Horticulture
I recently visited a couple of well-established growers in different parts of the country and yes – it is possible to make a living from the land – even without subsidies. I admit – it is really hard work but possible. The two organic growers have done it for decades. Both growers are quite similar with predominantly protected cropping as well as some outdoor area. The size of the garden is no bigger than 2 acres but has been made productive through compost and manure applications over the years. They are even able to pay the people that work for them.
There can’t be anything more decent and positive than to produce nourishing, healthy food for people.
Bee and Butterfly Mix
We got some wonderful feedback, photos and excellent technical information from our bee and butterfly flower mix back from a gardener in Galway. That’s how she sowed them: “I randomly sowed them in modules and then transplanted the plugs into 1.5ltr pots with decent compost/soil mix. Grew them on there, where they flourished, and planted out into final position after a few weeks when they were actively growing and by no means stressed. They just took off then and rewarded us as you see!”
Photo by Deirdre Bennett
New Potatoes for Christmas
This is another gardening myth I would like to dispel. Everybody seems to be advertising the planting of seed potatoes now for harvesting new potatoes at Christmas. This is a complete waste of time and money. First of all potatoes are very sensitive to frost so how do you think you can keep the cold off them? Second – it’s the end of the season, they simply don’t want to grow much – autumn time is time for maturing so at most you may get some ping pong ball sized tubers if you are lucky.
You are better off keeping your small baby potatoes from your autumn harvest and pretend they are freshly dug Christmas potatoes.
Time to plant autumn garlic and onions
If your soil is reasonably free draining or if you have a nice raised bed you can now plant garlic and onion sets. It’s great to see some new growth towards the end of the year.
Onion sets can be planted from mid September to October and garlic cloves from late September to November. Please remember to give your garlic a good spacing of at least 20 x 25cm so you’ll get nice big bulbs. The garlic cloves need to be planted twice their depth or in other words so that the tips are about 2-3cm below ground level. Onion sets are planted with the tips still showing.
Within the next week or two we’ll have Onion – ‘Radar’ and Garlic – ‘Casablanca’ available in our seed shop on www.greenvegetableseeds.com.
Time to plant broad beans
Broad beans are very easy to grow and also very hardy. The variety Aquadulce Claudia can be planted from late September until early November directly outdoors. As they grow they prevent valuable soil nutrients from leaching out of the soil during the wet winter months. The beans will be ready for harvesting from May next year onwards.
A second sowing can be made in February/March with the variety ‘Witkeim’ which will produce wonderful beans from June onwards.
Ballymaloe Garden Festival
I spent this weekend at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival which was a wonderful event with so many different stalls and people. I was also lucky enough to see the gardens at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. I know it’s terrible – but this was the first time I saw the gardens and I was completely blown away by the sheer beauty and care that has gone into creating and re-creating these gardens.The gardens are managed by Sue Turner (previous Head Gardener at HDRA – now called Garden Organic). Unfortunately I had only an hour to look around but could easily have spent a full day in the gardens. It’s a wonderful collection of gardens – both formal and informal including vegetable, herb and fruit gardens as well as ornamental borders with a stunning herbaceous border.
What impressed me most was the one acre commercial greenhouse. Imagine having a whole acre under glass! It really showed that Ballymaloe is a real working place. Everything is grown and used on site – a model farm and garden – but not just for show. It’s so worth a trip.
For more info have a look at www.cookingisfun.ie
Upcoming GIY conference on the 13-14th September in Waterford
This annual conference is the highlight for many vegetable gardeners throughout the country. Again there will be wonderful gardeners from England – Marc Diacono and Alys Fowler as well as one of my old-time organic heroes – Patrick Holden and of course dozens more.
Have a look at the GIY website: www.giyinternational.com