Posted by in Features.


Dear Fellow Gardeners,

We might not feel that spring is just around the corner during this cold spell.  It’s great to see some snow though – everything looks so pure and clean.  I just hope that nature didn’t get fooled as there were quite number of buds (including pear trees) bursting during the very mild winter earlier.
February is a good month to get started in the garden.  If there is a dry spell of weather on the way I usually lift the plastic that covered the beds or remove the seaweed to let the soil breathe again. As soon as the soil doesn’t stick to the boots I start preparing the beds.

To dig or not to dig?
Gardeners often argue about the need to dig the beds.  The no-diggers know that any soil cultivation releases carbon from the soil (this happens when micro-organisms break down organic matter).  Also the soil structure and soil life is disturbed during digging.  On the other hand digging is a simple way of burying weeds and to loosen the soil that has become compacted.
I’m not pro or anti digging.  I have a simple test – the fork test.  If I can stick a digging fork fully into the soil without using my foot, I know the soil is loose enough and then I don’t need to dig.  If I can’t do it I either dig the ground or “Bio-Fork” the bed.  Bioforking is an excellent method of loosening the soil without inverting it.  Simply push the digging fork into the soil and lever the fork back at a 45 degree angle and work your way backwards.  This is also much easier on your back.  The only disadvantage is that it doesn’t bury the weeds.

Seed sowing/ planting
In February you can sow broad beans (Witkeim is by far the best variety) directly into the soil outdoors.  Also garlic and Jerusalem artichokes should be planted early.  If you have a heating bench you can start sowing lots of crops – tomatoes, peppers, aubergines (for tunnel planting), early scallions, orientals, early cabbage, leeks and lettuce for later outdoor planting.

New seed varieties and tubers available now – onion sets will be available from early March onwards.  Here is a list of our new introductions.

Climbing French Bean – Blauhilde
A round, blue-skinned bean which turns green during cooking.  A vigorous and disease-resistant plant.  An old variety which originates from South Germany.   It is suitable for indoor cropping as well as outdoors in sheltered gardens.

Cucamelon
A vigorous climbing plant producing grape-sized mini- cucumbers with a hint of watermelon and lime.  A real curiosity.

Tarwi (Lupinus mutabilis)
This lupin is a stunningly beautiful Inca crop which produces edible seeds.  There is a special method to render them edible.  So do not eat the seeds unless you find out the correct method.  Grow the plant as an ornamental for its blue and white flowers which appear for months.

Tubers (only available for a short time while stocks last)

Oca  – mixed varieties
Oca is still my favourite “Inca Crop”.  Just like the potato, it is so well suited to Irish growing conditions and it doesn’t even get blight.  You’ll get 5 average sized tubers (or more if they are small) of at least three different varieties.  On arrival, store the tubers in a pot of damp sand in a cold but frost free shed.  Tubers can be planted (just like potatoes) in April and harvested only a couple of weeks after the frost has killed off the leaves in early winter. That’s very important because if you harvest earlier there will only be tiny tubers.
Packet of five tubers (or more if they are very small) – €5.00

Jerusalem artichokes – mixed varieties
Jerusalem artichokes are one of the best pre-biotic vegetables. An ideal vegetable for people suffering from diabetes.  In German it is known as the “Diabetic Potato”.  We have grown 10 different varieties this year and their yield was phenomenal – more than 10kg per square meter.  They are delicious grated raw in a salad or prepared just like potatoes – roasted, boiled or in a soup.  You’ll get 5 tubers of at least three different varieties.  Tubers can be planted (just like potatoes) from February to March.  They can be harvested throughout the winter.  The plants grow as tall as sunflowers and should be planted at the back of the vegetable garden so they won’t cast shade.
Packet of 5 tubers – €5.00

Mashua
This is definitely the easiest of the Inca tubers and also the prettiest plant. It is related to the common garden nasturtium.  It produces a very high yield of tubers.  You’ll get 5 tubers.  On arrival, store the tubers in a pot of damp sand in a cold but frost free shed.  Tubers can be planted (just like potatoes) in April and harvested only a couple of weeks after the frost has killed off the leaves.
Packet of 5 tubers – €5.00

Potato tubers
This is the third year of my potato breeding experiment.  It started in 2016 when we crossed 18 different varieties and collected the true seed (from the tomato-like fruits).  These seeds were sown and grown in 2017.  Each seedling produced a new variety of potato.  In 2018 we selected 15 varieties (from the 500 we grew from seed) and bulked them up a little.  They were selected for taste, blight and slug resistance.
You’ll get 5 small to average sized tubers (or more if they are very small).  On arrival, store the tubers in a pot of damp sand in a cold but frost free shed.  Tubers can be planted in April.
There is no guarantee though – each one is a new variety and I’m curious to get your feedback.
Packet of five tubers – €5.00

One of successes of our potato breeding experiment.  We bred 500 new varieties and have narrowed it down to just 7 now. They were selected for blight, scab and slug resistance as well as taste.  We have a small quantity available for people to try out – click here
Mashua plant and tubers
Jerusalem artichoke plant and tubers
Tarwi – Lupinus mutabilis
Bord na Mona

For the last few months I have been involved in a project with Bord na Mona.  They are currently converting 44,000ha of land (over 100,000 acres) into organic production – for one of their new enterprises – medicinal herb production.  The total land area certified in Ireland is currently around 60,000ha.
It all started off with one passionate herbalist student who is also a chief engineer at Bord na Mona to convince the CEO and the Board of Management that growing a small amount of mainly native medicinal herbs (some gardeners would call them weeds) and to wild harvest these plants in a sustainable fashion.
I was awarded the tender to try out how to best propagate any of these plants and as a result also to produce a sufficient number of plants for the second phase of the project – a growth trial at their Mountlucas site in Co. Offaly.  This propagation trial is carried out at the Organic Centre in Leitrim who kindly let me use their propagation facilities in the winter season.
The medicinal herbs are dandelion, yarrow, plantain, equisetum, echinacea, calendula, verbascum, rosebay willowherb, vervain, valerian, marshmallow, mint, lemon balm.

Upcoming Talks and Courses:

Date: Monday 25th & Tuesday 26th February 2019:
Venue: The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim (Tel: 071-9854338)
The Complete Organic Vegetable Course for Beginners with Klaus Laitenberger
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. It will also include classroom sessions on crop planning, rotations and tips on which crops are best suited for the small garden.

Date: 1st – 3rd March 2019
Gardening Weekend at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara (only a few places left)
A gardening weekend with Mr. Klaus Laitenberger, Organic Gardening Expert and Author and special guest Fionnuala Fallon, journalist with the Irish Times.
The weekend programme will include an introductory evening, several demonstrations and workshops, a visit to Kylemore Abbey Victorian Walled Gardens guided by the head gardener, nightly in house entertainment, and complimentary use of on-site facilities.
More info and booking: Tel: 095 46100

Date: 6th March 2019
Talk: Growing Healthy Organic Vegetables 
Venue Howth, Dublin
Here is the link for more information:  www.hshs.ie/event/growing-healthy-vegetables-a-talk-by-klaus-laitenberger/

Date: 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: Saturday 23rd March 2019
Venue: Dalkey Garden School
Course: Grow your own healthy vegetables
Detail and booking on:  https://dalkeygardenschool.com/product-category/workshops-gardening-classes/?orderby=custom_date_field

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
www.organiccentre.ie

Internship – Organic Growers of Ireland
This is an excellent internship for aspiring organic growers who get the opportunity to work and learn from some of the best growers in Ireland.
Contact Noel at futuregrowers1@gmail.com
http://www.organicgrowersireland.ie/organic-farming-internship

Instagram 
I’m now on Instagram #klauslaitenberger –just in case you want to have a look.

Happy Gardening,

Klaus Laitenberger