Posted by in Features.

Sowing seeds, planting out, buying plants, harvesting the first lettuce, worrying about frosty nights, making comfrey brew – it is all happening. I find April always an exciting month especially with the 40 shades of Green developing fast. So don’t work too hard, sit down with your Dandelion lemonade and read the latest news from The Organic Centre. Happy Easter from all of us here at The Organic Centre!

In this newsletter you will read about:

  1. Dandelion Lemonade
  2. Tips and Tricks about Carrots
  3. Shop News
  4. Garden News
  5. Volunteer News
  6. Course News

1. Drink your weeds: Dandelion- Lemonade-Champagne recipe by Gaby Wieland

Ingredients: 3 ½ litres of water, 100g of honey, 7 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 100 dandelion flowers without stem, 2 organic lemons (juice from 1  lemon + 1 lemon sliced)

Method: Pour the water in a large jug or pot (ideally earthenware), add the honey and vinegar. Squeeze the juice from one lemon, cut the lemon in pieces and add both to the mixture. Then put the dandelion flowers into the jug and stir well. Cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. The dandelion lemonade is ready after 1 day. Just strain and serve ice cool. To make champagne, leave the flowers to ferment in the liquid for another 2-3 days. Then strain and bottle in champagne bottles with secure corks. Leave for a minimum of 4 weeks. The taste improves after a longer period of time. Best before 1-2 years. You can mix the champagne with apple juice, mineral water or add orange juice ice cubes.

2. Tips and tricks for Carrots by Christiane Share

Everyone loves carrots, but they are not so easy to grow as they have to be sown directly and don’t lend themselves to transplanting. I use Radish as a “marking seed”, because they germinate in 2-4 days and tell me where my carrot seeds are, so it is easier to water them and later on remove weed competition before they germinate. My colleague Christiane has lots more to say, please read on.

1,2,3 Carrots.

Carrots are a very popular vegetable in Ireland, but there’s no need to settle for the lacklustre supermarket variety when you can grow the real deal, fresh full flavoured carrots, at home. May is a great month to begin.

First, consider your soil. If you live by the sea and have sandy, well-drained soil you are in luck, this is the medium that carrots prefer. Don’t be tempted to grow carrots in any area that has had fresh compost or manure added to it in the last few months, as this will lead to a lot of leaf growth and very little carrot!

Bed preparation

A few preparatory steps go a long way when it comes to producing well-formed and flavoursome carrots:

1. Remove any stones, these are obstacles to growth, and roots will fork to get around them.

2. Work the soil to a fine tilth by breaking up any lumps with a fork and raking over.

3. Carrots and weeds can’t compete. Carrot seeds can take up to two weeks to germinate and shoots can quickly be left in the shade by weeds. To reduce weeds create a stale seedbed – prepare the bed for planting, leave it alone until weeds sprout up, then remove them before sowing carrot seed.

Varieties and sowing

There are early and main crop varieties of carrots. Early carrots won’t grow successfully in heavy clay soils. If you have this type of soil consider growing early carrots in containers. A large terracotta pot is perfect for this; it should be at least 30 cm (12”) deep and 33 cm (13”) across. Nantes and Rocket F1 are two good early varieties. Sow earlies in the first month of May and harvest them from August to September.

Sow main crop varieties in the last week of May, and choose seeds to suit your soil. Autumn King 2 and Chantenay Red Core are varieties that will grow in heavier soils. In sandy soils, for a break from everyday orange, try Yellowstone, a yellow main crop variety, or the red Rothild. Main crop varieties will be ready to harvest from October onwards.

To plant in a container fill your pot with potting mix. You can add a few handfuls of sand if you have it, although this isn’t essential. Make shallow drills 1.5 cm (2/3”) deep, and then water using a watering can with a fine rose. Sow carrots as thinly as you can and gently cover the drill over with soil. Eventually you will want your plants spaced 4 to 8cm (around 1½ to 3”) apart. Carrot seeds are so tiny that you will have to pull up (thin out) some of the seedlings soon after germination, and again three weeks later, to achieve this spacing.

In a garden bed make rows of narrow drills 2 cm (3/4”) deep and 20 cm (8”) apart with a hoe handle, water, and sow seeds thinly. Over the next few weeks you will thin seedlings twice, to 8cm apart.


Thinning seedlings ensures the carrots have enough room to develop. Unfortunately this process also releases the carrot’s scent into the air, potentially attracting the number one carrot pest, the carrot root fly. Take measures against this by watering the crop before thinning or thinning on a wet day to dampen the scent. Take care not to break off the roots when thinning. Remove thinnings from the area. The second time you thin you will have baby carrots just big enough to eat.

Sowing your main crop carrot seeds in the last week of May and into early June means your crop will be at less risk of carrot root fly attack. If you are growing carrots in containers it is easy to cover the pot with some netting or mesh to protect the crop.


Eating carrots really is good for the eyes.  If you want to maintain healthy vision as you grow older, cook or juice your carrots. The body will absorb more pro-vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene, from cooked or juiced carrots than from raw.

3. Shop News by Jackie Dimes

After a very hectic start to the year, supplying organic seeds to our many customers, through our online and mail order store, we are now seeing a welcome increase in the number of visitors to the actual shop.  We have a couple of new lines in stock. In keeping with the Organic Centre’s Peat Free Status we are now offering organic peat free seed and potting compost in convenient 25kg bags.  Ideal for giving your plants a head start.

Also new in to our shop are Showa Floreo 370 gardening gloves.  These fit like a second skin making them ideal for weeding, potting seedling and other intricate work. Available in a variety of colours , machine washable and retailing at  only €6.99 these make an ideal alternative to an Easter Egg for any keen gardener! Also available to buy online.

Also, we are proud to be stocking one of the best organic guides to gardening “Organic Gardening is Simple”, written by our own Jill Scott, who, together with her husband Mark, has contributed so much over the years to the development of our gardens and is primarily responsible for the beautiful flower beds and flower tunnel here at The Organic Centre.

Another new book which is proving a great hit with our customers is Joyce Russel’s  “Polytunnel Book”, illustrated throughout with photographs taken by her professional photographer husband Ben.  This is a great book with lots of advice on where to locate and how to set up a tunnel, a month by month guide, information on pests and diseases, crop rotation and soil management. Joyce and Ben are based in Cork and have over 30 years of practical experience in fruit and vegetable growing making this a must have for any Irish organic polytunnel gardener.

4. Garden News by Julia and Mary

Julia, Mary, Carlene (with the help of our students) are very busy producing vegetable and herb transplants for the shop and the farmers market. Currently we offer Basil, Borage, Comfrey, Courgettes, Pumpkins, Peppers, Mint, Thyme, Parsley, Chives, Sage Lavender, Rosemary, Strawberries and 5 varieties of Tomatoes in small pots and multi-cell trays of Chard, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Lettuce, Peas and Beans, Scallions and Tomatoes.

5. Volunteer News by Karen Shanley

Hello Friends

What can I tell you about our Volunteers this month?

We are celebrating our 1st year of the Volunteer Programme at the beginning of May, and what an exceptional year it’s been! The Volunteer Team has settled into a steady 12 people … ‘honest, steadfast and true’…  who contribute regularly in all areas of the Centre.

As part of recognising this first year’s achievements I’m formally evaluating the Volunteer Programme, and the report will be given to our Board of directors at their AGM. For those of you interested in facts and figures – the number of hours Volunteers are involved at the Centre is the equivalent of 5 full-time workers, which at the national minimum wage of €8.65 an hour is a staggering €86500 worth of ‘work’ over a year that comes to the Centre for free, and with loving kindness, from our Volunteer Team.

Recently I asked several Volunteers “why do you do this?” and was delighted to hear that they consider the place to be unique, innovative, friendly, welcoming and working with staff who ‘really know their stuff’ and who walk the talk in their expertise and commitment to organic and sustainable. Volunteers feel their involvement contributes hugely to the success of the Centre and their rewards come from being involved, welcomed and embraced in that success.

So until next time, enjoy your garden, enjoy Life!

6. Course News by Hans Wieland

April 30th Saturday: Soups, dips and breads – new

What you may have tried and tasted as a course participant you can now learn how to cook it yourself with Organic Centre chef Lynne Maguire

What could taste more sublime than a steaming bowl of good homemade soup except for the heavely fresh bread you’ve made to go with it! – Comfort food at it’s very best! We will show you how easy it is. Lynne from the Grass Roof Cafe will give her new course “Soups, dips and breads” on Saturday 30th April. Come along and join in for some and fantastic food. You will also learn to plan your cooking ahead and use your leftovers and thereby minimise time and waste in the kitchen.

April 30th Saturday: Organic Gardening for beginners –Grow your own food with Hans Wieland 

All you need to know to get started in one day including soil fertility, composting, seed sowing and propagation, bed preparation and a rotation plan. This is the last beginners course in the Spring. Dennis is out with a back injury and Hans, who has grown vegetables for the past 30 years is deputising. Participants will sow some seeds to take home and will greatly benefit from the various established kitchen and training gardens at the centre.

May 7th Saturday Day 4: Pest and disease control, pricking out, planting, sowing in garden and polytunnel with Ingrid Foley

Saturday 7th May: Beekeeping – an introduction –revised with Pat Finnegan 

Want to eat your own honey? Learn how to get started with information on buying a hive and colony, location of hives, equipment necessary, feeding and management, disease prevention and control. Important notice: We will not be working with live bees!

May 8th Sunday: Poultry for the home (with a farm visit) with Mary Luthers

As growing your own becomes increasingly popular, more and more gardeners are taking the next logical step and joining the ranks of amateur poultry keepers, but where to start? Mary will deal with all aspects of keeping poultry. After a morning session the afternoon will be spend on Mary’s farm

May 14th Saturday: Garden Design – Create your own piece of paradise with Phil Wheal

Blending elements of permaculture, organic and conventional garden design this course aims to help you plan and create a garden that integrates the practical and aesthetic, using a wide range of plants and materials.

May 21st Saturday: Cooking without gluten, dairy, yeast and sugar – new with Gaby Wieland  

Gaby will introduce recipes without gluten, dairy, yeast and sugar, focused on whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits and gluten free grains.

May 21st Saturday: Living off Grid with Rob Doyle

Rob will explore the various options for living off the grid and for generating renewable energy, ie Hydro, wind and photovoltaic. Includes a visit to an off grid cottage powered by hydro-power and wind.

May 22nd Sunday BIODIVERSITY Day – Guided walks and talks

For programme

May 28th Saturday and 29th Sunday: Dry stone wall construction – the real deal with Richard O’Gorman

Participants will build a dry stone wall from foundation level to the finished capping stage.

May 28th Saturday: Discover Wild Herbs on your doorstep with  Joerg Mueller 

Joerg will help you finding and identifying many “wild herbs” that grow right on your doorstep and are commonly used in Western herbal medicine and for culinary purposes.