Posted by in Features.

Summer Newsletter June 2011

In this newsletter:
1. The Organic Centre Garden Party
2. To water or not to water?… that is the question
3. “Think like a Flower. Organic Gardening is Simple” a new book by Jill Scott
4. Organic Centre Summer Courses coming up:
5. New from September overwintering crops

1. The Organic Centre Garden Party

The Annual Organic Centre Garden Party 2011 will take place on Sunday 17th July 11am – 5pm
Special features this year are: “Peat free compost” with head gardener Julia Lehmann and the launch of “Organic gardening is simple”, a new book by award winning gardener Jill Scott from Fermanagh.
After Neven Maguire from McNean House and Restaurant Blacklion cooked up a storm in the barn at last years party we will have him back for another cooking demonstration with fresh organic produce from our gardens.
Hans Wieland will tour the centre’s polytunnels and give advice on how to use this wonderful invention to maximum benefit.
Artist Heidi Wickham will conduct “vegetable felting workshops” for all the family.
There will be compost games and seed spotting and advice on how to grow fantastic herbs.
The Grass Roof Café will be open for sumptuous summer dishes.

Knowing is growing is our theme for 2011.
We have seen a huge increase in people gardening and growing vegetables, herbs and fruit and our aim is to support everyone who wants to grow organically without pesticides and herbicides, GMO-free and with a very low carbon foot print.
Our demonstration gardens, various polytunnels and orchard show how to grow healthy food with great taste and full of nutrients. We show good rotation and explain how to improve soil fertility and deal with weeds and pest and diseases in an organic way.

What better place to get a taster of the skills required than at the Organic Centre’s annual Garden Party. All your questions on how to garden organically will be answered on this one day informative and fun filled event. Mark the date in your diary now – The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim is the place to be on Sunday 17th July!
Tickets: €8, concession €5, members and children free

2. To water or not to water?… that is the question

by Hans Wieland
“Watering is rarely necessary outdoors in the West of Ireland. The only time you may need to water is after transplanting your seedlings outdoors”. (Klaus Laitenberger)
“As well as weeding your plot, one of the main summer preoccupations is watering your plants. Some require more than others.”(Alan and Jackie Gear)
“Even in the apparently wet climate in the British Isles, most vegetables benefit substantially from an increased supply of water, particularly in the drier regions of the country.” (Joy Larkcom)
“Watering depends a lot on your soil conditions.” (Jill Scott)
“Get to know your garden, the soil, the plants and water accordingly.” (Mary O’Connell)
5 experts and 5 opinions, so what are we supposed to do? My answer is simple: Become your own expert in watering.

When to water?
Here are a few guidelines:
Seeds need water for germination, you can water the ground or seed compost in advance, for watering seeds you need a fine rose for your watering can.
Transplants should be transplanted into moist soils and watered until they are established, if you transplant on from modular trays to pots, young plants should be watered regularly.
Plants need water to suck up nutrients from the soil. Quick-growing leafy vegetables like salad crops or spinach need more water than root crops and other plants with deep roots.
Each plant has its own water needs and as water mainly stimulates leaf growth, root crops for example could produce excessive leaf growth if overwatered. I find that root crops grown organically tend to develop good root systems to go in search of nutrients.

Peas and beans need water especially at the stage when fruits start to swell.
Important: All crops in polytunnels and under cover need regular watering.

How to water if you water
It is generally accepted that watering thoroughly every few days is better than to water a little and often. If I do water in the outside garden I give the plants a good soaking. In the polytunnel I would water Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the morning with a heavy dose, depending on the requirements of the plants, e. g tomatoes will get 5-6 litres each, lettuces much less. I would also try not to splash the water on top of the plants, but water around the root. Young carrot seedlings and all other seedlings can be watered with a fine rose. Try to avoid watering in full sunshine as it might scorch the leaves.

My watering tools are 10 litre watering cans with a medium and a fine rose and a hose with a spray gun, that can provide mist as well as a full single jet spray.
I collect rainwater in butts and tanks as it is much better (no chlorine) and softer than mains water and best of all for free.

Important: With fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and sweet corn) the critical time for watering is when the plants are flowering and the fruits are swelling. This is also the time when they benefit from your home made comfrey liquid (potash) fertiliser.

I let you go with a little piece on my own

Watering philosophy
“Young plants which have left the cosy environment of the propagation shed or hardening off area and are planted in the garden need a good watering in, but regular watering in the outside garden will make them dependent on us gardeners. It is much better to let them find their feet and develop roots to look for water and nutrients. Occasional help, especially in dry spells, is needed and allowed. Think of young plants like teenagers, who go off to college. We drive them to Dublin and make sure the flat has power and water and occasionally bail them out, if they are in trouble, but if we continue do all their washing and cooking at the weekend, when they come home, they will always come home and won’t learn how to turn on the wash machine and cook dinner. They need to find their roots elsewhere, as do the young plants in the garden. In the process of searching for water they develop their root system and become independent, strong and mature plants, which can look after themselves, much as we like our teenagers to develop.”
Happy hardening and watering!

3. ‘Think like a Flower’

“Organic Gardening is Simple” a new book by Jill Scott
Interview by Christiane Share

Jill Scott, a well- known local gardener and recipient of multiple gardening awards, has recently published her first book, ‘Organic Gardening is Simple’. The book is a compendium of excellent gardening advice, selected from many years experience in organic gardening. It is illustrated with photographs of Jill and husband Mark’s Fermanagh garden, including a patiently captured ‘action shot’ of a slug travelling towards its milk trap (and doom!) Jill’s book will officially be launched at The Organic Centre Garden Party on Sunday 17th July with special guest chef Neven Maguire from McNean Restaurant in Blacklion.

Jill grew up up on a farm in County Kilkenny where growing vegetables and raising animals was automatically organic, as chemical agriculture was hardly known. Her early education in gardening involved plenty of weeding. No child’s favourite task, yet Jill remains a thorough weeder to this day, rarely passing a weed without swiftly plucking it out, a practice she would encourage in others. As she points out, one tiny weedling (as I like to call them) will quickly give rise to hundreds more if it is allowed. For removing extra tiny weeds, like those that shoot up between gravel, Jill uses a kitchen fork!

It is this practicality, efficiency and attention to detail that characterises Jill’s work as a gardener, the resplendent results of which can be seen by visitors to the Organic Centre in Rossinver, where she dedicates time each week to the creation and maintenance of flower beds and a lush floral polytunnel that is favoured by the centre’s birdlife. Jill has been involved with the Organic Centre since its beginning sixteen years ago. Jill’s generous work in looking after the Organic Centre’s gardens adds much interest and beauty to the setting.

Jill has a particular interest in companion planting as a means of controlling pests and increasing pollination and colour in the garden. Her book includes a helpful chart of the plants that like and dislike each other. Jill uses companion planting extensively in her own garden in Belcoo. She runs a day course there each summer so that visitors can observe and learn all about the benefits of companion planting in a home garden setting.

Jill takes a lot of cuttings, and her border plants are available though the Organic Centre and from her garden. When interviewing Jill about her book I of course had to ask her what her favourite plant is: “I love Campanulas. I love anything that has a bell shape. So Campanulas, Penstimon, Foxglove and that sort of thing. Beautiful! You hear the bees inside and you hear the wings buzzing. It’s lovely!”

It is interesting to discover that as a gardener who works with flowering plants, at a centre that makes great use of polytunnels, at home Jill focuses on growing a wide variety vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers and beans, outdoors, rather than in a polytunnel or glasshouse.
“They taste nicer”, she says. “As they take much longer to get where they are. I feel they’ve got more goodness in them, especially as they get natural rain water rather than chlorinated tap water.” Jill believes growing ‘exotic’ vegetables outside is simply a matter of choosing the right varieties and being a little persistent. She will try to grow something three times before giving up.

Jill and Mark don’t eat meat, and so consume a greater proportion of vegetables. Their incredible energy can perhaps be attributed to this, along with the wider benefits of gardening.
If Jill could grow only one vegetable it would be Charlotte potatoes, “Because I love potatoes. Twice a day, in soup at lunch time and with dinner.” Jill grows plenty and stores them carefully so that they will last well beyond harvest.
She encourages everyone to try growing something, even if only on the windowsill, because the results are, more often than not, very gratifying.

“If you’ve got a little bit of garden, go out and try something easy. Encourage children to sow some radish seeds or grow a few strawberry plants. Do a little bit at a time. I think some people take on too much, with disappointing results. The important thing is to prepare your ground well. So just cordon off a little bit and really concentrate on it, digging it over thoroughly. If you can get some mushroom compost, leaf mould or well-rotted manure, dig that in.
She’s right, of course! The most important thing is to begin. If you want to get started on a garden of your own, or enhance the garden you have, Jill’s booklet has tips on designing your garden, growing herbs and edible flowers, starting an orchard, caring for plants, and dealing with pests! She includes list of plants for different areas.

Jill is an intuitive gardener; her husband has said she “thinks like a flower, thinks like a bird, thinks like a vegetable”. “As students at the Organic Centre last year we were lucky to have Jill close by to answer our questions. Now that I have moved on it is reassuring to have Jill’s useful and inspiring book to hand in the garden,” says Christiane Share, who conducted that interview for us. Jill’s book is available through The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim for €7.

4. Organic Centre Summer Courses coming up:

Grow your own fruit Summer workshop Saturday 2nd July
Dry stone wall construction Saturday 2ndand Sunday 3rd July
Start preserving vegetables and fruit now Sunday 3rd July
Natural Cosmetic Making workshop Saturday 9th July
Poultry for the home (with a farm visit) Sunday 10th July
Soap Making Workshop Saturday 23rd July
An introduction to Companion Planting Sunday 24th July

All courses €79 per person per day including lunch and tea/coffee/scones in the morning. (Some material cost for some courses!)

Tel: 071-9854338, [email protected],

5. New from September on:

Transplants for overwintering crops will be available from September onwards. We will have winter cabbages, oriental lettuces, coriander, parsley and chervil.


Posted by in Features.

Summer Newsletter June 2011

In this newsletter:
1. The Organic Centre Garden Party
2. To water or not to water?… that is the question
3. “Think like a Flower. Organic Gardening is Simple” a new book by Jill Scott
4. Organic Centre Summer Courses coming up:
5. New from September overwintering crops (more…)