Posted by in Features.

Dear Fellow Gardeners,
I spent a wonderful day at Bloom yesterday – the morning at the Plant Clinic with the Irish Garden Magazine and then exploring and admiring the displays and gardens.  I was quite amazed and delighted how vegetables are being incorporated into so many display gardens.  One fascinating garden was the show garden of UCD which won a silver medal.  It was a display of the history of food plants in Ireland from the very beginnings of civilisations in Ireland to today.  Apparently fathen, nettles and chickweed were some of the first crops we had 5,000 years ago – and some of us still eat them now.  An archeobotanist from UCD explained the succession of food crops.  I never knew that such a science even exists. Zounds very exciting.
There was also a wonderful opening speech by President Michael D Higgins.  Here are some points he made – “Climate change is now the greatest threat facing humankind …. We can see its effects already taking place in our gardens – indeed, gardeners could be the ‘canaries in our coalmine’, as it were….. Regarding fertiliser use, nitrogen from fertiliser boosts the growth of algae and causes water pollution, and nitrous oxide – the gas that emanates from fertiliser application in soils – is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, as it is over 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.”
Last week I inspected the gardens at Aras an Uachtharain.  They are certified organic with the Organic Trust and every statesman or visitor who meets the president will get a truly delicious and authentic organic meal grown in their own walled garden.  They even have organic hens and an apple orchard.Sowing and planting               
June is the best month to plant out all your cucurbits (squashes, pumpkins and courgettes).  They absolutely hated the cold and windy conditions of May and some gardeners have probably found some casualties of those crops.
It’s quite surprising that early June is actually a great time to get many crops started.  I usually sow my main crop carrots and beetroot in the first week of June and they will be perfect for harvesting in October and will store right through the winter.  It’s also the best time to sow Florence fennel.  Rondo F1 is my favourite and most reliable variety.  Towards the end of the month you can sow your Purple Sprouting Broccoli.  Most people sow it far too early and the plants often get too big before the winter and blow over or start cropping too early in winter.  They are best sown in June/July and they should stay reasonably small throughout the winter and put on growth and broccoli from February till May.  We have a mix of different varieties all with different harvesting season.
You can also still sow the spring leek ‘Blue Solaise’.  This one also fills the ‘hungry gap’ in early spring.  They will be ready for harvesting from March until May next year.
In case you tried to grow oriental salads, such as mizuna, mustards, rocket and pak choi earlier this year you would have noticed that they bolted very quickly.  If you sow these again after the summer solstice on the 21st June you’ll find they are far slower to go to seed.
If you have cleared beds of early crops and no follow on crops planned I would recommend sowing the green manure crop “Phacelia”.  Simply rake the soil and make a good seedbed, sprinkle the seeds evenly over the bed and rake it in.  This prevents leaching of nutrients and keeps the soil alive.

Earth’s rhythms
The earth takes a deep inward breath during night-time and a big long exhalation during day-time.  Early in the morning you can sometimes even see it when the morning dew starts to rise.   Plants act as the earth’s lungs and breathe out during the day.
You can use this knowledge for managing the water in your soil.
If you hoe or rake the soil in the morning of a sunny day it will dry out quicker as you open up the soil to the elements.  You can look back at what you did 10 minutes ago and you’ll notice that the surface of the soil is dry while the soil ahead of you is still wet.  So – hoeing or raking in the morning will help drying out your soil.
The opposite is true if you hoe or rake in the evening.  You open up the soil for re-absorbing moisture during the night.   So if we get another heat wave you have to hoe in the evening.
If you were a commercial grower you’d be harvesting your lettuce at sunrise because they are still at full vitality.  As soon as the earth breathes out the plants will lose their vitality.
A “6 o’clock Lettuce” will stay fresh for much longer than  a lettuce harvested at midday on a sunny day is already wilted before it makes it into the kitchen.

I was recently sent some photos of distorted looking tomato and broad bean plants.  This is caused from manure brought in from a horse or cattle farm that uses a weed killer to kill broad leaved weeds such as docks and thistles.  The residue of the weed killer goes through the animal and survives in the manure and then distorts or kills your plants.  Quite shocking isn’t it.  The weed killer’s active ingredients are Clopyralid and Aminopyralid.  If you get manure from a horse stable or farmer – you may ask them if they have used these weed killers.

Roundup damage                                        Aminopyralid damage on tomato
Round-up – Glyphosate
The momentum is really picking up now after an American couple was awarded $2 billion compensation from Bayer/Monsanto.  This is the third case where compensation was awarded in the US.
Yet only last week high levels of glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup) were found in a public drinking water supply in Newport, Co. Mayo.  This doesn’t surprise me if you look around the countryside and see all the burnt grass verges. So many people are still out killing off the last refuges for biodiversity.  I simply don’t understand how anyone would prefer the look of these ugly brown patches or strips that look like waste-ground for weeks on end to a natural wild flower strip?
Where are the regulations that were put in place after the WHO (World Health Organisation) declared glyphosate as a possible carcinogenic?
Glyphosate has also been found in many beers and also in breads.  Out of 20 beer brands – 19 contained traces of glyphosate.
This is the worst use of Roundup.  Farmers desiccate the barley and wheat crops about two weeks before harvesting.  This means that they spray roundup onto the growing crop just before harvesting.  It’s really awful to spray a chemical that is linked to cancer just 2 weeks before harvesting onto a growing crop!  Just wonder why Teagsac is not worried yet of future court cases if they still recommend the use of it!
Fair play to Diageo though – after the exposure that their beer contains traces of glyphosate they are now banning the use of desiccation from all their suppliers.  I’m delighted because I love a good pint of Guinness.
The DEFRA (UK Department of Agriculture) Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRIF) found that almost two thirds of wholemeal bread sampled contained glyphosate.  I’m sure this is the same in Ireland.  We now need ‘Pat the Baker’ or ‘Irish Pride’ to tell their suppliers not to spray roundup just before harvesting the wheat.  This would have quite an effect and they would certainly get the extra edge like Diageo.

Gardening Courses and Events

Date: Saturday 8th June 2019
Venue: Walled Garden near Belfast
Course: Organic Garden in the summer and Organic Pest, Disease and Weed Control 
Contact: [email protected]

Date: Friday 14th – Sunday 16th June 2019
Venue: Renvyle House Hotel, Connemara, Co. Galway
Wild Atlantic Food Festival
I’m so looking forward to going back to our favourite hotel in Ireland for this event.  Sally and John McKenna, Tim O’Sullivan and Michael Gibbons and many others will give talks, presentations and workshops.  I will give a gardening demonstration and be part of a question and answer session.  Book early as tickets may sell quickly.

Date: Saturday 15th June 2019
Venue: Featherfield Farm, Lullymore, Co. Kildare
Beginner’s Poultry Keeping with Julian Pawlowski
Contact: Julian 087 6240811

An in depth one day course on poultry keeping for beginners. The course will cover housing requirements of various breeds; health and diet; breeding and breed selection. This course is based around practical demonstrations and hands on contact. Different breeds and equipment will be available on the day. How to avoid pests and diseases will be covered as will how to properly handle a hen including how to wash and present a hen for poultry shows.

Date: Saturday 7th September 2019
Venue: Featherfield Farm, Lullymore, Co. Kildare
Course: Complete Gardening Course with Klaus Laitenberger
This course is suited for anyone who plans to start a food garden. Heated classroom sessions on crop planning, rotations and tips on which crops are best suited for the small garden.
All courses begin at 9:30am tea/coffee. 10am course start. 11:30am tea/coffee. 1:30pm light lunch of soups & breads. Courses finish at 4:30pm with tea/coffee. Facilities include parking, toilets, heated classroom & farm shop.
To book phone 045 903100, 087 624 0811.

Date: Saturday 14th September – Sunday 15th September 2019 
Venue: Ourganic Gardens, Co. Donegal
Course: Complete Organic Gardening Weekend with Klaus Laitenberger
Contact: Joanne Butler 087 1789971 or email: [email protected]

Date: Saturday 21st September 2019
Venue: Dalkey Garden School
Course: Winter Vegetable Gardening
Contact: Annmarie 087 2256365

Date: 27th – 29th September 2019 
Gardening Weekend at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara
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: Tuesday 5th Nov – Wednesday 6th Nov 2019 
Venue: Midland’s Park Hotel, Portlaoise
Bio-Farm 2019 – Ireland’s Second Biological Farming Conference.
Early booking is essential as last year’s conference sold out very quickly.  Have a look at or contact Sean on [email protected]

Happy Gardening,
Klaus Laitenberger