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Dear Fellow Gardeners,
Just in case we do get another dry summer you might have to water your plants outdoors.  If you water your plants, give them a thorough soaking.  Watering little and often is a disaster as it brings the plant roots up instead of encouraging them to go down.  Watering is important if a dry spell comes just after seeds have germinated and after transplanting. Most gardeners over-water though – the soil surface often appears dry but when you scratch a little soil away about half an inch down and it’s still damp – there is no need to water yet.  You can also see it on plants if the leaves look wilted or slightly shrivelled – also sometimes with a dark green purple appearance – you may need to water.  On the other hand if your plants still look bright green and turgid – there is no need to water.
Hoeing in the evening will also help with water retention as it opens up the earth for the night-time dew to enter into the soil.  Hoeing in the morning does the opposite – it dries out the soil as it opens it up for the morning dew to leave the soil.

Update of weedkilers use as a desiccant
Following my last newsletter in June where I mentioned glyphosate residues in food I received massive feedback from many sides.  I need to apologise – Roundup is not used as a desiccant in barley production for brewing – this has been banned for many years.  The research that beer contains glyphosate residues was from the US.  Irish beer should be okay if ingredients come from Ireland.
On the other hand I was talking to a friend who is agricultural contractor and he reckons that about 50% of wheat and 95% of oilseed rape is sprayed with Roundup about two weeks before harvesting.  He stated that mainly large-scale cereals growers use Roundup.  The reasons are that these crops are often over-fertilised with synthetic fertilisers boosting excessive growth and don’t dry out naturally.  A spray of Roundup speeds up ripening.  When a crop is dried up it can also be harvested much quicker.
I researched the topic a little more and found that since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup) as a possible carcinogenic, changes were made to the registration of glyphosate which state that the practice of pre-harvest desiccation is only permitted for oilseed rape and no longer for cereal crops.  The use of glyphosate prior to harvesting is now only permitted for weed control.
This is such a clever strategy – simply do the same thing but just call it with a different name.  So there is no desiccation happening any longer but wheat and oilseed rape crops are still sprayed with Roundup about 2 weeks before harvesting and it definitely finds its way into products.
Following Teagasc’s recommendations, potato crops should also be sprayed with a weedkiller (this time Diquat) to kill off the stalks and make harvesting easier (Teagasc Advisory Newsletter July 2017).

Jobs to do in July:
You can still sow lettuce, parsley, scallions, purple sprouting broccoli, annual spinach, perpetual spinach, all types of chard, kale, kohlrabi, turnip, radish, dill and coriander, Chinese cabbage and Florence fennel as well as all the oriental salads (rocket, mustard, pak choi, mizuna etc).

Sow a green manure:
Any unused bed should be sown or planted up – a bare soil looses nutrients and grows weeds.  Have a few phacelia seeds handy and broadcast these on your beds.  Very quickly they will cover the beds and produces a wonderful show of blue flowers which are useful foods and habitats of many beneficial insects.

Protect your crops with a bionet cloche
There is one thing that has completely revolutionised and substantially improved my gardening success in the last number of years and that is the use of my home made cloches which are covered with bionet or enviromesh netting instead of clear plastic.  The problem with cloches in Ireland is that they usually blow away so only buy sturdy ones or make them yourself.
But first of all – they are useful in so many ways!  I first made them to protect my onions from crows and magpies that pulled out every single onion set just minutes after planting.  After about three weeks when the onions have rooted sufficiently moved the cloche over the newly planted lettuces for a couple of weeks and then they can move onto their final destination for the year – either over cabbages (to protect them from the cabbage white butterflies with their ravenous caterpillars) or over the carrots (to protect them from the carrot root fly).  You can also use them over the winter months to give some shelter for some overwintering oriental salads such as mizuna, rocket or claytonia.

Cloche DIY:
Make a frame using 2”x 2” timber.  The width of the frame should match the width of your bed.  The length can be 3 or more metres.   Drill holes through the sides at 50cm intervals on each side wide enough to hold a strong flexible pipe.  I use the plumbing pipe.  Then cover with bionet and fix it onto the frames.  If you wish you could have extra holes drilled through the frame for pegs to further support the cloche especially in windy areas.
It’s crucial though to use bionet rather than clear plastic.  Most cloches are covered with clear plastic, but you will have to ventilate every day and water regularly and then when you finally remove it your poor plants will get quite a shock.  With the bionet you don’t force your plants too much, but they are safe from strong winds.  The rain will get through it so there is no need to water your plants.

We all know how important it is to harden off our transplants before planting them out.  With the help of a cloche they will establish much more reliably.  For hardening off purposes I’d keep the cloche on for about two weeks.

Happy building!

Date: 6-7th July 2019    
Venue: Galway Garden Festival at the Claregalway Castle. 
It’s the 10th festival with food, craft, music, street theatre and a medieval tournament.  Joy Larkcom, Matthew Jebb and many other exciting speakers will be present during the weekend.
For more information:  

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: Saturday 28st September 2019
Venue: Skerries 
Course: Grow your own organic vegetables
Contact: Mary Marsden  email: [email protected]

Date: 18th – 20th October 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]

Other news:

Job Opportunity at the Irish Seed Savers:
A vacancy for an Education Officer at the Irish Seed Savers in Scariff, Co. Cork is now available.  For more information have a look at:

Please have a look at a blog from Sustainable Skerries about the effects of aminopyralid damage via compost.

Happy Gardening,
Klaus Laitenberger