Posted by in Features.

.Dear Fellow Gardeners,
This must have been the nicest early spring in many years.  It’s wonderful to see all the early awakenings in nature.  The blackthorn (sloe berry) is now in full flower and this should give us some caution.  In the old lore, this time is called the “Blackthorn Winter”.  The warm weather triggers the blackthorn trees into flowering and this is always followed by a very cold spell, often while the blackthorn is still flowering. 
The recent world crisis is showing us the vulnerability of our globalised world and globalised farming methods.  A lot of these facts are starting to come to light now.  Twenty five percent of the artificial nitrogen is produced in Russia (with disastrous environmental impacts). The production of nitrogen fertiliser produces 1.5 times more CO2 than the entire global aviation industry. The Ukraine produces over 10% or the world’s wheat.  Germany imports 48% of its energy from Russia and so do many other European countries.  What hasn’t made headlines yet is that we import phosphorous from Morocco, potassium from Canada and even more disastrous – soy bean for animal feed from Argentina and Brazil.  Brazil grows soy beans on an area larger than the entire EU land area and nearly all of it is grown as GM soy which is resistant to Roundup.  Soy bean production and expansion goes hand in hand with rainforest destruction.
In Ireland we import over 80% of our fruit and vegetables and don’t even grow our bread wheat (with the exception of a handful of amazing small-scale growers).  There are less than 50 commercial apple growers left in Ireland – that’s the same amount as in the small village in Germany where I grew up!
The interesting and hopeful fact is that there is absolutely no need for this type of globalised farming.  This industrial farming method is now coming to an end because its excessive inputs have become too expensive.  An organic or bio-dynamic mixed farm buys in very few inputs.  They grow their own feed for their livestock and food for people.  The “waste” products are the sources of soil fertility rather than a pollutant.  All farm enterprises support each other and are in harmony.  The problem with this type of farming is that the big companies will not benefit from it and it’s of no benefit to our GDP growth. 
The Department of Agriculture has launched a new Organic Farming Scheme and hopefully it will be taken up by many farmers.  It really should because it’s better for the environment and also more financially rewarding.
I recently heard an interesting statistic from the UK.  The UK taxpayers pay £10 billion in farm subsidies, £10 billion in cleaning up the environmental pollution caused by industrial farming and £50 billion in the health service to treat food related illnesses such as obesity and diabetes.  This money could be much wiser spent – maybe through supplying organic fruit and vegetable boxes for free to low-income families?
What to do in April?
April is one of the busiest months in the vegetable garden.  There is little time left to reflect – only time for getting the garden ready for another fruitful year.
There are quite a lot of vegetables that can be sown in April – both indoors in modular trays and outdoors – directly into the ground.  The next 6 weeks are the most demanding for any vegetable gardener as we have to carefully mind all our little seedlings until they are ready to plant into the garden while at the same time getting the ground ready.  There will be no more weekends off!
Gardening Jobs in April
In April you should try to have all the beds prepared even if you don’t plant anything yet.  This allows you to control the weeds before the crops go in. Give the prepared beds a sprinkle of seaweed dust and rake it in. Keep an eye out for slugs.  They are starting to get busy.
The soil is starting to warm up but it is still far too early to sow directly outside for most crops (with a few exceptions of course). However you will be very busy sowing seeds indoors and cluttering up your windowsills or filling your greenhouse with seed trays.
Outdoor sowing and planting
The only vegetables I sow directly outdoors in April are early peas, radish and turnips.  If you haven’t got enough propagation space you can sow spinach and chard directly outside instead of raising it in modules. Mid April is a good time to plant your maincrop potatoes.  If you haven’t planted your onion and shallot sets yet you can still plant them now. In the warmer parts of the country you can sow your early carrots, early beetroot and parsnips but I always have a lot more success with these if I delay the sowing until the end of the month or in May.
Indoor sowing
Seeds which can be sown indoors now (without heat mat) include winter leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, calabrese, kohlrabi, rocket, swede, turnip, lettuce, perpetual spinach, chard, annual spinach and scallions
Indoor sowing with heat: Courgette, pumpkin, squash, French bean, runner bean, basil and sweetcorn can be sown in small pots at the end of the month and leave them on a warm south-facing windowsill.
When the soil conditions are favourable you can plant out scallions, oriental salads and early cabbages.
April is the beginning of the ‘Hungry Gap’ period where the winter vegetables are running out and no new crop is ready.  You may still have a few root vegetables in store (potato, carrot, beetroot and parsnip) and outside you may pick purple sprouting broccoli and some perpetual spinach and chard.
For a full range of vegetable seeds have a look at our website:
Growing potatoes – the Leitrim Way
I’m a regular contributor of the Saturday BBC Gardener’s Corner Radio Programme.  With the presenter David Maxwell we planted early potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day. 
He recorded a short video:
And here is the link to the Radio programme:
Courses and events
Course: Grow your own vegetables (for beginners)
Date: Saturday 9th April 2022
Venue: Mayo Abbey Organic Gardens, Co. Mayo
Contact Ger on [email protected]
Course: Grow your own vegetables (for gardeners with a little experience)
Date: Saturday 23th April 2022
Venue: Mayo Abbey Organic Gardens, Co. Mayo
Contact Ger on [email protected]
Garden Show Ireland
Date: Friday 29th April – Sunday 1st May 2022
Venue: Antrim Castle
We will be there for the entire weekend and hopefully meet some of you then.
Garden Show Ireland – A festival of flowers, food and fun! : Garden Show Ireland
Course: Beginner’s Guide to growing your own food
This is one of my new projects in 2022 – a large scale conversion from continuous monocropping of cereals to a sustainable and exciting organic enterprise.  I help out there on a regular basis and together with William and Pavel we started to create an amazing organic market garden.  If anyone lives in this area and would be interested in a weekly vegetable box (starting from late June onwards) please contact Andrina (see email below).
This course is a course for beginners and will take place in Corbalton Hall.
Date: Saturday 7th May 2022
Venue: Corbalton Hall, Skryne, Co. Meath
Contact: Andrina at [email protected]
Online Gardening Course – Spring in the Garden
This course is now in full swing and we get such lovely feedback.  Sr Assumpta is keeping me in check and with her organization keeps it very interesting and informative.
If you wish you could still join and I’ll send you the first 5 sessions and also 3 interesting sessions from the autumn course.
It costs €70 for 10 sessions and each session is about 45 minutes long.  You can watch the sessions whenever it suits you.
For more information click on the link below:
Online Gardening Course with Klaus Laitenberger – Spring Session – Green Vegetable Seeds
Commercial Polytunnel Course with NOTS
We have just completed the first two sessions of this 12 day online course with monthly Q&A sessions.  This course is organized by  We film it in Corbalton Hall in Co. Meath and it’s a real life organic start-up in organic market gardening. 
If you wish you can still join the course.  It costs only €50 for the entire course and you can watch the videos whenever suits you.

Click below on the link for bookings and more information
Commercial Polytunnel Growing 2022 – NOTS – National Organic Training Skillnet

Here is a short promo video of the course: