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Dear Fellow Gardeners,

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a fruitful new year. 

January is generally a cold and miserable month in Ireland and it’s far too early to get out into the garden. I do, however, love the cold frosty and clear mornings following a freezing night.  There are just a few jobs that can be done now but overall – it’s time to relax and reflect.

Some of the gardening jobs I do in January include pruning apples and pears, red and white currants and gooseberries as well as the autumn fruiting raspberries.  It’s also a good time to plant bareroot trees and shrubs provided the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

If you have a tunnel or greenhouse you can get started very early: you can plant first early potatoes and sow a lot of seeds on a heating bench indoors for planting into the tunnel about 4-6 weeks later but if you don’t have that facility there is little else to do.

We have a few new introductions to our seed range in 2024.

In this newsletter there will be information on:

·         New Seeds in 2024

·         Article: Stop treating soil like dirt

·         Upcoming gardening courses

New Seeds in 2024

Radish, Winter – Black Spanish Round

A large, black-skinned round winter radish with a spicy flavour.   Black Spanish Round radishes are excellent in salads and can also be used in stir-fries.  Winter radishes store well throughout the winter in layers of sand.  Seeds can be sown directly into the ground. Winter radishes are very rarely grown in Ireland. My favourite variety is the ‘Black Spanish Round’, because of memories of my grandmother Frida’s recipe for chesty colds. It really works wonders.


 Take a large Black Round Radish and cut it in half. Cut out a section of the radish and pierce a hole through the bottom with a knitting needle. Fill the hole with chrystallised brown sugar and place the radish over a glass. After a day or two the sugar starts to dissolve and a syrup flows into the glass. If you keep drinking this syrup every morning and evening the chesty cold will be gone within a couple of days.

Radish, Winter – Red Round BG

A large red and round winter radish from Bulgaria with a spicy flavour.   They are excellent in salads and store well throughout the winter.  Seeds can be sown directly into the ground. They should be sown 10cm apart in rows 25cm apart and about 1.5cm deep. Radish seeds are quite big so they can easily be spaced out accurately.  Remove every second plant about a month after sowing and use as baby radish while leaving the remainder as winter radish.

Lettuce, Cos – Valmaine

Lettuce, Cos – Valmaine is a tall Cos type which produces a large pointed head with a sweet flavour and a crunchy texture. It’s an old and well-established variety.  Valmaine lettuce is also well suited for cut-and-come-again.

Lettuce – Lollo Bionda

Lettuce – Lollo Bionda is a very attractive, frilly leaved loose-leaved lettuce with pale green  leaves.  It has the same growth habit as Lollo Rossa.  It is slow bolting and has a mild flavour.  An ideal variety for the cut-and-come-again technique. 

Lettuce – Gentilina

Lettuce – Gentilina is an heirloom variety which produces large heads. It has lime-green leaves and a ruffled appearance.  The mid ribs have a crunchy texture and the leaves have a buttery taste.    It is a very bolt – resistant variety.  It is also suitable as cut-and-come-again. 

Chives, Garlic

Garlic chives are also known as Chinese chives and are easy to grow from seed.  Once established the clumps can be divided in late winter.  Garlic chives have flat leaves with a mild and delicate garlic flavour.  The flower buds and flowers can also be used in the kitchen. Garlic chives are easy to grow and deserve a prime place in the herb garden.

Chicory/Endive Mix

This mix contains the following amazing Italian varieties: Chicory ‘Italiko Rosso’, Endive ‘Romaesco da Taglia’ and Chicory ‘Barbe de Capuchin’.  .

Tomato – Datterino Giallo

This is a yellow date-shaped cherry tomato from Brindisi.  It produces large bunches of delicious bright yellow tomatoes.

Tomato – Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio

This variety is an heirloom variety that grows exclusively on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius near Naples.  It’s a local heritage variety that dates back to 1885.  The fruits are slightly heart shaped and have a pointed end (known as spungillo).  Traditionally these tomatoes were dried and preserved for a long time and could be used during the winter months.  Usually the entire bunch of tomatoes is harvested and hung up on balconies to dry. 

Tomato – San Marzano di Sorrento

A special type of plum tomato from Sorrento in Southern Italy.  This area in Italy is famous for their delicious plum tomatoes

Stop Treating Soil Like Dirt

(the full article is in the attachment)

Without the top few inches of topsoil on the earth’s crust, life on earth would not be possible as we know it.  In fact, we wouldn’t even be here on Earth.  Unfortunately, as a species we don’t fully appreciate this important fact and have played a massive role in the destruction of topsoil.  Since the 1960’s nearly one third of the global arable land area has become degraded and according to the Soil Association 10 million hectares of land are abandoned every year due to soil erosion.

During the International Year of the Soil in 2015, we campaigned with the People for Soil Campaign for some legal protection for soils.  We tried to raise awareness about the importance of protecting this most valuable resource we have on Earth but we failed.  There is still no legal protection for Soils.  There is detailed EU protection for air, water and other natural assets but not for the most important being on Earth – The Living Soil.  Imagine, 95% of all our food comes from soil and also fuel, clothing and so much more.

How is it possible that everyone is aware of climate change and rising sea levels but no one seems to be aware that we have only 60 harvests left if we continue to farm the way we do now.  These are figures from the United Nations WHO. 

Now we are in 2023 and there is still no legal framework for protecting our soils.  The ironic truth is – if we were to make our soils fertile again and we can only do this by bringing carbon back into the soil through compost or manure. The carbon would be taken from the atmosphere and deposited into the soil.  So maybe we should all become soil warriors rather than climate warriors?

We really can’t afford to lose any more with an ever increasing world population.  Thus our most important task in the world is to preserve and enhance our soils so they can keep producing sufficient food for the future.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful lifetime’s achievement to leave a plot of land in better health than when we found it?

Mother Earth

It can be quite difficult to get a thorough understanding of soils, partly because the players and mechanisms are nearly all invisible to the naked eye and soil scientists don’t often have the knack to explain it in ‘normal’ language.

 We need to make a mental choice and start treating soil like ‘Mother Earth’ – with care and respect.  The American word for soil ‘dirt’ is really the ultimate insult for the giver of all life.

In the end, everyone and everything will end up as new particles of soil.

Serotonin for gardeners

There is one thing that a lot of vegetable gardeners agree upon: we all know that when we’re working in the garden and getting our fingers dirty, all our worries and stresses seem to fade away.  Researchers from the Bristol University and University College London found out the reason.  Apparently there are friendly bacteria that are quite common in a fertile soil that actually activate brain cells to produce the brain chemical serotonin.  Low levels of serotonin are linked with various disorders including anxiety, aggression, depression to mention a few.

So now we finally have the proof of what we already know – gardening cheers us up!  Just take off your gloves and even your shoes and spend more time getting dirty.

Upcoming Gardening and Farming Courses in2024

Date: Saturday 3rd February 2024

Course: Grow Your Own Organic Food

Venue: Coolamber House, Co. Westmeath

Click the following link for more information:

Contact: Ann-Marie Durkin

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 0871436292

Date: Friday 9th &  Saturday 10th February 2024 and 16th & 17th February

Course: Organic Farming Principles (Organised by NOTS – Level 5)

Venue: Milltown Malbay, Co Clare

Learn what’s involved in converting to organic farming with our 4-day / 2-weekend course in Organic Farming Principles. Taught by Klaus Laitenberger, this practical organic course is QQI Level 5 certified, and is accepted to gain access onto the Organic Farming Scheme.

The course will run in the Miltown Malbay Community Centre, Milltown Malbay, Co Clare across two weekends, Friday / Saturday February 9th, 10th, 16th & 17th.

Please note, places are limited, so sign up ASAP to confirm your place.

Course Cost: €200 when you sign up through NOTS

Organic Farming Principles (Clare – February) – NOTS

Course Timetable:

Weekend 1:

  • Friday February 9th (Classroom Session 5.00pm – 9:30pm)
  • Saturday February 10th (Classroom Sessions + Organic Farm Visit + Practical Examination – 9.00am —4.00pm)

Weekend 2:

  • Friday February 16th (Classroom Session 5.00pm – 9:30pm)
  • Saturday February 17th (Classroom Sessions + Organic Farm Visit + Written Examination – 9.00am —4.00pm)

For course content and modules click the following link:

Organic Farming Principles (Clare – February) – NOTS

Date: Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March 2024

Course:  Grow your own healthy vegetables

Venue: Hydro Allotments, Blarney, Co. Cork

This course is for anyone who is keen to learn how to start a garden.  It is a very practical course and will take place at the wonderful Hydro Allotments near Blarney.  The course will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the allotment gardens at the Hydro Walled Garden.  Early booking is recommended as this course fills up quickly. 

A hands-on course – so bring gardening gear.

Contact: Zwena on 087 2333183

Date: Friday 8th – Sunday 10th March 2024

Course: Renvyle Gardening Weekend

Venue: Renvyle House Hotel Gardening Weekend

A gardening weekend with Mr. Klaus Laitenberger, Organic Gardening Expert and Author and Anja Gohlke, Head Gardener at Kylemore Abbey Victorian Walled Gardens.

The weekend program will include an introductory evening, several demonstrations and workshops, in-house entertainment, and complimentary use of on-site facilities.

Weekend Price €275.00 per person and includes:

  • 2 Bed & Breakfast
  • 1 Dinner on our award winning restaurant
  • Gardening demonstrations and tips with Klaus Laitenberger and Anja Gohlke & evening entertainment.

Activity Breaks (

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 095 46100

Date: Friday 15th & Saturday 16th March and 22nd & 23rd March 2024

Course: Organic Farming Principles (Organised by NOTS – Level 5)

Venue: Co. Mayo – Venue to be confirmed

Learn what’s involved in converting to organic farming with this 4-day / 2-weekend course in Organic Farming Principles. Taught by Klaus Laitenberger, the practical organic course is QQI Level 5 certified, and is accepted to gain access onto the Organic Farming Scheme.

The course will run in Co Mayo (Exact Venue TBC), across two weekends, Friday / Saturday March 15th, 16th, 22nd & 23rd.

Please note, places are limited, so sign up ASAP to confirm your place.

Course Cost: €200 when you sign up through NOTS

Course Timetable:

Weekend 1:

  • Friday March 15th (Classroom Session 5.00pm – 9:30pm)
  • Saturday March 16th (Classroom Sessions + Organic Farm Visit 9.00am —4.00pm)

Weekend 2:

  • Friday March 22nd (Classroom Session 5.00pm – 9:30pm)
  • Saturday March 23rd (Classroom Sessions + Organic Farm Visit + Examination – 9.00am —4.00pm)

Date: Sunday 24th March 2024

Course: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Organic Food

Venue: Belfast – venue to be confirmed

The course is organised by Sharon McMaster from New Leaf compost and Kindergarden Cooks. For more information contact Sharon on 00447912240692.

This course is suited for anyone who plans to start a food garden.  It is filled with practical tips and demonstrations on how to prepare the soil and make raised beds; compost making session, seed sowing demonstration and how to avoid pests and diseases. There will also be a session on growing fruit bushes and herbs.  It will include classroom sessions on crop planning, rotations and tips on which crops are best suited for the small garden.

A hands-on course – so bring gardening gear.

Talks: Ardcarne Garden Centres in Boyle and Roscommon – 13th April 2024

Contact Mary Frances on 071 9667091 for more details

Talks/Workshops in L’Arche Day Care Centre in Togher, Co. Cork

L’Arche Day Care Centre will host a few gardening workshops this year at their beautiful new gardens.  I’ve been working with them for over a year and we converted a boring lawn into a beautiful and productive vegetable, fruit and sensory garden.  In 2024 there will also be a coffee pod on site.  If you are interested, please contact Meadhbh and leave your contact details with her for events in 2024.

Email: [email protected]

Dates for your Diary:

14th – 16th June 2024

We’ll be at the Garden Festival in Antrim – a wonderful and exciting weekend.

Happy Gardening,