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  • Gooseberry Sawfly

    Sawfly larvae Sawfly larvae

    Gooseberry sawflies lay eggs on your gooseberry plants. When the caterpillars hatch out they can devastate the plant leaves so that you end up with a bush that looks like this -

    sawfly-damage Gooseberry sawfly damage

    They also attack red and white currant bushes. The fly arrives anytime from April onward. The female sawflies lay eggs on the underside of leaves, low down in the center of the bush, so the young larvae go unnoticed until they have eaten their way upwards and outwards, devouring the leaves as they go -  often defoliating a bush completely.

    They can have several generations in one season so it is important to keep an eye on the plants throughout the summer.

    Control

    Regularly check the plant for sawfly caterpillars and pick them off by hand.

    pyrethrum4 Pyrethrum is made from chrysanthium flowers

    You can also spray the plant with Pyrethrum which is an organic treatment effective against sawfly caterpillars. Pyrethrum is an extract from the flowers of the Chrysanthemum. Pyrethrum's natural instability - light and the oxygen degrade pyrethrines quickly - works as well in its favour: there are no residues left after a few hours so it is safe for humans, bees and birds. It is effective against a range of pests - not just gooseberry sawfly.

    Pyrethrum works on contact with the insect so it is advisable to spray in the evening when beneficial insects such as bees are not active.

    To use Pyrethrum against Gooseberry sawfly, simply spray onto the plant where the caterpillars are present. You can buy Pyrethrum concentrate suitable for diluting and spraying from your own sprayer or as a ready diluted product in a 750ml spray.


  • How Does Your Garden Grow - Featured May Garden

    view-of-the-garden

    Muriel from Greystones in Co.Wicklow is this months featured garden. It's great to see such a variety of plants and produce growing in a small garden and it's obvious that Muriel and her family get great use and enjoyment from their garden. We hope you enjoy spending your €50 voucher for Fruit Hill Farm and that your potatoes produce a good yield!

    My name is Muriel, I live in Greystones.  I have a fairly small garden with one single raised bed, it is south facing but overshadowed by a high wall. Despite the lack of ideal conditions, I still manage to grow a fair amount of produce.  In summer I grow courgettes, peas, lettuces,radishes and climbing beans.  At the moment I have a bountiful of sprouting broccoli and my first early potatoes are in the ground and growing well, I also planted potatoes in potato grow bag and they seem to be better looking plants than the ones in the raised bed, I will have to wait for the harvest to compare the yield.  I planted sunflowers in the raised bed this year to bring a nice splash of colour and to attract wildlife.  Since last year I have been growing oca tubers in grow bags, they are easy to grow and taste delicious.  I find gardening and eating my produce a constant pleasure and very much enjoy instilling that love to my young children.

     

    If you'd like to  win a €50 voucher for Fruit Hill Farm and have your garden featured in the How Does Your Garden Grow section of our website CLICK HERE for full details on how to enter.

  • May Seasonal Table - Radishes

    radishes are quick and easy to grow they are often the first spring crop so are a great thing to grow with children

    Ravishing radishes; quick and easy to grow they are often the first spring crop.  With their delicious crunchy texture and peppery taste they are real delight after the dull months of winter.

    How to grow tasty radishes

    Sow indoors from late winter or sow directly from late spring through to early autumn. Radishes can be planted from as early as the soil can be worked. Make successive plantings of short rows every 10 to 14 days. Plant in spaces between slow-maturing vegetables (such as broccoli and brussel sprouts) or in areas that will be used later for warm-season crops (peppers, tomatoes and squash).

    Radishes do best in full sun, but will tolerate small amounts of shade. Provide your radishes loose, well-draining fertile soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8. To increase the fertility of the soil, fertilize the planting space with aged organic compost prior to planting radishes. Sow thinly, 1.5cm deep in rows 25cm apart.  Keep moist and thin as necessary.

    Repeat sowings every two to three weeks to ensure a continuous supply. Remember, it is much more economical to sow little and often rather than have a long row of radishes all coming to maturity at the same time.  Early radishes can be grown in the tunnel but later ones are better outside.

    Radishes belong to the Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) family.

    How to avoid radishes that split or are woody

    Most radish problems are a result of not giving the crop enough attention.  They might be easy to grow but neglecting them will result in a poor crop.  Make sure they are properly spaced and adequately watered.  If you grow radishes commercially you could consider using a seeder for accurate sowing.

    Proper thinning focuses the harvest and avoids disappointing stragglers that have taken too long to develop. Slow development makes radishes hot in taste and woody in texture.

    Radishes are a moisture-loving plant. Moisture stress can result in the same woody, hot radishes that poor soil conditioning and lack of fertiliser or humus will result in. If you do not provide your radishes with moist soil, you are likely to notice an overly hot or spicy flavour.

    Splitting is often a result of uneven watering.

    how to grow and harvest radishes

    Time to Harvest

    Harvest your radish crop within the appropriate amount of time. Otherwise, you run the risk of your radishes splitting, cracking or developing an unpleasant spongy texture and spicy flavour.  They need to grow fast and be harvested as soon as they reach their mature size. Leaving them stand in the soil will not improve taste or texture.

    Flea Beetle

    Radish can be susceptible to flea beetle. The adults feed on the leaves and the larvae on the roots. These small beetles are 2-3mm in length, with the enlarged hind-legs that enable them to leap off plants when disturbed. You will notice holes in the upper leaf surface; often these do not go all the way through the leaf. The damaged areas dry up and turn pale brown. Seedling plants are particularly susceptible to damage by the adult beetles and the growth of older plants can be checked if infestations are heavy.

    You can avoid flea beetle by ensuring rapid germination and development of seedlings so that they grow through this vulnerable stage quickly. Keep radishes watered during dry spells and avoid sowing into cold soil.  Covering seedling plants with insect proof netting will reduce damage by excluding the adult beetles.

    Late season radish – Mooli type

    These have a milder taste and grow from July onwards. A staple of Japanese and Korean cuisine, white radishMooli type radishes are unbelievably fast-growing even in the cool, shortening days of autumn.  Can be grated into salads or cooked like turnips.  The roots can be harvested after the first mild frosts without much damage and well in a cool dark place.

    Health benefits of radish

    Radish contains phytochemicals and anthocyanins that have anti-carcinogenic properties. Additionally, they have vitamin C that acts as a powerful antioxidant to prevent free radical damage to the DNA inside the cells, thus helping cancer prevention.

    Radish has anti-hypertensive properties that help regulate control high blood pressure. Radish is rich in potassium that helps maintain the sodium-potassium balance in the body, keeping blood pressure under control.

    Radish also has anti-congestive properties which helps in clearing the mucus formed in your throat. Additionally, radish also improves your immunity which keeps infections that lead to cold and cough at bay.

    Radish is powerful when it comes to eliminating toxins. This helps keep your liver and stomach in mint condition. They are effective in controlling jaundice as they help to regulate the amount of bilirubin in the blood and increases the oxygen supply within the body. This helps keep a check on the destruction of red blood cells caused by jaundice.

    Radish has a high fibre content which helps clear the food stuck in your colon. Additionally, it helps facilitate the secretion of digestive juices and bile which again is good for your digestive system.

    Containing vitamin C and antioxidants, radish can be eaten to prevent your skin from free-radical damage. You can even apply crushed, raw radish on your skin as it has cleansing properties!

    The natural diurectic property of radishes makes them extremely good for improving kidney health. They help elimination of toxins from the body, acting as a natural cleanser.

    Radish recipes

    Radishes are very good with a little salt and beer. Perfect after a long day in the garden!  They are also very good in a mixed salad.

    Butter Basted Radishes

    Ingredients - 85gm butter, about 600gm radishes

    1. Put half the butter in a heavy-based frying pan that will fit all the radishes snugly. Heat the butter until it’s just foaming and starting to turn a nut-brown, then add the radishes and  coat in the butter.
    2. Fry the radishes, turning them every so often and adding small knobs of the remaining butter as they cook, for 10 mins until they’re glazed and have softened and wrinkled. Turn the heat up to maximum, add the lemon juice, let it sizzle for 1 min, then remove the pan from the heat. Season with sea salt and serve.
  • Managing Weeds Organically

    How to manage weeds without chemicals

    Weeds are particularly difficult for organic farmers to deal with as chemical herbicides are, of course, strictly prohibited. Broadly speaking, there are four approaches for weed control in an organic situation:

    • Mechanical and manual weeding
    • Flame weeding
    • Mulching
    • Green manures

    Mechanical & Manual Weeding

    dock-digger Dock and Ragwort Digger. Excellent for getting out the long tap-root.

    This covers any method which physically interrupts any unwanted plant growth. Perhaps the most obvious (and most off-putting) method is the hand pulling of weeds. Physically uprooting weeds and removing them from the soil is an effective, though laborious, way to remove them from your garden. However, many species can re-grow from fragments of their roots that are left behind, so it is important to remove as much of the root system as possible. This can be difficult with well established perennial species. Dock weeds, with their long gnarled taproots are notorious for this. A specialist Dock Digger-  a two pronged digging tool - can be helpful in removing established docks and other tap rooted weeds such as ragwort and dandelions.

     

    Hoeing is a great way to keep weeds at bayIt is far better if weeds can be dealt with before reaching that stage. Hoeing is very effective when weeds are just germinating and still small. Hoeing involves using a blade like implement to cultivate the soil usually for the purpose of eradicating weeds. There are various styles of hoe but the principle is the same. Using a long handled one where possible greatly reduces strain on the body as a perfect upright posture can be maintained.

    Weeding, working in the garden. A kneeling cushion will protect your knees.

    The current dry spell makes perfect conditions for hoe weeding. The lighter dry soil creates much less resistance for the hoe blade minimizing the effort required. More importantly, the weeds will dry out (desiccate) and perish on the soil surface. In wet conditions, however, many weeds are capable of a magical resurrection – re-rooting themselves and taking off again! A disadvantage of mechanical weeding such as hoeing is that new weed seeds are often turned up to the surface where they can readily germinate. This can create a new flush of weeds. Again, if hoeing is regularly carried out this is not too much of a problem.

    Flame Weeding

    flame weeding - a great alternative to chemical weedingOne method often employed is the use of flame weeding, also known as thermal weed control. Running a flame weeder across the leaves of a plant very quickly heats the plant material enough to destroy the cellular structure and prevent respiration/photosynthesis. This takes just a fraction of a second and the plant will wilt and then die over the following days.

    Flame weeding works best when new weeds germinate in early Spring. Small weeds with 2-4 leaves will perish quickly as they have yet to develop food stores in their roots. It follows that flame weeding is not so effective with perennial weeds which will regenerate new shoots from their established root system. This is especially true for scutch grass (Elymus repens) which readily reshoots from its wiry root network.

    Plants which have a large roots system – e.g. grass sods, docks, thistles, nettles may require different treatment. The plant part above the ground may be destroyed due to the immense heat of the flame weeder. But the roots are strong and can supply enough nutrients to rebuild the plant. Therefore the use of Thermal Weed Control on mature weeds with a well developed root system can only be used in order to gain some time and interrupt the growth or stop the plant from producing seeds. Repeated treatments with a flame weeder can result in destroying the plant. However it may be very time and energy consuming. In most cases it is faster and more efficient to mechanically remove the plant. Advantages – no pollution, no chemical residues, easier and faster than hand weeding. Doesn’t disturb the soil and upturn more weed seeds.

    Mulching

    Wool mulch, organic mulch Wool mulch. Will feed the soil as it degrades.

    A mulch is layer of covering around plants that prevents the growth of weeds. A layer of mulch prevents light from reaching the weeds and thus prevents them from germinating and it also covers up any bare soil (which is the perfect place for weeds' seeds to land and  germinate) meaning  that most weeds will not even get the chance to come into contact with your soil to germinate!

    Many materials are used as mulches, which are used to retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, suppress weed growth, and for aesthetics.  They are applied to the soil surface, around trees, paths, flower beds, to prevent soil erosion on slopes, and in production areas for flower and vegetable crops. Mulch layers are normally 5cms or more deep when applied

    Mulches can either -

    be temporary/decompose - suitable  material here would be bark chip, straw, pine needles, seaweed, grass cuttings, compost, leaf mold, paper, wool  etc.

    be permanent - suitable materials here would be rock, gravel, ground cover, weed control fabric.  These have the advantage of not introducing weed seeds into your garden. Ground cover and fabric can also be moved at the end of the year and re-used.

    Green Manures

    green-manures-as-a-way-of-managing-weeds

    Any bare ground should be covered with green manures as they are fast growing and will out-compete the weeds. Good manures for this would be phacelia and mustard.

    Aim to have 100% groundcover, 100% of the time.

    You can read an in depth article about Green Manures HERE

     

     

  • Easy Growing Indoors

    basil-1283649_960_720

    You don't need a garden to grow some food for yourself - here are some tips to get you started on being a little more self sufficient even if you have no garden space at all.

    What you will need

    You will need some pots / containers, some windows and some time and patience!  Generally KlasmannDeilmannBesteResultate_545vegetables and food grown in pots and containers can be a little bit more demanding than plants grown in outdoor soil conditions - this is because their roots are more restricted than they would be outdoors and they will thus need a bit more food and watering. On the other hand you won't have weeds and poor soil quality to contend with as you can use a quality organic compost to ensure quality control and (hopefully) you won't have any slugs to contend with if you are growing in your home!

    Herbs

    Herbs are a great place to start as most kitchen herbs will happily grow in any size pot and will grow on a sunny windowsill in your kitchen close to where you will need them, you will have your own steady supply of herbs on hand whenever you need them instead of having to pay for plastic wrapped supermarket herbs. It's up to you to pick the herbs that will be used in your kitchen most and to get the most out of your crop. Annuals that work well include coriander, chervil, dill (keep cutting for leafy growth) & basil - ( basil will need a very sunny spot to grow well).  Biennials / perennials that grow well include sage and chives, parsley and mint – ideally suited to a balcony or conservatory.

    Salads

    Salad ingredients are another great thing to grow as the salad bags we buy in supermarkets are salad-1516694_960_720very often left forgotten about at the bottom of the salad drawer and end up wasted, so having a steady fresh supply is a good way to combat waste.  Rocket is very easy to grow and grows fast. It's a good idea to sow seeds a few weeks apart so you can have a steady supply and so you don't end up with a glut or a 'rocket rush'. They taste best when they are young, so best to cut and eat them early.

    Other good salad food to grow indoors in pots and containers are - most varieties of lettuce, mustard seeds, radishes, spring onions - make sure to pick sunny spots to keep your plants happy and water and feed them when needed

    If you are looking for something pretty, easy to grow and edible - Nastutiums are a great place nasturtium1to start. All parts of the nasturtiums are edible - not just it's flowers. Nasturtiums are very easy to grow - you can plant directly from seeds into pots or hanging baskets and they will happily grow with few demands on your time! They are a great (and colourful) addition to salads, adding a nice subtle peppery taste.

    Vegetables are generally better suited to a balcony or patio, but can still be grown indoors.

    Potatoes can grow very well in pots, but they do need to be deep - you can try planting them in a large bin or bucket - sow them about 1/3 of the way from the bottom and keep topping up the soil as they grow which encourages more growth (and more potatoes) and then in about 12 weeks you will have a crop of delicious new potatoes!

    Aubergines, baby carrots, swiss chard, beetroot (which you can also eat the leaves of) and chillies all do very well in large pots in a sunny location.

  • Irrigation

    If you have a polytunnel you will know how long it takes to water your produce.  Why not install an irrigation system and free up all that time that you spend watering?

    Drip Irrigation

    Perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective way to water your crops is with a drip irrigation system where pipes are laid along the ground and water seeps out of spaced holes directly where your plants need the moisture.  For as little as approx. €85 you could irrigate an 8 mt tunnel.  You can also add to or change the layout of your system whenever you wish.

    Benefits of drip irrigation -

    1. Improved plant growth, as there is continuous soil moisture which penetrates deep into the root zone.
    2. Efficient use of water since less is wasted by evaporation and leaching.irrigation fittings
    3. Reduced nutrient loss from over-watering and leaching.
    4. Weed growth is reduced since you're only watering along the crop rows.
    5. Foliage remains dry, reducing the risk of disease.
    6. Can be used with low pressure systems such as a rain water tank.
    7. Low cost to purchase.
    8. Drip irrigation systems saves time and water.

     

    In addition to the pipes and connectors, a battery powered timer and a water filter can be useful to keep your system running reliably even when you're away for a few days.

    knockvicar cat

    We are happy to help you work out your system -  so give us a call on 027 50710 to discuss your requirements and we'll help make sure you get a suitable setup.

     

    Overhead and ground sprinkler systems

    Some people prefer overhead sprinkler systems since they don't get in the way on the ground and can provide an even supply of water across a large area. They're great for a tunnel full of salad crops that don't mind getting wet and require water across the entire ground surface.

    Overhead and ground sprinkler systems require much greater pressure and flow than drip systems, so don't install one without first checking your water pressure and flow. Contact us to discuss if your water supply meets the requirements. We have a selection of high quality sprinkler heads for ground and overhead mounting.

    Watering lances

    Watering lances make hand-watering with a hosepipe much easier. The water is delivered right where you want it -  without bending down or blasting the soil and roots with water being sprayed from a big distance. Our  Professional Geka lance  offers excellent build quality and reliability - very easy to use.

    Geka watering lance Geka watering lance

    Geka Brass fittings

    Brass taps for ther garden, geka couplings

    Geka couplings are an exceptional range whose solid dependability has converted professional users the world over. Selected from the very best materials, they are subject to strict quality control, ensuring you get the best finished product. This is why there is no better selection for coupling, extending hoses and pipelines than using a Geka type professional coupling. They are an excellent investment for the home gardener and the trade professional.

    1215-11

    Watering Equipment

    We have a very large range of watering equipment  - from hose pipes to sprayers to capillary matting and rotary sprinklers.  Please see our web site for more information.

  • April Seasonal Table: Purple Sprouting Broccoli

    purple sprouting broccoli, spring vegetables, organic gardening

    Purple Sprouting Broccoli -  a great vegetable to grow in your garden.  Has a long harvest seson from February to April - the lean time when there is little fresh produce.

    How to Grow and Harvest Purple Sprouting Broccoli (PSB)

    1. Sow seeds in small pots or a nursery tray.  Can aslo be sown outside in a seed bed.
    2. Once the seedlings are large enough, you can transplant them to individual pots and water well.
    3. Prepare the soil for planting by using a fork to loosen and turn the soil. Remove any large stones and weeds. PSB (like most of the brassica family) like firm soil - you can use your foot to firm up the soil.
    4. The Broccoli is ready to plant (normally July) once it has grown between 7-9cm tall. As with all plants, make sure to water them well before and after transplanting them.  If you are putting out bare-rooted plants be sure to trim the roots and leaves to encourage fresh growth and prevent drying out.
    5. They should be planted about 60cm apart to give them room to grow.  Make sure that the soil is nice and firm once they have been planted.
    6. Keep the soil moist and take measures to keep insects and birds away from the plants.
    7. Caterpillars will feed on brassicas, the most common are those of cabbage white butterflies. You will usually see the caterpillars, if not, you will see the holes they make in the leaves.  In mild attacks, or if you have only a few plants, you may be able to pick the caterpillars off (children are very good at this).  Netting can keep off butterflies and also birds.

      broccoli flowers 1 Broccoli allowed to flower - a treat for bees!
    8. Plants may need staking in exposed areas.  It is better to plant in a block rather than a row.  This also makes netting easier.
    9. Purple Sprouting Broccoli is ready to harvest when the flower shoots have developed but before they have actually opened. Cutting the sprout in the middle will encourage the side shoots to grow quicker.
    10. You must keep cutting the shoots to encourage the growth of new ones.  Plants will quickly go the flower in May - leave them in the ground for a week or two before digging up as the bees love them!

    Health Benefits of Purple Sprouting Broccoli

    Broccoli is a storehouse of many phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, indoles, sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown that these compounds by modifying positive signaling at molecular receptor levels help protect against prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers.

    Fresh broccoli is an exceptionally rich source of vitamin-C; providing 89.2 mg or about 150% of RDA per 100 g. Further, it contains good amounts of  vitamin-A. 100 g fresh head provides 623 IU or 21 % of recommended daily levels. Together with other pro-vitamins like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and zeaxanthin, vitamin-A helps in maintaining the integrity of skin and mucosa. Vitamin-A is essential for healthy eyesight and helps prevent macular degeneration of the retina in the older adults.

    Purple Sprouting Broccoli a rich source of vitamin-K and the B-complex group of vitamins like Niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and riboflavin. Further, its florets also hold some amount of omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha linolenic acid-ALA).

    Fresh heads are an excellent source of folates; contain about 63 µg/100 grams (provides 16% of RDA). Studies have shown that consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits rich in folates during pre-conception, and pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects in the newborns.

    Finally, Purple Sprouting Broccoli it is also a good source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus.

    How to Cook with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

    Purple sprouting broccoli a winter vegetable high in nutrients

    Steaming or quickly stir frying are the best ways of cooking Purple Sprouting Broccoli. If the stalks are too thick, you can cut them in half so that they are not too tough.

    To steam or boil - simply place in a steamer or boiling water for 5 - 9 minutes (until just tender, but keeps a bit of bite). They taste great with just a bit of butter and lemon juice drizzled over them and can work brilliantly as a side dish to any kind of food.

    Can also be eaten raw in winter salads.

    Broccoli with Sesame Seeds

    • 2 tbsp groundnut oil or vegetable oil
    • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
    • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely sliced
    • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

    Method

      1. Trim off any hard ends from the broccoli stalks as well as any very coarse leaves. Bring a large quantity of salted water to the boil and plunge in the broccoli. With the lid on, quickly bring the water back to the boil, then remove the lid and briskly simmer the broccoli for about 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
      2. Meanwhile, heat both oils in the pan over a medium heat. Fry the garlic for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the slices are light golden. Throw in the broccoli and fry it for 2-3 minutes, tossing frequently, until the stalks are piping hot and covered in the the garlicky oil.
      3. Serve immediately with the sesame seeds sprinkled over the top.

     

     

  • How does your garden grow - featured April garden

    hdygg

    Deirdre from Doonbeg in West Clare is our featured garden for April

    Congratulations Deirdre and thanks for sharing the story of your garden with us - and such lovely pictures! It sounds like you have put a lot of work into your garden and are now reaping the benefits of all that hard work. we hope you enjoy spending your €50 voucher for Fruit Hill Farm!

    "I moved to Doonbeg, West Clare, 10 years ago. The L-shaped field was as wild as the wind coming off the Atlantic! First it had to be scraped to remove the scutch grass, dock, rocks and the forgotten and redundant septic tank. A load of topsoil made it look somewhat improved and my daily exercise for a long number of weeks was hauling away large stones. Drainage had to be tackled as well. The drain pipes installed were later supplemented by a 'water feature ', a runoff cut across the garden. This has become the natural boundary between the 'lawn' and the productive area: the orchard, two polytunnels, open vegetable bed and compost area.

    We make our own compost from vegetable waste, seaweed, manure from our hens and manure from a local farmer. I call this our gold deposit. The first year I got carried away and grew every vegetable I could think of. Some thrived, some never appeared overground and some threatened to invade West Clare! Since then I have reeled in my ambitions and now grow what works best and what we eat. My husband has become a superb soup maker: courgettes, broccoli, beans, carrots are given exotic partners in the soup saucepan. Our peas never make it to the kitchen, we eat them straight off the plant. Honey, our collie, loves them in the pods.

    To encourage bees and pollination I grow flowers both at the doors of the tunnels and inside. I love all the colour, the orange calendula and nasturtiums, and the blue of the cornflowers - all great salad ingredients too!

    This year I have ordered a vine to grow in one of the tunnels, a Black Hamburg. Fingers crossed it will settle well and be productive.

    My garden is my daily landscape. It feeds me body and soul. There is no greater feeling than producing your own food and enjoying the company of a very friendly robin while you dig and sow."

     

    If you'd like to  win a €50 voucher for Fruit Hill Farm and have your garden featured in the How Does Your Garden Grow section of our website CLICK HERE for full details on how to enter.

  • Square Foot Gardening

    leeks-673651_960_720

    It’s easy to forget here in spacious West Cork that not everybody has the luxury of a big garden to grow vegetables in. Square foot gardening is a method for helping those with smaller gardens to maximise their space. In square foot gardening, the growing area (typically a raised bed) is marked out into smaller square sections. This helps to plan and create a well planted and neat vegetable garden in minimal space.

    Generally, a bed is divided into a grid of 12” sided squares. So for example a 3’ by 3’ raised bed could be divided into 9 squares and a 3’ by 9’ would make 18.

    File:Square-foot-garden.JPG

    As each square is used for different kinds of plants, a variety of crops is insured. The number of plants in each square is determined by the typical size of the individual plants for that particular crop. The originator of the technique, Mel Bartholemew, emphasises the careful and prudent spacing of seeds and plants so that fewer, but ultimately stronger and more productive, plants are raised. The following table is an example of how many plants fit nicely into a square. Your own experimenting might show different numbers suit as the size of plants depends on various factors such as variety, soil fertility and so on.

    Square Foot Gardening Spacings Don't be tempted to stuff the squares!

    When plants are spaced properly, there are a number of benefits. For example, if the space is filled out nicely by the chosen crop, then the ground is covered with a canopy making it more difficult for weeds to germinate and establish. Moisture loss is minimised too as the soil is shaded. For tall or climbing plants, such as peas and beans, it is possible to plant a row along one side of a square using supports such as a trellis or netting. For this, the north edge of the bed should be used so as to not shade out the other plants.

    Working with smaller growing spaces often means that it's not possible to grow a wide range of crops. Here, we have to prioritise and choose crops which give us the best return. I believe that one of the first things we should think about outsourcing to ourselves is salad - especially the leafy stuff. Shop bought leaves are pricey, excessively packaged and usually bland in comparison to what you can pick fresh. Fortunately, they are also easy to grow and productive in small spaces. Loose leaved, or 'cut and come again', varieties of lettuce can be harvested as needed through the summer and are suited to closer spacings typical of the square foot method. The same is true for the spicy oriental salad leaves like rocket, mizuna and mustard. A mixed, or 'mesclun', packet of seeds will provide a variety of different colours and types of leafy greens. This is handy as a diverse salad bowl can be created without having to buy and separately sow individual varieties.

    Cut and Come again Lettuce

    I haven't seen many examples of square foot gardens in Ireland. If anybody practices it themselves it would be great to hear about your experience with the method. As the vegetable garden tends to look quite bare this time of year, it would be also be nice to see pictures of how a well prepared, well fed and eager to grow garden plot looks. 'Preparation' could be the theme for our monthly How does your garden grow competition where you can win a €50 voucher for Fruit Hill Farm by sharing your garden story with us.

  • Vegan NPK Fertilizer

    B Danube in flower1Vegan organic gardening/farming  methods use no animal products or by-products - eg bloodmeal, fish products, bone meal, animal manure, feathers or other animal-origin matter -  because the production of these materials is viewed (by Vegans) as either harming animals directly, or being associated with the exploitation and consequent suffering of animals.

    With this in mind we have decided to stock  a Vegan NPK 5:4:8 fertilizer. This is approved for use on organic holdings and will keep your garden growing healthy and strong without compromising your principles.  It is made from plant substances and waste from the food production industry.

    Vegan Fertilizer

    Vegan fertilizer Vegan NPK 5:4:8 fertilizer

    Organic NPK fertilizer 5 + 4 + 8 with 0.4% magnesium

    • Uses plant substances from the food production industry.
    • 4mm pellets.
    • Activates soil life.
    • Good spreadability and pleasant smell.
    • Mild, sustainable nitrogen release.
    • Highly compatible, ideal plant fertilizer.
    • Supports root growth and root development.
    • Fermented and pre-digested, ie well-available nutrients.

    Application / DOSING

    • Spread before/after sowing or planting and incorporate on the surface.
    • For average ground conditions 16 kg / 100 m² .

    Product data

    In accordance with the fertilizer declaration:    The Vegan Society's Vegan Trademark Organic NPK fertilizer  5 + 4 + 8 with 0.4% magnesium 5.0% Total nitrogen (N) (organic bound) 3.0% total phosphate (P 2 O 5) 8.0% total potassium oxide (K 2 O) Secondary Components: 0.4% total magnesium oxide (MgO) 2.7% water-soluble sulfur 0.4% sodium (Na) 63% organic substance Low in chloride

    Treatment aids: Contains Vinasse as a pelletizing aid Storage instructions: Keep cool and dry, away from direct sunlight Keep out of the reach of children and animals.

    Green Manures  are also a good way of increasing soil fertility without using any animal imputs.

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