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Organic Grow-How

Regular expert advice from Fruit Hill Farm on organic growing.
  • Winter Green Manures

    Green manures, also referred to as fertility building crops, are crops used to improve the condition of the soil in some way during times when there would be no other plants in the ground. They are typically dug back into the soil before the following crop to allow it to benefit from the nutrients released. A wide range of plant species can be used as green manures with different ones providing different benefits. To get the best from a green manure crop, its cultivation should be taken as seriously as any other crop and integrated thoughtfully into the crop
  • Carrot Root Fly

      The carrot root fly (Psila rosae), pictured below looking like butter wouldn't melt in it's mouth, is responsible for much grief amongst home gardeners and commercial growers alike. It is partial to dining on a number of vegetables in the Apiaceae, or carrot, family of plants. It can affect parsnip, parsley, celery and celeriac but is most notorious for reducing your carrot crop to an inedible mess. Carrot fly is a small black-bodied fly which lays its eggs beside victim crops. The larvae then hatch out and feed on the roots as they burrow into them. Sometimes
  • Bolting

    Bolting refers to when a plant rather rudely decides to enter its flowering stage before we would like it to. Essentially, it has come to the conclusion that it is time to produce seed, and energy previously flowing into leaf growth is diverted to this task. As a result, the leafy part of the plant, which we were more than likely planning on eating, is lost to woody, not so tasty, and sometimes more bitter material. Bolting is essentially a survival mechanism which is triggered for a number of reasons. The factors which contribute to a plants susceptibility to
  • Scythes & Scything

    Like many other traditional tools, a scythe can look like a crude instrument when first viewed. However, in the right hands, it can be a very efficient tool giving much return for the energy expended. Indeed, it’s surprising how much area can be cleared or mown in a short time. Rambling through Youtube scything videos you’ll come across a few ‘man versus machine’ style challenges. On the whole, the scythe favours well - albeit with a user in need of a sit down by the end. It competes especially well with strimmers, clearing open ground quicker but struggling
  • Liquid Fertilzers

    Liquid fertilizers are fertilizers that come in a liquid form, most commonly as a concentrate. In other words, the grower must dilute the liquid fertilizer in water before feeding it to the garden. Either the soil or the plant can be watered. Foliar feeding is a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves. The absorption takes place through their stomata and also through their epidermis. Liquid fertilizers are faster-acting than granular fertilizers. With a liquid fertilizer the gardener has control over dosage and how often
  • Gooseberry Sawfly

    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 - 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
  • Managing Weeds Organically

    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 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
  • 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
  • Square Foot Gardening

    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
  • Raised Beds

    A raised garden bed is a mound of soil raised above ground level and contained by a frame that is used for growing herbs and vegetables. Raised beds can be made from timber, stone, logs or bricks. They are different from container gardening in that they do not have a base and cannot be moved. Advantages Earlier cropping as the soil is warmer. Improved drainage. Plants are more accessible and maintenance is easier. Easier to plan and manage a rotation system. Greater yield as crops are closer together. Soil can be tailored to specific crops. Soil is not compacted as

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