March Gardening News from Klaus Laintenberger

Added: 05/03/17 : 12:27:53

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

March is really the beginning of the gardening year but please don’t be impatient. I suppose the weather this March isn’t conducive to gardening yet. Let’s hope there is some change on the way.  It’s actually wetter now than it was throughout the winter.
 There is still plenty of time to sow your crops.  In this newsletter you’ll find a detailed guide on what to do in your garden and polytunnel in March. 

First here are a few dates for your diary:

Sun. 12th March 2017 Potato Day at the Organic Centre in Leitrim –
There will be an update on our potato breeding experiment and potato seedlings of NEW varieties will be available.

Mon. 20th March 2017             Film: “Symphony of the Soil” and Discussion
This is an amazing and fascinating documentary about soils – its wonders as well as the dangers that it faces.  I will give a short introduction and we’ll hopefully get quite a few people to sign the People4Soil petition. 
Entrance is free-
Start 6.30pm.

More information on

Sat. 25th March 2017   Talk in Dublin - Belgrove Boys School Hall, Seafield Rd, Clontarf

  I’m giving a talk for the local GIY group and school, but the talk is open to everyone.

“Growing your own food is a fun, educational and healthy activity for all. Learn an appreciation of nature, the magic of soil and the skills of being productive in even the smallest spaces. This talk is suitable for those new to growing as well as those with more experience who want to learn more from an expert in the field..

Places are limited so if you wish to attend you must register in advance by emailing: – Cost: €5

Sat. 8th April 2017       Talk in Ardcarne Garden Centres in Boyle and Roscommon

            More details to follow in the next newsletter.
Onion Sets available now:
We now have maincrop onion sets available in stock.  It’s a fabulous variety (Stur BC 20) which is very disease resistant and produces wonderful round onions that dry and store extremely well.
If you had problems growing and storing onions before – try these ones.  Stock is limited.
March – what to do in the garden?

Don’t be misled by the nice spells of weather we often get in March.  Apart from the few vegetables listed below there is nothing you can sow or plant outdoors.   Continue preparing beds if there is a dry spell.  Rake over the beds you have prepared last month to get rid of weed seedlings.  You should also check your stored vegetables for any signs of rot.

Around the middle of the month you can plant your early potatoes, onion and shallot sets.  To protect your onion and shallot sets from birds you can cover them with bird netting over wire hoops or alternatively cover with a cloche covered in bionet.   Sow indoors in a tunnel or windowsill: leeks, early cabbage, scallions, celery and celeriac. If you haven’t sown broad beans yet there is still time.   Jerusalem artichokes and garlic can also still be planted.

Harvest outdoors: Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, leeks, kale and possibly perpetual spinach which is re-sprouting again.  All these crops are slowly coming to an end now so you should use them up quickly if you have many of them left.  You will soon get your first picking of purple sprouting broccoli this month. Use stored vegetables: potatoes, beetroot, Dutch cabbage, carrots, onions, shallots and swedes.
March – What to do in your polytunnel or greenhouse?

You will really feel the warmth in your greenhouse or polytunnel now and so do your plants.  They start to grow quite rapidly now but be aware that the nights are still quite cold and there is still a high risk of frost.  Many garden centres will try and sell you tomato plants from the end of March onwards.  Don’t let them tempt you until May. 

Direct sowing into beds:
In March you can still sow the following vegetables directly into the soil.  Beetroot (Pablo F1), Carrots (Rocket F1) French beans (dwarf and climbing types) Peas, Mangetout (Sweet Horizon) Radish (Cherry Belle) – small amounts at regular intervals Turnips (Milan Purple Top) – small amounts at regular intervals

 However, if you sow carrots, beetroot and peas now they will only be ready in mid June which is far too late to plant your tomatoes or peppers.

Planting into beds
You can now plant out the seedlings you raised earlier on your heating bench: lettuce, scallions, dill, coriander, chervil, early cabbage, calabrese, mini-cauliflowers, early leeks, perpetual spinach, Swiss chard, salad rocket and all other oriental salads.  Most seedlings take about 4-5 weeks from sowing until they are ready to plant.

Sowing into modules/pots (18-20˚C)
Do not let your heating bench clutter up too much.  Most vegetables only require some warmth for germination and in March the seedlings are better off if placed on a non-heated bench in the tunnel
or greenhouse.  Only your tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines, courgettes, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, celery, celeriac and basil should remain on the heating bench until they are    planted in May.  Really all other vegetables should be moved off the heating bench about a week after they have germinated.  In March you can sow the following vegetables into modular trays and place them in your   propagator or warm, south-facing windowsill in the house:

Aubergine (Black Beauty F1) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot, for pricking out
Basil (Sweet Genovese) – 4 seeds per cell  (only late in the month)
Calabrese (Chevalier F1) – 1 seed per cell
Cauliflower (for mini cauliflowers) – 1 seed per cell
Celery (Victoria F1) – broadcast in a tray for pricking out later
Chilli peppers (Ring of Fire) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot –  early in the month
Courgette (Defender F1 and Parador F1 - yellow) – 1 seed per 7cm pot
Coriander, Dill and Chervil – 5 seeds per cell 
French beans (climbing and dwarf) – 5 seeds per 9cm pot
Kohlrabi (Azur Star) – 1 seed per cell
Lettuce (various types) – 1 to 3 seeds per cell
Oriental salads (mizuna, rocket, tatsoi, etc.) – 5 seeds per cell
Pepper (Roberta F1, Bell Boy F1) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot, for pricking out
Scallions (Ishikura Bunching) – 5 to 10 seeds per cell,
Tomato (Sungold F1 & others) – 5 seeds per 7cm pot, for pricking out.
Do not sow your cucumbers and melons yet.  You’ll get much better results if you wait until April to sow them.

For planting outside
You can also raise the following vegetables indoors for planting out into your vegetable garden later.
Cabbage (early varieties) – 1 seed per cell
Calabrese (Chevalier F1) – 1 seed per cell
Celery (Victoria F1) – broadcast in a tray for pricking out later
Celeriac (Giant Prague) –      broadcast in a tray for pricking out later
Kohlrabi (Azur Star) – 1 seed per cell Leeks (Hannibal) – 2 seeds per cell
Lettuce (various) – 1 to 3 cells per cell
Onions (Golden Bear F1) – 4 seeds per cell
Scallions (Ishikura Bunching) – 10 seeds per cell

Salad rocket, wild rocket, various mustard leaves (Green Wave, Green in the snow, Red Frills, Green Frills), tatsoi, pak choi, corn salad, winter purslane, cress, mizuna, mibuna, komatsuna, texel greens, baby spinach, beet leaves (Bulls Blood) and possibly even some lettuce leaves.   You can still harvest the overwintered Swiss chard and perpetual spinach and towards the end of the month you should get your first radishes and baby turnips.
Protect our soils  – People 4 Soil

Update of People 4 Soil Campaign:  We have reached 17% of required signatures for Ireland.  The information on the link is from the European organisers of the campaign to protect our soils.

May I ask you all again – please sign this very important petition and share it with friends and on social media.  Without soils there will be no life on Earth as we know it.
Please support the People4Soil Campaign:
Please support the People4Soil Campaign:

There’s a part of our world that is crucial to all life on our planet, but one we don’t think about very
often - soil. Soil is a precious resource that feeds the planet but is under constant threat from industry, over-farming, pesticides, urbanisation and the loss of biodiversity.

Despite its huge importance, incredibly there is still no common law in Europe that
protects our soil
. Safeguarding soil is necessary to protect people, plants, and animals. In short,
all life depends on healthy soil. Without soil, there is no future.

We, the citizens of Europe, ask the European Union to protect soil from cement, from
pollution, and from speculative interests
. With us, more than 400 associations from all over
Europe make up the "People 4 Soil" coalition. We demand the European Union to protect soil by
using a European Citizens initiative, the official EU tool for citizens to call for new laws.

It requires more information
from you than a normal petition because of the strict rules laid down
by the EU. Can you help us by adding your name to the citizens initiative?

In Europe, over the last 50 years an area the size of Hungary has been covered in concrete for
human settlement and industry. This is only getting worse with ever more development, industry
and intensive agriculture. The planet’s soil is being consumed at an alarming rate. Land used for urbanisation is only the tip of the iceberg, as soil in Europe faces many threats:

Over 250.000 sites are chemically contaminated,

almost half of the agricultural soils are threatened by the depletion of humus,
millions hectares are damaged by wind and rain erosion
in many Mediterranean countries desertification is advancing.

Europe has the duty to preserve its most important natural resource: soil.
A European Citizen’s Initiative is an official way for ordinary Europeans to call on the
European Commission to act on the things citizens care about. To succeed, the Commission
asks for one million signatures from at least seven member states. To safeguard Europe’s soil,
we need every single one of us to sign.
The ECI is one way we can achieve that, using people power from all over Europe to take action.
Can you help us protect our soil by signing up to this citizens initiative?
Protect the soil now. Sign the European Citizens' Initiative

If you would like more information and be part of the campaign, please contact the
Environmental Pillar on:
Happy Gardening,
Klaus Laitenberger
Onion sets and garlic

Added: 12/02/17 : 08:47:42

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

We just received our onion and shallot sets and garlic bulbs.  Here is some useful information about these crops that belong to the Allium family.  This family is actually called Amaryllidaceae.   All members of this family are monocotyledons.  That simply means that they only have one seed leaf (cotyledon) while most other vegetables are dicotyledons and have two seed leaves.

A few practical tips:

Onion sets can be planted from mid March to mid April.  They require a reasonably fertile soil which should be quite firm.  If planted into loose soil – I think they are more prone to bolting as the roots can’t get hold of the soil.  Obviously I don’t mean a compacted soil.  After preparing the seedbed I lay a board of timber (about 3m long) on the bed and stand on it to lightly and evenly compress the soil. 
Onion sets are planted half into the soil and the tops sticking out.  Birds are a problem in many gardens and the sets may need to be protected with a bird netting for the first few weeks until shoots appear.  The spacing is 10cm in the row and 30cm between the rows.
Onions should be harvested when nearly all the leaves have turned yellow and fallen over.  The variety Forum F1 is a very early variety and should be eaten by late autumn.
Winter storage onion sets will be in stock within the next couple of weeks.

Shallots can be planted from mid February until early April.  The same ground preparation as for onion applies.  Shallot bulbs divide to produce 6-10 shallots so the spacing is 30cm x 30cm.  Otherwise they are grown and harvested like onions.

Here are a few tips to growing good garlic.  I highly recommend increasing the spacing to 25cm x 25cm.  With this wide spacing you’ll get nice big bulbs.  The outside cloves make the best bulbs.  Cloves should be planted twice their own depth, this way they don’t turn green.  They should also be planted as early as possible ideally in February or into mid March.  They need a period of cold weather in order for the bulbs to divide into cloves.  If they don’t get the cold spell you’ll only get a solid round bulb.
Another important thing is to harvest garlic when the leaves are still standing and just turning yellow/brown.  If the leaves fall over the bulbs often split up and are not suitable for storage.  These should be eaten first.

Onion sets, shallots and garlic bulbs are now available from our seed shop:

Upcoming Talk:
I will give a talk on Organic Vegetable Growing on Monday 20th February at 7.30pm in Passage West at Church of Ireland Hall, near Cork City.  It’s organised by the local GIY groups and entrance is €5 and kids are free.  For more information contact Steven on or on 086 2405573

Peple4Soil Campaign
We are still requiring lots of signatures to protect our soils.  This is a European Citizens’ Initiative and we need 1,000,000 signatures so that policy makers will bring in  legislation to protect our soils.  In Ireland, our target is 8,700 signatures and we are still a long way off this mark.  Please sign this petition and encourage others to do the same.  Our soils are under threat!
“A nation that forgets to dig the soil and to tend the earth, forgets itself”.  Gandhi
Here is the link to sign the petition:
Organic Growth
Great news – Organic Farming keeps on booming and people are continuously buying more organic produce.  IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) have just released the latest global statistics on organic farming.  The year is 2015.
Here is a summary:
-          The countries with the largest share of organic agricultural land of their total farmland are
           the Liechtenstein (30.2 percent), Austria (21.3 percent), and Sweden (16.9 percent).
           In eleven countries 10 percent or more of all agricultural land is organic.
-          Ireland has reached 2% in 2015.  Still a long way to go.
-          Worldwide a total of 50.9 million hectares were organically managed at the end of
          2015, representing a growth of 6.5 million hectares over 2014, the largest growth
          ever recorded.
-          Australia is the country with the largest organic agricultural area (22.7 million hectares)
          followed by Argentina (3.1 million hectares), and the United States of America
          (2 million hectares).
-          There were 2.4 million organic producers worldwide; India has the most organic producers
           (2.4 million), followed by Ethiopia (203’602),  Mexico (200’039) and Uganda (190,670).
-          The country with the highest number of organic producers in the EU is Italy with 52,609.
-          The best organic consumers in the world (with highest per capita consumption) are:
           Switzerland (€262 per capita), Denmark (€191), Sweden (€177), Luxembourg (€170),
           Austria (€127), United States (€111), Germany (€106)
A lot more information can be found on the publication:

Happy Gardening,