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Orchard Management Session 3rd December 2022

A big thank you to Michael Burke for coming to talk and work with us today. Purpose of the session to help custodians understand how to manage their trees.

The following notes complement the video materials.  

Please note the videos are a series of short clips that simply show elements of the event. The videos are published as unlisted; that is they will not be picked up by search engines and or promoted in any manner.   


Starting with the orchard area nearest to the main gates, we learn that many of the trees have canker. [Canker, plant disease, caused by numerous species of fungi and bacteria, that occurs primarily on woody species. Symptoms include round-to-irregular sunken, swollen, flattened, cracked, discoloured, or dead areas on the stems (canes), twigs, limbs, or trunk.]  

The likely cause of the canker is low pH which has left the trees vulnerable to disease.

The problem with canker is that is can easily infect other trees. We are guided to a) constantly sanitise our tools (loppers, secateurs etc), b) not to mulch canker infected wood and spread under trees, c) control canker by managing soil pH to allow the trees to absorb minerals and other nutrients so they are as healthy as possible.

The Goldcats are badly infected. Primary guidance is as above, address soil deficiencies and manage the trees for a year and review. Note, adverse weather may mean it will be two or more years before we can make an informed decision.

A further recommendation is to leave one Goldcat unmanaged. Mark the tree as a “control” to compare and assess against manged trees.

New root stocks can be pruned at any time. But note, better to pull out to remove any buds at the very bottom of the new rootstock.

Tree Management

As discussed developing soil condition is fundamental to tree management (and vegetable growing I might add). Horticultural Lime is required to correct pH. See the Acidity and Alkalinity primer appended to this document.


  • First time of liming, use 50% of recommended amount.
  • Regularly check pH and act accordingly.  

Beyond Lime, Michael recommends:

  • Spray trees with seaweed liquid fertiliser, every 10 days in the growing season.
  • Optionally add seaweed around base.
  • Consider covering (lime) with leaf mulch, cardboard and mypex to reduce leaching and increase beneficial effects.

Acquire ground thermometer to provide accurate guidance on ground temperature for planting. Ensure temperature is at least >6o bare minimum for (very low) growth. Assume not before 4th April. Note growth doubles above 10 o

Note self-seeded tree behind the first orchard area will have adverse affect upon fruit trees.

Next Steps

As custodians we need to:

  • Use the pH tester and manage soil as recommended.
  • Consider whether we do this individually or in a small team.
  • Establish nutrient spray process during the growing season.
  • Choose a control Goldcat and clearly mark the tree.
  • Sort out labelling of the trees behind the tunnels.
  • Manage tree growth as recommended.

As a group we should decide whether to invite Michael to return in the new year (late February, early March) and ask him to facilitate a pruning session, where we ourselves carry out pruning under his direction.


Notes from Veg Growing Demo Session No 3, Friday 5th August

Friday 5th of August – 3rd Demo Session with Helena WALSH
The weather held up again over what has been quite a dry summer. Helena this week launched into what vegetables it was still possible to at this time of year.
Direct sowing currently: Swiss chard, rocket, kohlrabi & turnips. Last sowing of carrots (Early Nantes variety is good), mustard, kale, beetroot.

Winter purslane seeds were given out by Helena. These are also known as Miners Lettuce and are nutrient-dense, high in vitamins C and A. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Harvesting method: Cut and come again. Sow now till September. It Keeps going through till March. Along with kale, brussels sprouts and perpetual spinach, these are some of the few vegetables that can be easily harvested in the coldest part of the winter even in snowy, icy conditions.

Helena advises ordering garlic and onions from Fruit Hill farm or similar before October, otherwise they could be sold out since more people are growing. These should be sown starting late October through to mid/late November.

Allium rust is an issue in the Ballincollig allotments generally, something Helena noticed while taking a tour of the plots. The suggested solution is that the committee take a group approach to highlighting with signage or other information that its a site-wide issue since there’s no point in a single plot holder tackling the rust issue on their produce while its running rampant on numerous other nearby plots as the fungal spores spread by wind.

Rust infections are worse on nitrogen rich soil with low potash levels. It results in nutrients being extracted from plant cells to allow the rust to live and multiply without killing the host plant. The result is a less-nutritious mature vegetable.

Helena’s anti-rust mixture to be sprayed on affected plants and also for prevention:

  • 1 litre of water
  • 1 tbsp of baking soda
  • A few drops of liquid organic soap such as Castille which is sold in Quay Coop and SuperValu. Helena suggests the lavender-flavoured variety for the anti-fungal properties the lavender imparts.

For winter planting of brassicas the soil needs a good amount of compacting after planting with your foot to bed the plant in well. Use compost and liquid feeds at regular intervals. Make sure they don’t dry out in September. Protection with a net from birds is a must. Stop feeding by the end of September. Fish, blood and bonemeal is good option for feed. Ashes from the fire are good also as long as you’re not using firelighters.

An idea if you have too many leeks: chop them up finely and add in layers to a jar with coarse sea salt. Use as a seasoning as needed.

Calendula is a great medicinal flower with many uses. It can be harvested and made into an oil using something like sunflower oil as a base.

That was it for this session!

(Many thanks to Louis for taking these note in David’s absence.)

Notes from 26th August Seed Saving session with Helena Walsh

Friday, August 26th. We launched into seed saving from the demo bed. Calendula, poppy, tagetes (marigold family, minty aroma), rocket (bit too early, but will be good in a few weeks).
What to do now? Plant Radishes, cabbages from seed, broccoli (seedlings), swiss chard, spinach, winter purslane. Order onion sets and garlic and plant in October.
Mulch grass to create a blanket around and under crops, to protect plants, preserve moisture, suppress weeds, prevent erosion, raise soil temperature etc.
Plant winter cover crops:
Buckwheat: source of nectar in spring. Dig in or grow for flour.
Red shank: grows in calcium deficient soil and fixes calcium.
Phacelia (another green manure – borage family).
For winter sowing, mix buckwheat and crimson clover. You can eat the leaves of cover crops. Dig into soil in spring one month prior to planting.
Broadcast mix of seeds, rake and tap down. Feed old salads and weeds into soil, BUT NOT Docks. (Note docks are not all bad – they are medicinally a good liver tonic!) Note anything that has deep roots, such as comfrey is good for the liver.
Also note: broadcast green manure seeds around other winter plants (kale, brassicas, leeks etc to provide nutrients)
Diary Note: 3rd September Middleton, Taste of Market 11 – 12:30. From East Cork Growers.
Also Mahon every Thursday. Middleton every Saturday.
Random notes:

  • snowball turnips easy to grow
  • Don’t grow anything in January, wait until end February/March at the earliest
  • Beetroot – freeze whole or keep in the ground as long as possible
  • Spiralise courgettes – add herbs and freeze
  • Juice leaves of beetroot
  • Add organic lemon juice to anything to improve juice to improve blending
  • Eat nettles, dandelions etc as salads and teas to prep the immune system
  • Eat nettle seeds in honey to improve the adrenal system
  • Eat cleavers (sticky seeds, hitch hikers) to cleanse and improve lymphatic system, also as post cancer diet; eat seeds in spring in salads
  • Eat redshank as a green. Grind nettle seeds and mix in flour, also eat in honey
    Project Info:
    “Treesplease” in Cork. Community effort to stimulate growing of more native trees. See facebook page. Consider doing micro nursery in the allotments, say 200 trees in pots, them spread into the community after 3 years. Also checkout future forests for plants for permaculture hedge; e.g blackthorn.

Sustainable Vegetable Growing Demo – Session 2

Friday 8th July
From the outset it was clear that the demo bed was hugely successful in demonstrating the key strategies Helena had introduced in the first session. The bed is chock a block full mostly of our planted veg, very few weeds. Most veg survived apart from the peas which the pigeons clearly had enjoyed. The strategy of tight planting clearly works, and Helena is happy we will be able to seed save from our heirloom plantings in the next sessions.
Helena started with feedback from ourselves on issues we were seeing this year. These included problems with beetroot in different soils, fruit cuttings, carrot growing and gooseberry issues.
We then launched into a guidance session with thoughts on:

  • successional planting (be proactive and plan continuous planting for an extended season);
  • mulching (keep the ground around plants mulched to ward off slugs and maintain moisture in the current very dry weather.
  • Water very early or very late. Watering warm soil and plants can be at best limited because of evaporation and damaging at worst.
  • Beetroot with yellowing or spotty leaves, or holes in the roots may be boron deficient. Use an organic boron fertiliser.
  • Pull weeds and make a “tea” from the weeds. Important lesson here is that weeds grow competitively and the most successful will be perfectly suited to the state of the soil they are growing in. So harvest the weeds, make a nutrient tea and put the nutrients back into the soil they have come from to maintain a nutrient equilibrium.
  • Carrots split due to irregular watering. Eat carrot thinnings. Net carrots early in the season; then remove from mid July when carrot fly no longer present.
  • Intercrop carrots and onions as onions deter carrot fly.
  • Cover radishes and brassicas to prevent flea beetle.
  • Plant rocket (lettuce) late to avoid bolting.
  • Search out “wild rocket” – perennial, hardier nd better flavour (more peppery)
  • Small holes in rocket are flea beetles. Cover with fleece
  • Feed and earth up brassicas now (July) help them stand up tall for later winds and protect the root structure
  • Consider where you are sourcing your plants (if not using seed). Consider community sources that are reputable plant growers. E.g St. Mary’s Health Campus at Gurranbraher. Helena will see if we can organize a visit.
  • Use weeds and flowers as herbal drinks (e.g meadow sweet and scented roses) for health and energy flow.
  • Pest prevention – aphids: use spray 1 tb baking soda in 1 pint of water.
  • Combine Nutrients and Herbs and flowers in Tea, to both feed and deter pests – rosemary + nettles + comfrey + lavender. (we all walked away with tea) – recommend use on brassicas
  • Use tea after 2 to 4 weeks. I have questions here about longlevity for next session.
  • Milk spray 1 in 10 ration. (I think in relation to garlic and onion rust)
  • Notes on weed tea – sieve to remove seeds. Use all weeds EXCEPT bind weed and buttercups!
  • Don’t use tea when plants are near to harvest. May cause excessive growth, eg burst tomatoes.
  • Helena and some of the group weeded and planted the second bed in double quick time. The weeds go into tea for net session.
  • Note climatic conditions. E.g have you seen this year all the berries in the wild, even holly berries this early, which is amazing.
    In next sessions Helena will speak more about Indigenous Microscopic Organisms and the work of Chris Trump in natural farming techniques. Meantime see:

Sustainable Vegetable Growing Demo

I certainly had no expectations for this session . Billed as a Vegetable Growing Demo we gathered at 7pm last evening. Initially the turnout was barely adequate, but after 15 minutes we had a respectable number, perhaps 18 folk. The session started oddly. Helena asked us to uncross our legs, close our eyes and listen to the birds. I mused on whether we would be asked next to all hold hands and sing Kumbaya! But that was an unworthy thought, because Helena then ran a 90 minute session that was a tour de force on sustainable growing.  

We did introductions and gave Helena a sense of our knowledge and skill levels. From that she deduced our needs; high priorities articulated were management of diseases and pests, sustainable methods and productivity. As a professional market gardener supplying local markets and restaurant trade her immediate responses showed she knew her business, but critically important to her was the sustainability of practices.  

The demo moved into high gear as Helena demonstrated some key guidance:

  1. Community working. Central objective of the evening was to create a first stage community project bed. The idea is to plant heirloom or heritage seed based plants and let them run fully cycle to seed, that then provides an initial stock of saved seeds for sustainable growing for potentially the entire community in their own plots. Some of us already practice seed saving, but mostly in an ad hoc manner. Helena showed and urged us to focus on developing seeds that we demonstrate for ourselves that grow well in our specific environment.
  2. Inter planting. Companion planting if you like, but not as you know it!. The idea is to establish guilds that complement, not just in demand for nutrients and soil type, but also deters weeds and pests. Example: Alliums, carrots and salads, plus pest deterrent flowers such as nasturtiums. A further aspect of inter-planting is to cover all the ground with green manure, to prevent weed growth or comfrey leaves to provide slow release of nutrients. Helena will provide detailed notes on practical guilds and all the aspects of the demonstrated practices.
  3. Multi-purpose feed and feeding. Many of us make Comfrey tea, often adding nettles for raised nitrogen and perhaps egg shells for balance. Helena uses an array of herbs in the tea also to provide targeted pest and disease prevention in addition to nutrients. Again Helena will be sending recipes and suggested timing of use.  
  4. Communal resources. Taking the ideas of feed to the next stage, Helena recommends we establish communal resources for source plants (herbs, comfrey, nettles etc) and stocks of various types of feed. The amount of space for this wouldn’t be huge.

Helena talked as she planted, setting up pea supports in the process. We all then got involved in planting and the bed was full in jig time.

The process is continuing with one demonstration a month through August. Utterly brilliant exercise in teaching and demonstrating a viable approach to sustainable growing. In the process Helena covered pretty much all the questions that were raised at the start of the session and many more. A really professional grower practicing what she teaches, as well as a hugely inspirational teacher!

Blarney Castle Gardens

Over the past couple of years Marie and I have been lucky enough to live just a few Kms from Blarney Castle and its gardens. While Blarney Castle must be one of Ireland’s most well known and most visited tourist attractions, the surrounding gardens themselves must also count as a national treasure. During lockdown it has been an amazing facility to walk around the gardens and trails, and with or without lockdown we typically walk there at least twice a week, sometimes more. On our visits we have often chatted to the gardeners who do such an amazing job across a wide range of formal and informal gardens, as well as the more remote areas through the woods and beside the lake and rivers. In this way we learnt about the volunteer gardeners who provide support to the professional gardeners that develop and maintain this huge gardening effort.
So this week I felt very privileged to join one of the two groups of volunteer gardeners and help in the overall effort, and to become part of this great gardening effort.
My first session was in the huge walled garden pruning apple trees. The orchard comprises a huge variety of species, about half are well established, the other half relatively newly planted.
We focused on the established trees. Our lead gardener talked us through the pruning task:
The core advice went something like this:
First for each tree remember “the three Ds”. Look for and deal with Dead, Damaged or Diseased wood. Second consider the shape of the tree – whether its pyramidal or chalice like and ensure any pruning supports the development of that shape. Third make minimum necessary cuts. This was particularly interesting. These trees have been regularly pruned and the shape is mostly pretty good. But making minimum necessary cuts to maintain the shape, ensure growth lets light to all parts of the tree, keeping branches from growing into each other.
Third, in trimming growth, don’t cut fruit buds unless really necessary and leave three leaf buds in place.
The point about minimum necessary cutting is reinforced with the idea that while pruning in February is recommended. Pruning throughout the year has advantages – you can see what new growth needs attention and encourage and or discourage growth where it’s needed. So revisiting the pruning task in April/May is useful.
I asked about feeding; the expert guidance is not a lot of feeding is necessary. Certainly not every year. But removing grass and weeds around the trees and mulching every year is important.
With this guidance I found that most of my time was spent studying each tree, and making careful decisions before each pruning cut. And where I wasn’t sure, particularly in the case of diseased or damaged wood, I asked for expert guidance.
I’m definitely no expert, but I did feel I now have a rationale for each tree and each cut. Which is very different to how I have pruned in the past which has been guided more by tree shape and less by branch by branch decision making.

Autumn 2020 – Session 5 (14/12/2020)

Diseases are microbial; Pests anything bigger!

Diseases: three main pathogenic microbes: virus, bacterial, fungal

Fungal diseases spread through the air; 1 cell organism

Most vegetable diseases are caused by fungi. They damage plants by killing cells and/or causing plant stress. Sources of fungal infections are infected seed, soil, crop debris, nearby crops and weeds. Fungi are spread by wind and water splash, and through the movement of contaminated soil, animals, workers, machinery, tools, seedlings and other plant material. They enter plants through natural openings such as stomata and through wounds caused by pruning, harvesting, hail, insects, other diseases, and mechanical damage.

Black spot – Fungal leaf spot attacks lettuce and can also occur on brassicas and other vegetables including such as cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, turnip and rutabaga.

Damping offDamping off is a disease of seedlings caused by several different fungi and fungus-like organisms. This disease causes emerging seedlings to collapse, often submerged in a mass of white fungal growth. It is particularly a problem when sowing seed indoors or under glass.

Black Leg Potato blackleg is caused by the bacteria Erwinia carotovora subspecies atroseptica. Bacteria remain dormant in seed potatoes and become active when conditions are right, making it both unpredictable and brutal. Like with cole crop blackleg, there are no sprays or chemicals that can stop this blackleg, only cultural controls will destroy the disease. Blackleg symptoms in potatoes typically involve very inky black lesions that form on infected stems and tubers. Leaves above these spots will yellow and tend to roll upwards. If the weather is very wet, affected potatoes may be slimy; in dry weather, infected tissue may simply shrivel and die.

Cole crop (brassicas) blackleg appears first on young plants as small brown lesions that expand into circular areas with gray centers covered in black dots. As these areas grow, young plants may die quickly. Older plants can sometimes tolerate a low-level infection, causing lesions with reddish margins. If these spots appear low on stems though, the plants can be girdled and will die. Roots can also become infected, causing wilt symptoms including yellow leaves that don’t fall off the plant.

Grey MouldGrey mould, caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, is a very common disease, causing a soft decay of plant tissues accompanied by a growth of fuzzy grey-brown mould. It affects many plants, especially those grown under glass where conditions are humid. It is also a common disease of soft fruit, such as gooseberries, strawberries and grapes. Also onions just before harvesting.

Mildew(Powdery) mildew grows as a white powdery coating over the surfaces of leaves. Pea, bean, okra, cucumber, squash, muskmelon, and pumpkin are common host plants. Leaves around the base of the plant are first affected. This fungal disease is favored by warm weather and can be destructive in dry as well as hot seasons.

  • Mildews
    • End of life cycle
    • Plant is weak
    • Especially peas and beans
    • Wet summer

All the fungal diseases are accelerated by weather conditions

[Signs and symptoms of plant disease: Is it fungal, viral or bacterial?]

Irish climate inherently conducive to fungal diseases; relatively little that can be done once a plant is diseased. So preventative measures are essential:

Start by planting healthy stock. … check seed descriptions for “mildew resistant”

Choose planting sites based on plant needs. …  maintain plant distance

Remove affected material immediately

Avoid overhead watering. …

Water early in the day. …

Don’t crowd plants. …

Don’t work a wet garden. …

Ensure good airflow, keep tunnel doors open

Control Weeds

But in the end there’s little that can be done (in an organic situation).

Potato Blight is prevented by bluestone  (copper sulphate) solution. Seals leaves to prevent spores attaching to the plant.

Tomato blight –  . .

Strictly blight spraying is not allowed by the International Organic System. But each country has its own overlays and it is accepted in Ireland. However, we know fluids travel up AND down the plant stems. So, we must ask whether we are happy with copper sulphate in our potatoes?


Organic Trust

Organic Standards

(and find they are not clear or helpful?) ☹

Also can try Horsetail Tea

Horsetail is a beautiful, highly invasive and incredibly resilient plant; a great survivor. With roots growing 10 feet and more into the earth and a history of survival stretching back over millions of years to the time of the dinosaurs, it is extremely difficult to erradicate so I never have living plants in my own garden and dispose of any roots with caution.

Horsetail is a powerful plant, rich in minerals, alkaloids and silica, used in some biodynamic preparations as well as extensively in herbal remedies. A natural fungicide, horsetail ‘tea’ is used to treat fungal problems including powdery mildew and black spot and makes a magnesium rich spray which can be applied directly to plants and as a soil feed. The spray helps to prevent damping off, rust, treats mildew on roses, make a root dip,is used to treat peach tree leaf curl and is an effective, purifying cleaner for greenhouses and cold frames.

Weed Control Actions

  • Square foot gardening
  • Dense planting
  • Mulching
  • Stale seed bed
  • Flame thrower!!
  • Allow 1 or 2 seed growths and then sow out
  • Boiling water (kills weeds)
  • Vinegar

Pests: A pest is any animal or plant harmful to humans or human concerns. The term is particularly used for creatures that damage crops, livestock, and forestry.

General strategies:

  1. Plant out more than is needed
  2. Plant sacrificial crop
  3. Plant perimeter crop to deter (e.g radishes)
    Companion Planting: Effects of Radishes on Squash Bugs
  4. Plant spicy leaves on perimeter
  5. Biological control (see Bacillus thuringiensis below)
  6. Parasitic wasps
    BBC report on Parasitoid wasps
    I note from FHF site that Borage is recommended as favourite plant for beneficials (spiders, damsel bugs, ground beetles, parasitoid wasps)
  7. Ecosystem problem? Move entire site for a few years! (drastic? Actually not necessarily if plots available!)

Pest Specifics

Slugs, snails, (no natural predators except thushes, geese, ducks). Remove, mulch, find in March). Good garden hygiene removes hiding places, use gravel paths, ensure nowhere overgrown. Use Neudorff organic slug pellets also stocked by Griffins, Dripsea

Note slugs eat toxic foliage (e.f rhubarb leaves) , and are themselves toxic

101 ways to kill a slug

Caterpillars, cabbage white month mid summer. Consider biological control – bocillis thurengiensis . . .

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a natural occurring, soil-borne bacteria that has been used since the 1950s for natural insect control. It consists of a spore, which gives it persistence, and a protein crystal within the spore, which is toxic.

for control of larvae of wax moths and other moth species, larvae of mosquitoes, black flies, and other flies, many types of caterpillars, larvae of elm leaf beetle, larvae of elm leaf beetle

BUT . . . Not cheap see Fruithill farm below . . .

Alternatively consider Bionet netting, bit cheaper!!

Greenfly, blackfly, wooly aphids, aphids (love greenhouses, wet and warm conditions, really vicious little teeth, attract or buy ladybirds), they feed in clusters, usually on the undersides of leaves near the point where the leaf attaches to the stem, or on tender young shoots and buds. As they feed, they secrete a sticky fluid called honeydew. When enough aphids are feeding on the tree, this honeydew will begin dripping from the leaves. Solution – encourage ladybirds with wide variety of flowers.

Try Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plants) around your raspberries and soft fruits: they will attract bees and so improve pollination and fruit production while also encouraging hoverflies which will feed on aphids.

Also consider natural insecticide spray, (deadly) nightshade leaves crushed with garlic, washing up liquid and cold water. (actually garlic alone works also IME)

NOTE: Blarney Castle Gardens has a Poisonous Plant Garden

Blarney Castle’s Poison Gardens are located behind the castle battlements. Though at a glance they may seem like any other botanical garden, warning signs with skull and crossbones and cages carefully constructed to contain the deadliest of the plants reveal this is no ordinary garden. . . Wolfsbane, Mandrake, Hellebore, Hemlock, Nightshade, and Ricinus communis, which produces castor oil and the lethal poison ricin.

white fly, root flies (carrot and cabbage),

cabbage fly – use collars around the plants

wire worms – trap with sacrificial potato plants

flea beetles, small bugs, tiny beetles attach to young brassicas/rocket and spicy leaves. Whole plant is riddled with holes!

also use nematodes – not cheap!!  . ..  small, usually microscopic, unsegmented roundworms with a narrow cylindrical body. They are not a pest and occur naturally in the soil. Buy from Fruithill farm

ants (find eggs at end of summer, white pearls – expose to birds),  . . .

Pigeons – love brassicas

Coypu (in River Lee?)

NZ Flatworm – attack and eat earthworms. Kill on sight!!


Plants manufacture their own food under the influence of sunlight. It happens in the leaves of plants and is distributed to the rest of the plant via the stems.  Note the stems separate transport (similar to the human arteries and veins) to facilitate transmission of water and oxygen (simplistically) up to the leaf structure and sugars down to the roots. When a plant is damaged the plant can be helped by cutting away damaged leaves and stems.

Carbon + Water = Sugars + Oxygen

CO + H2O = C12H22O11  + O

(note the chemical or molecular formula for sucrose is C12H22O11, which means each molecule of sugar contains 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms and 11 oxygen atoms.)

Credits: Many thanks to our tutor this term –
Selvi Lyilikci and the Cork Education Training Board (CETB)

Autumn 2020 – Session 4 (7/12/2020)

Solanaceae (Nightshades) and Composting Workshop

Continuing last week’s session . . .

Solanaceae or Nightshades

. . . are Potatoes and Tomatoes, (plus for completeness eggplant, bell and chili peppers). The Nightshade varieties are all hungry and need a lot of organic matter. They don’t like poor soil. Guideline: One Wheelbarrow load of compost per sq yard! Just to put that into context, that’s THREE barrow loads for an FRC raised bed!


Three main habits: Bush, Intermediate (Upright) and Tumbler.

Main issue with Tomatoes is getting them to ripen.

Keep foliage to minimum is really important. Cut side shoots off from day 1. Keep bottom of stem clear with lots of light.

Train into one main leader.

Sow Jan/Feb indoors. Plant out when strong. Feed once per week with comfrey or other liquid feed.

Pests and Diseases: Like potatoes, can be susceptible to blight. Little that can be done. Make sure the soil is not reused. We’ll talk about aphids next week.


Checkout the RTE programme – currently on the Player

1st Early – March – St Patrick’s Day planting should be regarded as a guide to be adjusted depending on the weather

2nd Early – April

Main Crop – June

Plant deep;

Plant as Deep as Possible

In figure above: LH planted too shallow. RH planted deep or (dotted line) earthed up. Note the potato is a strong plant and in good soil should produce 12 potatoes per plant.

Another way to earth up is to plant in an old tyre and then add second tyre as the plant grows.

Fresh manure will burn (scab).

Potatoes originate from South America; grown at altitude in the Andes blight wasn’t a problem because of the dry conditions. In Ireland’s damp climate blight is inevitable. Note no seed potatoes are grown in Ireland. All done in Scotland (presumably at altitude!!) Answer to blight is a) rotate crops. b) use blight resistant varieties (Sapo Miro or Bionica). or c) plant earlies and get them out of the ground by July when humid conditions occur. “IRISH GROWERS REALLY NEED TO CHANGE VARIETIES”. Checkout Fruithill Farm for lots of guidance and ideas for varieties.

Answer to wire worms – clean out soil a) with a sacrificial crop or b) picking out by hand! I recall Margaret Griffin recommended covering the ground with black matting before planting. Wireworms will come up to the surface for the warmth and after just 24 hours can be picked off. (I haven’t tried this myself, but it sounds like sense).

Beetroot: Always 2 or 3 plants in each seed.

Moderate feeders.

Composting Workshop

Brown – Carbon

  • Fall leaves
  • Pine needles
  • Twigs, chipped tree branches/bark
  • Straw or hay
  • Sawdust
  • Corn stalks
  • Paper (newspaper, writing/printing paper, paper plates and napkins, coffee filters)
  • Dryer lint
  • Cotton fabric
  • Corrugated cardboard (without any waxy/slick paper coatings

Green – Nitrogen

  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds/tea bags
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Trimmings from perennial and annual plants
  • Annual weeds that haven’t set seed
  • Eggshells
  • Animal manures (cow, horse, sheep, chicken, rabbit, etc. No dog or cat manure.)
  • Seaweed

Use chicken wire to keep out the rats

Use newspaper in same quantity as vegetable scraps

Working too slowly – add C

Too acidic – add lime

Always add N activators – Fresh manure, Chicken pellets, Seaweed or seaweed pellets

Which Items Are “Greens” and Which Are “Browns”?

Next week: Pests and diseases. Last session before Christmas . . Bring mulled wine and mince pies.

Autumn 2020 – Session 3 (30/11/2020)

Families and Rotation


Savoy cabbage, spring cabbage, red cabbage(slugs less keen on), Kale (high return)*- curly, (black) Tuscany, red (Russian),(easiest to grow)Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Calabrese (broccoli), Chinese greens, Pacchoi, rocket, Radish, turnips, swede, sprouting broccoli*,

All brassicas are hungry and need a lot of N and rich soil, rotted horse manure. Also extra feed (tea) during the growing cycle, Kale not so much.

*Continuous cropping

General note: When a plant is stressed (too hot, too cold, insufficient water, disturbed, attacked by pests or animals etc) it goes into flower. Essentially a response to protect itself by triggering the next stage in its growth cycle. No point in cutting the flower off.

General note: Most vegetable flowers are edible. Go very well in stir fries.

IDEA! Worried aboutseeds?Easy Germination test – sprinkle a few seeds on moist kitches paper and leave.

General discussion re planting: In general higher success (in Irish climate) with potting seeds rather than sowing seeds straight into the soil. Two stage potting, small then larger; plant out when the plant is sturdy enough to withstand pests etc. 2 months maximum (lack of nutrients in potting compost, plant on or out)

If a green leaf turns purple, it is stressed, Not enough space or nutrient.

Biggest issue with brassicas is pests, cabbage white (July/August) and aphids.

Use bio net (small mesh), or biological control Biological Control and Natural Enemies of Invertebrates  and or grow flowers that attract lady birds, or “buy” ladybirds!  

Bio controls can be parasitic wasp (eats aphids) or organic biological caterpillar. (NTS More research needed here . . . . )


Onions (white, red), leeks, garlic, scallions, chives (perennial herb), shallots,

Mostly easy to grow. Perhaps except red onions that will go into seed very easily.

Sets should be good and big, Can produce sets yourself, but need to start January.

Cropping onions – wait for foliage to tuen brown, then bend the stem to close the bulb over. Leave on soil to dry. Hang when dry not before.

Alliums don’t need rich soil, but will be improved by feeding.  


Peas (garden, mange tout, sugar snaps), beans (runner, french (climbing or bush), broad (rich source of protein),

Don’t pull legumes plants, cut the stem at ground level. Leave the roots to rot in the soil and leave all the N in the ground.  

Solanaceae  or nightshades, are a South American family of flowering plants that ranges from annual and perennial herbs to vines, lianas, epiphytes, shrubs, and trees, and includes a number of agricultural crops, medicinal plants, spices, weeds, and ornamentals.

Deadly nightshade (toxic foliage also used as pesticide), potato family, peppers, aubergines, tomatoes, chillies,

Apiaceae or Umbelliferae is a family of mostly aromatic flowering plants named after the type genus Apium and commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family, or simply as umbellifers.

Carrots, herbs, parsley, parsnips, coriander, lovage (perennial herb) celeriac

The Chenopodiaceae family includes plants without petals that often grow in soil rich in salts or nitrates. Spinach (not resilient), beetroot, Swiss chard (or rainbow), beets.

Circubits, squash cucumber, melons, pumpkins, courgettes (Zucchini) colorful, come in all shapes and sizes, and are easy to grow.

Aster or Asteraceae Asteraceae, also called Compositae, the aster, daisy, or composite family of the flowering-plant order Asterales. With more than 1,620 genera and 23,600 species of herbs, shrubs, and trees distributed throughout the world, Asteraceae is one of the largest plant families. Artichokes, lettuces etc

Quick Notes Rotation etc

Don’t grow in same place year on year. Legumes don’t need rich soil, they create their own N

Next Week: Compost Making workshop   (Bring Kitchen scraps, Chicken Pellets, Leaves, etc)

Final Week:  Pests and diseases

Credits: Many thanks to our tutor this term – Selvi Lyilikci and the Cork Education Training Board (ETB)

Autumn 2020 – Session 2 (23/11)

Nutrients and Minerals

Seaweed is the best all round fertiliser. Contains all nutrients and minerals. Use natural seaweed or purchase granules as a top dressing.

Nitrogen (N) is important in early growth and is used a lot in vegetable production to speed up growth to happen in the short growing season (particularly in Ireland).

Yellowing leaves often indicate a magnesium deficiency. Can use Epsom salts as a top dressing.

Phosphorous (P) for roots – e.g parsnips, turnips, beetroot

Potassium (K) for fruit and flower – e.g  squash, courgettes, peppers

Carrots “hate” N. The tap root goes deep to find food, so if they get nutrient from the topsoil they will spread or splay. Carrots do best in sandy, fine soil which is almost depleted of nutrients.

Cabbages, potatoes need lots of N. Chicken pellets is a good strong source.

Bird manure tea.

Animal manures are all strong in N. Note the smaller the animal the stronger the manure. E.g guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, worm casts all make very strong manure.

Note do not use fresh. Must be decomposed or well-rotted. Also add to compost heap or bin as an activator. Chicken pellets same.

[Exception to the (smaller the better) rule?]  Horse manure is even stronger in N. Be careful very “hot” manure will burn roots. Needs 3 – 6 months to decompose. If you leave manures eventually they will decompose into soil then into slurry (watch for pollutant in water courses).

The heat in a compost heap or bin is caused by bacterial decomposition. You can even heat soil or water from this heat source.

Soil can be covered with variety of materials. Wool, foliage, mushroom compost, old carpet, old compost (contents of last year’s pots).

Other Organic Fertilisers

Plants: Comfrey, green manures (clover, mustard etc), Use comfrey or nettles as compost accelerators, or anything rich in N, such as chicken pellets.

Seaweed can be used as a top mulch. Cover to accelerate breakdown.

Wormeries: acquire starter kit with series of bins. Most nutritious compost. Great way to manage kitchen waste. Checkout “wiggly worms Donegal”.

Consider separating tea-based feeds for nettles, comfrey and seaweed.

Note bulky fertilisers are the base. Foundation for the year’s growth and structure for the soil. Liquid feeds are additives applied when needed, or as a medicine.

Credits: Many thanks to our tutor this term – Selvi Lyilikci and the Cork Education Training Board (ETB)