Monday, March 7, 2011

March 2011 Newsletter

Dear Quickcrop Gardeners, 
Welcome to the Quickcrop March newsletter. Eagle eyed readers will already have spotted the absence of a February edition, apologies for that. We have been flat out servicing primary schools the length and breadth of the country with the fabulous Agri Aware ‘Incredible Edibles’ initiative. One of the reasons for the delay is I have been re-designing our web site and adding a load of new products, for the coming season. We now stock products as diverse as fish smokers and can crushers, mostly because they are items we are interested in ourselves but also because we think they will be handy for the budding home producer. Have a look, it took me ages so you might as well. 
Anyway, our schools project is pretty much done and dusted. We rented a large warehouse for a month and packed everything ourselves. You might think putting 18 sheets in a folder is pretty easy but try doing it 1600 times in the middle of the night! That was only a small part of it, here’s a few photos:

If anyone reading the newsletter received the schools pack I hope it arrived in good order. Remember we’ll be growing with you so don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any help.. 
We are very busy with our season already with lots of plants germinating on the heat bench which are coming along very nicely. We’re looking forward to the year and hope to be able to help you fulfill any of your vegetable growing needs. We are trying to create the best website in Ireland and the U.K. for growers and home producers and are always open to suggestions. Please let us know if there is something we don’t stock which you’d like to see. My email is and I’m always happy to hear from you. 
All that’s left is to wish you all success in the season ahead, the sun is shining outside as I write this, I’ve just come back from the tunnel where I took some photos (below) and I’m full of the joys of spring. It’s going to be a good one! 
 Good luck and happy Growing.  
Andrew and Niall

P.S. Here’s a photo of one of my pigs I just took, check out the snout on that yoke! 

Broad Beans 
I’m a terrible man for the broad beans and now is the time to plant them. I think it’s still a little early to plant them out but you can start them off in pots indoors and plant them out later on. Not only are they one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat but they also add nitrogen to the soil through their root nodes thus benefiting the crops that follow. 

Parsnip warning! 
Many people sow their parsnips this time of year as most seed packets recommend sowing between February and March. Don’t do it. You will have a much better success rate if you sow in the warmer soils of May and your parsnips will suffer far less from the most common parsnip disease, canker. 

Chitting Potatoes 
My daughter thinks this terminology is hilarious and sees it as a perfect opportunity to sneak in a ‘bad’ word and get away with it. Anyway, here‘s what you do: 
Store the seed tubers in a light, cool (10°C), frost free spot and leave them to sprout. This is known as chitting. Egg boxes make good chitting trays. Make sure you put the tubers with the ‘eye’ end (where the sprouts will grow from) upwards. 
Dig in well-rotted manure or garden compost (apply no more than one wheelbarrow-full of well-rotted strawy manure, or two of compost, per 10 sq metres of ground). Plant tubers into trenches or in individual holes, 7-15cm in depth, cover with soil. See spacings below: 
1st early – 28-36cm apart, 38-50cm between rows. 2nd early & maincrop – 36-45cm apart, 65-75cm between rows. Potato planting can start from mid March in milder areas, where frost is rare. If the soil is slow to warm, wait until April or May, or protect early plantings with fleece or cloches. 
If you need organic seed potatoes we have: Colleen, Duke of York, Nicola, Setanta and Sharpes Express for sale on the website. Click for link. 

Raising seedling tip: 
If you want to grow seedlings yourself and have a bright area you can do this in, here’s a tip: Don’t forget once seeds germinate they need warmth and good light levels. The most common mistake is not enough light, if you have warmth but too little of the bright stuff your plants will be long and spindly. They will rarely give you a good strong plant. If you’re germinating on a windowsill build a little tinfoil wall on the inside of the tray to reflect sunlight onto the shaded side of the plant. 
Good things to sow now are: Beetroot, Kohl Rabi, Early Cabbage, Early Cauliflower, Bulb Onions and Spring Onions. If you have a warm greenhouse you can start of your tomatoes and chillis but don’t worry if you don’t you can always get plants from us. 

The dreaded weeds 
As soil temperatures warm allowing you to get your garden started the weeds are also waking up and looking to take a hold in your garden. After all they don’t realise they’re weeds and think they have just as much right to your well cultivated soil as your prize specimens! Hoe regularly, when weeds are small. Do so on a dry day but collect up the weeds and compost if rain is likely, to prevent re-rooting.

 Have you tried our new ‘Choose your own’ plant picker tool? It‘s something we’re very proud of and is already responsible for over 70% of our plant orders. You simply choose the plug plants you want and drag them across the page into the virtual tray. You can also click on the ‘info’ button under the plant for growing information. The 84 cell plug tray will take 12 rows of 7 vegetables, you therefore fill the tray in multiples of 7 as shown below. For larger plants like tomatoes, cucumber, courgette, herbs etc... we have a special 6 cell plant tray which works the same way. Go on have a go, it‘s good fun and means we can give you exactly the plants you want. 
We have also included some new choices this year like our poly tunnel and mini greenhouse garden. We have a range of tomato, red peppers, chillies, cucumber, butternut squash and courgette as well as basil and oriental salads for that full summer flavour. We have also added marigolds as a plug plant to help keep pests away from your prize tomatoes. Interplant basil with your tomatoes for a delicious sneaky snack while gardening! 
Of course we still have our popular choices from last year like the beginners tray and the large garden mix if you’re not sure what to choose.   
To access the 6 and 84 cell plant trays please click on the buttons below 
I have already written about our video project this year with Klaus Laitenberger, we start filming at the end of March. For new readers to the newsletter we will be filming over 50 videos with Klaus on a broad range of crops and growing disciplines like composting and pest control. Klaus was head of the organic centre for many years so all our tutorials will cover how to get the best from an organic garden without the use of chemicals. The videos will be available free on our web site and we think this will be the most complete resource in Ireland specifically tailored to Irish growing conditions. We will cover crops in detail, tracking their progress through the growing season. The videos will then be edited and compiled at the end of the year. For this year we’ll be uploading them as we film so watch out for the first videos on sowing seed in April. Klaus is now much sought after on the lecture circuit and we consider it quite a coup and a considerable honour to have him on our web site. 

Many of you will have heard of the sad closing of Lissadell House over a poorly handled right of way dispute. Hopefully it will open again in the coming years as the organic Victorian kitchen garden under the care of head gardener Dermot Carey was one of the finest in the country. Dermot has also been instrumental in the development of Quickcrop and has been our advisor/agony aunt right from the very start. We are now delighted to announce Dermot is now joining us and will be in charge of building our Quickcrop demonstration garden. The Quickcrop garden will be used for filming our video tutorials as well as trialling new varieties and unusual crops. Dermot will be doing what he does best which is gardening organically. He‘s been gardening since the cradle growing in spare corners of his Dad’s fields, spent time on the hostile Aran Islands and has been involved in many important projects around the country.  We are on a steep learning curve ourselves with these guys around and can’t wait to get stuck in. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this project and should benefit from the knowledge we gain, it will all be on the website. 
I still can’t believe we have these two on board! 

We’ve also been beavering away all winter improving the design of our timber raised beds. We have increased the size slightly to fit a range of mini greenhouse products so you can increase the range of crops and extend your season. All the beds are now tongue and groove construction which gives a stiffer bed as well as an attractive finish. The deluxe range now features a routed corner post which is rather neat though I say myself. 
As always the preservative used is approved by the soil association for use with organic food crops and we remain committed to the quality of the finished item. 
We still stock our ever popular ‘vegtrug’ patio planter which can now also be purchased with a mini poly-cover. 

We received this recipe from one of our customers and we were delighted to get it. If anyone has any favourite dishes they’d like to share please send them in. I must admit I haven’t tried it yet but it looks right up my street so have decided to tackle it this evening. I had to whip the photo from the internet but I’m guessing it looks pretty much like that. Anyway, thanks for this Grainne and away you go: 
‘Here is recipe for spiced potato and cauliflower which is lovely and warming on these winter nights thanks to the fresh ginger and the addition of the green chilli. Those less fond of too much warmth can leave out the seeds of the chilli...... It's great on the side of your meat dish or just with some rice if you dont fancy some meat and it is very easy to do.’ 

Ingredients, Serves 4: 
1 Lb Waxy potatoes 1 Lb cauliflower 1 white onion chopped finely a thumb size piece of fresh ginger peeled 1 Green chilli sliced  finely with seeds if you are brave or without if you prefer 4 Tbsp vegetable or  Ghee if you have it 

1 tsp black mustard seeds 1 tsp ground Cumin 1 tsp cumin seeds 
1.5 tsp Turmeric Salt and pepper 
Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks about 2" square. Cover with salted water bring to the boil and boil for about 7 minutes and drain. Cut cauliflower into florets and wash. Chop ginger finely. Heat the oil, add the onion and ginger and cook until golden brown - be careful not to burn, keep on a medium heat. Add chilli and spices and cook for 2 minutes stirring. Add the potatoes and cauliflower stirring to coat well in the spices and onions. Season with salt and pepper and stir in about 4 tablespoons of water. Cover and cook gently until tender. Check and add extra water if necessary - Be careful not to overcook as you don't want mushy veggies!. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 2010 Newsletter.

Dear Quickcrop Gardeners,

Well, you don’t need me to tell you it’s been bitterly cold for the past few weeks. Personally I think it’s great though I do understand it has it’s unpleasant side, we’ve had a few dramas here ourselves. I do find the snow is great for hiding all the mess around my house and leaving everything looking clean and white, though it will nice to be reunited with my shovel which I suspect is buried somewhere in the garden!

We have no mains water at the home farm so the last few weeks have been an education learning how to defrost pumps and freeing up frozen valves. It’s funny how warm the well water feels when it’s minus 8 or 9 above ground. I’m now quite the expert on foot valves, pressure vessels, impellers and the like.......

Wild animals are naturally feeling the pinch and unfortunately Niall has had a pine martin and a fox taking their dinner in his chicken coop. My piglets have taken up bird watching and for some reason stand transfixed looking at the finches and robins eating the left over barley around their trough. Do keep an eye on your birds by the way, contrary to popular belief a hard winter does not wipe out garden pests but is particularly tough on your feathered friends. You’ll be happy you kept them going when they start hoovering up your slugs in the spring.

There isn’t much you can do in the garden this time of year so why not put the feet up? This is a great time of year to kick back with a cup of tea (or perchance a hot whiskey?) and peruse the seed Catalogues for next year. I love looking at dierent varieties of favourite crops, am looking forward to growing a white beetroot Dermot Carey head gardener at Lissadell introduced me to this summer.

I have a bit of a favour to ask this month in a request to ll out a questionnaire. We’re giving away some free seed packs in return for giving us your opinions on what we do, we want to make Quickcrop the best vegetable grower website in Ireland and the U.K. and need your help! I have included the questionnaire as an attachment, if you have 5 minutes to ll it in we would really appreciate it.
We are working on some exciting new changes to our website over the winter with some great new resources, I can’t tell you about our latest coup right now but I’m sure you’re going to love it when we announce it in the spring.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Andrew and Niall

A Quickcrop voucher makes a great present for that special vegetable grower in your life at any time of the year. As we’re approaching the festive season we’ve decided to celebrate by giving you a €50.00 voucher for only €40.00! Either use it yourself or make it look like you’re more generous than you actually are by giving it to someone else. We always have a great range of products to choose from and will be adding loads of new stuff over the winter. Our redesigned Christmas voucher makes an lovely yule-tide gift.
Click for €50 Quickcrop voucher

Click here for link.
We bought this book recently for the Quickcrop library and it became my bedtime reading for the following few weeks. I’m delighted 
now to offer it in our shop and can’t recommend it highly enough.

The book is aimed at growing in Irelands North West (If you can grow here, you can grow anywhere!) but is an important book for growers anywhere on the Island of Ireland. As you know planting times alone are hugely important to the success of your crops, Klaus turns many of the accepted times on their head in his own inimitable style. Here’s an excerpt on parsnips:
The traditional sowing date for parsnips is early spring. It says on the back of the seed packet to sow between February and March. I can guarantee that you will have absolutely no success if you stick to that”.

Klaus is entertaining, direct and very, very knowledgeable. If you want to grow your own vegetables in
Ireland get this book, end of story. Only €14.95

Our spring garden kit includes the Vegtrug esasy access planter and a selection of 4/6 week old baby vegetable plants delivered to you in the Spring. These planters are really handy and are perfect outside the back door for a crop of fresh herbs or crunchy salads.

The planter can be ordered as a gift and the recipient will receive an attractive voucher pack containing an oriental salad seed mix. The timber bed and baby plant mix will arrive in the springtime when it’s time to get growing!

We’ve just launched our new Spring baby plant packs and we think these make a great present. We have a
fantastic range of packs from compact beginners gardens to giant gardens of 172 plants for experienced
gardeners with plenty of space. 

The plants are sent out in spring when all risk of frost has passed. Pop them in the ground and ‘Bingo’ instant
vegetable garden.
The thought of vibrant young vegetable plantspushing their first tender shoots through the soil is so full of promise, give someone the gift of growing this Christmas.
Prices start at €24.50

If you are wondering what to buy a keen gardener for Christmas, or need ideas for spending your Christmas money, then a heated propagator could be just the answer. A little ‘bottom’ heat is just what is needed to give seeds a start, and help avoid damping off and other seedling diseases.
Our Stewarts 8watt electric propagator is energy ecient, using less energy than an ordinary light bulb and is made from tough impact resistant plastic.
Click here for link.
Click here for link.

Growing Bean Sprouts.
Grow sprouting seeds indoors for a nutritious snack between mince pies. Sprouted seeds are a very high nutritional value food. For me growing sprouts in my kitchen satises my gardening bug all winter long. They are a cheap source of high vitamin natural raw food. Soak overnight in water and transfer a few spoonfuls of seeds into a clean jam jar. Swirl seeds in fresh water everyday and drain. Most are ready in less than a working week. Great for kids!
Good seeds to try are: alfalfa, aduki bean, cress, fenugreek, mung bean, mustard, and radish. Here’s the ‘123’:

1. Soak seed in tepid water overnight and rinse. Scatter seeds onto damp tissue paper in a shallow tray. Cover with polythene and place in the dark.

2. Rinse sprouts daily. Keep the tissue constantly moist, but not too wet as the seeds may rot. Drain any free water from the tray. Remove polythene as needed.
3. Move into light to ‘green’ sprouts as needed, eg alfalfa, cress, fenugreek, mustard, and radish. Keep pale coloured sprouts (‘forced’) in the dark, eg mung beans and aduki beans.

If you want to increase vitamins, especially vitamin C, place the sprouts in sunlight for a half day after they have fully grown. They will green up and turn sunlight into extra vitamins. If in direct sunlight rinse them occasionally to keep them moist. Once grown they can be refrigerated to slow growth and keep them fresh longer. Add sprouts to any salad, sandwich or just eat them fresh. I eat a pile of sprouts with vinegar and oil or other salad dressing.

Soil Testing
December is the traditional month to go through the seed catalogues, decide what you want to grow and make that all important list. Of course it it’s very important to know what type of soil you have in your garden.
Soil type is measured in pH (potential hydrogen). This is compiled on a scale of 1 to 14 with 7 being regarded as neutral, although in gardening terms 6.5 will support most plants. Below 7 is acid and above alkaline. If you want the best out of your garden send soil samples away for professional analysis for both pH and nutrient content or utilise a kit or meter.
We have two cheap and simple products on our site, the PH Meter Ground Tester and the Gardman PH Soil Test Kit.
If your soil is too acid, you need to add alkaline material. The most common "liming" material is ground limestone. Ground limestone breaks down slowly, but it does not burn plants like "quick lime" does.
Apply it to the garden and lawn in the now to allow time for it to act on soil pH before the next growing season.
If your soil is Alkaline you need to add a source of acid. Options include pine needles, shredded leaves, compost or manure. Pine needles are a good source of acid and mulch. Adding plenty of composted kitchen waste which is slightly acid will also improve the
situation as well as feeding your plants.

Seasonal recipe.
I’m a terrible man for leek and potato soup and spent a couple of days in Ballymaloe many years ago. I love Darina’s buttery cooking and could eat buckets of this stuff. Anyway here we go:

50g butter
450g potatoes , peeled and cut into 1cm pieces (try Golden Wonders or Kerr Pinks)
1 small onion , cut the same size as the potatoes
450g white parts of leeks , sliced (save the green tops for another soup or stock)
850ml-1.2litres/1.5-2pts light chicken or vegetable stock
142ml carton whipping cream
125ml full-fat milk
To Finish
the white part of 1 leek
a small knob of butter
nely chopped chives

1 Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onion and leeks and toss them in the butter until they are well coated. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper and toss again.
Put a disc of greaseproof paper (called a cartouche by chefs) on top of the vegetables to keep in the steam), then cover the pan with its lid. Cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.

2 Uncover the pan and discard the paper. Pour in 850ml/11⁄2 pints of the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are just cooked - about 5 minutes. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh avour.

3 Purée in a blender until silky smooth, in batches if necessary, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Return the soup to a clean pan and stir in three quarters of the cream and all of the milk.

4 To finish the soup, nely shred the white leek and gently cook it in the hot butter for a few minutes until it is softened but not coloured. Reheat the soup to a gentle simmer (add some extra stock at this point if the soup is too thick for your liking), then pour into warmed bowls. Drizzle the remaining cream over each serving, top with a little pile of buttered leeks and a scattering of chives and black pepper and serve at once.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quickcrop Newsletter

Hi Folks, here's our November newsletter, I hope you enjoy it. We always include some practical vegetable gardening advice as well as some seasonal special offers. If you would like to receive our Newsletter directly please click this link.
I'm still trying to get the text links to work (Not going very well!) but have also included them at the bottom of the page.

'Movemeber, Grow a moustache for November' in aid of mens cancer treatment.
Chillington hoes special offer price.
Willow herb planter offer.
Fleurs garden secateur, trowel and fork set offer.
Salad garden in a box.
Fresh fruit starter pack.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thanks to for this article.

Compost Making: Some like it hot...

Easy compost making:  throw some organic matter in a pile and wait.

Handful of rich compostBut of course we never let it be that easy.  For years, composters all over have been monkeying with the "how to compost" puzzle to come up with the perfect formula.  Balancing ease of composting with speed has been the holy grail of composting.

Some years ago, hot composting came in vogue.  This started the picture of the ideal compost pile:  a mound of decomposing organic matter, steaming in the cool morning air.  But if you take that picture forward, you will see the compost-master coming out with pitch fork to turn the pile.  She'd check the temperature and moisture levels.  She'd make sure her carbon to nitrogen levels were right.  She'd have compost in weeks, but they were very busy weeks.

Hot composting takes a lot of work.

And so, over time, slow composting has gained status.  Sure, the pile sits there a long time, but you're having a BBQ and drinking Margaritas while it does.

There are many, many different theories, styles and techniques to composting making if you talk to the composting aficionados.  But they boil down into 2 broad categories:hot (or fast) composting and cold (or slow) composting.

Compost Making the Hot Way:

  • You need a good carbon/nitrogen ratio.
  • You need good moisture (too wet and it won't get hot enough, too dry and it won't heat up either.)
  • You need materials in small chunks (use a chipper?).
  • Your carbon and nitrogen must be well mixed.
  • Your pile must be built all at once.  You can't add to this pile as you go along.
  • You are less likely to attract animals and flies.
  • You must turn every 3 days.
  • Making hot compost kills most weed seeds and pathogens from the temperature.
  • You can gloat to your neighbors that you are a master composter and have achieved the Composting Ideal.

Gather your materials in one area and make sure you have about 2/3 brown materials (carbon) to 1/3 green (nitrogen).  Have the materials cut into smaller pieces--the smaller the better.  Small pieces are obviously easier to compost and they have many nicks and cuts which allow the bacteria and fungi to get started.

Diagram of a compost pile

Layer the brown and green material every few inches, adding water if necessary to have the dampness of a wrung out sponge.  Add activator if desired.

Now comes the work.

Watch your pile heat up and 3 days later, turn it.  3 days later, turn again.  Make sure your pile is 120&#176 or more between turnings.

Turn the pile every few days for the next couple of weeks.  When the pile ceases heating up at all, you are done.

This compost making process would be easier with a compost tumbler.  Your pile would be smaller but you would not have as much pitch forking.

Compost Making the Slow Way:

  • You need a "close enough" carbon/nitrogen ratio.
  • Correct moisture will help but if you have the time, everything decomposes (unless it is completely dehydrated in a desert).
  • Your materials can be in bigger chunks.  The bigger, the more patience you need.
  • You can add to it at your convenience.
  • Your pile can take 1 (or more) years to fully decompose.
  • The cool temperature allows disease-suppressing microbes to exist.  You may end up with "healthier" compost.
  • The cool temperatures may not kill all weed seeds and pathogens.
  • You can turn it whenever you want--or not.
  • In areas where you  live near neighbors or appearances are important, having piles of compost sitting for long period of time may not be acceptable.

Gather your materials and have approximately the right balance of brown and green (link).  Layer them while making sure the moisture level is good.  When you have more, you can add more until your pile is about 1 cubic yard (1 cubic meter).

Go listen to music and have a glass of wine.

If you're feeling good and the weather is nice, turn your pile.  If not, sit back down with a good book and relax.

Compost making the "cool" way is also the lazy way.  If you have the room for your pile to sit, this is absolutely the way to go.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Propagating Gooseberries From Cuttings

A gooseberry cuttingMid autumn (late September to early November) is the time to take gooseberry cuttings. Select a healthy looking stem about 22cm (9in) long and cleanly cut it from the parent plant (see left).
Strip off all the side shoots except the top three. Remove any buds below the leaves with a sharp knife.

Dig a small hole and add a handful of blood fish and bone. Work it into the soil. Set the prepared cutting about 5cm (2in) into the ground and gather soil around it. Gently firm it down.
Water well and then leave alone. In the next spring you should see the cutting sprout new leaves indicating that it has taken. If you want to move it then do this a year after the date of taking the cutting.
Planted gooseberry cutting

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October Newsletter

Dear Quickcrop Gardeners,

The season is well and truly changing, we’re still refusing to put the heat on in the office but it won’t be long now. We’ve had a great harvest so far despite a late start to the season, apples were particularily good. (Speaking of apples, we’ll be stocking a broad selection of bare root fruit trees and bushes this winter, please keep an eye on our website.)
There is still plenty of stuff to do in the garden to keep us out of trouble. It’s all about harvesting and storing the last of your produce, tidying the garden and getting ready for next year.

We’ve had a very interesting few days attending the ‘Blue sky day’ in Kerry. This is an initative set up by Kerry business man Jerry Kennelly. The idea is to promote entrepreneurship as a career choice to second and third level students. Speakers included Denis O‘Brien, Sarah Newman and!
Mark Little of ‘Primetime’ conducted an interview with us about growing our business in these challenging times. It was great for us to rub shoulders with some of the heavy hitters of Ireland‘s business community and to realise the level of underground optimism for the future of our country.
It’s a challenge, fair enough, but nothing we can’t overcome.
Here’s a couple of links which may be of interest:

We have a couple of special offers on the go which I’ve included below Please remember if there is a product or service you require which isn’t on our website please let us know and we can look into stocking it for you.
We’ve been asked a lot recently about what to do with herbs coming into the winter months so I’ve included a comprehensive section on this, my favorite trick is storing fresh herb mixes in ice cubes.
We also have a great mulching and composting medium blowing around all over the place in the form of Autumn leaves. I’ve also included information on how to use this valuable addition to the garden.

Good luck and happy growing!

Andrew and Niall

Cutting and storing herbs.
Now is the time to turn your attention to your herb garden to ensure that your herbs stand the best chance of making it through whatever weather winter has in store for us as well as making sure that your herb plants stay in good shape for next spring. In addition now is the time to collect herb seed and harvest leaves to ensure that your kitchen remains well stocked during the months ahead.

Some herbs, such as rosemary and bay can be harvested right through the winter, as can thyme if you cut back your plants immediately after they had finished flowering and have plenty of sturdy new growth. However, if you have not previously taken your scissors to the thyme then it is best to do so now to keep the plant in good shape. Whilst you herb plant will not look at its most attractive after this, such action will reap rewards next spring. Cutting back now will encourage new growth from the base of the plant and ensure that you do not end up with a straggly, bare centred plant next year.
It is imperative however not to leave this too late as any frost may damage the new growth which the plant will need to protect it over winter. Other herb plants which will benefit from a trim include lavender, winter savory and hyssop. 
Don’t worry- there is no need to waste your trimmings.  Any cut stems can be dried and stored in dark jars (or if you don’t have any, clear jars will do in a dark cupboard). Other herbs which can be dried and stored include oregano, marjoram, sage, mint, hyssop and basil. Freezing is also an alternative, a convenient way of doing this is to chop up the herbs and freeze them in ice cubes. (See photo)
Try this with mint, parsley and tarragon.

Mint plants need slightly more than a trim. They need to be cut right back to ensure a healthy supply of fresh leaves in early spring. If your mint is in a pot which it has filled then remove it from the pot, saw it in half and re-pot the two halves into separate pots. This will avoid the problem of rot which affects many pot grown mints which have outgrown their original container.

Tender herb plants will need to be lifted before the first frosts otherwise the frost will kill them. These include lemon grass and basil. The timing of this will really depend on where you live. Some areas need not worry about this for another few weeks but it is better to be safe than sorry. As a rule of thumb this is a job you need to do before the night time temperatures drop below 4°C. Cut back the
herbs once lifted and keep in a frost free environment for winter. It is important to keep watering to a minimum during this time and avoid centrally heated rooms if at all possible.

Half hardy herbs that will need protecting with fleece if they remain outside include lemon verbena and blackcurrant sage. Here in Sligo ours survived last winter without protection against a south facing wall but there is always a risk of damage. Bay trees also like a position sheltered from winter winds.

Any herb plants growing in containers should be moved against the wall of the house so that the wall will act as a kind of storage heater. If you can’t move your pots then wrapping them in bubble wrap is an alternative. The problem is not the frost on the foliage but the fact that in very cold spells the water in the pots becomes frozen and the roots cannot take up any liquid. If you are moving your herb planters next to the wall bear in mind that the eaves may shelter them from the rain and the odd watering may be required.

9in classic raised bed kit.
Now is a great time to build and fill your raised beds ready for the planting season next spring. You can partially fill the beds with soil and include some compost, manure or seaweed to rot down over the winter and give you a rich growing medium for next years crops. Cover the beds with a layer of mulch or piece of old carpet to stop the inevitable rain washing out your precious nutrients.
Our most popular and cost effective raised bed kit has now got even cheaper. We’re reducing the price from €39.00 to €34.00. For 4 Weeks only. Click here for link.

Wheeleasy foldable barrow.
We’ve decided to offer our ‘wheeleasy’ foldable barrow at an end of season promotional price. This surprisingly useful tool (We have 2 here and genuinely use them, very handy now for sweeping leaves into.) was €49.99 is now €39.99. This would make a great christmas present, we don‘t have many left so order now if you’d like one. Click here for link:

Collecting Autumn Leaves
The leaves will start to fall very shortly and these are a valuable resource. Prepare for them by building a leaf mould cage. Very simple to do, you just drive four stakes into the ground and staple chicken netting around to make the cage. Pile in the leaves and leave them alone for a year. You will find the pile reduces by two thirds at least, so keep filling the bin as more leaves fall. If you have one of those marvellous garden vacuum mulchers that suck up leaves and chop them, you will find the leaves rot down much more quickly.

Using leaves and leafmould

Newly fallen leaves
* Winter cover for bare soil; may have to be removed in spring for sowing and planting
* Mulch for informal paths
* Make into leafmould

'Young' leafmould
1 or 2 years old, depending on tree species. Leaves beginning to break up; easily crumbled in hand.
*Mulch around shrubs, herbaceous, trees, vegetables
*Dig in as soil improver for sowing and planting
*Autumn top dressing for lawns
*Winter cover for bare soil

Well rotted leafmould
2 years old in most cases. Dark brown crumbly material, with no real trace of original leaves visible.
*Use as for 'young' leafmould above
*Seed sowing mix - Use leafmould on its own, or mixed with equal parts sharp sand and garden compost
*Potting compost - Mix equal parts well rotted leafmould, sharp sand, loam and garden compost

Quick tip for leaves on lawns
Run the mower over leaves on the lawn with the grass box off. The shredded leaves will soon disappear into the lawn. Or run the mower over leaves on the lawn with the grass box on. Add the chopped up mown leaves and grass to a leafmould heap. They will be quicker to rot than whole leaves.

Leaves and wildlife
Don't disturb drifts of autumn leaves under hedges and other out of the way areas. They may be used as hibernating sites by hedgehogs and other creatures.

Leftover Seed
You can save money by keeping leftover seed for use next season. Most vegetable seed should last at least a couple of years, with the exception of parsnip, and some can last much longer. Before ordering new seed, check through this season's leftover packets and make a note of what is there for use next year. Store in a glass jar or plastic box in a cool, dry place. If you are unsure of the age of the seed, do
a mini germination test on a piece of damp kitchen paper in a plastic box.

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto.

A satisfying vegetable supper that uses a basic risotto recipe and gives it an autumnal twist.

1kg butternut squash , peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
bunch sage , leaves picked, half roughly chopped, half left whole
1½ l vegetable stock
50g butter
1 onion , finely chopped
300g risotto rice (we used arborio)
1 small glass white wine
50g parmesan , finely grated


1. Before you make the risotto, heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Toss the squash in 1 tbsp oil together with the chopped sage. Scatter into a shallow roasting tin and roast for 30 mins until it is brown and soft.

2. While the squash is roasting, prepare the risotto. Bring the stock to the boil and keep on a low simmer. In a separate pan, melt half the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the onions and sweat gently for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Stir the rice into the onions until completely coated in the butter, then stir continuously until the rice is shiny and the edges of the grain
start to look transparent.

3. Pour in the wine and simmer until totally evaporated. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time and stirring the rice over a low heat for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked al dente (with a slightly firm, starchy bite in the middle). The risotto should be creamy and slightly soupy. When you draw a wooden spoon through it, there should be a wake that holds for a few moments but not longer.

4. At the same time, gently fry the whole sage leaves in a little olive oil until crisp, then set aside on kitchen paper. When the squash is cooked, mash half of it to a rough purée and leave half whole. When the risotto is just done, stir though the purée, then add the cheese and butter and leave to rest for a few mins. Serve the risotto scattered with the whole chunks of squash and the crisp sage leaves.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Joe's Sweet Tomato Relish

Hi All

One of our customers, Joe Gallagher, sent us his own relish recipe. It sounds great and we'll be giving it a try. Here's Joes mail and recipe if you'd like to give it a go.

Thanks for you update, I have a recipe for Relish that I have just made last night, and this is my own recipe and works well with cheese, burgers and filling for a sandwich. I have also made it with Rhubarb instead of tomatoes and it worked well, Any queries please contact me.
Kind regards

Joe's Sweet Tomato Relish
·         2kg Tomatoes
·         500g Onions - chopped
·         2 Red & 2 Green Bell Peppers - chopped
·         2 Apples – peeled, cored and chopped
·         2 stalk Celery – chopped
·         Dried chillies (a few)
·         750ml Apple Cider Vinegar
·         2 dessertspoons Tomato Puree
·         500g Sugar
·         2 tablespoons Salt
·         1 dessertspoon Mustard Powder or Seeds
·         1 dessertspoon Mild Curry Powder
·         Garlic crushed or small amount of Ground Garlic Powder
·         1 teaspoon cinnamon
·         1 teaspoon cloves – grounded
·         1 teaspoon of Allspice
·         1 teaspoon of Ginger (Dried Powder)
·         !/2 teaspoon Cayenne
·         1 teaspoon of coarse Black Pepper
·         Extra cup of vinegar and 1 tablespoon Corn flour
Peel Tomatoes (blanch). Chop into small pieces, add chopped celery onion and peppers, mix together add the salt and leave to soak overnight in fridge, drain thoroughly next day.
Transfer to large cooking pot. Add all including sugar spices and vinegar. Make sure sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, boil rapidly for 5 minutes and then simmer for 1 hour (remove scum) keep stirring frequently. To thicken relish mix corn flour with your extra cup of vinegar and make into a smooth paste add little at a time until it thickens.
Bottle into hot sterilised jars and seal when cold
All ingredients are approx and may need adjusting to your taste.
Make approx 10 medium sized jars.