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!. 

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