ISSA e-zine 21 Jan 2011

In this edition -

  • New Supporters Section on Website...

  • Match Funding for Seed Bank Project...

  • Upcoming Workshops...

  • What to do in the garden and orchard this month...

New Supporters Section on Website

This winter we have added a new section to our website, with photos and descriptions of seeds and seed potatoes that are exclusively for supporters. We decided to make this section accessible to anyone, and not limited to supporters, so that anyone who is considering becoming a supporter can see all the special varieties that are available. We are especially proud of our collection of heritage potatoes, and delighted to finally have these lovely 'potato portraits' on-line where spud lovers can see them! Click here to go directly to the supporters section of our website.

Match Funding for Seed Bank Project

We had some very good news this week regarding the match funding requirement for the seed bank that we will be constructing later this year. 75% of the project costs will be covered by a grant from LEADER, but we have to come up with the remaining 25% match funding before LEADER will approve their portion of the grant. The Jackson Foundation in the UK, which funds environmental projects and initiatives, has awarded Seed Savers a grant for 32,500 for the match funding, and we plan to start construction in summer, with a ribbon-cutting possibly at our 20th anniversary Apple Day weekend in September. The new seed bank will consolidate all of our seed drying and processing activities into one facility, and visitors will be able to view the seed processing work through viewing panels built into wall of the building. Any supporter donations that have been earmarked for the match funding will now go toward purchasing seed cleaning equipment.

Upcoming Workshops

January is the month to focus on planting and maintenance of tree fruits and soft fruits. Winter is the ideal time for pruning fruit trees and restoring old, overgrown orchards, as it's easy to see the branching structure and there is less chance of spreading disease spores when the weather is cold. With the increasing interest in planting orchards, we have a number of courses to get you started off on the right foot.

  • Sunday February 6: Creating an Orchard - choice of site, layout of orchard, choosing rootstocks, soil preparation, drainage, maintenance, health and disease, and choosing varieties will all be covered. Also, soil health and improvement and basic pruning techniques.

  • Saturday February 19: Fruit Tree Pruning - learn to prune old overgrown trees and train newly planted trees

  • Saturday February 26: Restoring an Old Orchard - tour the Irish Seed Savers orchards and cover the basics of orchard health and maintenance. In the afternoon we will visit an old local orchard and demonstrate pruning techniques and make a plan for renovating old trees. A feeding programme will also be discussed.

A hedge planting of mixed varieties is much more interesting than a monoculture planting of a single variety, and can provide a beautiful and biodiverse habitat with flowers and fruits throughout the year. If you are interested in learning how to establish a mixed hedge planting that includes native species with fruits for both humans and wildlife, we are offering a hands-on course on planting native fruiting hedges. Participants will learn about appropriate species to use in this type of planting, and will help plant a fruiting hedge along one of the farm lanes at Irish Seed Savers. Planting a Native Fruiting Hedge, Saturday February 5

What to do in the garden and orchard this month

  • Prune fruit trees to allow light and air into the centre of the trees, which will increase fruit yields and help reduce spread of diseases. It is also good practice to clean up any fallen leaves around the base of the trees as they will start to release disease spores in the spring. Either rake them up and discard well away from your orchard, or else shred them in place with a strimmer or mower. Shredding them will help the leaves decompose before spring, thus eliminating places for overwintering disease spores.

  • If you have a polytunnel, you can start sowing broad beans and first early potatoes now. Cover the plantings with fleece to give extra protection against frosty nights. If you are worried that it might still be too cold for planting, you can just turn over the soil and apply compost or well-rotted manure so that you're ready to go when the weather warms up a bit.

  • If you are planning to enlarge your veg garden this year, you can take some steps now that will make soil preparation easier later this spring. Simply spread out a large piece of black plastic or heavy cardboard (like the boxes that refrigerators or cookers come in - these are usually free for the asking from shops that sell kitchen appliances) and weight down with stones or logs. If you leave this cover in place for 5-6 months the grass and weeds will be severely weakened by lack of sunlight and will be much easier to dig out in the spring.

Kind regards,
Chrys Gardener
Project Manager

Irish Seed Savers Association
Co. Clare
Tel: +353-61-921866