ISSA e-zine 24 February 2012

In this edition -

  • Salad leaves...

  • Seedy Sunday ...

  • Agro-biodiversity conference...

  • Seed bank construction...

  • What to do in the garden...

  • Upcoming Workshops...

Grow Your Own Salad Leaves

One of the easiest crops you can grow, even in limited space or containers, is mixed salad leaves. I grow salad leaves year-round - outdoors in the warmer months and in the polytunnel in the winter. I know people that only eat salad in the warm summer months, but I think a fresh green salad is perfect in the winter when we are eating a lot of heavy cooked foods and our bodies still need raw, fresh vegetables. The trick with salad leaves is to sow a small amount of seeds every two to three weeks, so you always have new plants coming on to replace the old ones.

All of the salad leaves we grow at Seed Savers are known as cut'n'come again crops - this means you can pick outer leaves and the plant will still continue to produce new leaves from the centre. You can usually get 3-4 weeks picking from each sowing. Mixed leaves can easily be grown in a wide, shallow pot and if you keep a pot of leaves near the kitchen door it's easy to nip out and pick a few leaves for lunch and dinner. Here are a few favourites that can be mixed with lettuce to add more flavour and nutrients to your salad bowl:

Mizuna - An Asian salad green with glossy, serrated, dark green leaves forming bushy clumps. Mild with a slightly mustard flavour, the young leaves a tasty addition to salads. Hardy and vigorous, it survives cold temperatures throughout winter.

Claytonia (also known as Winter Purslane) - This is an attractive winter salad crop. The leaves and young stems are all edible and refreshingly succulent, with subtle taste. Can be used on a cut ‘n come basis. The name ‘Miner‘s Lettuce‘ was given as it formed a valuable part of the diet of miners in the 1850‘s gold rush in America, helping to prevent scurvy when fresh veg was scarce. Self-seeds easily.

Rocket - A salad green cultivated since Roman times. The nutty spicy leaves give interesting flavour to milder salad leaves. Best grown in cool conditions. The flowers (also edible) are beautiful delicate creamy stars with purple veins.

Seedy Sunday in Scariff

We will be hosting our annual Seedy Sunday seed and plant swap on Sunday, March 4 from 12 to 4 pm. This year the event will be held at our site in Capparoe, Scariff rather than at the school in Scariff where it was held in past years. There is no charge for this event, and will also include free admission to walk around the seed gardens and orchards at Seed Savers. All are welcome to attend and to bring any surplus seeds and plants that they want to swap and share with other gardeners. Anyone who brings seeds or plants to swap will receive a free coffee/tea and biscuit voucher.

Mark your calendars for our Celebration of Seeds to be held at the West County Hotel in Ennis, County Clare on Saturday March 31 and Sunday April 1. Saturday will feature workshops on gardening with children, easy seed sowing for beginners, setting up seed grower networks, and success with sowing and growing potatoes. Sunday will feature a seed and plant swap with seeds from Irish Seed Savers, Brown Envelope Seeds in Cork, and the Heritage Seed Library in the UK, as well as information stalls from Grow It Yourself Ireland and other gardening organisations. This event is funded by the Irish Environmental Network.

Agro-Biodiversity in Ireland

The Department of Food, Agriculture and Marine funds a number of agricultural biodiversity projects in Ireland, including the Irish Seed Savers Association. Last week a conference was held in Galway with presentations from all the groups that are working in this area and covered a wide range of projects including work with native honeybees, seaweed and algae, Kerry ponies, native trees and forestry resources. You can view all of the presentations here:

Seed Bank Construction

Work is progressing quickly on the seed bank - the building is now framed with some of the wall panels in place, and the roof will go up in the next few weeks. The bare concrete slab on the south side of the building will be the location of a glass greenhouse for seed drying.

What to do in the garden this week

  • There is still time to do some pruning of your fruit trees, shrubs and hedgerows. Take a look at this website for more advice on pruning fruit trees

  • Mulching too around your shrubs and trees is a good job for this time of year, you can use old cardboard boxes, shredded bark or cover with shop bought mypex.

  • Time to clear a few beds for the potato plantings, you can give them a helping hand with the compost from your heap too; before you add the clearings from your beds for this year.

  • The nettles are beginning to show themselves, so grab them by their roots now and either burn them after drying or put them in a barrel of water to make a great tea for the benefit of the garden. You could always make a lovely soup with the fresh heads, a little garlic and onion; yum!

  • If you want to grow big onions and leeks, now is the time to sow these seeds. They are slow-growing initially so you want to give them a good early start now in pots or modules, then they can be planted outdoors in the garden in a few months. I sow a good number of seeds in wide pots - leeks and onions have very narrow, upright foliage so they can be sown close together in pots then planted out in the garden at wider spacing. If you sow onions from seed rather than 'sets' (small onion bulbs that you can buy in garden centres) you will end up with much larger onions.

Upcoming Workshops

Kind regards,
Chrys Gardener
Project Manager

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