I’ve been catching up with Klaus Laitenberger from Milkwood Farm this week. Klaus found this year one of the easiest gardening years he remembers. Most gardening jobs, especially hoeing and weeding was so much easier and more pleasant, mainly because it was such a sunny year. I asked Klaus which of his crops turned out especially well.
His first success was the humble spud.
Klaus tells me “This year I grew only the reliable potatoes – Orla (early), Sarpo Mira (main) and Bionica (main). All three have excellent blight resistance and are - in my opinion - quite delicious. Sarpo Mira was bred in Hungary by the Sarvari family and is now maintained and tested by the Sarvari Research Trust which is based in Bangor, North Wales. They do amazing work in breeding blight resistant varieties.” Klaus also has a tip about Sarpo Mira potatoes and says to leave them until after Christmas as they improve with storage.
Klaus also really like the The Bionica main crop potato. “This potato was bred in Holland and was developed by an organic farmer (Niek Vos) who I recently met at the organic farm walk in Thornhill Farm in Skibbereen. Dutch researchers found blight resistant strains of potatoes in the Andes Mountains in South America about 35 years ago. These were then crossed with common Dutch varieties using traditional breeding techniques (not GM).”
Trust Klaus on this:
“When all other maincrop potatoes have collapsed with blight, both the Sarpo Mira and Bionica will still stand strong. They are well worth trying out to see if you like them even though the Irish taste leans more to the floury Queens or Kerr’s Pink potato which are very susceptible to blight.”
I ask Klaus what else has done well.
Garlic and Onions
“It was a great year for garlic and onions. I was very impressed with the Casablanca garlic which produced delicious large white bulbs that keep extremely well. Thanks to the dry summer, it was quite easy to dry the onions and garlic. They safely hang in bunches in the kitchen.”
Klaus’s carrots were massive this year. “The reason is that I probably gave them too much space,” he tells me, “but they still taste nice and keep well in a soil clamp in the tunnel. Apart from my old-time favourite variety ‘Rothild’ I grew a new this year which is called ‘Sweet Candle F1’. I was really blown away by it. I never had a carrot that was so sweet and delicious.”
Parsnip and beetroot
The root vegetables were good in my garden this year too and I aske Klaus how his parsnips and beetroots got on. “ The parsnip ‘Javelin’ is as good as ever but I had a slow start with my beetroot.” I agree with Klaus on this as mine are just ready. He continues “The first sowing failed. I sowed it during a dry spell and didn’t water the beds. The second sowing was made only in late June and only produced tennis ball sized roots. I usually get much larger beetroot “ Klaus laments. He then tells me that size doesn’t matter. “It’s a myth that large beetroot is not as nice or even woody. The ‘Pablo’ beetroot never turns woody at any size. The beetroot mix I grew was also good fun and tasty.”
I tend to grow smaller vegetables in the tunnel in winter such as peas and broccoli as they are really good in the blender for smoothies. Klaus agrees and has actually started selling the seeds. The plants anow have a name. They are called “microgreens.” Klaus tells me a bit about the varieties
Klaus tells me “Microgreens have stormed the world in the last few years. They are featured in cookery programmes, gardening magazines and newspapers. Microgreens are so easy to grow and you don’t even need a garden. A shallow seed tray or a pot with drainage holes, a little compost (around 5cm/2inches deep) and a sunny windowsill is all you need. Sow the seeds thickly and cover them with a tiny bit of compost. The seeds will germinate within 7 to 14 days (depending on the mix and room temperature) and will be ready for harvesting 2-3 weeks after germination. You’ll have delicious microgreens for Christmas. Apparently scientists have found that microgreens contain up to 40 times more vitamins than the “adult vegetable”.
Klaus has a few mixes to choose from and they contain: broccoli, kohlrabi, red cabbage, kale, leaf radish, and cabbage in the fast growing mixes. Then there’s the hotter mix of mizuna, mibuna, mustard, rocket, Pak Choi and rocket.
The slower growing Gourmet Micro Mix contains dill, beetroot, amaranth, basil, rocket, coriander, silver chard, orach .
Packets are €1.80 for 5g from Klaus’s website: greenvegetableseeds.com