Our cucumbers have thrived in the warm weather we’ve had this year. Learn more as Jack describes how to grow, water, harvest and care for cucumbers. Enjoy!
Pest management is an important factor to consider in any growing operation, big or small. Integrated pest management (IPM) is just a series of preventative steps used to control the majority of pests in a certain area. This reduces pest damage and helps maximise yields.
With integrated pest management, the emphasis of the plan should be on control of pests not eradication or a complete wiping out of a particular type of pest. It is important to remember that wiping out one pest can lead to one pest being wiped out and another pest building up as a result.
The stages to consider when making a IPM plan are as follows:
Cultural controls are preventative methods which are usually physical tasks, to ensure crop sanitation, such as removing weeds, dead material from beds, cleaning the secateurs prior to pruning and disinfecting of seed trays.
Monitoring is inspecting plant material and inspecting any damage. This should be recorded or noted. A good understanding of pest life cycles is beneficial as you can prepare preventative methods before plants become overwhelmed with damage.
Here at Ballybeg Greens, we use mechanical controls such as sticky fly traps. These traps are sticky sheets of yellow plastic used to attract insects. The traps are suspended from the roofs of the polytunnels. Ideally the traps are to be 20cm above the crops. The traps can also be used for visual inspection which allows you to see the types of pests are present.
Biological controls are beneficial bacteria, micro-organisms or micro-insects that can be added to the soil or growing area as a pest control. Examples of these are nematodes which can be used to control vine weevils in nursery growing.
When using preventative methods of pest control, you should primarily use cultural controls as it has less damage on the balance of the ecosystem.
Here at Ballybeg Greens, we keep our beds weed-free and, with the correct spacing between plants, this ensures good airflow. We also use sticky traps to reduce the number or pest populations in our growing tunnels and we use crushed egg shells to create an abrasive surface to help prevent slug damage. Removal of dead or diseased plant matter as quickly as possible is important to keep the growing areas clean.
Methods of Sowing Seed and Suitability of Sowing Method
Here at Ballybeg Greens we primarily sow our seeds in to a modular tray which is then placed on to the heated bench. We sow Mizuna, Mustard, Red Kale and many other types of salad crops in to a 1.5 inch modular tray. This size is ideal for salad crops as it develops a strong root system and can be planted out after 15-20 days.
A tip to remember
If you forget to mark the date of seed sowing and you are unsure when to plant out, remember that there should be enough strong leaves on the young plant to withstand any shock or damage that the plant may be exposed to. Some crops such as basil that can be planted in to modular trays need to have free draining plugs so the roots can dry out. In order to ensure that the compost drains well we use a 50/50 mix of vermiculite and peat compost. The vermiculite is an expanded crushed rock which adds bigger spaces in the compost allowing water to pass through. Something similar is used when planting microgreens. We did a few trial runs of various compost mixes when growing microgreens. Here at Ballybeg Greens we use a 60/40 mix of compost to vermiculite for the microgreens growing media. A 1inch flat tray is used to grow the microgreens as root development is not the main concern with this crop. As the seed is sown at a much heavier rate than a normal crop, the media needs to be able to drain well or otherwise there is potential for disease or bacterial build up in damp conditions.
Seeds can also be sown in to seed trays and then pricked on. The seed is generally grown to its true leave stage and the moved in to a bigger size tray. Here at Ballybeg Greens, we prick seedlings on into 2 inch modular trays. This ensures a uniform crop which is beneficial for maximising space. The only issue with this method is that it can be time consuming when a larger quantity of seedlings need to be produced. Larger seeds should be planted into plug trays that have six or nine plugs per tray. This is a deep 2 inch plug that allows good root development and space for the plant to develop strong leaves. They can be sown quite deep with this type of tray and can then be transplanted into a bed.
The benefit of transplanting seedlings is that you give the seedling the best conditions at the start of the growing stage to develop a strong healthy plant. Also, you can choose to only plant the strongest of the seedlings which ensures a high yield and uniform crop. Some seeds grow better when directly sown in to a seed bed as they don’t transplant well and are susceptible to shock when the soil around the roots is moved. Here at Ballybeg Greens, there are radishes, carrots and beets directly sown into raised beds by the LTI students. During Summer and Autumn, we will grow spinach for the salad mix. This crop benefits from being directly sown thickly into drills in a seed bed.
Another tip to remember
When directly sowing seed, sow into a seedbed and sow it thickly as when the plant develops the rows can be thinned out. Thinning out is when you create space in a row by removing smaller or weaker plants. If big enough, this can be eaten otherwise they make a good addition to the compost pile.
Seedlings generally don’t need to be fed with any nutrients or feed, just make sure they are watered regularly. As mentioned before with other crops, compost or farmyard manure should be added to a the soil that the seedlings will grow in as this will provide the necessary nutrients for the plants throughout its lifetime.
Here at Ballybeg Greens, we grow two different types of marigold and for two different purposes. The first type of marigold is Mexican Marigold which is used as a microgreen. This particular microgreen has a sweet orange taste to its shoot, making it an ideal garnish for desserts.
The second type of marigold is the standard bedding style marigold which can be seen in many gardens across Ireland. This marigold is grown at Ballybeg Greens for companion planting. Companion planting is when a secondary plant is planted next to a main crop to deter pests. The concept is used mainly in organic growing. It isn’t as effective as conventional methods using sprays etc. but is a more sustainable method of pest control which minimises the effects on the eco-system. Companion planting is just one of the preventive methods we use in our integrated pest management system here at Ballybeg Greens.
This week at Ballybeg Greens we will be harvesting rhubarb. Rhubarb is well known in most kitchens as a tart and pie filling. It can be harvested from late March or early April till about June.
Rhubarb grows from a crown which is planted in to the ground or raised bed. It benefits from a layer of compost mulch or farmyard manure applied to the crop. Ideally this is added before winter but can be applied at any time.
When harvesting, sticks should be twisted off rather than cut. Always leave four stalks with leaves as so the plant can generate energy from the light. Before the cold weather comes, try insulating the rhubarb with straw. This will protect the crowns from snow and frost.
This year we see The World Health Organisation (WHO) planning their 70th annual World Health Day on 7th April.
According to the website, the organisation is building the day around the theme ‘Health For All’.
The WHO is dedicating this day to fight for universal healthcare for all people in the world, with statistics from the organisation highlighting the need to focus attention on this issue:
It is estimated that half of the world’s population is lacking access to appropriate medical services, according to the WHO. Another 100 million people are forced into poverty by paying medical bills or services. The organisation wants to see more than 1 billion people gain access to the healthcare services they need by 2023.
Here at BBG, we actively look to find ways of promoting health and well-being in order to help members of our community to stay fit and healthy.
To eat healthy foods, why not try growing your own? It can be as easy as planting some lettuce in a seed tray and watching it grow.The internet is a wonderful place to look up simple ways to grow your own.
Who loves to exercise? Studies show that even moderate levels of activity can lead to a healthier, happier and longer lives with Ireland Active promoting gardening as one way of doing this.
Our head grower, Jack, regularly has useful tips and tricks that can be found on our website and on our Facebook page so do keep an eye out. If you’re in the area, you can pop into the garden to have a chat with him about what you can do to help improve the way you and your family eat.
Another great way to buy good produce is to look out for locally grown food in the shops or go to a farmers market. There are some lovely stalls in John Roberts Square on a Sunday, or you can call us on 087 438 2455 to see what we have for sale.
In Ballybeg Greens at this time of year we have lots of little transplants ready to go out for planting into new beds. These transplants are generally sown into modules or containers and germinated on a heated bench indoors where they grow till they are ready to plant out.
Prior to planting out the seedlings need to be hardened off. Hardening off gets the plants used to the variable temperatures that can occur outside. To do this, leave plants outdoors during the day and bring back in during the night. Hardening off is important with most salad crops as these crops are a softer leafy crop which don’t respond well to dramatic changes in temperature. Most plants transplant well. However carrots, parsnips, potatoes and a few others prefer to be planted directly to the area that they will mature in.
Before transplanting, water the seedlings to ensure the compost is damp but not soaked. Plant into a bed that is weed free, stone free and free draining. Plant the seedlings in to a trench or a hole made using a dibber. Water well after transplanting. If planted outdoors and frost is still occurring, a fleece or straw should be used around plants to prevent frost damage.
Head Grower, Jack Cashman
So tell me a little bit about yourself, where you are from, where you studied, etc.
I’m originally from Westport in County Mayo. I started my first year in college in WIT studying a Bsc. in Horticulture. I then moved down to Waterford permanently to finish the last two years of college and have stayed here ever since.
What made you want to study horticulture? Was it something that began in school or something that developed a little later?
I have always been interested in food. My family has a background of growing their own food. So the interest began when I was young, seeing my father and grandfather growing their own fruit and vegetables. This later developed into a passion for producing a sustainable food source with little impact on the environment around us. Hence, our gardens in Ballybeg Greens are organic.
For people thinking they would love to grow their own food, but think they don’t have the time or space, is there any tips you could give them to begin?
Well, there are loads of ways to fit small grow spaces for basic leaves and greens in around the house and a few seeds only takes a couple of minutes to plant. If you keep an eye out on our Facebook page there will be loads of tips and hints coming!
What are you most interested in within this new job as Head Grower?
As mentioned previously, my aims for Ballybeg Greens is to produce a variety of high quality crops through sustainable and organic methods.
It would also be great to get people from the community involved to share ideas, knowledge and to show the importance of where food comes from and how it is produced.
What would your plans be for BBG over the next year, given that you are only here 2 weeks, are you excited to build this plan? Could you tell us a bit about that?
I am very excited. The future plan of Ballybeg Greens is to develop a site where the people of the community can come learn about growing food, to show the importance of locally sourced produce and supporting local business. We hope to set up a centre that can spark an interest or passion for food and in doing so improve the quality of people’s lives.