Posts Tagged ‘fleece’

GROWING CARROTS IN A POLYTUNNEL – 2nd week in September 2013

I was surprised to see carrots growing in a polytunnel at The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim, on a recent visit. Klaus Laitenberger in his excellent book ‘Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse’ mentions that growing carrots under cover like this ensures an earlier crop than just growing outdoors. Growing carrots indoors also ensures no carrot root fly attacks.

Klaus, who lives not a million miles from there, says November is when first sowings of early carrots can be made in a polytunnel or greenhouse. However, he prefers to wait until January to start sowing. Before this, he places black plastic on the seedbed for a few weeks to help warm up the soil first. After sowing, Klaus places fleece over the growing crop to protect it from the cold. Another key to success is choosing the most appropriate variety. Klaus recommends Amsterdam Forcing, Buror F1, Napoli F1, Rocket F1 or Ya Ya F1, which

Carrots growing in The Organic Centre under plastic, protected from the carrot root fly.

Carrots growing in The Organic Centre under plastic, protected from the carrot root fly.

is a Nantes type.



No shortage of rain at present. To prevent leaching of fertility from the soil, the ground is better covered either with a crop or a sheet of something – but what? Everyone I meet seems to have an opinion on this so take your pick.

Clear plastic: Gaining support because it is multifunctional. The soil warms when the sun is out and the light helps germinate weed seed. When plastic is removed to prepare a veg seed bed, the weed seedlings can firstly be hoed away and left on the surface to wither while the soil hopefully dries out a bit.

Black plastic: Still favoured as the soil is easy to work when the plastic is removed, but the BBC Radio 4 ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ panel tell us the soil is warmed better with clear than black plastic. The slugs gather under the black plastic, but they were in the soil anyway, so just pick them off when removing the plastic to prepare for sowing.

Cardboard: The Sonairte Organic Walled Garden (2 acres) at Laytown, Co. Meath, is currently looking for cardboard boxes to flatten and use as covering on the veg and fruit patches. Good way of using a biodegradeable ‘waste product’. Encourages good worm activity especially if a layer of compost is spread on the soil before the cardboard covering is applied. In Sonairte, we put grass clippings on top of the cardboard coverings which takes the ‘cardboard city’ look off the garden!

Carpet: I use off cuts of old carpet. Arthur my cat enjoys lying on them, but carpet prevents the sun’s heat getting to the soil. Hence in February, I will remove the carpet to begin preparing the beds for sowing and planting in late spring. Carpet works better for covering over a compost layer on the soil in the autumn and winter to retain heat and encourage soil life activity. The compost heap also needs covering to keep in the heat it is generating. Carpet is my preferred choice for covering a compost heap.

Jane Moore, head gardener at Bath Priory Hotel looking for more carpet to cover her compost heaps in the rain with Áine Neville of

Jane Moore, head gardener at Bath Priory Hotel looking for more carpet to cover her compost heaps in the rain with Áine Neville of

Fleece: I was very impressed with how Dermot Carey, the renowned organic horticulturalist uses thin white fleeces in Harry’s Restaurant organic walled garden in Inishowen, Co. Donegal. Unlike the above mulch matrials, fleece mainly works best AFTER planting has taken place, keeping the soil warmer than un-fleeced areas nearby. The difference in comparable plant growth was amazing.

The garden centres offer all manner of membranes to mulch patches big and small. If you have the disposable income, you’d be welcomed with open arms at any garden centre, no doubt. However, the above low-cost or no-cost options serve me fine.


The bad harvest reports in the news this year prove, once again, that farming is very different from organic kitchen gardening. Not everything did well in the garden, but in general, I have to admit it was my best year ever. The brassicas suffered but are recovering now. My fault entirely, I should have covered the cabbage patch with fleece to prevent the cabbage white caterpillars making flitters of the lovely healthy green leaves. Such is life, thankfully the rainbow chard leaves have kept me going as a fall back leafy vegetable. Meanwhile, everything else has come good, more or less, apples, blackcurrants, peas, beans, beetroot, basil, parsley, potatoes etc. Leeks coming along nicely for harvesting over the winter and early spring hungry gap.

The glut at present is the Black Plum Tomato crop (Lycopersicon lycopersicon). I bought seeds from and they are described as ‘productive heirloom from Russia. A cordon, ripening from mid-August. Rich red mahogany plum-shaped fruits, delicious in salads and sauces’. The south facing greenhouse, rich soil and a regular comfrey liquid feed gave these Russian plants a good chance to produce prolifically. Glad they are good for sauces, as they will all find their way into various dishes requiring bruschetta topping

Black Plum Tomatoes on one of four plants, two in the ‘phone box’ and two more in the ‘Fingal Greens Greenhouse’. South facing garden helps tomatoes ripen fully on the cordon.

, pasta sauces and for the remainder, good old chutney. Thank you people of Russia ( and the Irish Sed Savers Association in Scarriff) for the ‘black plum tomato’.