The natural gardener

Posted on: 4th July, 2017

Category: Home, Garden & Environment

Contributor: West Cork People

Noah Chase studied horticulture at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England. He now co-manages a family run nursery, Deelish Garden Centre in Skibbereen, specialising in rare, unusual and edible plants. His passion is sustainable gardening, useful plants and care of the environment.

As you may already be aware, here at Deelish Garden Centre over the past few years we’ve decided to stop stocking and using synthetic chemical solutions as quick fixes; instead we offer natural alternatives. We’ve been delighted at the feedback from our customers who often offer us their own ideas about natural solutions to natural problems!

In the last article, I discussed using natural alternatives to combat pests and weeds in the garden. This time, I’d like to have a look at some natural fungicides – because warm damp weather is ideal for a wide range of airborne fungal diseases. The most obvious of these are Black Spot on roses and Blight on potatoes and tomatoes. And if we get dry warm weather, Powdery mildew, another air bourn fungus, can also become a problem.

Black Spot

Black Spot is probably the major fungal diseases affecting roses. It’s easily recognised by yellowing leaves with large black spots on them; sometimes even new leaves emerge that are already affected.

Because Black Spot causes the rose to lose its leaves, the plant soon becomes weak, and if it goes unchecked, the ultimate result is that your rose plant will die. This situation can become critical in humid weather and a wet summer, which we often have in West Cork!

In order to get rid of Black Spot you need to reduce the humidity factor of your growing roses, and you can help do this by making sure that when you plant them out initially, they’re not overcrowded. Try not to under plant too closely with annuals and other small plants. If you do decide to under plant, perennials such as Nepeta Walkers Low are an excellent choice, though it’s best to delay adding them until the second or third year after initial planting, as this gives the roses a chance to establish. Ornamental alliums, Basil, and Marigold are some of the more popular companion plants used to repel insect pests.

Make sure that your roses have full sun and don’t water them in the late afternoon or the leaves will remain wet for a long time. Also try to avoid overhead watering of your roses during the summer heat. When the leaves are wet these damp conditions can help spread fungal spores.

Good hygiene is also important to control Black Spot, so rake up any fallen leaves and remove any prunings from the area. When pruning, remove all the old foliage as the spores reside on the dead leaves over winter. If you see any black spot on your roses remove the affected leaves and burn them. Don’t put these into your compost heap, as this can spread Black spot.

A spray composed of one part cow’s milk and two parts water is also recommended to control Black Spot disease. When applied weekly, the solution controls Black Spot, as well as any synthetic fungicide.

Roses are heavy feeders so give them regular doses of fertiliser every six weeks throughout the growing season. This keeps them healthy and therefore makes them resistant to black spot, as well as other rose diseases. Not only that, roses that are well fed and given compost dressings often will out-grow black spot.

Spraying the leaves with a foliar feed is also beneficial. Liquid seaweed fertiliser increases rose health and again helps them resist disease. We find Neudorff Ogranic Rose Feed or Chase SM3 liquid feed both great foliar feeds.

Finally, add some wood ash to your soil in winter and dig it in lightly around your rose plants, as Black Spot often occurs when there is a shortage of potash in the soil.

Potato Blight

We have excellent conditions for growing potatoes here in West Cork; unfortunately our biggest problem is blight.

Traditionally, copper sulphate or bluestone has been used to control potato blight, but some gardeners feel that using large amounts of copper sulphate can have adverse reactions in the body, and it shouldn’t be allowed in organic farming. Luckily we have a natural solution growing here in some of our heavy soils – its Horsetail!

To make a Horsetail concentrate, mix half a cup of dried leaves in five litres of water, bring it to the boil and simmer for half an hour. Cool, strain and bottle. It should keep for a month, and can also be used on other plants; it also has many uses for people including using it as a hair rinse!

For blight control, use one part concentrate to five parts water and spray on foliage once every week or two or daily if it’s raining.

If you can’t find any plants growing or if making it up seems like too much work, we also supply a concentrate here at the garden centre.

As with many garden disease problems, prevention is the best tool. Continually inspect your crop, remove all dead or dying plants and dig up the potatoes. Discard the infected plants far away from your garden. Autumn clean-up is also important. Even without signs of disease — but especially if there are — remove all potatoes and plants from your garden. Blight overwinters in potatoes left in the ground. Don’t add infected plants to your compost. And as with most vegetables, crop rotation is advised, particularly with potatoes.

Tomato blight

Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetable crops, especially with those fortunate enough to have a plastic tunnel or glasshouse. Blight begins as spots on leaves, which progress to eventually disfigure the tomato fruit before it’s fully formed.

Horsetail, Comfrey and bicarbonate sprays are among the best known broad-spectrum homemade formulas to help plants stay healthy and ward off fungal spores. Use the above Horsetail recipe or alternatively fill a large jar with Comfrey leaves or Horsetail stems, fill with water and leave them to infuse for at least two weeks before straining. The infused herbal water is then diluted by half with fresh water and put into spray bottles. As with other sprays, a small amount of mild liquid soap helps keep the spray on the tomato leaves.

Bicarbonate spray is made from two litres of warm water, one teaspoon baking powder and one or two drops of mild liquid soap. It’s then shaken and decanted into a spray bottle and the spray is applied directly to the foliage of tomato plants.

It’s important to allow adequate spacing between plants. Water only at the base of the plant and early in the day. Long periods of moisture on the foliage encourages blight. Remove the bottom branches of the tomato plant, especially if they come in contact with the soil.

Powdery mildew

If we do happen to get warm, dry weather (fingers crossed), be alert for the development of powdery mildew on crops. Powdery mildew is a common summer problem on many types of vegetables and cut flowers. But most powdery mildews can be avoided or cured with inexpensive, homemade remedies that have been shown to work as well as, or better than, commercial fungicides.

A mixture of milk and water, as mentioned above, works to control powdery mildew; just make sure to spray both sides of the leaves.

A Baking soda-based fungicide is mostly effective as a preventative; offering only minimal benefits after your plants have become infected. If you know which plants are susceptible, spraying them weekly, with the above mentioned bicarbonate recipe, during warm and dry weather can greatly reduce the incidence of powdery mildew in your garden.

Yet another kitchen remedy for powdery mildew is garlic extract, which can be made by blending two bulbs (not cloves!) of fresh garlic in a litre of water with a few drops of liquid soap. The liquid should be strained through cheesecloth to remove solids and then refrigerated. That concentrate should be diluted 1:10 with water before spraying. This concentrate can also be used to deter pests from other edible crops.

I hope that some of the ideas mentioned will help you have a great year in the garden and enjoy finding which natural recipes best suit your plant’s needs. Of course, you’re more than welcome to stop into Deelish to discuss any of these topics with us or to give us your own favourite remedies. Remember gardening doesn’t have to cost the earth!

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

Did you know..... ... See MoreSee Less

Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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