September Update

September Update

September already, wha? Well I don't know about you but I've had a great year in the vegetable garden. Yes, I've done a lot of work on my soil but I suspect at least half of my success is down to that fabulous spell of weather, what a difference it makes. The funny thing is, just like childhood, it already seems like the heat wave lasted the whole Summer while in reality it was only a couple of weeks. Still, who cares right? Anyway, here's my son Thomas getting stuck into picking some 'Setanta' taters which gave me an excellent harvest of good tasty spuds. I had to take them all up as I was starting to get some slug damage which nearly destroyed them all last year. They won't store as well as if I'd left the skins longer to harden but by storing in boxes of damp sand I should be able to use them all.

Vegetable expert Dermot Care

I was talking to super grower Dermot Carey yesterday about blight resistant varieties (Setanta was very good for me) and he was pondering why everyone went on about the Sarpo varieties so much when we have some excellent Irish varieties which he finds equal in resistance. I started banging on about the more virulent strains of blight (blue 13, read the following article) and how the Sarpo varieties are thought to have better resistance. Dermot isn't a big fan and comes out with the following which I thought was pretty funny: "I don't know about that, I grew Sarpo Mira and Setanta side by side without any intervention and the only difference between the two was you'd want to eat the Setanta". Survey thank you! I'd like to say a big thank you to all of you who took the time to fill out our two surveys, you have no idea how helpful you have been. Speaking as someone who NEVER fills in surveys ( I will in future!) I couldn't believe how many responses we got and the detail those responses contained. We have learned a huge amount and are looking forward to putting it into practice over the coming months. We can't see who responds to our questionnaire as the system is anonymous so we can't reply to queries personally but I would like to address some of the comments and let you know what we're doing about it:

Iona vegetable seeds

Seed Numbers and Varieties
The numbers of seeds in our seed packs were intended to give the average gardener slightly more than they needed. We hadn't taken into account however that many people like to share seeds with their friends and family or grow more plants than they need for the same reason. We will be significantly increasing the number of seeds in our packs (not the price!) for the coming season as well as an increase of about a third in our seed range. Varieties and Name More of this later but we're adding a significant amount of new varieties to our seed selection as we have been trialling some interesting crops and have had some great successes. Many of the new seeds are from recommendations from some of Ireland's top growers so we look forward to presenting a new and improved selection still relevant to our growing conditions. We're also changing the name of our Seed Co. to 'Iona Vegetable Seeds' as we are no longer in partnership with Klaus Laitenberger. Our opinions differ on some things so we've decided to plough our own furrow. Information You're all mad for information! We're delighted about this as it happens as we're putting serious investment into our 'Growmatic' software to make it a much more comprehensive tool. The second survey we sent was a fact finding mission to see how we could make it better and as a result we'll be adding the following functions to the tool:

Ladybird and blackfly on broad bean plant

We'll be adding an easy to use pest and disease identifier with information on how to solve the problem you are faced with. We're building a visual database of plant problems with multiple choice questions to steer you as quickly as possible to the correct solution. I'll be putting out a proper call for this soon but if you have any photos of pests or diseases in your garden please email them to me at The more visual information I can gather for the tool the better it will be. Online Planning Tool The biggest and most complicated part of the new tool will be the planning function where a user can plan a garden from scratch or add an existing garden to the system. Crops will be added by dragging them into a representation of your garden bed and will include recommended varieties, accurate planting distances, rotation and other relevant growing information.

Vegetable gardeners journal

Garden Journal
To help you keep track of your growing we're also including an online journal system. You will be able to easily keep notes of planting times, varieties and your successes and failures for use the following year. Much, Much More I'm leaving out some of the most exciting aspects of our new software as it's still in it's secret development stage. You won't believe what the new version will do and how much it will cover. We look forward to launching the 'beta' or test version in early 2014 for you guys to try with the full tested version coming online later in the year. Product Range Many of you requested more organic pest control advice and remedies. We hear you. As I've said we will be nailing the advice in our new software but are also increasing our range of natural pest control products to include beneficial insects, better traps and barriers and advice on how to make your own free stuff. Some of you also warned us not to get over excited by our new foray into 'Lifestyle' products at the expense of our practical gardeners section. Point well and truly noted, we're reviewing our growers section to make sure we don't have any holes in it that need to be filled. Expect some significant additions in the next 2 months. Please do contact us if there's something you'd like to see on our site, what you want is the most important thing and we'll do our best get you what you need. Our Service Only 3 out of 574 who replied to our survey thought our service was poor so we're pretty happy with that. Obviously we'd prefer if that figure was zero and we'll be addressing that immediately. Judging by your comments it's the communication which seems to be the problem, we'll be making sure we keep in better contact if we have a delay for any reason or if orders need to be sent in separate deliveries. That's it. Again, my sincere thanks for taking the time to reply. As I said in the Survey intro we just want to be the best so we need your opinion from time to time. Thank you! Have a great Autumn, drop us a line if you need any help, we always want to hear from you! Andrew, Niall, Leon, John & John Og.