The Casual Gardener: Grow it yourself, the Klaus Laitinberger way

If you're after the good life, look no further than The Self Sufficient Garden...

German-born, Co Leitrim-based organic gardener Klaus Laitenberger

EVERY day, Klaus Laitinberger makes soup with the spoils from his allotment in Bundoran.

"It always starts with onion, garlic and five Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and often lentils," he says.

"Then I add at least five other vegetables to it, such as celery, parsnip, squash, potatoes, beetroot, spinach and kale, before topping it up with some edible weeds like chickweed, nettles, dandelion leaves or bittercress."

The German-born, Co Leitrim-based organic gardener is more than happy to share not just his fiber-rich soup but also the knowledge that enables him to successfully grow its many ingredients.

His latest book – his fourth – is The Self-Sufficient Garden, a guide to creating and maintaining a garden that will feed a family of four all-year round. It's a book Klaus has been planning for many years but his commitments as an online tutor and his fast-expanding seed business meant it remained on the back burner.

However, its compilation and completion has been made possible by the disruption to his normally busy routine caused by coronavirus.

"Last January, my entire calendar was full with work and every weekend there was a course booked throughout the country," he says.

"Within weeks it had all changed dramatically, but I was still nicely busy – only with much less stress – and the upside is that it also gave me a chance to write this new book."

As the growth in vegetable gardening over the past 11 months has shown, the public appetite for sustainable, homegrown food is strong, but there's big difference between a hobby veg patch and the space and resources needed to be completely self-sufficient.

It requires around 400 square metres of ground, including a polytunnel, says Klaus.

"You'll need a couple to work a full day each per week and the occasional evening," he says.

"The better you are organised the less time is needed."

An indoor growing space is essential for the self-sufficient garden too.

"A polytunnel or greenhouse means you can grow warmth-loving crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as extending the growing season of most other crops," he says.

"It's also a great place to work when it rains."

His time-saving tip is staying on top of weeds:

"For effective weed control get an oscillating hoe, which allows you to spend more time standing upright rather than spending hours on your knees doing back-breaking work," he says.

"And if you hoe on a dry day there is no need to pick up the weeds."

Another game changer is a cloche made from bionet, a biodegradable coir blanket, that prevent many pests from getting to your plants and is also great for hardening off. Whether it's a single raised bed or an entire field, the main building block, Klaus says, is your soil.

"For an organic gardener, the soil is the key.

"It's so simple – a healthy fertile soil will produce healthy crops that will even keep us healthy."

In the book, he outlines ways of improving the fertility and life of the soil, alongside sowing and raising dozens of crops suited for the Irish climate. With a fertile patch, a bit of enthusiasm and a copy of The Self Sufficient Garden to hand, there's nothing else required.

:: The Self Sufficient Garden by Klaus Laitinberger is available from

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