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Top tips on how to grow-your-own for beginners

Lettuce seedlings growing in modules
by Willie Brennan, Blarney Park Community Garden

– Start with easy-to-grow plants, such as lettuce, chives, scallions, and tomatoes.

– You can sow them as seeds but with tomatoes start with small plants… they are available at all good garden centres.

– Plant your veg as soon as possible. You will have home-grown lettuce in just 25 days.

– You do not even need a garden. Many vegetables and herbs can be grown in containers and growbags. They will need sunshine and good quality compost to flourish.

– Make sure the containers have holes in the bottom for drainage. Even splendid spuds can be grown in a potato barrel costing under €50.00

– Tending your plants may only take an hour a week. The key thing is to make sure you water them regularly, particularly in warm weather.

– Select varieties that you will savor. I recommend ‘Cut And Come Again’ lettuce because you can harvest leaves from it while it’s growing.

Some recommended varieties

– ‘Little Gem’ which is a “crisp, small-headed lettuce” is also a strong contender.

– For terrific tomatoes I recommends ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ which is “exquisitely sweet”, or ‘Moneymaker’ which is “full flavoured, strong and delicious”.

– ‘Tumbler Cherry Tomatoes’ are trailing plants that can be grown in a tub with flowers or in a big hanging basket.

– ‘Golden Wonder’ is a very popular variety of potato because of its floury texture.

Things to take into consideration

– Beginners should grow tomatoes in containers or growbags. Put them in a sunny spot that is protected from wind. Give them liquid tomato feed because they need lots of nourishment.

– Growing veg does not mean you can’t have fabulous flowers. Many gardeners grow flowers amongst their vegetables. They help to attract helpful insects such as ladybirds, who eat greenfly.

– Protect your precious plants from slugs without resorting to chemicals. There are plenty of environmentally friendly products available.

– If you long for home-grown fruit, try raspberries. They are relatively easy to cultivate and there are autumn fruiting varieties. If you plant strawberries now, they will take a year to grow and will need to be protected from birds with netting.

Want a little variety?

Make sure your soil is in good condition. Learn about making your own compost, but in the meantime buy well-rotted organic manure, which is available in many garden centres. Dig it into the soil now and it will feed your plants during the growing season. If you use chemical granule fertilizers, they will deplete organic matter in the soil, though they feed plants quickly.

Buy a soil testing kit which will tell you if your soil is acid, alkaline or neutral. If you are growing cabbages, sprouts, or broccoli they must have alkaline soil, because otherwise they could be prone to disease. You can make acidic soil alkaline if you add hydrated lime at an ounce to the square yard. That turns the soil alkaline for good.

Grow peas because they add nitrogen to the soil. “After harvesting, leave the root system in the ground”. The following year grow cabbages and Brussels sprouts in the same spot. They need lots of nitrogen. This is known as ‘crop rotation’.