It might be spring, but the weather can still be unpredictable. There is an old farmer’s saying about the weather in March if it “comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion” and conversely if it “comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb” – and the beginning of March was very mixed this year, and the end of it turned out much the same! And now April is continuing the trend with cold and rain one day and 15c the next! But whatever the weather, there is plenty to do out in the garden, or even in the house with our seedlings.
So there are still lots of jobs we can be doing to prepare for all the outdoor sowing to come. I got myself a little greenhouse to go on my deck, but it was still a bit stormy so I put it inside my kitchen door so it is safe but still getting plenty of warmth to germinate my seeds (my kitchen is now a bit smaller!! But it will only be for a couple of weeks)
Since my last blog, I have planted plenty more seeds. This time a lot of them are flowers, but I have also planted more vegetables. If you plant seeds for the same plants a couple of weeks apart then you can ensure plants at different stages of growth and they should produce their fruits or flowers across a longer period (well, in theory anyway)
So what should we be doing this week?
Caring for our seedlings.
Make sure that all the seeds we have already planted are doing well. Water them regularly and keep the compost moist and enjoy watching them as they grow.
Here are some photos of the seeds I planted only two weeks ago, on a sunny window ledge they germinated slowly, and in the propagator on the window they have really come on well. Soon I will transplant individual seedlings into larger pots to keep growing.
If you find that your seedlings are growing very tall, very fast, known as “leggy” (example on the left) it means that they are not getting enough light and are growing to try and find the daylight. It might be worth investing in a grow light if you find this happens. I got one in IKEA for a reasonable price and I am using it for my tomatoes. I also planted some of the seedlings deeper by doubling up the seed pots, and added the light, and now they are flourishing.
Having set my first lot of potatoes up for chitting, they are beginning to grow their shoots and will be ready soon to plant out. Most people want to begin getting their potatoes into the ground by St Patrick’s day, but I think they are best going into the ground around the end of the March or beginning of April to avoid frost. The first ones are called First Earlies, and I now also have some potatoes called Second Earlies and Maincrop. This relates to when they will give their crop and again you will have a longer growing season by planting different types.
First early or ‘new’ potatoes are so-called because they are the earliest to crop, usually in June. They take 10-12 weeks to mature. If planting in the ground, plant 30cm apart, with 60cm between rows, around 12cm deep, earthing up the soil above them each time they break through the surface.
Or you can use deep bags like I am doing. If you do it this way, you plant the seed potatoes in about 9-12 inches of soil at the bottom of the bag and each time the leaves break the surface cover them over with more soil until the bag is almost full. Then allow the potatoes to grow above the soil level. By growing them in bags, it keeps my crops more contained than in a vegetable patch. It also means if you only have a small garden or balcony, you can still grow lots of vegetables quite easily.
Growing herbs in your garden is both a very satisfying proposition, and also a very sensible one. They are easy enough to grow from seed, or buy small plants in the garden centre and plant them out. Or even buy them in your local supermarket. The one’s in pots that they sell in the vegetable section – you know that one you buy and then leave it to die when you have used a few leaves?!!
Well, if you take it out of the pot, you will often get about 10 or more smaller plants all in together, you can gently tease the roots apart and replant each of these separately and you have a very cheap set of herb plants.
I will try and give you information in the coming weeks on different types of herbs. The first one is Basil – and this one I bought in the Supermarket and transplanted into a propagator. This is because I want to make my own Pesto – and you need a lot of basil plants to do that. So I’ll let you know how the Pesto goes later in the summer! I have also planted Basil seeds which should then give me plants for later in the season. After the seedlings have produced their first six leaves, prune to above the second set. This encourages the plants to start branching, resulting in more leaves for harvest. It will grow well in a very sunny area and can be planted outdoors in summer, but it needs a really sheltered sunny spot in good soil to do well. Or just keep it in a sunny window all season. Use the leaves as you need to for cooking and basil goes really well with tomatoes in soup, salads or pasta sauce.
Cutting the Gras
That time is coming when you are trying to have that last few moments of a lie-in on a Sunday morning (if you are lucky enough to get one, that is!!) when you hear your neighbour’s lawnmower start up and you sigh!!
But looking out your window, you probably realise that that grass is looking long, and it won’t cut itself. So now is the time to get your lawnmower out of the shed and (carefully & safely) give it a clean and get it ready for the year ahead. At least at this stage growth is slow, so you will only have to cut it every couple of weeks. Not like the summer when you have only put away the lawnmower and it needs another cut!!!
Tips on Sowing Seeds
A great help in growing in your Garden in Ireland is to check out some of our own local websites, as they are well used to our climate.
For your Vegetables, try giy.ie – standing for Grow it Yourself. They have wonderful books such as Grow, Cook, Eat and a tv series of the same name running on RTE at the moment.
Their top three tips on seeds are:
- Always buy good quality seeds, organic if possible
- Seeds are perishable – store them carefully, if possible in a sealed tin somewhere cool and dry
- Keep an eye on the “sow before” dates on your seed packets – old seeds generally will not germinate as well as new seeds.
You can sow your seeds in module containers or directly in the ground. Check the instructions on the packet for the months you can sow indoors and outdoors. Also remember to label your seeds, it is very easy to forget what you have in each tub!
And water them as needed. Keep the compost moist throughout its time in the container. And importantly, enjoy your garden. Have fun.