Planting your first vegetable garden
TO tend a thriving garden takes a mixture of science and skill. After the dormant months of winter, spring is the time for you to work in tandem with Mother Nature and start planting the seeds for your future harvest.
Planting your own vegetables has become very popular as people have become more aware of the importance of eating organic, local produce. Whether you “grow your own” on a large scale, or you sow only what you can eat, the principle is the same: what you sow, you reap. Investing time and care into your garden will yield a bounty to be proud of.
If you’re a novice to the garden, do not be intimated by the amount that you have to learn. Just remember the following and the rest will come to you: Plants are like people; they need the same elements to grow and survive – water, air, light, food and shelter.
So, where do you begin? Choosing a suitable location for your vegetable patch is of vital importance. Plants are living organisms and they need plenty of light to grow, so find the sunniest patch of ground and earmark it for your garden. Your seedlings will benefit them a good level of direct sunlight but they will also benefit as the sun also warms the soil, which benefits the roots.
Nature is all about balance and although a sunny perspective is vital for an abundant crop, young plants in particular need shelter as well. You may have to sacrifice a little sunlight in favour of a location that is out of the path of strong prevailing winds that may break stems or dry out plants, which would require additional watering on your part. Trees or hedgerows can provide ample shelter, so take stock of your site before planning a big DIY project to construct a man made windbreaker. But don’t panic if you see a robust breeze or two, whipping through your garden on occasion. Your plants need the wind to help them to pollinate and to prevent diseases that occur in stagnant, damp conditions.
With Ireland’s wet climate, watering your plants isn’t as big a job as in other places where the summer months can be parched and dry. However, if last year’s weather is anything to go by, then you cannot rely solely on Mother Nature to do the job – you must be prepared to invest some time in hydrating your garden. Set up an eco-friendly container near your plot to capture rainwater and use this on your plants. It will contain less lime and less chlorine than tap water and cost you nothing in water charges. The foundation of success: Soil Just like plants, soil is a living, breathing organism and needs to be nurtured with seaweed, compost or mulch. But what is a suitable soil for growing vegetables? The best soil is called ‘ loam’ and is ideal for this purpose because it retains water and nutrients well. Loam is neither too sandy nor too sticky, as clay can be, and vegetables thrive in this type of soil. If the soil in your area is very poor, then consider using raised beds as an option. These are special structures into which to put top quality soil that can be purchased at gardening centres and are a great solution, especially for gardeners with disabilities as they are more easily accessible ac when it comes time ti to tend the garden.
SOWING THE SEEDS
Now, you’re finally ready to plant your garden, and no doubt there is a large selection oof vegetables to choose ffrom that will all flourish in the great outdoors. So, the question is, how to choose? The answer is easy: An Irish garden would not be complete unless it has the old staples: carrots, spuds, lettuce, cabbage and onions. Anything else is a bonus!