By Michael Kelly
Founder of GIY Ireland
GIY is a registered charity (CHY 18920) that inspires people to grow their own and gives them the skills they need to grow successfully. They do this by bringing GIYers together in the community and online so that they can learn from each other. There are now nearly 100 GIY groups around Ireland and approximately 7,000 people involved between the groups and our online network.
Their wonderful website has a Directory of Vegetables, a List of GIYers Groups and Maps to their locations, a Grower’s Calendar and Daily Tips for Growing Your Own.
GIY Week 2011 takes place from the 12th to the 19th of March and is GIY’s first major outreach event of the year. The event is timed to coincide with the start of the 2011 growing season and aims to encourage people who have never grown anything at all to pledge to stick a seed in the ground.
Ireland and Leinster rugby star Shane Horgan has taken a pledge to grow his own food this year, and if you would like to do the same, here are some helpful tips for the season.
Things to do this season
The key words for this season are weeds and slugs. You need to stay on top of them both. Check your early spuds regularly and ‘earth-up’ as required. Water your tunnel/greenhouse – things can get pretty warm on a nice sunny April day and seedlings will dry out quickly.
The key to controlling weeds is to dedicate yourself to weeding “little and often” and the best way to beat a weed is to hoe it before it becomes a weed. In other words, run your hoe over your entire veggie patch once a week, regardless of whether there are any weeds or not. Hoeing will disrupt the weeds before they get a chance to become weeds. Buy yourself a decent Dutch or oscillating hoe – hoeing is actually quite a pleasant, upright task (compared to weeding by hand which can be an irritating, backbreaking one). Hoe for Victory!
Things to sow this season
Indoors: lettuce, tomato, peppers, chilli-pepper, cucumber, celery, celeriac, basil, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsley, courgette, marrow, globe artichoke, beans, sweet corn and pumpkin.
Outdoors: broad beans, onion sets, peas, beetroot, cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, parsnip, spring onion, leeks, carrot, radish, broccoli, turnip. Plant out cabbage plants when they are 15/20 cm tall into well-prepared soil that has been manured.
Tip of the Season – Nettle Fertiliser
Pick huge bundles of tender young nettles – divert around 5oz to the kitchen for a delicious nettle soup and use the rest for an organic fertilizer. Nettles are extremely high in nitrogen, so if you soak a large bucketful in water for a week, you produce a brilliant nitrogen-rich fertilizer which will be hugely beneficial for any plants which need leafy growth, for example lettuces, cabbage, kale, etc. Put a kilo of nettles in a Hessian bag, soak in 20 litres of water and leave it to stew for a month or so. It gets pretty stinky so put a lid on top. Mix one part nettle liquid with ten parts water when applying to plants.
GIY will be present once again at this year’s Bloom festival, Ireland’s largest gardening, food and family event, taking place in the Phoenix Park, Dublin during the June bank holiday weekend for 5 days. It’s a gardener’s paradise and a fantastic day out for anyone who likes pretty and practical gardens, yummy food and entertainment for all the family.