The warm, dry weather over the last week has made conditions ideal in the vegetable garden for early planting of vegetables. Growing your own vegetables is not difficult and you do not need a large amount of space.
The traditional vegetable garden is rectangular in shape, divided into four squares – the size of the squares will depend upon the amount of available space you have. A vegetable garden 15 by 20 feet, the size of the average sitting-room, is big enough to grow a wide variety of vegetables and is easy to maintain. The soil in the vegetable garden needs to be well drained with the soil broken up into a fine silt that allows rapid root growth. Digging in lots of organic material, such as home-made compost, is best because it is weed free. Most vegetables thrive in soil with a pH between 6 and 7, which is slightly acid or neutral. The one really vital requirement for a successful vegetable garden is a sunny location. Choose the sunniest spot you can find.
If you are starting with a new garden where the soil is poor, shallow or heavy clay and wet, making a raised bed will help improve the soil and give better yields. It may take a few years to get the right conditions to grow vegetables. However, once you get the conditions right, growing your favourite vegetables will become very easy.
Rotation is a term often used with growing vegetables, it means you should never grow the same vegetables in the same piece of ground year after year. You rotate your crops each year to prevent a build up of disease and pests. Divide you vegetable garden into four sections, however big or small. Make sure the paths between the sections are wide enough to walk on and are made of paving slabs, to stop your feet getting muddy. In section 1, grow all the brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. In section 2, grow root crops such as carrots, beetroot and celery. In section 3, grow alliums like onions and leeks. In section 4, grow salads like lettuces, spinach and tomatoes. Move the crops around to a different section in subsequent years so that the same vegetables will only grow in the same ground once every four years. The soil in each section will need particular attention each year. The brassicas in section 1 require lots of well-rotted manure or garden compost, if the soil is acid add lime. The root crops in section 2, do not require any manure. The alliums and salads in section 3 and 4 only need a small amount of well-rotted compost.
Most vegetables can be sown from seeds. The seed packets contain a lot of information about sowing time, distance between plants so read them carefully. The seeds can be raised in the greenhouse or sown directly into the ground when soil temperatures are suitable which should occur in April. When sowing directly into the ground it is best to cover the ground with a sheet of plastic a few weeks previously to increase soil temperatures. Many vegetable plants can be purchased from your local garden centre and planted directly into the ground.
Seeds of lettuces, brassicas, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, aubergines, parsley, sweetcorn and onions can be sown now in glasshouse to produce plants for planting out next month. We grow onions from seeds and sets. We plant our onion sets in modular trays in the greenhouse, planting one set in each section until they produce strong roots and green shoots. They are planted out next month in rows, drawing soil up around the neck of the bulb before watering thoroughly. Water regularly through the growing season. We grow ‘centurion’ a white onion set, ‘red barron’ a dark red onion set and ‘Bunton’s Showstopper’ seeds that produce a large mild onion. ‘White Lisbon’ is a quick growing salad onion that can be sown directly into the ground next month. Garlic is a plant that needs a long growing season, we have planted out cloves of garlic grown in a modular tray last month.
This week I have a question from Mary Harnett about pruning a crinodendron. The crinodendron flowers on stalks that appear the previous autumn. The plant can be pruned annually after flowering by cutting back shoots that spoil the symmetry of the plant. Remove dead or damaged growth in mid-spring.
Garden Club Notices
The Maigue Flower and Garden Club will hold their annual Gala at the Woodlands House Hotel in Adare on the afternoon of Sunday 20th (Sunday after St Patricks day) and will be a truly wonderful afternoon for lovers of flowers. The gala will run from 3:00pm to 5:30pm and all are welcome.
The Horticulture Committee of Limerick Show Society are holding a Coffee Morning and Plant Sale on Thursday 24th March between 10am and 1pm at the Owners and Trainers Bar in the Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell. There will also be a floral demonstration at 12 noon. Entry fee of €5 will include refreshments.