Growing for the first time …so how do we  start?

by Gazette Reporter
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Feebee  Foran  is back with tips on what to do in  your garden or  on your balcony

Have you ever thought “I’d love to grow my own vegetables” but don’t know where to start? Taking up a new hobby can be daunting, especially if you have no experience or little space to make it happen.  However, the lovely thing about growing vegetables is that you can create your own little veggie haven whether you have a garden or even a balcony at your disposal.  When it comes to experience, there is one thing that trumps it every time – enthusiasm. 

The joy of growing your own food comes in so many forms.  From the moment you decide what to grow, seeing the first signs of your seedlings popping their heads out of the soil, watching what was once a tiny seed grow into a fully established plant, then getting to enjoy delicious fruit or vegetables it has provided.

I’d like to call it pride, but there is definitely an element of smugness that I have no qualms in admitting. Plus, whether it’s all in my head or not, I like to think that the food I grow myself tastes better than anything you can buy in a shop – the same way hen-keepers will tell you that their own eggs taste like nothing else in the world.

Although I’m lucky enough to have my precious allotment in Bohernabreena, I also grow my own vegetables at home, in containers, pots and tucked into the flowerbeds of my garden. The joy of having herbs and vegetables so close to the kitchen means that if I want to throw some spinach into my omelette, snack on some Spring peas or toss some chives or herbs into my salad, I don’t have to plan a trip to the allotment.  Having homegrown vegetable so close to the kitchen means you are more likely to use them.

Young Growers

There is also another bonus to growing your own vegetables, particularly if you have picky eaters in the house, and that’s the interest that children find in the process.  It’s no surprise that playing with soil and getting mucky is a great activity for kids, but it comes with an educational aspect, helping them to see just where their food comes from. 

And the smugness I spoke of can pay off in the drive to taste what they have grown with their own little hands.  I’ve seen it myself, when friends or family members with fussy-munchers visit my garden, ever willing to pick their own peas off the vine, pop them from their shells and tuck into the sweet, green goodness inside. 

The trick to growing vegetables for the first time and especially with children, is to choose foods that they are familiar with.  Now is not the time to start with Koh Rabi or Asparagus, where as spinach, kale and beans are instantly recognisable to children, are super easy to add to meals and can all be grown in either pots or in flowerbeds. Even the smallest flower beds are perfect for growing a few spuds and there is nothing more exciting than diving your hand into the soil, feeling around at the base of the plant and pulling out your own-grown potatoes for dinner.

Feebee’s Top Growing Tips for First-timers

1: Grow the food you like to eat.  Having a gorgeous glut of courgette is fantastic, but if its not something you eat regularly, you will quickly become overrun. Leafy veg like curly kale, baby spinach and lettuce are staples that can be added to almost every meal.

2: Use the space you have. Live in an apartment? No problem, hang little baskets of herbs like chives, rosemary, mint and thyme on balcony railings.  If you have an outdoor wall space, add a trellis to allow peas and beans crawl up from pots. 

3. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t keep supermarket bought herb pots alive. These types of herbs tend to be grown under very specific conditions that are hard to mimic.  They are grown fast, so in most cases, will die fast.  If you want to grow a strong herb garden, grow from seed or pick up your herb seedlings from a garden centre.

4. Read up or do a little research on the plants you want to grow. A quick Youtube search will give you great tips on the specific plants you are growing. For example, how Basil likes to be watered from the base, not the top (I like to refer to it as “keeping his toes wet”). 

5. If you are sowing indoors, use little pots or seed trays to get you started.  Seeds will grow happier and faster in small spaces before you move them into bigger pots.  Think of this like a baby in a cot – you would never start a baby off sleeping in a double bed on its own.  Let your seedlings grow a little before moving into bigger pots.

6. Enjoy the process.  Growing is an experiment – you’ll win some and lose some, this happens to the most experienced gardeners.  The lovely thing about gardening is that just like the seeds, you will grow and develop at your own pace, you are not in competition with anyone else and your growing adventure is completely yours to enjoy.

To follow Feebee’s growing adventures and pick up more tips, follow Feebee on forager.ie or on @forager.ie on instagram

Feebee Foran is a nature enthusiast, allotmenter, foraging tour guide and homebrewer. Owner of Forager.ie, Feebee creates skincare and healing products using all natural, locally foraged herbs and plants.  A member of the bustling and vibrant community at Bohernabreena Allotments, Feebee grows her own fruit, vegetables and healing herbs.

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