growing your own fruit, veggies and herbs getting dirty and generally living the good life

Sowing the Right Seeds

peter donegan

I went out looking for seeds this week, primarily as I had built some raised beds for a client and being that my qualifications are horticultural….. I told Mary [not her real name]

Sure Mary, of course there’s loads of stuff you can grow at this time of year….

Except when I visited my first port of call, the seed racks had been removed. I asked Jim the salesman [not his real name] what had happened…

Ah Peter…. nah we get the rep to remove the whole lot once the kids go back to school….

In conversation with another garden related business owner it seems this was the done thing.

I didn’t think people would be interested Pete….. at this time of year and all

In between all of this another client called and explained to me that she had bought seeds in a garden centre. I dropped by for a cuppa and we had a chat. The seed packets were shown to me and all appeared well until I realised one of the purchases were in fact Pumpkins. I read aloud….

Sow March, April….

Here’s the bit where I’m slightly confused.

And as I wondered the seed selling stores for myself in search of some inspiration, I saw this was not just a one off. I get the point where a sale is a sale, but why would I buy seeds, that are not sale price reduced, just in case you might ask, that I can do nothing with for six months. Pointless. But still this lady, Mary, had just spent over twenty euro on seeds.

Side-tracking ever so slightly, last year when the weather was oh so bad, I will admit that I grew Beetroot [variety boltardy] seeds on my kitchen window ledge – but that was just an experiment, albeit a messy one from an indoors perspective – to prove the back of the packet theorists entirely incorrect. The sowing time recommended as a by the way should be March to July. Whereas I sowed them in December with outside temperatures of minus eighteen celsius.

But it is to this point that I refer to the factors required for the growth of any plant.Put simply they are light, air, a suitable temperature, a suitable growing medium and water.

Knowing these is hugely significant as the elimination of any one of them will also cause the demise of any plant. In short if you prevent light getting to a plant – it will kill it. Hence and now you know why bark mulch may only somewhat prevents weeds from growing.

Back to the beets, what I had done was given the seed a suitable temperature [inside], sown the seed in compost, watered it and there was enough light in the room for it to be able to photosynthesise. I was also able to breath inside, so the air part was I assumed [correctly by the way] also take care of.

But it leads me to the point that with seeds and the packets in which they come in, it is very much the case that you can grow anything you want, at any time you wish – so long as you give the plant what it needs to grow.

To that and to an extreme hypothetical example – at the very least from an Irish perspective – should it be eighteen celsius in December I could grow Beetroots very easily. Again I refer to the back of the packet and Mary’s dilemma of having nothing to sow after all of her purchases.

The reality is I never paid attention to the back of any packet. Never. At present I have runner beans growing and for the purposes of this article I am not even going to check the recommendations as I already know I [apparently] shouldn’t have sown them about ten days ago. But if I get two pods – I’ll be a happy camper. Anything more than that and you are invited to my home for pea soup with extra added peas.

I am however smart enough to realise that there is a point where I shouldn’t push the boat too much against the tide and I know the annual getting into trouble  routine for storing seeds in the kitchen freezer is quite shortly on the horizon.

My excuse for freezing the seeds is vernalisation. A word that is more synonymous with bulbs.

Vernalisation is the acquisition of the competence to flower in the spring by exposure to the prolonged cold of winter.

Like I said it’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. On that note bulb planting season has arrived. If you fancy doing so there are six that I recommended on The Sodshow, the garden radio show and podcast that I present.

Tulips, Daffodils, Iris, Crocus, Allium and of course the first bulb I ever purchased and grew at just seven years of age the Hyacinth.

Contact Peter Donegan

Sowing the Right Seeds, originally published in The Tribesman week Monday 5th September

How To Sow Seeds In Plug Trays

sowing seed plug cell trays

As per my recent post on sowing seeds in pots, the following are some of the seeds I started to grow this the first week of September. I chose to do these in cell plug trays. For me, for the smaller seeds I simply find it gives a stronger plant. Here I sowed the following:

  • Brocoli Green Magic
  • Cabbage Pixie
  • Onion White Lisbon
  • Radish Sparkler
  • Radish Purple Plum

How To Sow Seeds in Pots

broad bean seeds

As I get my self ready for the winter season of potential self sufficiency these are two of the seeds that I have have started to sow and grow this September.

  • Broad Bean – Meteor
  • Pea – Douce Provencal

As Philip had just purchased and wanted to trial his new camera and I was actually sowing seeds when he called around for a cuppa, we decided to do this instructional video as a sort of tester. It’s also been a while since I appeared in one of my own videos.

Either or here’s how easy it is to have a go yourself.

Grow Your Own Raised Beds

raised vegetable beds

If you are going to invest in raised vegetable beds for the purposes of growing your own kitchen garden or more, then there is only one real way to do it. Enquires, getting some built suited to your space outside or changes in design and style…. my contact details are below.

Build requirements:

  • Well built. Structurally sound, strong and solid.
  • Built to last for the future, well able for the Irish weather
  • Fit their intended use aesthetically

making raised vegetable beds making raised vegetable beds

Main ingredients:

  • 10cm x 22cm x 240cm new timber sleepers [10 x 8.5 inch timber]
  • 6.3 x 200 mm [8″ long] corrosion resistant In-Dex screws
  • butyl rubber lining

in-dex screw in dex screw hex driver

Of note:

  • The screws are expensive but – they are the modern version of a coach bolt and are seriously strong. So strong that a standard drill would not do the job of churning them in. Then again, they are 8″ long. Also they use an 8mm hex driver bit. Again, for the long term quality will matter.

dewalt saw draper spirit level

Know in Advance:

  • Timber can vary in length by up to/ about 10mm. When one is 230cm and the next 245cm – as precision goes, it matters and is is extremely important, for me. Measure twice – cut once.
  • Wood can twist and bend, slightly. This is not unusual – it’s just what wood is and what it does. It may need some working.
  • Spirit level is one thing – aesthic levels are far more important. This is not a swimming pool.

making raised vegetable beds making raised vegetable beds

Alternates:

One could reduce on timber quality and timber dimensions, but each of these beds will have 2- 4 tonne of wet soil forcing against it’s sides. Strong, durable and tough matters here and hence why the screws/ bolts are the quality that they are.

The lining could be done cheaper. However, butyl rubber is generally noted for lining ponds and again that amount of wet soil lying constantly against timber sides…. you simply won’t find a stronger longer lasting liner than this.

Quality counts:

The ground here had three different levels from three different sides. A spirit level is of benefit but so is a good eye for appearance. A mattock will dig perfect trenches.

The timbers are [the tallest] three high on their side – 66cm – the largest area of which is 240cm x 180cm. I didn’t want them to look like [silly as it may sound] big boxes. The alternated end corners help for that reason.

Above all the right tools for the right job and life will be made much easier less complex. The tools I use are not that that will put together an ikea type book shelf.

raised timber beds

After Construction:

This is a place as versus being thought of as labour intensive, I would like to be renowned and considered for being one of retreat, relaxation and escapism.

Next for this garden space, from the same timber I’m going to build a garden bench. If I could, I put a matching espresso machine in there too – hand-made, from wood of course. Select planting to the peripherals will also help make this more of a home. But, Rome was, in this case, very well built in a matter of days – phase 2, the growing, begins soon after the soil is hand balled in. 😉

Enquiries or further information on your made to measure grow your own raised beds ?

Ask for Peter

timber for landscaping

Irish Grapes

grapes ireland

It’s been a while since I’ve seen grapes growing in Ireland and this weekend just passed I met with this fine crop.

You may notice from the video that there is some cracking of the fruit, but this I put down to a problem that occurs a lot where extremes of water may take place and it is something I’ve discussed before here on the blog.

Either or gardening is very much about giving it a go…. and although it may help, you don’t really need a greenhouse. Or maybe you now know what to by himself as an early Christmas present.