Grow Guide: Strawberries
Strawberries are very easy to grow and can be grown in almost any container, from hanging basket to garden. Our Irish climate usually allows strawberries to get all the sun, shelter and good soil that they need to thrive and to produce juicy fruits. Strawberries need to be kept well watered at all times and need to be sheltered from any frost, particularly at the start of Spring.
Ensure that where you are planning on growing your strawberries is in a sunny part of your garden or balcony, where they won’t be harmed by too much wind. Strawberries love to grow in soil that has some organic matter in it (compost, old Christmas tree, etc) and also grow best when fertiliser is added to ensure they get all the nutrients they need for their quick growth spurt.
How to Plant
In order to plant strawberries in a raised bed, it is best to leave roughly 35cm between each plant. Make sure that the bottom of the crown of the plant is left resting on the surface. Following this, fill the hole back with the soil, making sure that the crown of the plant is not disturbed and is left soil free. Support the plant by firming the soil around the plant with your hands.
The perfect time to harvest your strawberries is on a warm day, when the berries have turned a bright red. For best taste, enjoy on the day you pick them.
In addition to eating them as a part of a fruit salad, you can also cut up your strawberries and then add some mint that has been ground together with sugar to create a refreshing dessert for a lovely end to a meal.
Grow Guide for Tomatoes
A great one to grow in raised beds and pots alike, home grown tomatoes take their sweetness from the sun and leave you with a tasty ingredient for any meal. Smaller tomatoes, such as cherry or santini are great as they ripen quicker than the traditional beef tomatoes, whose size takes longer to develop. If you only have limited space in your balcony or hanging baskets, tomatoes can still be relevant for you, but be sure to pick a variety that is compact and won’t spread too much, for example SunGold tomatoes would work well.
In order to get the best sweetness from your tomatoes, they should be placed in direct sunlight. In addition, many tomatoes favour growing against a wall or fence to ensure they get all the support they need.
How to Plant
You can either plant your tomatoes from seeds indoors or simply buy the tomato seedlings from your local GroMór expert.
Seeds are best sown indoors from the second week of March to the beginning of May. It usually takes about 8-10 weeks for the seeds to grow enough to be then put into their final pot, but be sure to keep them out of the frost(ie until late May) as this can kill tomatoes very quickly.
If you buy seedlings, they can be transplanted when they are 16cm high, ensuring that the soil is damp when planting into their new pot/raised bed. Put the seedling in a hole that is deeper than the pot, and ensure that the seedling is well supported by filling soil around it. To give your tomatoes the best opportunities to grow, gently tie a support stake to the plant’s stem using some soft twine.
Pick your tomatoes as soon as the colour is fully developed and the tomatoes is at full size. This helps to give your plant more energy to produce more tomatoes.
A handy way to keep the flavour of your perfectly ripe tomatoes is to make a big pot of tomato sauce and then to freeze it to guarantee you a strong flavour in all your cooking in the winter.
Grow guide for Lettuce
Perhaps one of the most common and most loved vegetable plant to grow, the humble lettuce plant is ideal for both beginner and experienced gardeners alike. The great thing about lettuce is that there is such a broad range of varieties to choose from, each with different colours, textures and flavours. There are two main types of lettuce plants, heartening lettuces and loose-leaf lettuces. Hearting lettuces have a dense centre, while loose-leaf lettuces have open leaves and no heart. An easy plant to grow that gives off great produce, whoever said salad was boring?
Lettuce plants love loamy fertile soil, be sure the soil is not too soggy or dry but nicely moist. The best type of soil is one that contains feed or organic matter, this should help establish the plant quicker. They also like loose soil so be sure to lighten your soil by shifting grit or sand through it. Lettuce plants also love the part sun so be sure not to have it in a shaded area or in a place that receives full sun. They are suitable for any container or bed but we would recommend something elevated and off the ground to avoid pests like slugs. Try them in a bot or a raised bed, this makes it easier to defend the lettuce from whatever pests come their way, namely rabbits, snails and slugs.
How to Plant
Ensure the lettuce plants are well watered when being planted, this help the plant establish better. Water the plant when it is dry and refrain from watering during midday, early mourning or late evening are optimal watering times. If you see the leaves burning, use a mister to keep them looking and tasting fresh. Provide good space between plants to allow the heads plenty of room to grow, plant loose-leaf lettuces about 8 inches apart and hearting lettuces 12-15 inches apart. We also recommend using a feed, try using a generic tomato feed once every week or two for great results.
Lettuces are ready to harvest once the head has formed. It is better to cut off the leaves rather than to pull them. Remove the outer leaves first before you remove the inner leaves. The best time to harvest is in the mourning. We strongly recommend you continue to harvest the plant to prevent it from bolting. Lettuce leaves can be refrigerated for up to 10 days, just wash and dry the leaves and place them in a resealable bag in the refrigerator.
To deter common insect pest like slugs and snails try using organic methods like coffee grounds, eggshells or pistachio nutshells. We recommend natural methods in a bit to not harm any beneficial wildlife. You can also try copper tape or make your own beer trap. Alternatively, use organic slug pellets over the cheaper generic kind. Do not use salt to deter slugs and snails, this method can damage your soil.
Plant your lettuces at different times to ensure you have a constant flow of delicious produce. Use salad leaves in everything from salads to sandwiches and get healthy.
Bolting: while plants do not ‘run away’ physically, their growth may run rapidly, and this is basically what this phrase means in the gardening world. Plants, mostly vegetable or herds, are said to bolt when their growth goes rapidly from being mostly leafy based to being mostly flower and seed-based. Plants bolt due to hot weather – a survival mechanism in the plant.