GIY (Grow it Yourself) Monthly Column – April 2012
by Michael Kelly
I’m not too far removed from the point where I was really, really daunted by the idea of growing my own food. I was the least green fingered person in the universe when I started growing my own vegetables about 6 years ago – up to that point my only experience of growing things was with bonsai trees. I went through a phase where I thought they were really cool, but they kept just dying on me and I stopped after I had killed about 4 of them with a collective age of about 1500 years.
So I totally get how daunting it can be to take that first step. At events, shows and festivals around Ireland, we do a seed-sowing roadshow where we have little GIY cardboard cups that we use to get people to sow seeds in. We fill them with potting compost and get people to sow a pea or a broad bean seed in them and bring it home with them. You would be amazed at how frightened people are of this simple little act of popping a seed in soil. They are scared (like I was) of failure – scared it won’t grow, scared they will look like an eejit if it doesn’t work. At GIY, our job is to help people overcome that initial fear, help them to get a quick win and to experience what we call GIY JOY – the thrill about a week or two after sowing when a little green seedling pokes its head out of the soil and the even greater thrill when eventually (fingers and other extremities crossed), the plant produces some food.
So our big idea for 2012 is a campaign we are calling Operation GIY Nation. The idea is to get families that have never grown anything at all to give it a try. We have designed 6 really straight forward growing projects that parents and kids can download from our website – one each month for six months starting in April. The idea is that we will take you on a journey – starting with a really easy and fun growing project that you can do with your kids, and build your level of experience over the 6 months. If you get involved we promise you that by the end of it, you will have produced some food that you can eat – we will leave you feeling empowered and healthy, living more sustainably and doing something that really matters. Above all, you will experience GIY JOY. To get involved in Operation GIY Nation – go to our website www.giyireland.com/giynation.
Things to do this Month – April
If poor weather in March has hampered your outdoor work, then April is the month to catch-up. The key words for April 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.
Indoors: lettuce, tomato, pepper, chilli-pepper, cucumber, celery, celeriac, basil, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsley, courgette, marrow, globe artichoke, beans, sweet corn and pumpkin. Outdoors: broad bean, onion sets, pea, beetroot, cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, parsnip, spring onion, leek, carrot, radish, broccoli, turnip. Plant out cabbage plants when they are 15/20 cm tall into well prepared soil that has been manured.
Stored fruit and vegetables are likely to be a distant memory at this stage and new crops are only starting to trickle in which makes April a tricky proposition. The middle of this month might see the first asparagus and the first early spring cabbage. The other two star performers this month are purple sprouting broccoli and rhubarb.
Tip of the Month – Upcycle!
Your recycle bin can often throw up very useful veggie growing companions in the shape of pots, containers, cloches and seed sowing containers. For example yogurt pots are great for starting tomato, pepper, and aubergine seeds – poke a few drainage holes in the bottom and they are perfect for the purpose. Egg cartons are eggscellent (teehee) for chitting spuds in, but they are also good for seed sowing so long as you are not sowing things in them that need a large root system. Toilet roll inserts are brilliant to sow in – pretty much anything can be sown in them and they can be placed directly in the soil then as the insert will then rot away. Once you’ve packed away that shopping after your trip to the shop, you’re likely to have all manner of clear plastic punnets, pots and containers –They can act as cloches in that crucial springtime period when seedlings are first put out in the soil.
Grow Magazine: The 64-page GIY magazine, GROW is a must-read for anyone interested in growing their own food in 2012. Includes contributions from Joy Larkcom, Fionnuala Fallon, Kitty Scully, Hans Wieland, Darina Allen, Klaus Laitenberger and Joyce Russell. The magazine costs €4.50 and is available from our website and in most good newsagents. GROW is sent free of charge to subscribing members of GIY. GIY membership costs €35 and the member's pack includes the magazine, 7 packs of GIY seeds, grower's wallchart and a GIY member's card.
Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland.
About GIY: GIY’s vision is for a healthier, more connected and more sustainable world where people grow their own food. We bring people together in community groups and online to inspire and empower them to grow vegetables. There are over 100 GIY community groups and approximately 12,000 people involved in the movement around Ireland. GIY is a registered charity – CHY 18920.
© GIY Ireland 2012 – all rights reserved.