In Ireland Spring traditionally arrives on St Brigid’s Day (1st February). In practice it’s probably best to hold off on planting anything until the actual, meteorological arrival of Spring which this year will be March 20th. So while I wait for the thaw (come on!!!!!!) I’ve been shopping.
I never thought I’d find seed shopping so exciting but I guess that’s adulthood for you!
I’m pretty new to intentional gardening, in fact this will be my first year of only planting seeds (as opposed to mini plants) AND my first year planting them when you’re supposed to. For this reason I did lots of research on the best seed varieties for a novice gardener, here’s what I came up with….
Beetroots – generally reliable to grow but lots of varieties available Chioggia (pink and white ringed flesh, easy to grow), Pablo (easy, reliable) and BurpeesGold (orange fruit for variety)
Carrots – Nantes5 (easy to grow and best for early harvest), Autumn King (better for second sowing and the late harvest). Tips: Plant onions or garlic around your carrots to distract the Carrot Fly and ideally sow seeds into a cone shape of compost that you’ve hollowed out of your soil.
Celeriac – few varieties available, I would have liked Prinz (easiest variety to grow) I went for Monarch which is second best but easier to find!
Courgette – courgettes grow like weeds so the variety isn’t really too important! I went with Zucchini for a quick crop and Atena F1 for a yellow fruit.
Mangetout – all about appearance here as Mangetout is also quite easy to grow! GoldenSweet (yellow flowers and pod), Shiraz (purple flower and pod) and Oregon Sugar (white flower, green pod).
Parsnips – can be tricky White Gem (hardy and less sensitive to soil type than some others), Palace F1 (easy, sweet taste and even shape), both types very resistant to disease.
Squash – some types aren’t suited to our climate I chose Hunter F1 (specially bred for Irish/UK climate, high yield)
When Is The Best Time To Plant Vegetables?
Previously I have chucked all my seeds in the ground on the same day and then struggled to eat the 500 courgettes that inevitably ripened together 6 weeks later. This year, I hope not to be so caught out!
The best time to start planting your seeds outside is when the risk of frost has passed, in the UK and Ireland that’s usually around mid March. Try to space your sowings to cover the longest period of the growing season to ensure a steady supply. Keep in mind that some vegetables can be sown and harvested twice in the same growing season but that you might need to switch up the variety to see the best results.
In order to work out how often to sow your seeds look at the back of the pack and check out how many weeks are suitable for sowing and simply divide the number of weeks by the number of squares you have for that veg. Sowing every 2-3 weeks is usually the best option to ensure a spread out crop.
For example carrots can be sown from March to July. If you sow in March you can harvest in May meaning maturity takes 8-12 weeks. Considering you’ve about 20 weeks to sow in there’s plenty of time to grow a year’s supply of carrots even in a small space. We plan to sow one square (16 carrots per square) every two weeks in March to April and harvest them from mid-May to June. We’ll sow our second variety every two weeks in June and July and harvest them from early October. That’s 128 carrots from 4 square feet!
Sit tight for another month, not much growing can be done!
Instead, buy your seeds and mark out your beds for Square Foot Gardening. We got our first bed done this afternoon and it feels so good! We’re almost ready to sow, eeek! Make sure you’ve raked up any left over leaves – there’ll be no goodness coming from them now.