Want to learn how to start growing a small vegetable garden in Ireland?
In this article, we discuss growing beetroot, carrots, parsnips, onions, and lettuce with information with some advice from GIY.
What are the best vegetables to grow in Ireland?
To start a small vegetable garden in Ireland, identify the vegetables that are most suited to Ireland.
Many varieties of beetroot, carrots, and parsnips grow well in Ireland and are ideal for a small vegetable garden. Lettuce and onions are also good choices to add to your garden. They can be a great aid to any homemade salad and are full of nutrients.
A lot of people have only tasted beetroot boiled down in vinegar; however, there are other ways to enjoy this vegetable.
It can be boiled, baked, and grated to throw into a freshly made salad. It is important to note when sowing beetroot, this vegetable grows optimally in deep sandy soil and it is best to manure the soil the previous winter before growing.
To achieve a continuous supply of young beetroot, it is best to sow it every two weeks from April until July. Germination takes around 10 days.
After that, the beetroot should be ready to eat in 3 months. Sow about 1 inch deep, 4 inches apart in rows about 12 inches apart.
Be wary that beetroot seeds are a collection of up to 5 seeds, so they may need to be thinned out if all the seeds germinate.
Carrots are not the easiest vegetable to grow, but following instructions makes them more manageable. They require deep stone-free fertile soil to grow optimally.
There are many varieties of carrots that come in various colours such as purple, red, white, yellow, and of course, orange.
Maincrop varieties of carrots take about 11 weeks before harvest. Carrots are best sown directly in the soil as they do not transplant well, choose an open, sunny space in your garden.
Sow thinly at 1cm deep in 15-20cm apart from mid-April. Before storing, it is important to remove the foliage and leave a 5cm stump on the carrot.
Make sure the carrots are not exposed to light as they will go green so cover any of these with topsoil.
Parsnips need very little attention. The humble parsnip is relatively easy to grow in comparison with the carrot once it has been coaxed into germinating.
This vegetable will contently stay in the ground even in the worst winter weather until they are wanted to eat.
To sow parsnips, it is important to dig deep beds and not manure them as manuring them will cause forking roots.
Break down the soil and rake well; add fertiliser a week before sowing if needed. April or early May is the preferable time to sow them.
Germinations will take up to three weeks. Seeds of the parsnips will not germinate in cold wet soil so it’s paramount to take this into account.
Sow three seeds every 6 inches in rows that are 12 inches from one another, make the drills 1cm deep. Parsnips are ready to harvest when the foliage begins to die in autumn, but the flavour improves after the first frosts.
Growing lettuce in your garden is a great option compared to buying plastic-packaged lettuce that has been prechopped, flown into the country, and will wilt in reportedly a day or two of sitting in the fridge.
Lettuce can be grown easily and enjoyed fresh for 9 months of the year.
Alike to carrots and parsnips, there are different varieties of lettuce to choose from. Sow on seed in each tray to grow heads of lettuce.
With the loose-leaf varieties sow 3-5 seeds per tray and allow it to be near light to germinate do not cover with compost!
The seeds won’t germinate above 25 degrees Celsius, so if it is a hot summer day, it is a good idea to place the trays in a cool shed until they germinate.
When the plant has 4 or 5 leaves, gradually expose the plants to sunlight, wind, and uneven temperature as it has been inside, then move it outside.
Onions are brilliant incorporation to any salad or recipe. Onions can be sown from sets which are baby onions, they mature quickly and are easier to grow but are more expensive than sowing from seed.
Sow sets 4 inches apart in rows 8 inches apart in March or April.
Take note of the weather. If it is very cold and damp, onion sets will not be as successful. Push the set into the soil so the top is just about visible.
Frost may sometimes lift the sets out of the soil overnight if this happens just push them back in. Sow seeds in trays in February and move outside when seedlings are established.
GIY is a not-for-profit dedicated to helping people to grow some of their own food at home, at work, at school and in the community. It claims to support over 500,000 people and 8,000 community food groups in Ireland and the UK.
Discover its range of classes or buy books or seeds to start a vegetable garden by clicking here.