Jan/Feb: Just Do It

GIYer Michael Kelly has one simple New Year’s resolution that could transform your life and your eating habits

New Year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad wrap, because they seem to represent the folly and flightiness of the human spirit. We start off the year with grand intentions to eat only salads, walk/run/swim 100 miles a week, and to do Bikram yoga in a sauna until we weigh as much as a baby sparrow. But then by the end of January, we’ve quietly abandoned our good intentions and reverted to guilt and bloating. This year, make a simple resolution that can transform your life. Grow food. And before you think that sounds like a resolution that might involve significant effort, life changes or all round hassle on your part, fear not. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of food. We’re not talking 100 per cent self-sufficiency or living off the grid. It’s not scary or daunting. It does not involve growing a goatee. Here are the ‘don’ts’: don’t spend a load of money on expensive garden equipment, books or tools. Do not dig up your garden or sign up for an allotment. Do not learn Latin so you can read plant names. For now, we’re keeping it small-scale, achievable, practical. Unlike most of our resolutions, this one is about working with (rather than against) our limitations – our lack of time, our lack of space, lack of green fingers. Just grow food. Grow some salad leaves in a container. Stick a pea in some potting compost in a pot. Grow your own garlic, or some herbs on your balcony. Start small. Pick three vegetables that you like to eat and learn how to grow those. How about setting yourself the target of producing an entirely home-grown meal? Just one little meal. That’s easy, right? Keep this in mind as you start. Research shows that by growing some of your own food (even if it’s only a little amount) your dietary habits may change. Because of the deeper understanding and connection with food that you will have as a result of your food growing experiment, you will be welcoming health and happiness into your life, and saving some money in the process. You will be out and about in the fresh air, getting some exercise at the same time. You will have access to the most delicious, nutritious, seasonal food. This is your year. 2015 is the year that anything can happen. This year, let your intention be to grow food. Happy New Year from all of us at GIY.

Check List for Jan/Feb

To Do

Plan. This is the time to decide where and what you are going to grow this year. If you are just starting out, join your local GIY group for advice and check out our website for handy ‘getting started’ guides and videos. Consider building or buying raised vegetable beds. Order your seeds, onions sets and seed potatoes. Turn over the soil in February only if the weather is dry – if the soil sticks to your boots it’s too early for digging. ‘Chit’ seed potatoes – put them in a container (eg. used egg carton or empty seed tray) and leave them in a bright, warm place to sprout.

Sow

In mid February, in-seed trays and pots on a sunny windowsill indoors; sow celery, globe artichokes, celeriac, leeks, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peas, aubergines, peppers/chilli-peppers. Weather permitting outside, you can try sowing broad beans, spinach, kohlrabi, onion and shallot sets, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnip and early pea varieties.

Harvest

You may still have winter cabbage, perpetual spinach, chard, leeks, kale, cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts in your veggie patch and, depending on how successful your growing/storage regime last year was, you may well still be tucking into stores of potatoes, celeriac, carrots, parsnips, onions, cauliflower, Jerusalem artichokes, winter squash, pumpkins, leeks and red cabbage.

Tip of the month – show your tools some love Blades on shears, forks, spades, hoes, secateurs and other tools will benefit from an annual overhaul with a sharpening stone (you can buy them in hardware stores). Prepare the blade with a drop of three-in-one oil. Push the tool forwards and to the side on the stone, exerting a little downward pressure. Then turn the tool over and, holding the blade almost flat against the stone, brush it across the surface to take off any rough edges. Only sharpen the outside blade on bypass secateurs and the upper surface of hoes. Wipe over the blade with an oily rag before storing.
About GIY GIY is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to create a healthier, more sustainable world where people grow their own food. We inspire and support people to grow food more successfully by bringing them together to share advice, tips and ideas. There are approximately 50,000 people involved in the GIY movement in Ireland, which is proudly supported by Woodies DIY. For more information check out www.giyireland.com.