Making sure you have enough food is a big priority for everyone, especially right now. While we all need to go to the shops for a few bits, there are some things you can produce by yourself. To find out how to grow your own food at home, we asked Michael Kelly of GIY Ireland for his top tips.
The first and best piece of advice is this: just start. Don’t wait until next month or next year. You don’t need green fingers (they are a myth) or a degree in Latin to figure out how to grow your own food. Don’t be afraid. Get yourself some seeds and put them in some soil. The good news is that all seeds want to grow, and they already know how to do it and what they want to become. So more than likely, with just sunlight and water, they will grow.
On a basic level, all you need are seeds and something to grow them in. That means some good compost and something to put the compost in. For smaller-scale growing that could be seed trays, pots, containers, or even an upcycled colander or an old pair of wellies. You should be able to get all of these things at your supermarket or you can order them online. At GIY, we’ve put all these basics together in our GrowBox starter kit collection, which you can find at giy.ie.
On a slightly bigger scale, clear some space in your back garden for a timber raised bed – quickcrop.ie is a great place to find them in all sizes. At this point you might need to buy some basic tools – a trowel, spade, fork and rake. A hoe is a mighty way to stay on top of weeding if you have a larger area to manage.
Michael's top tips:
- A sunny windowsill indoors is basically like a greenhouse, so it’s ideal for getting seeds and growing plants like tomatoes going because they like some heat.
- Most herbs will do very well indoors – try parsley, thyme, coriander, mint, lemon balm, sage and basil.
- You can grow a serious array of interesting salad leaves in pots or trays indoors pretty much all year round. Focus on quick-growing leaves like cress, rocket, pak choi, mustard, or mizuna or grow peas to eat as shoots in a salad or stir-fry.
- Grow dwarf varieties of veg like French beans and tomatoes. Chilli peppers are compact little plants that also do very well indoors.
- For an apartment balcony instead of a windowsill, work out which plants should go where based on which part of your balcony gets the most sunlight. Some plants need direct sunlight while others prefer partial shade. You can also use apartment balcony railings to trail climbing plants like runner beans.
- Since the topsoil in most urban back gardens is shallow and poor, raised beds are an ingenious cheat that allows you to create a foot or more of good quality topsoil above your existing soil.
- Raised beds can be any size and shape you want but they should never be more than one metre wide so you can reach into the centre from both sides (never stand on the soil). Fill raised beds with a mix of around 70 per cent topsoil and 30 per cent compost.
- With a raised bed, or even a black sack filled with soil, you can grow potatoes. Digging them up in early summer will feel like Christmas morning.
- Once you’ve gotten started, use the GIY Veg Directory for more tips and tricks throughout your growing journey.
For more tips and ideas about how to grow your own food, visit giy.ie.
Michael Kelly is the founder of GIY and is currently presenting the seven-part series GROW COOK EAT with Karen O’Donohoe RTÉ 1, on Wednesdays at 7.30pm.
READ MORE: Michael Kelly's kimchi recipe