Vegetable Growing Planner & Tips for the Beginner Gardener
Some vegetables tend to be easier to grow than others for first time green thumbs- this is usually because of the plant’s sensitivity to the climate, soil and other various factors. By having happier and healthier vegetable plants, this will assist in yielding more produce and giving you more satisfaction from your new hobby. Consequently, maybe you’ll become an avid green thumb like us! That’s why we’ve made a list of great vegetables that are easy to grow in your first vegetable patch. If you need some extra advice about how to get started no matter which season you’re planning to start your veggie patch, find out more at Gardening Tips for Every Season.
Vegetables to Plant in Winter & Autumn (September-February)
Growing vegetables in autumn and winter can prove to be difficult at times for someone starting up their first veggie garden, but it isn’t impossible! If you live in a colder area of Ireland, consider investing in a greenhouse or a frost cloth to protect your harvest from harsh weather, particularly in the night. Alternatively, you can grow some produce such as radishes, peas and leafy greens on your windowsill inside your house over the winter. Some plants prefer to be transplanted after they have grown into seedlings (a very small, young plant which is just starting to develop from a seed). After they’ve sprouted into seedlings, they can then be transplanted outside- at this stage they will be more resilient in undesirable weather conditions.
If you don’t plan on planting any vegetables in your garden over the colder months, this is the perfect time to revitalize your soil for the next season ahead. As a result, your next harvest over summer and spring are bound to be stronger and happier plants, which leads to a higher yield of produce, as well as stronger plants (meaning they’ll be more resilient in unexpected bad weather).
Parsnips are the perfect addition to your winter roast vegetables, and you can guarantee they’ll taste better than any parsnip from the supermarket! Parsnips are the perfect vegetable for a first-time gardener to grow over the harsher months, as they are relatively easy to grow for a root vegetable, regardless of the quality and type of soil you have in your garden, even through harsher winters.
Although this delicious root vegetable is in our winter vegetables category, aim to sow your parsnip seeds into the ground between April and May (i.e. spring). They take at least four months to grow, but you can keep them in the ground to harvest until March the following year if you choose (totalling around 11 months).
Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow over winter- when they’re first germinating, they need around six weeks of weather below 10 degrees Celsius to form the bulb. Although they prefer the cold when first growing, garlic prefers to be situated in a sunny area, so make sure you plant this pantry staple in an exposed area to expose them as much as possible.
If you’d prefer to leave your garden space for something else (or to add compost around this time), garlic grows very well in outdoor pots too. Plan to have your garlic in the ground for at least nine months, or when the leaves begin to look a yellow or brown colour.
Kale is known to many these days as a superfood due to its high level of antioxidants and nutritional properties, but many may not know how easy to grow. In fact, it’s so easy to grow that many dairy farmers grow large crops of kale to feed to their livestock over the winter months, due to how durable it is in frosts and its ability to germinate in temperatures down to five degrees Celsius.
Aim to plant your kale between June and July, you can harvest your kale crop any time between October and February. If you prefer to cut a few leaves off fresh when you plan to eat them, your kale crop will continue to grow produce which is why this is such a great vegetable to grow over the winter months. You can roast your kale with oil and seasoning to make crispy and delicious chips, put it in smoothies or even a savoury muffin- there are plenty of ways to make kale delicious!
Growing turnips in Ireland (or anywhere in the world) can be incredibly easy. This is because the crop matures incredibly fast- it can take as little time as five to eight weeks to have your turnips from being planted to on your plate. What’s even better, is they taste better if you grow them for a shorter period of time. By the time they’re roughly the size of a golf ball, they’ll be their most tender and full of flavour.
Sow your turnips into the ground anywhere in between the beginning of April and the end of July. You can choose to harvest your crop anywhere between June and the end of October, regarding that they’ve reached at least the size of a golf ball roughly. The longer you keep them in the ground, the more they will grow and consequently lose their tender texture and sweeter flavour.
Peas are great to grow because you rarely find fresh peas in the supermarket- they’re usually found in the frozen food aisle instead. Although peas are another vegetable that doesn’t go into the ground in winter or autumn, you can enjoy your fresh peas until around October. Plant to plant these healthy treats into your soil anywhere between the beginning of May and the end of July.
Peas are great for beginners because they tend to tolerate most soils, but if you want your peas extra sweet and tasty, make sure you have plenty of organic material in your soil. Try to plant your crop in a medium depth soil, and away from the wind to prevent damage to the plant.
Cabbage is perfect for the first-time gardener in Ireland to grow over the winter period because of how suited it is to Ireland’s climate. They are considered as a heavy feeding plant, meaning that your veggie patch must have plenty of nutrients in it already from compost and well-rotted manure from the previous season. Aim to plant your cabbages between September and October- you’ll be able to see your harvest out of the soil around May to June the following year.
You must be wondering whether there’s a down-side to growing cabbage in your garden? Because they are reasonably large surface plants, they take up more space in your garden in comparison to many other traditional vegetables to grow- they need at least 45cm around each plant. They also take longer to grow than many, which you may also find to be a disadvantage. The plus-side is over the winter you probably won’t have as many vegetables in your garden because the colder weather is less preferable for growing many plants.
Vegetables to plant in Summer & Spring Vegetables (March-August)
If you’re just getting started with growing your own vegetables, the warmer and sunnier months within spring and summer tend to be more fruitful (pun intended!). By starting your vegetable growing endeavours in spring, this gives you plenty of time over the next few months to grow an abundance of vegetables outside of the harsher, more dormant months. The result? Faster growth, meaning you see your own grown produce on your plate without waiting a few months to reap the rewards.
Beetroot is a delicious addition to a summery salad- it’s sweet, savoury and tangy all at once, yet still has an abundance of health benefits. What’s even better about them is how easy they are to grow because of how resilient they are, which makes them perfect for first-time gardeners. It’s also hard to source fresh at supermarkets at times, meaning that when you do find them, they tend to be pricey.
Plant your beetroot from a seed or seedling between April and June to allow your beets to take advantage of the sunnier months ahead. Plan to harvest your any time between July and November depending on the size you’d prefer the beetroot to be, when you planted them and how well they’ve grown.
Tip: Beetroot is tolerant of most conditions, but if you want the best possible environment for your beets, make sure you don’t manure your patch right before you plant, as they prefer a neutral or slightly alkaline bed (your soil should look medium to light in colour).
Spring onions are perfect for your first crop to plant if your garden patch is in a position where it gets lots of sun and drains well. Begin planting your crops between March and July. They’ll generally take around 2 months until they’re ready for harvest. For first timers, the easiest way to succeed is to plant the seeds into trays kept indoors until they’re sprouting. Alternatively, you can sow into the soil straight away, but this requires more preparation and raking of the soil, as well as more looking after when smaller.
Spring onions thrive in open, sunny areas and soil which is well-drained and full of nitrogen (meaning you should use compost in the area you plan to plant in). This delicious vegetable doesn’t keep fresh as well as a regular onion yet grows fast. If you’re only feeding yourself and not a family, it might be best to plant these incrementally to avoid excess.
Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow and it’s incredibly satisfying to pick fresh lettuce straight from the garden for your meal- it’s far fresher than anything you’ll find at your local grocer or vegetable shop! Loose-leaf types of lettuce (such as our crunchy blend) are ideal if you want to pick a few off for your meal at a time and still allow the lettuce to continue to grow. They’re one of the fastest vegetables you can grow but exact growing times depend on what variation you choose. Lettuce grows the best in moisture-rich soil but generally is fine with most soils. Lettuce generally tends to grow the best between April and August, but some varieties can be grown for most of the year if you’re willing to look after them through the colder months.
Cucumbers can be incredibly easy to yield large volumes from a single plant for the beginner gardener. If you choose a variety that is less sensitive to Ireland’s cold weather at times over the spring and summer months, growing cucumbers in Ireland can be highly successful. If you’re starting from seed, first plant these into small pots to keep indoors or in a greenhouse until the soil warms up. Alternatively, purchase seedlings from your local gardening shop and plant straight into the soil when weather permits. Generally, aim to sow your seed into a small pot between March and April, and plant your seedling in the ground around May (regarding that the weather is warm enough).
These plants don’t like the cold and need plenty of water, so if your garden is in some shade it’s better to plant them in pots (but make sure you get a bush variety; not a vine variety). They also love well-watered soil that drains well- cucumbers are one of the more complex vegetables on this list, but it can produce up to 40 cucumbers.
Carrots can be incredibly easy to grow if you have the right soil for them to thrive in. They are a great option for kid’s lunches due to being high in vitamin A (which supports growth, development and the immune system) and can be stored up to 3 months in the right conditions. If you have deep, well-drained soil, then small, sweet carrots are relatively easy to grow. They also prefer lighter soil that is sandy and has not recently been manured. However, if you’re wanting to grow bigger carrots, this can be more difficult. If you have rocky soil, your carrots may not become overly large, but smaller carrots tend to be sweeter and more delicious! These root vegetables can tolerate a small amount of shade but generally prefer more sun.
Aim to sow your crop of carrots into your ground around the end of May for the ideal growing climate and to avoid the first generation of root flies. Another way to avoid carrot root fly out with specific netting for this found at your local gardening shop. Harvest your crop all at once between the months of July and October.
Now that you have an idea of what you should grow depending on which season it is in Ireland, you’re ready to plant your first veggie patch!
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