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Grow-How

Regular expert advice from Fruit Hill Farm on organic growing.
  • Success with Seeds

    Back to basics with seeds!  Don't let past failures put you off - read our refresher course on seed sowing for growing success! Seeds Chose good quality seeds from a reputable supplier - preferably organic.  Store your seeds in a cool, dark, dry place for best results. Remember to read the instructions on the back of the packet regarding sowing dates. Keep an eye on the use by dates of your seeds - most will keep for several years but there are exceptions as the following list shows: Viability of common veg seeds - 1 year   -  onions, parsnips, parsley,
  • Planting Early Potatoes

    Earlies or new potatoes are quick off the mark and are ready 15 - 16 weeks after planting. If you have a polytunnel or greenhouse then you can plant them in December or January and have very early potatoes on the table in March and April - depending on the weather. Chitting potatoes Chitting is basically another word for sprouting.  By getting the potato to sprout you have started off the growing process so that the plants will have a head start when you put them in the soil.  In theory you will then get your potatoes a bit earlier. Shoots on a chitted potato
  • What is Basalt or Rock Dust?

      Basalt is an igneous rock created through the cooling and solidification of magma and lava. When ground down into a fine powder, it makes a very good soil improver. Igneous rocks like basalt and granite have the highest mineral content, with basalt providing a greater balance of nutrients for optimal plant health and vitality. Basalt, or rock dust, continues to deliver a steady flow of nutrients over time, even as it decomposes. Basalt’s slow-release benefits make it an effective way to minimize deficiencies, particularly with fast-growing crops that
  • Winter Pruning

    Winter is an ideal time to prune, as the lack of leaves on deciduous trees and shrubs enables you to see what you’re doing.  As the trees are dormant cuts are less likely to bleed and will quickly callous over before growth begins again in Spring. Reasons for Pruning Removing dead, diseased or damaged material will help keep the plant healthy Opening up trees by removing branches stops branches crowding together. This allows more air to circulate, which is important for reducing disease, and also allows a good level of light to reach the growing parts of the
  • Harvesting and Storing Maincrop Potatoes

    Potatoes are one of those staples that can keep us fed all year round. Maincrop potatoes are used for stashing away and eating through Winter and Spring when little else is available in the garden. These potatoes generally produce thicker skins and have longer dormancy periods which inhibits them from sprouting too soon. However, to keep your maincrop potatoes in good shape for a long storage it is also important to store them well. In-Situ Tubers, being underground plant organs, are most at home in the soil where conditions are dark, moist and cool (but not too cold).
  • Weeds and Weeding

    A weed is a plant in the wrong place or a plant that we have not yet found a use or liking for – but they are still plants and part of the overall biodiversity that exist in nature.  Not necessarily the bad guys but not your best friends either! Benefits of weeds Weeds encourage Biodiversity. They attract pollinators and are part of a healthy eco-system. There is no such thing as a weedy lawn – look at it as a wildflower meadow or insect heaven.  A ‘perfect’ green lawn is akin to a desert from nature’s point of view. Weeds attract pollinators. Many
  • Irrigation

    If you have a polytunnel you will know how long it takes to water your produce.  Why not install an irrigation system and free up all that time that you spend watering? Drip Irrigation Perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective way to water your crops is with a drip irrigation system where pipes are laid along the ground and water seeps out of spaced holes directly where your plants need the moisture.  For as little as approx. €85 you could irrigate an 8 mt tunnel.  You can also add to or change the layout of your system whenever you wish. Benefits of drip
  • Practical ways to help the Bees

      In Ireland, there are 98 different species of bee. There is the honeybee (a managed pollinator) 20 bumblebee species and 77 solitary bee species. In 2006 scientists published a Red List of Ireland’s Bees. It showed that one third of our 97 wild bees are threatened with extinction and ufortunately a third of all bee species in Ireland could be extinct by 2030. This problem can’t be solved simply by increasing the number of honeybee hives. Bumblebees make their nests on the surface of the ground or just underneath, often in long grass, bracken, or at the
  • What yield can I expect?

    It's seed sowing time - again - hooray! So time to get the pen and paper out and do some forward planning. Because time and growing space are usually limited it is important to plan not only a proper rotation but also to decide which vegetables are most popular in your family and how many plants will be needed.  Include a bit of surplus in that plan then you can conserve produce for the winter by making Kimchi or Sauerkraut, preserve vegetables and fruit in jars or burying root crops in sand or soil clamps. At Fruit Hill Farm all our vegetable seeds are open pollinated
  • Love your soil - learn about soil conditioners

    Is your soil good - or bad? Does it have a good diet, can it hold its drink?  Could it quite simply just be better – well behaved, good crops, good drainage and structure etc.  Most soils can be improved both in nutrient content and in structure by following good gardening practices.  Soil that is in good heart will be free-draining, easy to dig, have a crumbly texture and a healthy earthworm population. How to improve the condition of your soil Gathering leaves for leaf-mould Add organic matter as a soil conditioner. Compost and strawy animal manures provide

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