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Planting is only the start of the Journey

22 May 2020
Type Media Article

Andy Ryder, Drystock Advisor, Teagasc Westport

Since the outbreak of Covid 19 this Spring, there has been renewed interest in growing vegetables. It was very difficult to get any type of vegetable seed this Spring, from potato seed to cabbage plants.

Our horticultural industry has changed from a time when every farm/household grew some, if not all, of their vegetable requirements. Now, most of the vegetables that are consumed in this country are either grown by a handful of farmers or imported. If we take the scallion crop, there is only one commercial farmer growing this crop in Ireland. In the past, every house had fresh scallions growing in their back yard. This trend is similar for most crops.

If we lose our commercial vegetable growers in this country, we will lose more than just jobs, we will lose the experience of growing quality vegetables built up over generations. We will lose freshness of product. Imported vegetables are harvested several days before we consume them, therefore freshness and quality are reduced. We will have less control on traceability, sustainability and have a bigger carbon footprint as a result of the extra transportation. We will also have no control over price or supply during times when there is scarcity.

As consumers, we must strive to purchase home grown vegetables instead of imports. If available, purchase locally from markets and farm shops, where you will get a consistent supply that is fresh, in season and helping the local economy.

Getting back to growing this year’s vegetable crop. Now is when things get exciting. Let’s look at a few commonly grown crops:


Ensure the plot is stockproof. Animals breaking in at the wrong time could destroy the crop. Check if enough nutrients have been applied to the crop as there is still time to apply these nutrients.

Weeds are the next issue that will make or break having a good crop of potatoes.  This is where a lot of crops are lost as the weeds out compete the crop. Timely management of weeds ensures a more productive outcome. The use of a selective herbicide suitable for potatoes, mechanical weeding or hand rouging will be required until the crop has grown sufficiently to smother the weeds.


Depending on the year, blight can be devastating to the crop, as it destroys the foliage and the crop fails. Met Eireann issues blight warnings during the Summer and this allows time to apply a suitable fungicide to control the blight.

Harvesting of the crop will depend on the variety sown and when the crop was sown. This can be as early as June to well into September.

Other crops that grow well are onions, beetroot, lettuce and brassicas such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. All can be grown from seed, need very little room and have a wide window of planting time so several crops can be sown. This results in a fresh supply of vegetables all Summer. Control of weeds and protection from pests will contribute greatly to the production of delicious fresh vegetables.

You will not get everything right this year, don’t let this put you off growing vegetables as there are so many positives gained from growing your own vegetables:

  • Getting out in the fresh air.
  • Fresh vegetables available at your doorstep.
  • Knowing where your food is coming from.
  • Spending quality time with family.
  • Opportunity of passing the knowledge and experience to the next generation. If this knowledge is lost, it will be very difficult to regain.

Best of luck in the coming months.