GIY Weekly Column December 15th 2018

This week I noticed that some of my bumper squash and pumpkin harvest, which I have been storing in the potting shed, were starting to get a little soft. I grew around 70 of them this year, in a more or less derelict piece of ground beside the big tunnel.

 It was a pretty amazing return and very low maintenance, thanks to a €100 investment in a giant roll of mypex which kept the weeds down.  Thanks to our incredibly boggy land (generally speaking that’s a negative), the plants were quite happy through a 7 week summer drought, and I only had to water them once or twice.  Thank God for that – watering around 50 plants took me about an hour..  I grew a lovely mix of squash and pumpkin – the beautiful and sweet, blue-skinned Crown Prince, the giant red Rouge Vif dTampes, the slender yellow Delicata and the efficient Uchiki Kuri.  The fruits have been happy in the potting shed up to now, but I think the constant change in temperatures in there (cold by night and warm by day if it’s sunny) could take their toll if I left them there any longer.  Time to take action.

So we kept about 20 of them for ourselves and moved them in to the house, where the more constant temperatures (on top of the dresser in the kitchen), should last until February or so.  Any of the ones that were going soft already will be used up first.  The rest went in to GROW HQ, where Head Chef JB can store them in the cold room.  From there they will grace many a lunch menu and probably feature in jars of chutney and the like.  The smaller Delicata ones will be sold in the shop.  Not one will be wasted.

Anyway, the potting shed is now completely empty for the first time this year.  I got my potting shed as a birthday present from Mrs Kelly back in 2011 and it’s been a trusty companion in the 7 years since.  My brother-in-law Stephen (who has handiness embedded in his genes) built it for me on the end of the garage – it’s timber frame with Perspex sheeting for windows and (slanted) roof and about 5m x 2m in size.  On the wall side, there’s a waist-height potting station made of plywood where I do all my potting and lots of little shelves and cubby holes for storage.  I even DIYed a little rack on the wall for my secateurs and trowels etc - it’s nerd heaven basically, the kind of thing your Dad used to do. 

On the window side, there’s a slightly lower shelf where I put the rows of seed trays to soak up the sun.  I also invested in a heating mat which came in very handy early and late in the year, when seeds benefit from a little heat from beneath to get them going.  Though it alarms me how sad this makes me sound, I must say that some of the happiest times of this (and every) year were spent in the potting shed.  It’s a place of hope, growth, solace and retreat and I can’t wait to get potting again in 2019.

The Basics – Planning 2019

If you are planning to GIY for the first time in 2019, and wondering what to grow, the key is to start small and stick to things that you like to eat (there’s no point in growing cauliflower if you hate to eat cauliflower!). Here are two tips to make sure you stick to this advice in 2019:

  • Pick 5 vegetables you like to eat, and grow them. It could be tomatoes, peas, carrots, broccoli and sweetcorn. Go out and buy the five packs of seeds, then do a little research in how to grow them (when to sow them, what type of soil they like etc - most of the information you need is on the back of the seed packet).
  • Pick 1 vegetable you know nothing about and grow that too as an experiment. It could be Florence fennel or swiss chard or anything else. The point is that you don’t really care whether it grows or not, or whether you like the taste of it – it’s an experiment!