Frequently Asked Questions

There's lots you need to know when you start growing a garden. Here are some questions answered.


What is 'chitting' and why do I need to do this?
Chitting refers to the sprouting of seed potatoes, giving them a head start. It is most popular with early potatoes that are planted around St. Patrick's Day. Lay out the small seed potatoes on paper or in a cardboard box. Place them in an area with plenty of light (but not direct sunlight) and protect them from frost. Do this in February and you will have large buds ready to start growing as soon as you plant out in March.

Why do I need to 'earth up' potatoes?
Young potatoes tend to come close to the soil surface and will turn green if exposed to sunlight. They require lots of soil to grow into large potatoes, before being harvested. If you are sowing in a planter, take out one third of the compost and roll down the bag. Plant six inches into the compost and as the stems grow up, raise the plastic a little at a time and add in the compost that was removed earlier.

Royal Crown Turnips

How do I know when turnips are ready to eat?

It is best to harvest your turnips from a young, small stage as they will taste sweeter. When you can see the tops above the ground and they are 2-3 inches in diameter start to lift every second turnip, which will give room for the later turnips to grow bigger.

If turnips are sown indoors at an earlier stage, when can they be planted out?

The turnips will need to be hardened off first. This is where you place the pot or seed tray outside during the day so that the seedlings will get used to the colder conditions. After a week of this around the end of March and April, carefully transplant them. Otherwise, sow the seeds directly outside in rows in April.


When do I sow lettuce and how?

Little and often is the secret. Sow small amounts each time. Early in the year, sow 5-6 seeds in a pot and when they are big enough to handle, harden them off and transplant them out to your well prepared beds. You can sow the seed directly outdoors from May onwards in little rows, from where you will harvest it.

How do I protect young leaves from slugs?

Using sheets of old newspaper cut out a square (of about 6 inches in thickness). Cut into the middle of one side of the square towards the centre and place this up close to the young plants. This will act like a bib around the plant and it will also be easier to see the slugs, allowing you to pick them up and move them away!


Why are they called strawberries?

The answer is in the name. In the olden days, straw was placed around the plants to keep the fruit off the ground. This kept them clean and prevented mould from forming on the ripening fruit.

What type of soil to strawberries like?

Strawberries like nice free-draining soil and you can achieve this by digging on a nice fresh spring day. Dig in lots of compost and plant in rows, with the plants raised like in drills for potatoes. This will add to the drainage and make it easier to add your straw! You can also plant your strawberries very successfully in pots and containers but just be careful that they do not dry out.


What are carrots and how do I grow them?

The carrot is a root vegetable that is grown from seed. Carrots produce a long tap root, which is the part that you eat. It is important that your soil is well dug so that this root can grow downwards, without hitting large stones or compacted hard lumps. Sow the seed thinly in rows of freshly dug soil, with each seed being ~1 inch apart.

Why are carrots so nutritious?

Carrots contain carotene, which is transformed into high levels of vitamin A. Carrots are also rich in anti-oxidants and lots of different minerals and they can be eaten raw or cooked.

Have you any other questions or want to share advice with other classes? Then send us an email - and we will put it up here.