Pretty and functional, a hanging basket can be the perfect home for strawberries, herbs and edible flowers
Growing your own food may seem daunting, but there are lots of easy to grow herbs and plants that don’t need too much expertise to plant sucessfully. Here, gardening expert and horticulturalist Paraic Horkan shares tips for getting started with some small plant projects the whole family can enjoy.
Little gardeners are better eaters
Encouraging children to get involved in the process of growing some of their five a day encourages them to taste and enjoy summer fruits, edible flowers and vegetables. Growing edibles including salads, herbs and vegetables has never been easier. Gone are the days of growing ridges of potatoes and vegetables in allotments or vegetable gardens. Today families can grow a wide range of freshly grown vegetables and fruits simply on their patio.
Tools to get started
The first thing you will need is a simple patio container, this could be a window box, patio planter or vegebag. Next you will need a good quality sustainable compost such as Bord na Móna Growise Go Greener Multipurpose Compost. Then the final ingredient are vegetable plants, seeds and some edible flowers. Simply fill the container using the sustainable compost, firm down the compost within the container until filled. After this, plant a selection of herbs from salad leaves to edible flowers and quick maturing veggies including rainbow beetroot, breakfast radish, short carrots rondo and spinach.
Best location to grow edibles
Place you planted container in a bright sheltered location. A balcony or sunny patio is ideal. Water weekly and feed with an organic liquid fertiliser every fortnight.
Cut and use the foliage on your herbs and salad leaves on a weekly basis. This encourages new growth that you can continually cut throughout the summer. The more you cut the more it grows.
The best edible flowers
Many flowers are edible and can be used to add colour and dress salads, drinks or to simply pick and eat. Edible flowers include the following:
- Violas — Lovely to freeze in ice cubes to add colour and interest to your drinks.
- Chives — purple blooms to add to salads or add to sandwiches to add spice and colour.
- Borage — gentian blue flowers that can be added to summer drinks and ice cubes.
- Nasturtiums — nasturtiums are easy to grow and the leaves, flower buds and open flowers can be added to bowls of salad leaves. The open blooms of nasturtiums can also be stuffed with fillings to add a lovely fleshly texture when eaten. They can also be added to drinks for colour.
- Begonia — the buds and flowers of begonia flowers offer a fleshly texture to a wide range of dishes.
- Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) — is also sometimes known as licorice mint. Both the young leaves and the striking purple flowers have a mild licorice flavour.
- Basil flowers — Basil produces beautiful flowers – they can be white to lavender, but they look stunning when sprinkled over pasta dishes or used in green salads.
Growing edibles in raised beds on your patio
For larger families one of the best ways to grow a wider variety of edible plants including strawberries, herbs, root and foliage vegetables, salad leaves and fruiting plants is to create a growing table. Raised beds including the vegepod enables you to grow a wide range of edible plants 12 months of the year in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
Vegepods recycle rainwater and nutrition to your developing plants and the enviromesh canopy increases plant growth by up to 50% and protects against garden pests in an organic way. The vegepod can simply be placed on your balcony or patio in a sunny location and allows you to garden all year round without the need for digging or bending.
Edible hanging baskets
Hanging baskets of flowers instantly add a summery feel to your home. But with some clever planting, you can make this a really practical addition to your outdoor space, with herbs and edible flowers that you can sprinkle on your summer salads.
This idea is brilliant for those who want to try their hand at growing their own food without having to dig up their garde or those with little space, and is a lovely project for kids to keep an eye on over the summer months. They may need a grown up to help with the watering though!
Discover more growing projects and kid-friendly recipes in the May | June issue of Irish Country Magazine, in shops and available for digital download now.