Grow your own fresh healthy fruit & vegetables

By James Wickham of the Ardcarne Plantsplus Garden Centre Growing your own fruit and vegetables has never been more popular as people realise the taste difference and health benefits of fresh, home-grown produce. The flavour of anything home-grown is simply unbelievable compared to shop-bought produce. Tomatoes for instance, picked straight from the garden are almost bursting with flavour. New potatoes and young carrots are the same, and melt in the mouth with a bit of butter.  Everyone can grow some fruit and vegetables at home; it really is easy. Seeds of salad crops are very simple and quick to grow and you can get brilliant results even from growing them in a large container on the patio. Everyone should grow some Rocket, as it’s a delicious leafy salad that you can start picking just a few short weeks after sowing – and it tastes fantastic.  Home grown strawberries are a real treat in summer, picked and eaten while still warm from the sun. If you plant them now you’ll even have some delicious fruit this year. Fruit bushes such as blackcurrants and gooseberries will also produce fruit the first year and they get more prolific every year afterwards. If you want to grow something a bit different, what about a blueberry? These are really easy to grow in pots of lime-free compost and even one plant will provide plenty of fruit for sprinkling through a fruit salad or perhaps making blueberry muffins!  Growing a few of your own fruit trees has always s been a great tradition in Ireland and it’s a fabulous opportunity to have different tasting apples than those normally available in the shops. Here at Ardcarne Plantsplus Garden Centre you’ll find one of the best selections of fruit trees in the country, including many old Irish varieties of apple such as ‘Kerry Pippin’ and ‘Irish Peach’. You’ll also find a huge range of plums, pears and cherries, along with more unusual fruits such as quinces and mulberries.  If you’re planning to plant a few apple trees in your garden, remember that you’ll need to plant at least two different varieties so that they will cross pollinate and you’ll get more fruit as a result. With fruit trees such as plums, you can choose a self-fertile variety such as ‘Victoria’, so you only need the one tree.  In addition to fruit and vegetables fresh herbs are indispensable in the kitchen, so it’s lovely to have your own supply available at a moment’s notice. Many herbs, such as rosemary, lavender, thyme and sage are actually attractive plants that can be incorporated into an ornamental bed or border, or you could make a special herb bed. Herbs are very easy to grow, just remember that most of them like a sunny place and well drained soil. All of them can of course be grown in pots, which can be positioned just outside the kitchen! It’s one of the real joys of gardening to be able to go out and pick some fruit, vegetables or herbs from your own garden and bring them straight in for the dinner – satisfaction on a plate!  Visit the Ardcarne Plantsplus Garden Centre (Boyle Branch) on Saturday 12th April (12-4pm) for a special vegetable growing event with leading organic grower Klaus Laitenberger.