Meet Chris, our cool-as-a-cucumber Product Marketing and Business Development Manager here at The Happy Pear. Chris is a green-fingered genius and even has a 20 foot polytunnel in his garden! We thought we would ask the gardening guru himself to share his advice on growing your own fruit and vegetables at home. He had plenty to tell us – take it away Chris!…

Chris’ Growing Interest in Gardening

To be honest, I am not interested in gardening in general- if you can’t eat it, I won’t grow it. I got into growing my own vegetables about three years ago. I had started eating lots of vegetables and juicing and lost weight as a result. A friend told me that if I grew my own vegetables, they would be much tastier, so I went out and bought a massive polytunnel, which is now one of my favourite things in the world! One of the best things about growing my own produce is that my three-year-old son has become super-excited about veggies! He loves going out to the garden and picking blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes and even broccoli, which he recently declared was his favourite food! It was one of my proudest moments as a dad.

What Can We Do In Our Own Gardens?

There are lots of vegetables you can grow in Irish gardens at this time of year. At the moment (It’s currently April), I have tomatoes, mangetout, broccoli and cabbage growing in the polytunnel but they can all be grown outside too. I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months when I start sowing butternut squash, pumpkin, beetroot, courgette and cucumber!

Getting Started

  • Start small- you don’t need a 20 foot polytunnel to be growing veg! If you don’t have access to a garden, why not grow some herbs on your kitchen windowsill; rosemary, basil and chives are great to start with. If you do have a garden, pick a small spot that will get at least six hours of sunshine a day.
  • Prepare your soil- plants need a soil with good drainage, which will ensure that water does not collect on top or drain away too quickly. Enriching your soil with compost will help to provide your soil with nutrients.
  • Buy good-quality seeds- if seeds don’t germinate it is a waste of time and money. Spending a few extra cents now will pay off in the future.
  • Space out your crops- plants that are sown too close together compete for sunlight, nutrition and water and have a hard time growing properly, so be sure to give them some space.

Chris’ Favourite Veg

  • Purple sprouting broccoli is my favourite veg because it is a fast-growing crop that is also easy to grow. It is usually ready for harvest in summer and autumn, depending on what time of the year it is sown.
  • There is nothing better than freshly picked strawberries you have grown yourself. Strawberries are easy to grow and can be grown directly in the soil or in hanging baskets. Planting strawberries in mid-spring will mean they are ready for summer but make sure to protect them against frost.
  • I love growing raspberries and picking them straight off the bush in summer. Summer-fruiting raspberries are planted in April and while they will tolerate some shade, they are best grown in a sheltered, sunny position. Make sure to keep them well-watered during dry periods.

Chris’ Tips For Growing Vegetables

  • If you are a first-timer, don’t be afraid to ‘cheat’. You can buy baby plants in the garden centre and this can be a great way to start.
  • Sprouting seeds is easy enough to do but make sure not to overwater them; I have destroyed loads of shoots this way. Too little water is better, as the roots will have to work harder and grow stronger to find water.
  • Putting a fleece blanket around your plants at night can help to protect them during the colder nights and can also protect them against pesky garden pests such as slugs.

Gardening is great fun, my son loves helping out and getting mucky with me! Once you taste your own veg you will be hooked. There are so many varieties of fruit and veg you can grow, so why not give it a try! Be sure to send us some pics of your fruit and veg this summer!

Follow Chris’ gardening journey on Instagram: @chrisjpeare

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