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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 23 August, 2019
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From the Garden: Learn to make nettle tea - it has a rich and earthy taste and is a super tonic

Obviously, if you are harvesting nettles from the wild, wear gloves or you will get stung, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

MAY IS ANOTHER frenetic month in the veg patch, but with the weather like it is currently, who cares?

Along with my longer sessions in the veg patch at weekends (usually 2-3 hours on either Saturday or Sunday), there’s every incentive to get out there early morning and late evening during the week too.

I got 50 tomato plants transplanted into the big tunnel out in the field last weekend.  I think it’s the first time I’ve planted out tomatoes in April, which is a testament to the fine warm spring we’ve had (which resulted in the plants being ready to move out far earlier).

There are about 30 plants still left in the potting shed but they are a little small still for transplanting. It feels like the back is broken on the tomato planting job – and my own back is not in great nick after it either.  

I’ve been fretting somewhat about using mypex as ground cover in the big tunnel this year.

Regular readers might recall that last year I basically carpeted the tunnel in mypex – a weed suppressing membrane – to reduce the amount of time I’d have to spend weeding.

It worked a treat on that score but came with two problems when I lifted it off again after Christmas, admittedly I could have done so in November.

Firstly, the soil underneath really was in rag order after being covered for nearly 10 months. It’s rock solid in parts which made turning and prepping the soil that bit harder.

Secondly, we had a problem with little furry visitors over the winter, who opportunistically took up residence under the cover (where it is nice and warm) with a reliable food source of fallen tomatoes on the ground!

Head Grower at GROW HQ, Richard, advises that I should have taken up the mypex in October and planted a green manure or oriental salads to refresh the soil. I am thinking now that I might just avoid the mypex altogether, go back to my trusty hoe and accept there will be more weeding this year.

Speaking of which, I have been trying to keep on top of the weeds because it’s around now when growing conditions are perfect, that things can go a bit pear-shaped and weeds can take over.

Regular hoeing is the only man for this. I try and do a bed or two every few days so that the time spent weeding is short and easy, standing upright and hoeing gently.

The alternative? The heartache of a mass of well-established weeds that require hands-and-knees back-breaking effort.  

The place looks great in these bright, dry conditions – I just love this time of the year when vegetables like onions, peas and spuds are starting to establish themselves and appear out of the soil. It’s a time of year full of hope and great to be a GIYer!

The Basics – Sowing Guide for May

I think May is often the busiest of all months in the veg patch.  There’s just as much sowing to be done as there was in April, but on top of that, seeds sown in the last few months are now starting to demand more effort, such as hardening off and planting out.  

May is also a great catch up month when you can still sow veg you might have forgotten about in April like spuds and onions.

Growth has been good so far and here’s hoping we will have a mild May. Here’s the sowing plan for the month:

Outside direct in soil:

  • Parsnips and peas (early May) and carrots (in late May).

Inside in module trays or pots for later transplanting:

  • Squash, pumpkin, courgette, cucumber, leeks, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, French beans, runner beans, Florence fennel, beetroot, celery, swede.

Regular monthly sowing of:

  • Salad leaves, oriental greens, calabrese and annual spinach.

Recipe of the Week – Nettle Tonic

Spring nettles are abundant right now and they are at their best when young. They have all manner of health benefits: high in vitamins and minerals, blood-cleansing, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy.  

A tea made from nettles (really an infusion) is a super tonic, or you could try making nettle soup. Nettle tea has a rich and earthy taste that won’t appeal to everyone but you can sweeten with some honey or stevia leaf.

 Ingredients:

  •  A good bunch of fresh nettles, leaves and stems
  • Boiling water

Directions:

Obviously, if you are harvesting nettles from the wild, wear gloves or you will get stung!

Choose young shoots and cut them rather than pulling (the plant will re-grow).  

Rinse the nettles under a tap, and then place them in a saucepan.

Pour over boiling water and boil gently for 5 minutes or so.

Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.

© GIY Ireland 2019 – all rights reserved. 

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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