Grow Your Own – January

Michael Kelly, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford. Grow It Yourself.PIC: DOL

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GIY Ireland‘s Michael Kelly talks sowing, harvesting and new year’s resolutions in this month’s grow your own column

New Year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad wrap, because they seem to represent the folly and flightiness of the human spirit. We start off the year with grand intentions to eat only salads, walk/run/swim 100 miles a week, and to do Bikram yoga in a sauna until we weigh as much as a baby sparrow. But then by the end of January we’ve quietly abandoned our good intentions and reverted to guilty, bloated type.

This year, make a simple resolution that can transform your life. Grow food. And before you think that sounds like a resolution that might involve significant effort, life changes or all round hassle on your part, fear not! It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of food. We’re not talking 100% self-sufficiency or living off grid. It’s not scary or daunting. It DOES NOT involve growing a goatee.

Here are the “don’ts”: Don’t spend a load of money on expensive garden equipment, books or tools. Do not dig up your garden or sign up for an allotment. Do not learn Latin so you can read plant names. For now, we’re keeping it small-scale, achievable, practical. Unlike most of our resolutions, this one is about working with (rather than against) our limitations – our lack of time, our lack of space, lack of green fingers. Just grow food. Grow some salad leaves in a container. Stick a pea in some potting compost in a pot. Grow your own garlic. Or some herbs on your balcony. Start small. Pick three vegetables that you like to eat and learn how to grow those. How about setting yourself the target of producing an entirely home-grown meal? Just one little meal. That’s easy right?

Keep this in mind as you start. Research shows that by growing some of your own food (even if it’s only a little amount) your dietary habits may change. Because of the deeper understanding and connection with food that you will have as a result of your food growing experiment, you will be welcoming health and happiness in to your life, and saving some money in the process. You will be out and about in the fresh air, getting some exercise at the same time. You will have access to the most delicious, nutritious, seasonal food.

This is your year. 2015 is the year that anything can happen. This year, let your intention be to grow food! Happy New Year from all of us at GIY.


Join GIY

By joining GIY you help us to continue the work of supporting people just like you to grow food at home, at school, in the workplace and in the community – each year we support over 50,000 people and 800 community food growing groups and projects. It costs just €35 to join GIY for a year, and to say thanks we will send you a seasonal copy of our supporter’s magazine GROW and some GIY seeds for you to sow each quarter. We will also send you our weekly tips, news and advice ezine and offer you discounts to GIY events like the annual GIY Gathering. Join today at


Things to do this Month

To Do

Plan. This is the time to decide where and what you are going to grow this year. If you are just starting out join your local GIY group for advice and check out our website for handy “getting started” guides and videos. Consider building or buying raised vegetable beds. Order your seeds, onions sets and seed potatoes. Turn over the soil in February only if the weather is dry – if the soil sticks to your boots it’s too early for digging! “Chit” seed potatoes – put them in a container (e.g. used egg carton or empty seed tray) and leave them in a bright warm place to sprout.


In mid Feb, in seed trays and pots on a sunny windowsill indoors sow celery, globe artichokes, celeriac, leeks, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peas, aubergines, peppers/chilli-peppers. Weather permitting outside you can try sowing broadbeans, spinach, kohlrabi, onion and shallot sets, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnip and early pea varieties.


You may still have winter cabbage, perpetual spinach, chard, leeks, kale, cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts in your veggie patch and depending on how successful your growing/storage regime last year was, you may well still be tucking in to stores of potatoes, celeriac, carrots, parsnips, onions, cauliflower, jerusalem artichokes, winter squash, pumpkins, leeks and red cabbage.


Recipe of the Month – Mick’s ‘January Blues’ Minestrone Soup  


This is a completely made up recipe that I cobbled together using some vegetables that I brought in from the garden and some standard store cupboard ingredients. So, honestly, I don’t know if Minestrone is the right word for it – but it seems to fit. The added pasta makes it a substantial feed, and because it’s not blitzed in a blender after cooking, it’s chunky and delicious. You can play around with different vegetables if you don’t have what I added here. Serves 4.




2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped small
  • Half a butternut squash or small pumpkin, peeled and chopped small
  • 500ml good quality homemade chicken stock (or made from an organic stock cube)
  • 400ml tin chopped tomatoes (I used the same quantity of passata instead).
  • 4 tagliatelle ‘nests’, preferably organic (you could use any type of pasta really).
  • 1 bunch spinach leaves, stalks removed and chopped roughly


Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onions and garlic until softened. Add the leek, carrot and squash and toss well so they are coated in oil. Season well, then cover and cook on a low heat with the lid on the pot, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Then add the stock and tomato and cook with the lid off until the veg is soft (about 10 minutes) – don’t overcook, you don’t want the veg to go to mush. Stir in the spinach about 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Meanwhile cook the pasta as per instructions in a pot of boiling, salted water. When it’s cooked, drain and stir it in to the soup pot. Check the seasoning. Ladle in to warm bowls and serve with some crusty bread.


Tip of the Week – Show your tools some love
Blades on shears, forks, spades, hoes, secateurs and other tools will benefit from an annual overhaul with a sharpening stone (you can buy them in hardware stores). Prepare the blade with a drop of three-in-one oil. Push the tool forwards and to the side on the stone, exerting a little downward pressure. Then turn the tool over and, holding the blade almost flat against
stone, brush it across the surface to take off any rough edges. Only sharpen the outside blade on bypass secateurs and the upper surface of hoes. Wipe over the blade with an oily rag before storing.


Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

© GIY Ireland 2015 – all rights reserved.

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