Short of space in the garden? Then this is the technique for you. All you need is a single raised bed to enjoy a wide variety of fruit and veg all year round. Here's how:

Build your raised bed: a raised bed: 1.2m x 1.2m gives you 16 squares – and with one type of veg in each, that's quite a range of home-grown produce to pick. Ready-made raised beds, available from your favourite garden centre, click together in moments for instant results.

Find the right spot: choose your sunniest corner for your square-foot veg garden. Place it on bare soil, or turf: you can even put your raised bed on concrete, though drill drainage holes to let excess water run off.

Fill your bed with compost: a 50:50 mix of multipurpose compost and a soil-based mix like John Innes no. 3 is ideal for growing veg: you'll find both in your favourite garden centre. Fill the bed level with the top and then firm down gently.

Mark out the squares: you can do this with string attached to nails in the sides of your raised bed, or by tying together a grid of canes. Either way, your squares should measure 30cm x 30cm each.

Plant your veg: sow one type of veg into each square, at slightly closer spacings. One square foot holds four 'Cos' type lettuces; a tomato plant; 16 leeks; four dwarf French beans or 16 carrots. Taller plants grow better at the back; smaller ones get more light at the front.

Keep the harvest coming: as soon as you harvest from one of your squares, replace the crop with fresh plug plants bought ready-grown from your favourite garden centre, or raised from seed. You should be picking a dazzling array of veg from your square-foot garden from early summer through till spring.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about a square foot vegetable garden.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Most vegetables are raised from seed, making them fantastic value – for the price of a single lettuce bought in the shops, you can buy a packet of seed to grow 1000. That's reason enough to grow your own: but you'll find sowing seed is also hugely satisfying as the first tiny sprouts appear, with their promise of bumper crops to come.

Growing from seed is straightforward but there are a few things to remember as you crack open that first packet and get sowing. Here are our top tips for seed-sowing success:

  • Use good-quality seed compost: you'll find sterilised (so disease-free) and finely-textured John Innes formula seed composts in our garden centre.
  • Prepare seedbeds well if you're sowing direct outside: remove weeds and large stones and rake soil thoroughly so it's the texture of breadcrumbs.
  • Don't sow too thickly: overcrowded seedlings are more prone to fungal disease and struggle to compete for water and nutrients, so space seed well apart.
  • Sow at the right depth: as a rule, bury seeds to twice their diameter – for small seeds, that's a light sprinkling of compost.
  • Follow the instructions on the seed packet: they're mines of information, with handy tips and guidance on spacing, sowing depth and germination temperatures.
  • Cover pots and trays after sowing so the seeds never dry out: clear polythene secured with an elastic band or a clear propagator cover does nicely.
  • Water drills before sowing: if the weather is dry, really drench the drill before you sow, so seeds are sitting on damp soil from the start.
  • Wait till it's warm enough as seeds have specific temperature ranges within which they germinate. Most need at least 10°C though carrots and lettuce come up a little cooler, at 7°C
  • Use tap water for seedlings under cover, as saved rainwater often carries water-borne fungal diseases. 

Please ask the staff in our garden centre i Mullingar for more information and advice about tips for sowing vegetables.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


When you're just starting out, full of enthusiasm and keen to get going, it can seem an age to wait before you pick the first fruits of all your hard work. And it's true that some crops, like purple-sprouting broccoli or parsnips, can take all year to mature to harvesting stage – mind you, it's well worth the wait.

Luckily there are loads of fantastic quick-crop vegetables to grow and eat while the slowcoaches are getting going, so sow these and you'll have plenty to harvest in the meantime. This is fast food with flavour, freshly-harvested produce which arrives on your table within as little as a fortnight after sowing.

  • Beetroot: young beetroot leaves have beautiful colouring and a richly earthy flavour just like the roots. Pick them from about four weeks after sowing, then after eight weeks pull the tender baby roots at golfball size. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Kestrel', 'Red Hawk'
  • Radish: The quickest results on the plot, with seedlings showing in days and perfect, spherical roots in three weeks. Pick young and re-sow half a row every few weeks for a constant supply. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Cherry Belle', 'French Breakfast'.
  • Rocket: The name gives it away – scatter seeds and you'll have peppery baby leaves for your plate within a fortnight. Sow when it's cool or it'll bolt (mind you, the flowers taste lovely, too). Fastest-growing varieties: 'Sky Rocket', 'Voyager'.
  • Spinach: Treat spinach as baby leaves for salads and you can harvest them within around three weeks from sowing. They last ages – you can expect to pick over each plant five or six times. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Galaxy', 'Nagano'.
  • Turnips: The best-kept secret on the veg patch, turnips give you a double harvest. Pick leafy green tops from three weeks after sowing, or pull the delicately-flavoured roots at golfball size at just five weeks old. Fastest-growing varieties: 'Tokyo Cross', 'Snowball'.

​Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about speedy veg.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Big pots of leafy, flavoursome and generous annual herbs sat just outside the back door where you can reach out and pick them for your cooking are one of the delights of the kitchen garden. When you grow your own, you can have as big a bunch of parsley as you want: and even better, you can try more unusual herbs like caraway, summer savory, dill and chervil.

Here's how to make sure you have pots and pots of flavour from one end of the year to the next:

  • Sow little and often so you've always got a new tray of seedlings ready in the wings to take over once the previous crop finishes. Plant half a row, or a new container once a month from March to September for year-round flavour.
  • Keep parsley in the shade, as if you let it get too hot and dry it'll quickly flower and run to seed. Pretty aniseed-flavoured chervil, looking a little like cowparsley, is another plant that likes cool, shady conditions.
  • Pick leaves frequently as it encourages fresh growth. Basil, parsley, and coriander all flower if left to grow unchecked, which turns the leaves bitter. Keep the sweet, fragrant young foliage coming by nipping out the tips for cooking every few days.
  • Sow coriander where it's to grow as it hates being transplanted. If you haven't got a spot in the garden, just sow the large, round seeds directly into a trough or generous container to grow into a fountain of lush, spicily scented greenery for flavouring Asian cookery and salads.
  • Make a late sowing to bring indoors in around September, and you'll have fresh herbs to pick from the kitchen windowsill all through winter. Parsley and basil are perfect for this: pick them sparingly and they should keep going till spring.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about sowing and growing annual herbs.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


One of the real skills of good vegetable growing is the ability to time the cycle of sowing, growing and harvesting so you always have a steady stream of goodies to pick fresh from your garden in Mullingar.

It takes good planning and a few canny tricks to make sure you always have just the right amount to pick, ready when you want it, every month of the year. Here are our top tips to help you keep the crops coming.

  • Sow often: sow everything at once and you'll have loads to pick in a few weeks' time – but once you've finished, your veg-growing year is over.
  • You can sow seed successfully from March until July, so make the most of it and stagger your sowings, putting in a new batch every three to four weeks right across the season. That way you always have some crops ready to pick, some growing on and some just sown, and you'll extend your harvest right into autumn.
  • Don't sow too much: sow a whole row of lettuces, and they'll all be ready at the same time – and that's a lot of lettuce. Plant six lettuces every three weeks, though, and you'll have two lettuces to eat every week for as long as you want them, as your next crop is ready just as you finish eating the first.
  • And there's no rule that says you have to sow a whole row, either: half a row of carrots, beetroot or salad leaves, sown direct every three or four weeks, gives you a much more manageable quantity.
  • Sow different varieties: many vegetables come in early, mid-season and late varieties, meaning they mature at different rates. That's a gift for you when you're trying to spread your harvest over a long time. Early carrots like 'Nantes 2', for example, crop in about eight weeks. Plant one row of these plus one row of a maincrop variety like 'Autumn King' – ready in 10 weeks – and you'll be picking carrots for an extra fortnight. The same technique works for potatoes, beetroot, potatoes, calabrese and sprouts.
  • Grow long-cropping vegetables: choose your veg types carefully, making the most of veg which give you pickings over a long period.
  • Cut-and-come-again lettuces, like 'Salad Bowl', are invaluable: you pick them leaf by leaf and they just keep giving for months on end. Calabrese, too, is a great long-cropping vegetable: once you've cut the main central head, the stem keeps producing smaller sideshoots giving you a second and third harvest.
  • Use your spare spots: when a spot comes free in the garden, plant it up right away. Plug plants are ideal for this: either grow your own or buy them ready-to-plant from your favourite garden centre.
  • You can make the most of the space underneath larger, slower-growing plants like big, hefty Brussels sprouts, too. Sow a row of baby-leaf salads between your newly-planted sprouts plants and you can pick and eat them long before the Brussels get big, doubling the harvest from the same space.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about keep the crops coming.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Filling your house with the colour and fragrance of fresh flowers cut from the garden is one of the great pleasures of gardening. The trouble is, though, if you take all the flowers from the garden, there's nothing left to look at outside.

The answer is to create yourself a cutting garden – an area of your garden dedicated to raising flowers to enjoy indoors. The whole purpose of such a garden is to be harvested regularly, rather like a vegetable garden, so you don't mind if it's sometimes got a few bare patches.

You'll find all you need to create your cutting garden in our garden centre in Mullingar. Here's how to go about it:

  1. Find the right spot: you'll need somewhere in full sun, as your plants will only flower to their full potential with plenty of light. Planting densely also demands a lot from your soil, so choose the best-quality patch you've got.
  2. Get ready: before you start, dig over the area, removing weeds and large stones, and work in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure. Then put in hedging and edging: you'll find plants for low hedging in our garden centre, and materials to lay a smart path.

  3. Choose your plants: select 'hardy annual' seeds from the range in our garden centre. Great choices are white, frothy Ammi majus, Cosmos bipinnatus with lovely daisy-like flowers and of course sweetpeas to train up a wigwam in the centre.
  4. Start sowing: Sow your flowers from March onwards just like vegetables, in straight lines to make picking them easier. Make shallow drills and sprinkle the seed sparingly along the bottom. Cover with a little soil, label and leave.

  5. Keep the display going: sow little and often so you've got some plants to pick, some coming up to flowering and some just sown. Support taller varieties like larkspur by sticking canes in each corner of the row and threading round string at intervals up the height of the plants.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about planting an annual cutting garden.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins



Cuttings fall into three main groups, but whichever method you use it is essential that cuttings are taken from healthy plants:

  •  hardwood
  •  softwood
  •  semi-ripe


  • Taking hardwood cuttings is one of the easiest ways to produce new plants of Salix (willow),
  • Deutzia and many other woody shrubs, and only needs secateurs.
  • From autumn to early spring, select shoots produced the pre-vious spring and summer. Only select strong growth and remove near its base or point of origin.
  • These shoots – about the thick-ness of a pencil and 23–25cm long – should be cut square below a bud to form a base, at an angle of 35 degrees.


  • Treat the bottom 3cm of each cutting with rooting hormone.
  • Insert the prepared cuttings into a 12–15cm trench made in well dug garden soil with a 5cm layer of sharp sand for drainage.
  • Alternatively plant three or four cuttings in a pot of multi-purpose or cutting compost and place in a cold frame or sheltered part of the garden. The following autumn the rooted cuttings can be carefully planted out in their final growing positions. 


  • These are taken in early to late spring to grow many semi-ten-der plants such as pelargoniums and fuchsias, herbaceous plants and some alpines. Young growth on shrubs such as Rosmarinus (rosemary), Artemisia (worm-wood) and Lavandula (lavender) may also respond well.
  • In spring, remove shoots from the parent plant once they are firm enough to handle and not too soft to lose their rigidity.
  • Using a sharp knife or secateurs, prepare the cutting by making a cut at an angle of 35 degrees at the base of the chosen shoot.
  • Cuttings should be 5–10cm long according to plant variety. If the leaves are alternate on the shoot, make the upper cut four leaf joints above the first cut.
  • If the leaves are opposite, make the cut above the second pair of leaves. In both cases make cuts from the buds in the leaf joint.
  • Gently remove the lower leaves. If the remaining leaves are more than 3cm long, halve them with a knife, to cut down moisture loss during the pre-rooting period.


  • Dip the bottom 3cm of the pre-pared cutting into water. Shake off the surplus then roll the bottom 2.5cm in rooting hormone.
  • Insert cuttings into seed trays or pots containing sharp sand.
  • Place the tray or pot into a propagator – preferably one with a heating control.
  • Close all vents and shade the cover with a newspaper. After 7–10 days, open the vents and remove the shading.
  • Once the cuttings make new shoots at the leaf joints, this is a good indication that rooting has taken place. Remove the tray or pot from the propagator.
  • When new growth on the rooted cuttings reaches more than 3cm long, pot them into individual pots of general potting compost.
  • In four to six weeks they should be large enough to plant in their final growing positions, provided all risk of frost has passed. 


  • Semi-ripe cuttings of many shrubs and climbers can be taken in late spring to midsummer. Success is not guaranteed but it’s worth a try.
  • The method or preparation is the same as for softwood cuttings, but use shoots from the current season’s growth that have begun to firm.
  • The use of a propagator is more important and the availability of controllable heat will enhance the success rate. Rooting is slower than softwood cuttings but once new growth has reached 3cm the cuttings can be potted on into individual pots.
  • Grow young plants on in a frost free light-protected environment such as a greenhouse or garden frame with no additional heat. Plant out in the garden or into larger pots the following spring or autumn. 
January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Sometimes in veg-growing, as in life, the golden oldies are the best.

Older 'heritage' veg varieties aren't often found in the shops, as they aren't uniformly shaped, sometimes don't store or travel well, and are difficult to harvest mechanically. That means the only way to enjoy their sumptuous flavours, colours and textures is if you grow your own.

Here are five of the best old-style veg to look out for in your favourite garden centre in Mullingar  and try in your own garden: we promise you won't be disappointed.

  • Runner bean 'Painted Lady' has been grown since at least the 1850s. It's prized for its bicoloured red and white blooms, pretty enough to be grown in the ornamental garden. The flowers are followed by a heavy crop of delicious long, flattened green beans.
  • Broad bean 'Crimson Flowered' was rescued from extinction in 1978 thanks to an elderly gardener from Kent. The rest is history: its gorgeous deep red flowers are now seen, and admired, in gardens all over the country.
  • Kale 'Cavolo Nero', also known as Black Tuscan kale, came to our shores in 1860 on board Thomas Cook's ship. It was originally grown as an ornamental for its extraordinarily long, puckered black foliage, but we know different: pick the full-flavoured leaves young and cook like cabbage.
  • Tomato 'Marmande' is a sumptuously flavoured beefsteak variety from France, making huge fist-sized fruits. They're lumpy and bumpy, and prone to splitting - but it's worth it for one taste of that superb, rich flavour, the perfect balance of sweet and sharp.
  • Squash 'Turks Turban' was brought to the UK from America in 1869 and gets its name from its extraordinary shape – a doughnut-like lower layer with a 'hat' on top. It's orange, but striped cream and green: like nothing you've ever grown before (it has a great flavour, too!)

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about a taste of history.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


When you're starting out with your new veg garden and trying to decide what to grow first, the sheer variety of vegetables that opens up to you when you grow your own can be bewildering. You'll find so many different types in our garden centre in Mullingar, from artichokes to zucchini, not to mention the mouthwatering selection of varieties of each, that it's hard to know where to begin.

But there are some veg you shouldn't be without: the tried-and- tested, easy-to-grow kitchen essentials. Plant these first, and you won't go far wrong.

Grow your own spuds, and you'll transform your opinion of this 'humble' vegetable forever. Try deliciously-flavoured heritage varieties, or savour melt-in-the-mouth new potatoes within minutes of harvest. Recommended varieties: 'Duke of York', 'Mayan Gold', 'Sarpo Mira'

If your idea of a pea comes from the freezer, fresh peas are a revelation. Sow on windowsills for microgreens, enjoy young pods as mangetout, and sprinkle curly shoot tips in salads. Or just enjoy the mature peas. It's up to you. Recommended varieties: 'Douce de Provence', Mangetout 'Shiraz', 'Ambassador'

French climbing beans
The connoisseur's alternative to runner beans, tailor your French climbing beans according to taste. Choose from slender pencil beans, flat-podded types, purple or yellow varieties, or shelling beans for white haricots. Recommended varieties: 'Cobra', 'Blauhilde', 'Blue Lake'

Breaking a fat head of garlic into cloves to plant in chilly November starts your gardening year with a smile. As well as dried cloves, try green scapes (flower spikes) and mild-flavoured green garlic. Recommended varieties: 'Chesnok Red', 'Solent Wight', Elephant Garlic

Generous crops of leafy greens, with a side order of crisp midrib, chard is just like spinach but miles easier to grow. It comes in a rainbow of differently-coloured stems - sometimes on the same plant. Recommended varieties: Swiss chard, Ruby chard, Chard 'Bright Lights'

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about five easy veg.

January 21, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


The record for the biggest pumpkin in the world is a holy grail for giant vegetable growers: these days you need a forklift truck just to get your pumpkin to the showground for weighing.

Most of us can't manage pumpkins quite that big, but it's fun to see how big a monster you can manage. A pumpkin growing competition is also a great way to get the kids involved in gardening.

In our Mullingar garden centre you'll find all you need for your crack at conquering the giant pumpkin world: just follow our easy steps to success.

  • Choose the right seed: 'Atlantic Giant' is a recognised monster pumpkin, but other varieties to try include 'Hundredweight' and 'Mammoth'.
  • Sow seed: in April sow one seed to a 10cm pot and keep in a frost-free greenhouse, heated propagator or on a sunny windowsill.
  • Keep the plants warm: cold will set back growth so bring your pumpkin indoors if nights are cold. Pot on into larger containers as it grows.
  • Dig a pumpkin pit: in late May, dig a hole in the garden about 1 metre wide and deep. Fill with a 50:50 mix of compost and well-rotted farmyard manure, and add slow-release fertiliser.
  • Plant out: Plant your young pumpkin plant into the pit once all threat of frost has passed, and cover with a lantern cloche until the plant grows too big.
  • Feed and water: Make sure your pumpkin never goes short of water, and feed weekly with liquid seaweed. When it starts flowering, switch to tomato food to encourage fruits.
  • Pinch out surplus flowers: After three fruits have formed, pinch out others as they appear. Eventually, select the biggest one and remove the rest so the plant puts its energy into just one fruit.
  • Lift the fruit: raising your pumpkin off the ground onto a pallet or straw helps get the air underneath it, ripening the skin and avoiding rotting.
  • Hire that forklift truck! Once your pumpkin has mellowed to a rich orange in around October, it's time to harvest.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about growing giant vegetables in your garden.

January 20, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins


Of all the fruit you can grow in the garden, a grapevine is among the most productive and beautiful. All you need is a sunny wall, fence or pergola for it to scramble up and it'll cheerfully cover the whole thing with big elegant leaves turning brilliant colours in autumn, and of course fat clusters of fruit dripping with sweetness.

There are dozens of varieties of grapevine and we've got a great selection in our garden centre in Mullingar. For sweet fruit for the table, go for a dessert variety: 'Brandt' has small but very sweet dark-skinned grapes (and spectacular autumn colour) while 'Phoenix' is a reliable modern variety good for both eating and winemaking.

If it's a vineyard you're after, there's an even wider choice. 'Seyval' makes a light, fruity wine; while 'Pinot Noir' ripens well in a good summer for a classic deep red claret.

Here are our top tips for growing successful grapevines:

  • Choose a sunny site, ideally a south- or southwest facing wall and sheltered from the wind. Vines do best in free-draining soil like sand or chalk: if you're gardening on clay dig in a barrowload of grit before planting.
  • Add well-rotted farmyard manure (found in our garden centre) to improve soil before planting, as grapevines are in the ground a long time.

  • Add a handful of slow-release fertiliser like pelleted chicken manure or bonemeal to keep your plant happy all season.
  • Plant when vines are dormant – from late autumn till early spring, as long as the ground isn't waterlogged or frozen.

  • Put up a sturdy training system before you plant: stretch wires 30cm apart up a fence, or attach trellis. You'll find all you need in our garden centre.
  • Water thoroughly in dry weather: if grapevines get parched at the roots they're more likely to suffer from mildew, ruining your crop.

  • Prune each winter once the vine has dropped all its leaves and is completely dormant to remove some of the year's vigorous growth and keep the plant productive and healthy.

Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about growing grapevines.

January 19, 2021 — Ciarán Haskins