Help! Green shield bugs are everywhere this summer! How to prevent and tackle an infestation

If, like me, you have also noticed a huge surge of green shield bugs this summer, beware and take action! These pesky little critters can destroy your whole garden! Once green shield bugs are present, it is a daily job to deal with them.

Why are Green Shield Bugs all over my garden suddenly?

Green shield bugs can overwinter as adults, and they will hide in long uncut grass and shrubs over the cold months until the sun is up for laying their eggs. They prefer to breed on plants that have fruit or seed heads and are particularly fond of berry leaves. They produce several generations in one year and can become prolific very quickly.

To prevent green shield bugs from taking hold in the first place, spring time is best to be checking under your leaves for egg clusters.

Each female can lay eggs over an 8 week period. This is crafty, as it is just in time for when your fruit or vegetables are coming ready to harvest. This means that one plant can have all stages of bug development on it at once, from eggs through to adults.

Let’s first start by looking at the life cycle of Green Shield Bugs

Green shield bugs, also called stink bugs, lay around 14 eggs which are generally a yellowy tan colour, sometimes paler.

When the Nymphs first hatch, they don’t really eat or have wings. They evolve in their growing process by shedding their skin. They change colour from black, to black and green, and so on until they become an adult. It is not until just before they become an adult that their wings form, then the trouble really starts!

Young shield bug

What problems do green shield bugs create in my garden?

These bugs pierce and suck your vegetables or plants to feed and, unfortunately, they seem to do it right before you’re ready to harvest. This is why, when you pick a tomato that has been attacked by these pests it will be dry inside, and usually with a white ring on the inside close to the skin. Basically they suck the goodness out of your plants.

I remember years back when shield bugs only attacked tomatoes – nowadays they are not fussy at all and particularly like to hide in the bean bush, sucking away out of sight doing damage unseen…


How can I control green shield and stink bugs organically? 

Adults don’t stop laying until around the end of summer, when the daylight reduces and the air gets cooler. Imagine how many babies they will have had by then!

It is crucial to try to keep on top of them throughout summer. The very best advice I can give, after decades of organic gardening experience, is how very important it is in any garden to take the time to really study your plants; not only at a glance, but to get right in there looking under leaves, down the stem and into the soil.

Observation is a huge part of gardening… When you observe these bugs on your plants, or signs that these pests have been present, you know you need to act quickly if you want to keep any of your own crop for yourself.

If you do find these dreaded insects on your crops, you can manage them by smothering with EnSpray 99 – this is an effective and organic method to manage an infestation.

Another organic recipe I’ve tried and found to be successful is to collect the bugs; crush them and put them in water to spray on the plants. I will share my organic recipe for this exclusively to my newsletter subscribers as a free printable. Make sure you’re signed up to receive your copy!

Sign up here to my newsletter to grab your copy of my organic recipe to repel green shield bugs!

Some of the best preventative methods I have found is to plant Calendula officinalis on the periphery of the garden, which acts as a host and a sacrificial plant for shield bugs. I also recommend planting Alyssum, Borage and lavender to attract other beneficial insects that will eat shield bugs.

I wish you luck with these bugs and encourage you to share with me any tips, tricks or observations you may have had success with in the past.

Happy gardening!

WATER IN THE GARDEN: Five practical tips to make water stretch further this summer

In the heat of the summer, and especially if we haven’t seen a drop of rain for some time, water becomes an eternal challenge for every gardener. 

Yet growing your own food is becoming essential; far more than a hobby or loving pastime of days gone by. So how can we ensure an adequate water supply during those dry summer months ahead, when many regions have water restrictions in place to boot?

You may already be aware that different types of soil have different water-holding capacity – clay, sandy loam etc. But more than this, did you know that the more alive your soil is, the better it is at retaining water?

Like everything in gardening, it begins in the soil!

For this reason, and many more, I hugely advocate putting in the effort to build your soil quality from the outset and then maintain a regular feeding programme to keep your soil and your plants at optimal health. For more on the soil sponge, discover my earlier blogs here.

Over the years, I have mastered some great ways to both retain water and make water stretch further; so read on as I reveal these secrets for you now!


Watering plants at the root source means the soil can absorb the entirety. Overhead watering not only wastes the valuable water, it also creates a high rate of evaporation, leaf burn and plant stress, inviting pest and disease.


Always water in the cool of the morning, before the sun gets too hot. Did you know that your plants are ‘awake’ in the day and ‘asleep’ at night? During the sunshine, your plants are busy photosynthesising – the process to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into energy stored as chains of sugar (also known as plant starch). At night, plants burn up this sugar while they sleep, which gives them fuel for continuing their growth the following morning. Therefore, they need a good drink in the morning and it will provide moisture for your plants all day long.


Watering little and often is much more productive for your plants’ growth, rather than a big drink once a week. Over the summer months, give each plant about a cup of water each day, or three cups every three days at the stem only. 


Mulching on top of your plants not only keeps the moisture in the ground by reducing the soil temperature and evaporation from the heat of the sun, it also encourages roots to go deeper into the soil layers, where the water is held. 

Once the topsoil dries out, turning hard and crusty, water will actually run straight off rather than being absorbed. When mulching, be sure to leave space between the plant’s stem and the edge of the mulch – this is the space to apply water.


There are many ways to save water from the home to water your plants each day if you simply adjust your mindset to consider that every drop you save helps towards the survival of your plants. You’ll be surprised how much water you will save by following these tips:

·       Place a bucket in your shower and catch the water while waiting for it to reach your desired temperature. In some homes, you can save as much as 8 litres per shower!

·       Gather some 10-litre buckets or vessels and place them under every tap in your home to catch waste water! When you turn the tap on to clean your teeth, wash your vegetables, rinse your hands or rinse your dishes, be sure to catch every drop. When the bowl is full, tip the water into your bucket – and be amazed how much you water you can collect.

Be mindful that any waste water containing soap is best avoided for vegetable plants. But if you use environmentally-friendly products, you can use this water for fruit trees.

Happy summer gardening!

Three simple steps to prevent black aphids

As we move into December, aphids are having a festive celebration of their own – at the expense of our plants! If you live in an area of high humidity, this is even more true.

The black spots or bugs you see on your onions, chives and garlic are black aphids. They are merrily multiplying and sucking the life out of your plants!

Look closely and you will observe that some appear bigger than others – these are the ‘mothers’, which have wings. Interestingly, these ‘mother’ aphids do not produce eggs, but simply drop hungry young aphids straight on to your plants to feed.

You will often find them in a long line, as every couple of days more young are laid, and they can produce up to five every couple of days. The fascinating thing is that all their babies are girls!

Where did my infestation come from?

The adults overwinter in the warmest spot they can find in your garden to protect themselves from the cold and frost so, if like me, you have no frosts or snow, your aphid population is likely to be much, much higher than somewhere that enjoys a strong winter chill.

Black aphids really like to overwinter in the thin skins of garlic or shallots and, for the life of me, I have never been able to see them! Yet as soon as the leaves start to sprout, the mother gets ready to lay on the small vulnerable leaves. From here, they pierce the young leaves, full of sweet carbohydrates, and start to suck.

Slow at first, while the temperatures are cool, but as soon as the sun comes out, it is ‘yeehaaa!’ This is it can seem you have an infestation overnight!

How do I control black aphids without harsh chemicals?

When my first leaves appear on my garlic and onions, I spray with Naturally Neem and then use EnSpray 99 oil in the following weeks. I have found that Naturally Neem is the best Neem product you can buy, as many Neem products are not refined enough for edible application. Remember Neem must be sprayed in the cool of the day only.

If you have a large infestation, my advice would be to pull the plants out carefully and submerge them in water to prevent any of them re-infesting elsewhere.

You can still eat the produce, it just may not be as juicy…

As ever in organic gardening, prevention is key. Here’s my advice on how to prevent black aphids in three simple steps:

1. Keeping your plants healthy from day one can really help deter an infestation and I use regular spraying of Liquid Kelp, which keeps the plants strong. Kelp strengthens the cell wall of the plants, making them less attractive to the aphids, who are after the easy prey of weaker plants.

2. If you are buying chives, onions or leek plants at a garden nursery, I also recommend checking the leaves carefully, even in between each leaf, as they can be hiding in there.

3. Beneficial insects can be your friends too – encourage ladybirds into your garden as they will eat aphids and take care of the problem for you! Check out my earlier blog here to find out how.

For more pest & disease control advice, sign up to my monthly newsletter!

Happy gardening and wishing you all a very merry Christmas!

Organic pest control: My three best tips to tackle passion vine hoppers in your garden

It’s that time of year once again – the time to be vigilant as there are fresh bugs and insects aplenty in our gardens, scouting for food sources and places to breed. Let’s take a closer look at one of the peskiest critters that you will be spotting in your garden very shortly, as I reveal how to protect your garden and summer crops the organic way.

What is a passion vine hopper and why are they everywhere?

The passion vine hopper can be prolific in our gardens and people often remark that, all of a sudden, there are so many – where did they come from? In actual fact, the passion vine hopper lays eggs just once per year, from February onwards, but they can overwinter as eggs on host plants.

Nymphs hatch in late spring when the weather warms, and grow into adults over summer. They even stick around into winter, depending on your climate, but a good cold snap can put an end to the adult cycle and kill the eggs too.

Why are passion vine hoppers a problem in my garden?

Both the nymphs and the adults attack new young growing shoots, feeding on the sap of the plants, thus destroying new growth and causing damage to the plants. September to April is their biggest feeding time, so this is the time that the most damage is caused.

Adult passion vine hoppers are about 6mm long and have see-through triangle wings with a slight pattern. Passion vine hoppers are very good jumpers and can fly really quickly – thanks to three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings – making them harder to catch. Adults only take two weeks to mature and, when dusk arrives, this is when they mate. They lay their eggs in the late afternoon/evening, during the cooler temperatures.

An adult passion vine hopper

The female tends to lay its eggs in dead plant matter and garden stakes, but will also lay its eggs in neat little rows in the midribs of new young plants. When the nymphs hatch, they feed straight away on young shoots.

The nymph has five stages of development and the most common one we observe is when they develop their fluffy bums. When touched, these ‘fluffy bums’ jump so quickly, but miraculously seem to land on a plant nearby. Have a look under your plant leaves for clusters of these fluffy bum nymphs.

An egg ready to hatch

The adults have very sharp, piercing mouth-parts, which are pushed into the tender part of the plant to suck the plant juices out. Any excess juice is secreted as honeydew that puts a sticky coating on the plants’ leaves, and it can then cause sooty mould to grow, suffocating your plant.

How do I control passion vine hoppers in my garden organically?

Controlling these insects is extremely hard, unless you can spot where they lay their eggs. Sometimes, we can be fooled into thinking there is nothing to be done in the garden but, in these times, I recommend going around your garden and checking cracks in the bark of your fruit trees and looking on the underside of leaves for eggs and bugs. Another good way to spot these is if your leaves are all curled up – then you can pretty much guarantee that something is happening on the underside of the leaf!

Tip #1: My biggest tip for controlling passion vine hoppers is via observation – check your plants regularly by looking underneath leaves and between young shoots for any sign of eggs, removing the leaf they have laid on.

Tip #2: A good way to start your control of these pests is to grow plants that attract predator insects such as borage, alyssum and lavender. By planting these beneficial plants, it attracts the right kind of insect that will pray on the nymphs and eat them. These insects are hard to kill as they move so quickly, so it’s helpful to leave it to their natural-born predators. Nature always has a way.

Tip #3: I use a potent organic combination of EnSpray 99 oil and Liquid Kelp – my secret weapons! Spray in the evening, as these pests are much less active then. I recommend spraying the air first before you try to spray the plant itself, as they jump or fly so fast that you can catch them mid-air!  I then spray under all leaves and over every part of the plant, as they seem to be everywhere. Repeat the spraying weekly until the infestation reduces.

It is all about breaking the cycle and reducing the numbers.

If you’re looking for more guidance on pests and disease, along with companion planting, you might want to consider joining my membership site, The Grow Inspired Academy. Here, I can teach you how to manage your pests the organic way through a whole host of methods; along with detailed coaching on how to grow food and compost. We’re not accepting new members right now, but you can sign up to be the first to know when we open our doors next! Discover more here!

Happy gardening!

The Grow Inspired secret to preventing frustration with your summer garden

Welcome to spring and summer in your garden! It’s a time when we get to enjoy better weather, longer days and the joy of sunshine! These months are also when all the creatures, birds, bugs, pests and diseases wake up too though, and think that our newly prepared beds or pots are their playground! They seem to think that we provide mulch for them to remove and young plants for them to dig out, destroy or lay their eggs on…!

It is a source of frustration for people in every sector of the growing world. 

But did you know that you can prevent this with prior planning, a bit of effort and time? This is the Grow Inspired way, allowing you to sleep soundly at night or even go away knowing that your garden is protected!

Netting your garden is the key

Net your garden as soon as you have planted – do it once and do it well. There are many different ways of doing this, depending on your budget and what kind of netting you require for your plants.

Make sure you collect the right equipment to start with to avoid frustrations later on.

How do I net my garden or beds?

Personally, I find the easiest way is using hoops with netting laid over the top and fixed with stretchy string. If on a raised bed, I hook it on to nails. You can use re-bar, sticks, fibreglass poles, bamboo etc. The key is to make sure you get some alkathene pipe to slide over your support poles to create a smooth surface for the netting to slide over #toptip

Once your netting is over, you can either pin it to the side of your raised bed, cover it with soil or weigh it down with stones. This will keep birds, rabbits, cats and dogs out of your garden!

What netting do I choose?

There are a few different types of netting on the market now which give you choice. If you are looking to keep general creatures out of the garden, bird netting or old vineyard netting works wonders. 

However, if you are looking to keep whitefly, aphids and psyllids out, you will need insect netting, which has a very fine weave and will protect your garden very well. The fabric is light and easy to use, and really does protect your plants from not only insect infestation but weather extremes too. 

A great place to look for these, apart from your garden centres. is at Redpath or Cosio Plastics. You can order in different widths and lengths and even get end-of rolls.

When should the nets come off?

I generally like to remove my netting when my plants are ripening up, as I love to look at and enjoy my plants. If you have a regular spray programme, then rest assured that you can spray through these types of netting.

Remember, gardening is meant to be enjoyable and by pre-planning and netting your garden, you can avoid many frustrations in the long run.

Happy gardening!

This blog has been featured by Twinkl among their top tips for ”Starting a Kids-friendly Vegetable Garden

Has Spring sprung or is Autumn upon us? My top tips in your garden this month

Spring has sprung in the Southern Hemisphere, with the birds becoming active, flowers bursting forth and buds swelling. 

Preventing pest and disease is a job for Spring

Yet amongst this glory, the rain prevails, creating a humidity in the air that can cause pest and disease to be present early in the spring gardens. 

As most of the southern hemisphere is in lockdown, it is a prime opportunity to enjoy time in our gardens and be vigilant, checking for early rust on garlic, and black aphids on the leeks, chives and spring onions. Let’s get on top of these pests early before they infest our plants! Spray with a good organic oil and feed regularly to boost their health. 

Sow only when the temperature is right!

It is time to start sowing our spring/summer seeds, but I urge you to remember that summer seeds love a constant 20+ degrees for optimal success, so start indoors or in the greenhouse. Remember to prick out when the first true leaves are formed to avoid leggy seedlings that will become problematic later on. 

It is a great time to sow your flower seeds to provide food for the bees and to attract beneficial insects. Turn the compost now, ready for using on the garden when your new beds are formed, or to use as a side dressing for your establishing plants, garlic and leeks. All in all, it is prime time to give love to your garden and plan for the summer months to come.

Heading into Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere

Meanwhile, over here in the Northern Hemisphere, it has been a summer full of pest and disease and a high level of blight and fungal diseases, with torrential rain thunderstorms and then bursts of sunshine. Such a different growing season from last year!

With all this disease around, remember to spray an oil on your plants before pulling them out to help prevent the spread of fungal diseases for seasons to come. Also dispose of your plants, keeping them well away from your compost and sow a crop of mustard to help clean up your soil before autumn/winter planting. 

With those of you with apple and pear trees, please pick up your fallen fruit, as disease will spread to next year’s crop and remember all those chestnuts falling on the ground right now are so delicious boiled up and sauteed with salt. They are full of many vitamins and minerals, such as copper, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, thiamine, folate, riboflavin, and potassium. Did you know they are also a good source of fiber, with 15% of your daily dose for just 10 chestnuts? 

A message to the lockdown cohort of gardeners:

For all those new gardeners that are in their second year of growing, and who may have started in lockdown last year, please realise that this is the way gardening goes… We are subject to the challenges of the weather and sometimes we might not get the crop we desire. 

Never give up hope and rise to the challenge, as growing food is so important in this new world, where food shortages and price rises are appearing everywhere. 

Healthy soil creates healthy plants; it grows nutrient rich food, which in turn gives us good gut health and energy, exactly what we all need right now! 

Take care of yourselves, and your plants and I hope you grow inspired.

Protect your garden with wildflowers: four steps to success

With the moon about to rise, it is the perfect time to sow wildflowers and beneficial insect flowers. If sown now, these will be up and flowering for early summer which is a great time to be bringing beneficial and predator insects into the garden.

How to sow these seeds in four simple steps:

Usually I am a gardener that likes to throw seeds around and leave the rest to Mother Nature.

However, with these types of seeds I have found that ground preparation is important for successful germination. The seeds for these types of flowers can be very fussy, as they are not too happy to compete with weeds.

Here’s my steps for success based on the experiences I have had:

Step 1: Prepare an area of garden you want them to go in and weed thoroughly

Step 2: Scatter some seed raising or potting mix on the areas

Step 3: Then scatter the seeds and cover with a light dusting of potting mix, pat down and water

Step 4: Cover with netting to prevent the birds or cats from disturbing the soil (eating or the other thing…!)

Top tip: I advise you not to put heaps of soil on top of the seeds, as too much will stop them from germinating. You can rake them into the prepared soil if you like, as this works just as well.

These seeds can be up and growing within a few days if planted at the right time of the moon. These flowers are not that hungry so huge amounts of food are not needed. A little lime can help sweeten the soil, but isn’t essential.

I never thin mine out as it gives a great blanket of flowers when fully grown. The flowers tend to germinate at different times, so don’t worry if this happens. They will push their way through to give you a grand display.

Top tip: The key to longevity for some of these flowers is to diligently dead head them, as new flowers will keep coming all the time. Then, towards the end of the season, let them go to seed and collect this for next season’s growing.

I sow lots of these seeds in all different areas of my garden for a few reasons:

#1 to bring beneficial insects in for my vegetable garden

#2 for the pure beauty of the flowers

#3 when planted towards your boundaries, as well as close to your veggie garden, the more insects you will attract.

Top tip: As your seeds grow into tiny plants, make sure you know what types of weeds are in your garden, as these could sprout amongst your seeds and take over.

This is especially important in the first 6-8 weeks of growth. After this time they are pretty self-sufficient and will grow and bloom, bringing both you and the insects much pleasure and benefit.

If you live in the warmer parts of New Zealand, you can start your sowing now and continue sowing for the next few months. This way you will ensure a continuous blooming period.

Beneficial flowers do not require huge amounts of water as, when densely planted, they cover the ground and help to retain moisture in the soil.

My last top tip: If you don’t have time to prepare the soil this week, I advise you to sow them in deep trays and transplant next month. I have successfully done this in the past, as long as you plant them out before they are too big. Alternatively, if you have a container garden, they will go well in this area.

Happy gardening!

How do you know if your citrus tree has borer and how can you treat it?

It’s the time of year to think about citrus tree borer – an irritating pest that can cause havoc with your lemons! 

Borer grubs are dormant for the next couple of months, so it is an ideal time to cut out and remove any borer. This is your time to act! Really, when it is dormant is the only time to cut it out, otherwise the grub will lay eggs on new cuts and then they will bore into the new growth of your tree.

Here are the signs you need to watch for and what you can do about it.

What do borers look like?

Borer grubs are quite big in size, and if your tree is quite young, they can take up nearly the width of the whole branch! They are fat and juicy, and half the thickness of my pinky finger, no wonder they do so much damage!!!

Borer grub

How can I tell if my citrus tree has a borer infestation?

A major sign to watch for is that your tree will lack vigour and have holes along the branches. In some cases, you will even be able to see mounds of sawdust on the branches and down the stem.

One of the easiest ways borer can get into your lemon tree is through a small cut on the lower trunk from a weedeater. Honestly, time and time again I have seen this, which becomes an entry point for pest and disease. If this happens to your tree, be sure to paste the wound to help it heal and to prevent pest and disease from entering.

An infected tree

How can I treat my citrus for borer?

The totally organic way of dealing with borer is to insert a G string from a guitar down the hole to pierce the grub, however this could take some time (and patience!). 

At Grow Inspired, we typically use a squirt of CRC down the hole, as this smothers the grub and causes it to die, without harming the trees. 

Following this, apply pruning paste over the holes or wounds to protect them from further infestation.

TOP TIP: It is so IMPORTANT to remember to either burn or dispose of your infected branches. 

Borer can kill citrus trees if left untreated. 

You can also keep your tree alive by removing the dead wood and keeping an eye on your tree, looking for new sawdust trails. 

When pruning the borer out of your tree, this is an ideal time to give your tree some shape and let the air flow through the middle to prevent a wee microclimate happening, where pest and disease thrive.

How can I best take care of my citrus tree right now?

Remember to feed your tree over the winter period as it will be striving to grow, produce fruit and get ready for the next season’s growth.

Over the winter months, it is also a great idea to build up a good mulch around your citrus trees. This will help keep the water in the soil and prevent it from drying out when spring comes, as citrus have roots very close to the surface. However, remember to leave a breathing space around the trunk and to mulch right out to the drip line of your trees (where the outer branches are).

You can also grow a living mulch around your citrus. The benefits of a living mulch is that they will also attract beneficial insects, which in turn will fight the upcoming pests of spring.

An ideal living mulch for citrus include comfrey, borage, lemon balm, nasturtiums and parsley. We have just dedicated an entire bundle in my Grow Inspired Academy to growing fruit trees, where we also talk about living mulch. If you’re keen to grow or improve the health of your fruit trees, find out more here.

Happy gardening!

Container gardening: How to grow fresh fruit on your balcony or deck

Growing fruit trees in pots….

Did you know that many fruit trees grow well in a pot? If you’re in rented accommodation or city-based apartments, abundant fresh fruit can be yours too! 

Citrus are a great option, with mandarins, lemons, limes and oranges all growing well in pots. 

But those aren’t the only options for you – you can even enjoy dwarf apple, plum and peach varieties, figs and feijoas too and let us not forget delicious blueberries! All of these do great in pots if given the right conditions.

How can I grow a fruit tree in a pot?

Choose a pot that is going to be big enough for your plant for up to 3 years. Your pot needs to be at least 35-60cm wide and be able to hold 40-80 litres of soil.

Most fruit trees have very similar soil requirements to one another, with the exception of blueberries, which prefer an acidic-based soil to thrive.

Place a good layer of stones or gap 7/14 in the base of your pot, creating a mound in the middle. This will ensure good drainage, which is imperative as fruit trees really detest wet feet.

Next, put a layer of compost and water, followed by a carbon layer of rotted leaves, and shredded, moist newspaper. On top of this, add your compost, rotted manure, bokashi, vermicast, and water it well.

Then, add a good layer of container mix and plant your tree, making sure it is planted below the top of the pot as this will allow space for a good thick mulch to be placed on top. Essential for moisture retention to give your tree the best start!

Plant your tree and be sure to push the soil in around the root base to prevent big air pockets, which will allow the water to run through. Once planted, put some sheep pellets or manure on top and cover with a thick layer of mulch. 

How much water does my tree need?

A fruit tree planted in a pot will require more water and food than one planted in the ground. 

My top tip: I highly recommend that you buy a base for your pot as, in the summer months, this will catch all the water that flows through and enable the plant to suck it back up.

Also, if you get into a routine of saving your shower or sink water over the summer months, this will give you enough available water for your plants.

What do I feed my tree?

A regular monthly feed of Liquid Kelp and EM (effective microorganisms), worm juice, bokashi juice or comfrey liquid will keep your plant healthy and vigorous.

What do I do when my tree outgrows its pot?

After three years, it will be time to replace the soil and restore the nutrients to keep your fruit tree producing for years to come, so be sure when choosing your pot to select one with a good open top to enable you to easily remove your fruit tree when the time comes.

Get ready to enjoy the abundance of fruit from your balcony or small back yard!

Keen to know more about growing fruit trees? We have dedicated an entire bundle in this quarter’s lessons in the Grow Inspired Academy! Find out more about joining our gardening members site here.

Happy gardening!

Sow with success – five easy tips for growing delicious organic carrots

This month is a great time to be sowing carrots. ‘Ooohhhhh,’ I hear many of you groan! ‘But carrots are sooo hard to grow!’ This month, I will share my top tips for sowing carrots.

Tip #1 – Direct sow

Carrots much prefer to be direct-sown from seed, as opposed to being bought from the garden centre and transplanted. Carrots roots are very sensitive and do not take kindly to being transplanted, as this can easily damage the roots and cause misshapen veg, stunted growth and a slow start while they recover from the shock of transplanting.

Sowing carrots from seed is so rewarding; once you have success, you will never look back again.

Carrots grow best in the cooler months and I sow every month for a continuous supply.

Tip #2 – Prepare your soil well

Preparing your soil before sowing is imperative, as there are things carrots must have and must not have. Carrots do not require any compost or fertiliser when sowing, as too much nitrogen will cause your carrots to fork.

Carrots ideally love a sandy loam, where there are no obstacles in their path under the soil. If you have heavy soil, try adding some sand and make sure to crumble the hard lumps in your soil, as these obstructions will cause the root tip to grow around them, and this is what causes misshapen carrots. Prepare your soil for as deeply as your carrot grows; but if you suffer with heavy soil and there is no way round this, my advice would be to try growing shorter carrots.

Tip #3 – Sow with care

Once your soil is prepared, water, then sow in drills about 2cm deep and 10-15cm apart. Sow your seeds sparingly about 1cm apart and cover with .5cm of soil. Lightly press the soil down and gently water.

Cover your seeds with wet cardboard or a plank of wood to keep the moisture in and aid germination. Carrots can take up to 21 days to germinate, so check under your cardboard or plant every week and gently apply more water if required.

Once you see your carrots have germinated, remove the cover. Your seeds will appear a very pale yellow, as they have not yet seen any light. My top tip is that I find it is best to remove the cover in the late afternoon when there are less daylight hours left, as this will give your carrots a good 12-14 hours to acclimatise to the elements and start to green up before the brighter sun hits them.

Tip #4 – Feed your carrots so they will feed you

Feed your carrots monthly with liquid kelp and EM (effective microorganisms) – their roots will thank you for it!

Tip #5 – Harvest don’t thin

Personally, I don’t thin my carrots – instead, I wait until they have grown for a few months and then I carefully harvest every other one and eat as gourmet carrots – and then leave the others to mature.

Also remember that a greening on top of the carrots is not poisonous, unlike potatoes.

Once you have tasted a freshly plucked, juicy, sweet carrot from your garden, there will be no going back to shop-bought ones!

Happy growing!