Sow Easy Grow - Grow Grid

I spent last Summer dreading weeding my vegetable garden as time pressure meant the hoe didn't get used as much as it should. I'm not the best weeder in the world (I find it pretty boring) and can easily be overwhelmed by the task by mid Summer.

There are various ways of keeping on top of weeds but the one I like most is preventing them from appearing in the first place. Of course I don't like using chemicals so when Dermot Carey showed me how he always grows his onions through black plastic I jumped at the chance to give it a go. It works brilliantly especially as onions have shallow roots which can be easily damaged by hoeing, I tried it last year and am now hooked. It might not look fantastic but if you're busy or don't need your garden to look like an 18th century potager then it has many benefits.

Vegetable grower and chef Eoin Flahery

GrowGrid from Galway Imagine my delight therefore when I bumped into the ever cheerful Eoin Flaherty (nice shirt) and his 'GrowGrid' planting system. Eoin is a professional chef who likes to know where his food comes from so naturally he decided to grow his own. If you're going to go to the trouble of producing your own fresh food you won't want to add chemicals to control weeds so Eoin found himself (like me) struggling to find the time to weed his plot. The 'GrowGrid' takes the Onion growing method a couple of steps further with tailor made planting sheets for a broad range of crops.

Eoin's innovative idea uses a water permeable weed control fabric with pre made planting holes set at the required spacing for the plant you want to grow. Anyone who's tried it will know that cutting woven weed fabric (mypex) is a nightmare as it unravels into strands which get everywhere. The clever bit with the GrowGrid mats is the method of cutting, and more importantly sealing the holes. The fabric won't unravel and can be used for 3 - 5 years making it well worth the initial investment.

Growing potatoes in a weed control fabric

Protecting your soil The other advantage of using GrowGrid is it protects your soil from nutrients leaching out in heavy rain. The fabric is semi permeable and lets water through but does offer significant protection in wet weather. We'd recommend preparing your soil in Spring with a bucket of envirogrind per square metre for example and then covering with the GrowGrid fabric. You will also find the black fabric absorbs the heat from the sun which will warm soils quicker in Spring and create an excellent growing environment for your crops. Liquid or granular feeds can be added through the season if required by pouring around the planting hole.

GrowGrid weed control system

What crops does it cover? There are 4 different size mats with pre spaced holes for the crops they cover. There are also 2 different sized mats depending on the size of your plot. You'll notice the same crop can appear in 2 categories - this is for different size varieties. For example a Spring cabbage will take up less space than a large Winter savoy variety.

Different spacing also governs the size of your crop so if you want enormous beetroot for example use the grid A mat.

Growgrid A Spacing for: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Aubergine, Herbs, Kale, Lettuce, Parsnip, Peppers, Spinach, Swede, Turnip, Strawberries & Potato. Large: 1.5m by 4m Small: 1.5m by 2.2m

Growgrid B Spacing for: Basil, Beetroot, Garlic, Herbs, Leeks, Lettuce, Parsnip, Radishes, Shallots, Spinach, Swiss Chard & Turnip. Large: 1.5m by 4m Small: 1.5m by 2.2m

Growgrid C Spacing for: Artichokes, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, herbs, Kale, Peppers, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes. Large: 1.5m by 4m Small: 1.5m by 2.2m

Growgrid D Spacing for: Basil, Beans, Carrots, Garlic, Herbs, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Oriental Leaves, Peas, Radishes & Spinach. Large: 1.5m by 4m Small: 1.5m by 2.2m

How do I use it? Simply fix the mat to the ground with the bio degradable pegs provided. The only weeding you will need to do is around the small hole for the stem of the plant but with most crops the foliage will cover this anyway and out compete the weeds. When your crops have been harvested you can fold Grow Grid away for use the following year.

Potatoes grown under growgrid weed protection

I know what you're thinking.... You're probably thinking - wait a minute that's just a bit of plastic with holes cut in it. Yes it is and that's what's so great about it. Try cutting holes in a weedblock fabric and you'll find it shreds and tears. You'll be left with a messy looking piece of plastic that will get worse as the season progresses as the weave unravels in the wind. Eoin's holes are heat sealed so this won't happen leaving your garden neat and tidy.

I'll be honest - I think this is a great product but you'll only see the real benefit when you try it. We're expecting big repeat orders for this one, I've already got mine ready for Spring and am looking forward to not weeding all Summer long!