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Is it better to start plants off in pots or in the ground?

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:12 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about growing veg.

Fred Isaac from Newry, County Down, asks: Some of the advice relating to growing the Dig In vegetables says to start them off in small pots before planting them out. Can the seeds be planted straight into the ground or in pots outside without starting them in the house/greenhouse?

And also, does there come a time over the winter when the compost heap is 'closed' and no more green/brown stuff is put onto it, to allow it to rot down over the winter?

Answer: Hey Fred, good question and one we come across a lot. Yeah, with all the seeds you can 'direct sow' that is sow them directly into the ground – this is the only successful method for growing hassle-free carrots. However, the constant advantage of starting the seeds in pots first and then planting out when they form nice plants is that they are ready to eat sooner! Typically plants sown in pots and then transplanted out are ready about five weeks sooner than plants sown directly into the ground. Also with plants you don't have to rake the top of the veg bed into a fine crumb every time, as you can plant your veg plants into 'choppier' soil.

Your second question is another good one. After you've had a big autumn clear out you'll have very little to add to the compost pile, apart from the household stuff, so the compost pile gets a rest in a roundabout way. I always keep my compost bins well covered with carpet to keep the heat in and encourage decomposition during the cold winter months. As with all compost bins you'll always have 'stuff' on the top that's not properly composted down, this is where a regular mixing, say every three months is useful.

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