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Community Gardens

Callan Community Garden ~ Progress At Last

April 14, 2013

This is my first post about my Monday gardening group at Callan Community Garden as we haven’t had many pictures to show you!

I started working with this Kilkenny Leader funded project back in the autumn of 2012 with a four-week, indoor, introductory course that approximately 15 people attended. Of those around eleven signed up to participate in the community garden that I’m working with for the coming year.

As you can see from the picture below, our area is quite small and was very overgrown with perennial weeds when we began. However, as soon as the soil was dry enough and not frozen solid, we headed out and got stuck in.

Callan Community Garden - winter 2012/2013

It might be small but we expect great things! Callan Community Garden

First on the agenda was some serious hand weeding. The bed was chock-a-block with creeping buttercup, dandelions and docks – all indicators that we were working in a clay soil – something we’d already established during the four-week introductory course. 

Well Rotted Horse ManureIt appeared that no organic matter had been added to the soil since the beds were built some time ago, so thanks to a donations, we remedied that by adding several wheelbarrow loads to all but the area allocated for the carrots and parsnips.


The bed really needed the addition of well-rotted organic matter to help to break down the heavy clay soil

We’ve spent a lot of time preparing the soil for this garden as it was so neglected. Inside the polytunnel our small allocated area was like dust…

Inside the polytunnel at Callan Community Garden

The area for the community gardeners, the rest of the tunnel is shared with St Bridget’s School & the BTEI Group

At last the weather warmed up enough to plant the chitted blight resistant potatoes, onions, garlic and broad beans.

Planting onions at Callan Community Garden

We use a board to avoid standing on the prepared soil

Today we were able to start sowing seeds inside the polytunnel. As we’ve been waiting for funding for equipment, it’s been a great excuse to show everybody how they can reuse and recycle household “rubbish”. The gardeners have been very inventive but it’s meant that the precious funds can be spent on seeds rather than pots!

Using recycled household "rubbish" in the Community Garden

Using recycled household rubbish in the Community Garden

Recycled pots and trays only for Callan Community Garden

Westland Peat Free vs Suretart Seed & Cutting Compost

Westland Peat Free Compost (top) vs Suretart Seed & Cutting Compost (bottom)

We’ve used this to our advantage by running some experiments on the differences and I’ll let you know how they compare over the coming weeks.

Lastly Alma filled the onion section with twigs to stop the birds pulling them out of the ground ~ no those little brown things aren’t worms, they’re our alliums trying to grow roots!

I’ll keep you updated over the coming weeks on how the garden’s progressing. Sign up for the blog posts at the bottom of the page if you’d like to keep up to date.


Life In A Community Garden

August 19, 2015
Life in a Community Garden from

Greenside Up Community Garden Portfolio

For several years Dee Sewell has been involved with social community garden projects in Ireland. From design to start-up, offering hobby and accredited workshops through the local Education Training Board, or just being on hand to recommend, advise or talk about them. Dee is also one of the founders and coordinators of Community Gardens Ireland that supports community garden projects in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The following links are to community garden articles Dee has written to help, advise and inform which she hopes will help you with your own experience and work with community gardens.

Reasons Why We Need A Community Garden in Our Community

What Are Community Gardens – a simple guide
5 Reasons Why Community Gardens are Good For Us – five was just for starters..
10 Reasons Why Every Village, Town and City Needs a Community Garden – straight from the community gardeners mouths.
Community Gardens – It’s Not Just the Plants That Grow

Getting Started in a Community Garden

Start Up Essentials for Community Gardens – Must have’s and optional extras.
Community Gardens – How And Where Do I Start One? – Some tips and ideas to get you started.

Developing Community

How to Involve the Community in a Community Garden. A look at Baltinglass community garden and why it works so well.
Community Education – How measurable is it? Two unique gardens but with a shared goal. Making them more sustainable.
How to Encourage People to Join a Community Garden – sharing skills and teaching people how to grow food.
How Horticulture Can Positively Improve a Community – Ballybeg Greens in Waterford run courses, have a community garden and allotments and sell produce to local restaurants. They also run a garden centre and landscaping service.
How Community Gardens Can Help Your School or College – a look at how they can work together.
How to Introduce Child Friendly Water Features into a Community Garden – a guest post with some great tips
Teenagers – Doing It For Themselves – Encouraging teenagers to find their place in the community.

A Recipe for Friendship – What community gardening means for the the adults working and socialising together in Gleann na Bearu Community Garden, Bagenalstown and how they’re being offered the opportunity to upskill.

Making Community Gardens More Sustainable

From Basket to Gourmet Menu – setting up a relationship with a local restaurant.
Grow Your Own – It’s Not Just About Growing the Vegetables – from seed to market stall, a group of community gardens learn how to grow, cook and sell their produce.

Working with People in a Community garden

When Things Go Wrong In A Community Garden – How do tutors manage conflict?

How Other Community Gardens Are Doing It

Focus on: Callan Community Garden in Co Kilkenny
Focus on: Knocknaheeney/Hollyhill Community Garden in Cork
Focus on: Clonegal Community Garden in Co Carlow
Community Garden Network in Northern Ireland and a Lesson for Us All – Three community garden projects in Derry that are doing their best to heal.
Creating a Community Garden at the School of Food in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – the first three months

My Work as a Community Garden Tutor

My Job As a Community Garden Tutor – a glimpse into my work life and the flexibility needed.

Community Gardens Ireland

If you’d like more information about community gardening in Ireland and Northern Ireland, take a look at Community Gardens Ireland website for links to all the social media accounts.

We meet in locations throughout Ireland to help, support and encourage community gardeners nationwide.

If you’re interested in setting up a community garden in a workplace, here’s more information about how Greenside Up can help.

I’ve written many more articles about the work we do in community gardens, from growing to laughter. You can find them all on the blog here.

Community Gardens

Start Up Essentials for Community Gardens

February 14, 2015

Autumn Prep at Callan Community Garden

I’ve written several articles about community gardens – the benefits and how to’s – but once you have your plot of land and an interested bunch of people who want to grow food, it’s important vital, to provide some basic equipment for the gardeners and tutors to use. Without a few tools the group will struggle and far from the success you envisaged at the beginning of the project, you could find it falters and folds.

Willing or Not So Willing Volunteers?

If the initial core group are willing volunteers, you may get away with asking them to bring their own equipment until funds have developed. However, if you’re a well-meaning organisation who are trying to encourage low-income families to start growing their own in community gardens, even if your ethos is one of upcycling and recycling, you’ll need to provide some basic kit. Your potential gardeners might not have the equipment or the funds to buy the tools, seeds or gloves that will start them on the road to growing more of their own food and without it, will soon lose interest.

The Community Garden Twitter & Facebook pages recently received the following query which prompted me to write this post, sharing some of my experiences from projects I’ve worked with.

Start Up Essentials for a Community Garden


Do I Need To Harvest Water or Have An Electricity Supply?

Start Up Essentials for Community Gardens | Greenside Up

Soaker Hose Irrigation in a Polytunnel

I’d be interested in reading your experiences in the comments below, but my own are that groups can manage without electricity but gardening can be difficult, though not impossible, without water on tap. None of the gardens I’ve worked with have had a power supply in the garden itself, though some have run extension leads from buildings nearby for power tools. Although a heated propagator bench is a very useful addition to any polytunnel, I’m not aware of a garden having one where the group only meets once a week.

Water harvesting can vary but community gardens are a good place to demonstrate how it can be done. It makes sense to save water. It’s a free resource with no chemicals added and although it might seem like we have a lot of rain in Ireland, we can experience some long dry spells. If you don’t have a mains water supply on site, harvested water might be your only source of water.

Some gardens have standard rain barrels attached to roof guttering, some have old builders tanks rigged up to catch rainwater with a funnel, some sink their own wells. In the Greenside Up garden we attached a couple of leaky hoses to a builders tank connected to our roof guttering. This has worked really well for us and I would definitely recommend trying to install something similar in a community garden environment if you can. You can read more about our system here.

So you have water and possibly electricity, what else do you need in a community garden?

Toilet Facilities & Shelter

Before we move on to the must haves and optional extras, it’s a good idea to think about toilet facilities. They might not be a necessity but will be needed by someone at some point! If there’s no toilet block on site, consider installing a composting toilet, hiring a portaloo, or have a chat with the closest pub or business and ask if they mind gardeners using their facilities.

If you don’t have a polytunnel or shed, a pop-up gazebo would be a useful addition to the kit list. I’ve been in several gardens where a downpour of cold rain in February has sent everyone running to their cars. By the time they’ve started their engines and gone home, the sun was out and the rain stopped.

Must Have’s

Note: Quantities will differ depending upon the size of garden or group expected. 

  • Soil/Raised beds – digging straight into the soil is the cheapest method and perhaps the most sustainable, but not always the most practical for a community garden. The soil might be contaminated, full of rubble or may not be fertile, you may want higher beds for people with mobility issues and there’s no doubt they’re a lot easier to maintain for a group environment. Don’t forget that if you’re creating raised beds, you’ll need to source good topsoil.
  • Garden tools – you’ll need a minimum of a fork, garden (flat) rake, spade, hoe.
  • Hand tools – small trowel, fork and a small hand hoe/weeder.
  • Start Up Essentials for a Community Garden |Greenside Up

    Wheelbarrow with added booster


  • Waterbutt/water source – You might get away without a running water supply outside if there isn’t a long dry spell of weather, but vegetables will grow a lot bigger and tastier if they’re not left to parch. If you don’t have an outside tap nearby but have a shed or building close to your garden, plan to connect waterbutt’s where you can – it’s a free resource once you’ve made the initial outlay.
  • Watering can and/or hose for the above.
  • Horticultural fleece – for covering vegetables in case of a sudden frost.
  • Bamboo poles/hazel sticks of various sizes for pea and bean supports.
  • Compost Heap – make your own with pallets or buy a plastic one from the local council, but composting in a community garden is a must. It will become a source of organic matter for you in the future.
  • Manure/Organic Matter – buy in or find a friendly farmer who can supply you with some well-rotted manure.
  • Start Up Essentials for Community Gardens | Greenside Up

    Pallet seating at Thomastown School of Food

    Seating – make your own, buy or look for donations but the social side of community gardening is one of the top two reasons people join them.

  • Seed/propagation Trays and Pots – see ‘start collecting’ below.
  • Seed & Potting Compost for starting seedlings off, preferably reduced peat.

Optional extras

  • Start Up Essentials for a Community Garden |Greenside Up

    Home made cloche

    Shed for keeping the tools securely locked away.

  • Grow bags and buckets/tubs – if your beds aren’t ready, or you simply want some extra growing areas, grow bags can be useful for planting outdoor tomatoes, strawberries or cucumbers.
  • Cloches – great for beginning and end of season as well as growing warmer climate veg if you don’t have a polytunnel. You can make your own or buy them ready-made.

Start Up Essentials for A Community GardenThings you can gather

        • Community gardens are really good environments for encouraging people to think creatively about reusing and upcycling, both of which can help to keep the costs down too.
        • Cardboard toilet/kitchen roll tubes are handy for growing seeds in.
        • Plastic food containers make great seed trays or pot containers.
        • Plastic plant pots – ask local garden centres for spares.
        • Carpet can be used as the base for garden paths if you’re planning to wood chip over them.
        • Cardboard boxes – can be put on the bottom of raised beds to prevent weeds coming up.

Take a look at my Recycled Garden Pinterest board for some more ideas.

Follow Dee Sewell ‘s board Recycled Garden on Pinterest.

 How to pay for the tools

If you don’t have immediate funds, there are various ways of obtaining small grants or donations though it’s a good idea to choose someone in the group to take care of this. If you need cash to pay for tools and equipment, you may need to fund raise or ask local business’ if they’ll sponsor more expensive details of the garden such as a polytunnel. You could try sending out a plea in your local newspaper, Facebook post or parish newsletter. Keep an eye out too for occasional grants being offered by groups such as GIY International (if you’re in Ireland be sure to join the community garden network for updates). Contact your local council or tidy towns group for advice and ask if they know of any small pots of gold that you can tap into or ask other community gardeners either in the forum group or on twitter or Facebook. Local training offices (ETB’s) might also be able to offer advice and definitely speak to them about the availability of horticultural tutors. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there if you ask.

Community gardens don’t just have to attract hardened gardeners. Youth groups, artists, people with disabilities, the elderly and socially excluded can all be encouraged to visit and take part, widening the reach within communities.

If you’re involved with community gardens, have you any more tips to add that can help to get them started?


Gardening Gifts: What We Really Want

December 11, 2014

Gardeners Gifts What We Really WantHave you finished your Christmas shopping yet or do you leave it to the last-minute? This year I’m feeling more organised than ever but am still completely stuck on what to buy Mr. G.

To help me in my bid to come up with at least one surprise, I’ve been scouring the internet for some ideas and while this excellent article from Bumbles of Rice “What (These) Women Really Want” is aimed more towards us women, Sinead’s post inspired me to ask a few gardeners for their tips and suggestions. I’m still none the wiser about what I’ll be buying Mr G, but hopefully it might give you a few gift ideas for gardening friends or relations. So in no particular order, here’s a few thoughts from some blogging and non blogging gardeners:

Gardening Gifts: What We Really Want

What Gardeners (Really) Want for ChristmasKitty Scully is Head Food Grower at Airfield, a 38 acre working farm in Dundrum, Dublin that’s open to the public. From tools to clothing to vouchers, here’s Kitty’s wish list:

A pair of Okatsune Secateurs. I love my Felcos but I’ve heard great things about these Japanese snips from my professional gardening friends and now really want a pair.

Muck BootsHard wearing, warm, practical yet still look good, what’s not to like. My present pair owe me nothing so it’s time for an upgrade.

Gift Voucher for Irish Seed Savers AssociationAny gift that will increase my heritage apple collection and also help support an organisation that works so hard to on serve Ireland’s fruit, vegetables, grains and potato’s in a real and practical way is on my wish list.

I was going to add a gift voucher for a personal masseuse as well but that could be taking things too far 😉

What Gardeners (Really) Want for ChristmasJoanne Butler from OURganic Gardens has spread the community gardening word up in Donegal and as a result has recently won both the Judges and Peoples Choice titles at the Save Our Planet Awards.

The first item on my Christmas wish list would have to be a nice, small, compact, petrol hedge trimmer – I’m not even sure one exists but in my mind it has to be small. I’m so tempted to buy the battery type ones but so many people have told me they’re just not worth it as they don’t hold the power for very long. As my garden is going to eventually have quite a lot of hedging (too much to hand prune!) then I may need to take their advice – the nearest find I have seen so far is the Ryobi quick fire hedge trimmer. Don’t ask me any of the technical power details as that is the point I usually glaze over but this seems a nice size to me and looks good !! (And yes I’m exactly the same when looking to buy a car!)

Next up on the list would have to be tickets for Chelsea Flower Show. I really enjoyed watching it on TV last year so I’m hinting away at home at the moment, but its a biggie timewise, as that’s the time of year when I’ll be up to my eyes in the community gardens but I have told my husband I can always take a little time out for ‘field study’ …. Of course 😉

Last on my list would be all my seeds for next years community gardens – I bought great seed last year from Tamar Organics, Seedaholic and Green Vegetable Seeds. The quality was excellent and as I buy quite big orders my viability rate this year was well above 90% which is great value for money . At this time of year I get so excited about ordering seeds, but I have a few more weeks of finishing the garden plans off and then I can get stuck in – present or no present 🙂 this is a job that has to be done.

So that would be my lot – and if I could quickly sneak in some snow then I’d have the best Christmas ever. Last year we had a really big problem here with leather jackets and slugs, so if we don’t see some freezing temperatures soon, then next year will be just as bad if not worse!!

What Gardeners Really Want for ChristmasTanguy de Toulgoet of Dunmore Country School in County Laois has created a very charming French potager garden that I took some community gardeners to visit a while ago and wrote about here if you’d like to see some images. Here’s Tanguy’s suggestions:

I will give the first present for our mother nature as always and I will plant a lovely small tree in the garden – an Amelanchier grandiflora ‘Ballerina’. It is very useful for the birds (I have it planted already).

Then I would read again one of my favourite bee-keeping books and it is a free pdf which is good for the pocket.

The last gift would be a nice shovel from Fruit Hill Farm – one of my best tools. I must say I sell a very good tool as well “the oscillating hoe” It is €37 for the 125mm+handle+courier included or €30 collected in Durrow. We also sell gardening vouchers – see the website for more information.

Gardening Gifts: What Gardeners Really WantHans Wieland has been waving the organic flag for many years from The Organic Centre in Leitrim and with seeds, tools, plants and seeds at his fingertips, I can imagine it must be difficult to come up with three gardening gifts that Hans doesn’t already have. Having visited the Centre with some of the Community Garden Network group last year, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that he’s looking for unusual plants in his wish list. Here’s why:

First of all a Nagami Kumquat bush to be grown in the conservatory, because my son’s girlfriend Florence convinced me.

Secondly a Quince tree, Serbian Gold from Otter Farm, because I have great childhood memories of harvesting wild quince with my late father and I love Mark Diacomo’s style of growing unusual fruits.

Lastly, another packet of “Blight resistant heirloom tomatoes” from German collector Gerhard Bohl, including “Cerise gelb”, “Golden Currant”,” Tarasenko “ and “Bianca Cherry”. They’re only available by post to G. Bohl – S. Kunstmann, Waldstr. 40, D-90596 Schwanstetten, Germany.

Ciaran Burke of The Garden School and The Earth Touch Project recently visited Callan community garden and photographed both my and a couple of community gardeners hands, as part of the Hands That Change This Earth photographic project that he’s been working on. With that in mind it came as no surprise to read the first item on Ciaran’s first Christmas list (and thanks for the tip off Ciaran as didn’t know they existed!)What Gardeners Really Want for Christmas

Mmm… a Sony QX1 lens camera for smart phone. Dead handy for photos on the go when visiting gardens and easy to pack.

A pallet of organic peat free compost for my New Growth Project courses in Marlay – needs no explanation!

Lastly, a nice selection of hardy shrub and tree seeds from around the globe, to try new species in an Irish climate!

What Gardeners Really Want for Christmas

Lily de Sylva of Smallholding Ireland shares her three garden related desires which I’m pleased to see include a bit of well-earned relaxation in amongst all the hard work! Lily runs a variety of self-sufficiency course’s based in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary..

First up, a Griofan rootaxe. I already have one of these that I’ve been using for 10 years and it’s paid for itself a hundred times over. There’s nothing like it for digging trenches, clearing rooty areas, skinning the turf off new plots etc. The broad-blade one is the best, I think. sadly, this year, the handle broke on mine, Of course, I could just get a new handle, but if I had a second Griofan then the HelpXers could use it too. 

Next on the list is Arramara seaweed. Not the seaweed dust, this is a granulated product and serves for a multitude of purposes, especially as a slow-release fertiliser and an additive to animal feed. Buying it from garden centres one bag at a time was kinda stupid, but it proved to be almost impossible to get Arramara Teo to sell it to you in bulk… communications always tailed off. Now the company has been sold, will we be able to get it at all?

Lastly some Kneippus Bath Products. I’m not really into girly stuff and beauty products, but this stuff is the bomb. I only have hot water for baths in the winter, when the range is going, which is handy because that’s usually when I’m doing heavy preparation work outside and often getting soaked in the process. A really hot bath soaking in this eases all tensions and aches and makes for a blissful nights sleep, ready for a new day’s digging tomorrow.

Gareth Austin Gardening Gift ListGareth Austin is a lecturer and BBC broadcaster in Horticulture based in Donegal. Gareth is a big friend of community gardening, having helped to host a Community Garden Network meeting in Derry a couple of years ago, showing a group of us many of the horticulture projects that have taken place there over recent years. Here’s Gareth’s thoughts on gifts that gardeners might like to receive:

If I was buying a gardener a present for Christmas firstly I would avoid anything with ‘Gardeners Gift Set’ on it….a pair of gloves, some expensive string and a bit of nonsense copper labels or something…no thank you. I’d be thinking something practical.

Now, depending on the budget, this will of course have a big sway in your thoughts. But any gardener would be delighted with a Vitapod Heated propagator, a serious bit of kit, I’ve had one for 4 years and its a wonderful piece of equipment to have in your polytunnel or greenhouse.

Next I’d be thinking about membership to your nearest castle gardens or parkland – a year-long pass to somewhere inspiring and fantastic whether it be Belvedere House, Wells House, National trust etc.

Lastly I’d be thinking about a great spade..not a normal run-of-the-mill spade but a fantastic stainless steel, with teak handle or the likes.

Gardening Gifts: What We Really WantDavid Corscadden is a Kildare base horticultural journalist and blogger. David has a weekly gardening column in the Kildare Post and his blog won Best Great Outdoors 2014 at the Blog Awards Ireland.

A garden lantern. This is at the more expensive end of a present list, and of course you can find lanterns for slightly cheaper, but I think this lantern from Marks and Spencer would be great on any patio. I like its modern feel and candle light is a great thing to add atmosphere to a garden.

A good quality garden spade like this Joseph Bentley one from Johnstown Garden Centre. When it comes to tools for the garden you can never buy the wrong one in my eyes. If they don’t think they need it at first a gardener will soon realise that it comes in very handy to have a full arsenal of tools. I am a big fan of wooden handled tools and I really like the design of this garden spade’s handle.

I, for one, would love a gift of seeds for Christmas. I think plants can be a bit too tricky to buy for some people and seeds are the safer option. When it comes to gifts of seed the more unusual the better. Buy the person something that will excite them and not just some bog standard sweet pea. I love these gift boxes of seeds from Brown Envelope Seeds. They are presented well, the company does good work and they are available at a few different price points.

Homemade Gardeners Gifts

Gardening Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

Photo Credit: Our Fairfield Home & Garden

If you’re still stuck for ideas after all those suggestions, or would like to make your own gardening gifts, Jill Guarino Brown of Brown, Green & More shows us how to make our own from bouquet garni to seed ball ornaments and seed bombs. You can find out how here.

Patti Zacharia Estep from the Garden Matter blog gives a step-by-step guide on how to make hand printed tea towels using ferns while Barb Rosen from Our Fairfield Home and Garden blog has put together a post with some lovely DIY garden gift baskets that are a far cry from the ones Gareth referred to above.

My Wish List….

Gardening Gifts


I think my own list would include a luxurious bar of lavender-scented handmade soap as I’ve noticed that the skin on my hands is much softer and doesn’t crack like it used to since I stopped using pump-action soaps. I’d also like to try out the oscillating hoe mentioned in Tanguay’s comments as I’ve heard great things about them.

Gardening Gifts


Lastly I’ve a terrible habit of loosing my gardening gloves and my Showa gloves are by far the best I’ve owned to date so a brightly coloured pair, perhaps in bright pink that would stand out a mile, would be very useful.

Have you anything to add to the ideas above?


Please note, other than a few of my own images, all photo credits belong to the pages directly linked in this article and I have only used them for the purpose of helping to spotlight them.

Community Gardens, Food & Drink

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community

October 14, 2014

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community |

Not content with growing the vegetables, a couple of weeks ago  I rashly gamely offered to demonstrate a few ways of cooking pumpkin flesh at Callan community garden as there’s little point in growing food if we don’t know how to prepare and eat it. It’s the first year we’ve grown a pumpkin patch there and as the fruit have swollen nicely, it seemed a good idea to demonstrate that there’s more to pumpkins than Halloween window decorations. I’m sure many of us are, or have been guilty of discarding the flesh we scoop out and it seems such a waste of good food. In the shops and farmers markets, pumpkins are coming into season and are a vegetable/fruit that will store for months in a cool, dry environment, making them a fantastic winter staple.

Not only do pumpkins make great decorations, they are extremely good for us, containing over 200% of our recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, the vitamin that’s good for our eye sight, they’re rich in fibre, contain very few calories and are great for helping to lower cholesterol among other things.

Cookery Demonstration

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community | greensideup.ieI’m a family cook who likes a recipe in front of me (even though I stray from it quite regularly) which therefore resulted in a very informal cookery session at the family resource centre where everyone helped with the prepping and washing up, before gathering to share the food presented. I chose two safe, tried and tasted savoury pumpkin recipes using the flesh from one medium-sized pumpkin, as well as a roasted seed recipe that you can find below. I also demonstrated how to make courgette cake, a recipe I’ve talked about on several occasions but gardeners had yet to try. The courgette cake recipe can be found here and the basic soup and delicately flavoured pumpkin rice recipes here. I’m afraid there’s no photos as I was too busy cooking.

I would have loved to have baked a pumpkin dessert for the group but simply didn’t have time to find a recipe that uses fresh pumpkin flesh – no matter where I looked, they all used tinned pumpkin purée. However, I’ve since been given this recipe that shares how to make our own purée by Kristen who writes That Blooming Garden Blog, so they’ll be no stopping us.

If you’d like to try cooking pumpkins this year, as well as the recipes linked above that I cooked for the group, I’ve added a few variations of soup at the bottom of the post from some fellow garden bloggers.

Cooking Pumpkins in the Community | greensideup.ieRoasted pumpkin seeds


225g pumpkin seeds
450ml water
2 tbls salt
1 tblsp olive oil

Heat oven to 20oºC/Gas 6/400ºF

Remove the ‘lid’ of the pumpkin at the stalk end by cutting a disk shape around the top with a sharp knife. Scoop out the soft, seedy, fibrous flesh inside with a metal spoon and place into a colander, leaving the tougher flesh that’s around the inside of the pumpkin to tackle later for another recipe.

Pick out as many of the seeds as you can before sifting through the rest under a tap of running water. (Tip: do this holding the colander over a bowl and use the drained water for the plants or flush the toilet with it.)

Add the seeds, water and salt to a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes or so to allow the seeds to soften.

Take off the heat, drain, pat the seeds dry with a clean tea towel then toss in the olive oil before placing on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast in the oven for around ten to twenty minutes, until the seeds brown.

Three Pumpkin Soup Recipes

Soup is such a versatile dish, quick to make and winter warming too. Here are some links to three variations of pumpkin soup you might like to try.

Cooking Pumpkin in the CommunityThe first is from Emma from De Tout Coeur Limousin in France where she adds sage, garlic and chilli to her pumpkin recipe .

Secondly, from Kristin in British Columbia, a step by step guide to pumpkin soup with a nutmeg flavouring, very handy if you’re new to soup making.

Lastly (and these are in no particular order) Heather from the New House New Home New Life blog makes a curried soup and although has used purée as a base, the flavouring could easily be switched to a fresh pumpkin recipe.

Pumpkin Competition

Pumpkin Decorating Contest

Pumpkin Decorating Contest from The Empress of Dirt

If you’d like to try your hand at decorating this year’s pumpkins with embellishments and not carving them, there’s a fun competition over on Melissa’s Empress of Dirt Blog where the winning entry could take on the illustrious title of Creator Of The Ultimate Pumpkin Head of 2014!

History of Pumpkin Carving

If you prefer to carve your pumpkins, here’s an archived post on the blog that explains why we do it. Did you know the tradition originated in Ireland?

What do you think… will you be cooking your pumpkin this year?

Community Gardens

Community education – how measurable is it?

September 20, 2014
Community education – how measurable is it?

This is what happens when you take a couple of weeks off in the summer

We spent a quiet couple of months in the Callan and Freshford community gardens during the summer months with the long, lazy days ensuring we all managed to spend some down time. Now the children are back in school we’re firmly back in action in the gardens and have some exciting plans ahead. Having announced at the end of the 2013 Savour Kilkenny Food Festival that they never wanted to make, preserve and sell home-grown produce ever again, like the memories of childbirth, Callan gardeners seem to have forgotten all the painful bits and have not only announced they want to give Savour another go, they’ve invited the new Freshford gardeners over to the kitchen to help them make this year’s batch of preserves and get involved with the selling of them.

I’ve mentioned before how unique community gardens are with no two alike and the gardens in these two rural Kilkenny villages are no exception. Continue Reading…

Vegetable Garden

12 Garden Pests We Don’t Want To See In Our Veggies

April 30, 2014

Sometime’s it seems there are more bad guys in the garden than good. When we emptied a large strawberry container this week in a HSE garden that caters for adults with intellectual disabilities, we found four of the ten pests listed below in one container alone! When we’re gardening without chemicals it can be a challenge but not impossible to either get rid of, or contain the pests and the first step is identifying the good guys from the bad, something covered a couple of weeks ago with the 12 Friends We Want to See in Our Gardens blog post.

Companion Planting Nasturtiums

Companion Planting Nasturtiums

To identify the pests we need to see them first so the first rule of thumb when dealing with pests organically is vigilance. Check your vegetables regularly, daily if possible and if you spot anything unusual, try to find out what it is and deal with it immediately – it’s very unlikely it will go away on its own.

One of my favourite books to help identify pests and diseases is the RHS Pest & Disease book and I’d recommend it for all gardeners shelves. After vigilance there are several things we can do to prevent a build up of pests, from good soil management, hygiene, crop rotation, companion planting as well as learning pest life-cycles (the weevil below is a case in point), using fresh compost and encouraging beneficial wildlife – all topics covered in my workshops. To help you begin the pest ID, here are a dozen I’ve come across, though there are many more.


Leatherjacket – root eating cranefly larvae

1. Leatherjackets

Not the ones we wear, but little grey-brown grubs. Leatherjackets are the larvae of crane fly and are root eaters. They’re fleshy with no legs and can grow as big as 50mm. For more information on how to identify and get rid of them, take a look here.

photo credit: E_Journeys via photopin cc

photo credit: E_Journeys via photopin cc

2. Cutworms

Cutworms are moth larvae that generally live under the soil and are again, root feeders.

They’re larger than the leatherjackets mentioned above and are a green, grey, brown colour about 2.5 cm long. Supernemos are available online if you’ve noticed a particular problem with these grubs or the leatherjackets.

cabbage white caterpillars3. Caterpillars

Cabbage white butterflies and moths start appearing around May and lay their eggs on the undersides of Brassica leaves (kale, cabbage, broccoli). The eggs hatch and the caterpillars feast on the leaves of seedlings you may have lovingly grown, leaving gaping holes and if left unchecked, no leaves whatsoever.

There are a few ways of dealing with caterpillars organically. First of all cover the bed your Brassica are growing in with netting made with holes small enough the butterfly can’t squeeze through to lay her eggs. Make sure the net is fixed to a frame and not sitting directly on top of the plants or the butterfly will lay her eggs through it. If you do spot signs of caterpillars, pick them off the plants and destroy them or move them to a sacrificial plant such as nasturtiums where they can chomp away without damaging your precious leaves.

snails4. Slugs & Snails

I could spend every lesson in every workshop discussing slugs and snails as they’re the bane of gardeners lives! Instead I wrote a blog post that has 15 ways of dealing with them organically and a few more comments have been added to the list. Take a look if slugs & snails are your nemesis.

Carrot Root Fly Damage

Carrot Root Fly Damage – spot the larvae

5. Carrot Root Fly

I think I’d heard about carrot root fly long before we began growing veg but only came across this pest recently. Boy does it do some damage. I won’t go into detail here as I dedicated a blog post to it after we discovered it in Callan community garden, but trust me, you really don’t want this pest in your garden.

aphids7. Aphids

Greenfly, blackly – most of us are familiar with aphids in one guise or another.

They love our roses and they love our broad beans and they breed like mad. Here’s a post all about them with a few suggestions on how to keep on top of them.

spidermite8. Red Spidermite

My polytunnel became so infested with red spidermite last year I had to take everything out and wash the tunnel and everything it contained from top to bottom because the spidermite had infected it all. It was a demoralising experience that I don’t want a repeat of, ever. How did it happen? I took my eye off and didn’t spot them early enough. It was a hot summer and I didn’t keep the polytunnel damp enough – red spidermite thrive in hot, dry conditions. There’s no excuse as I’ve seen infestations a couple of times. Here’s a post about a red spidermite attack we spotted early enough in Goresbridge Community Garden a couple of years ago you might like to look at for tips and suggestions.

weevil grub

photo credit: Scot Nelson via photopin cc

9. Weevils

Whether the weevils are after your legumes as in pea and bean weevil or after your strawberries, as in strawberry weevil, they’re a curse as the distinctive orange headed larvae eat the roots and the adults eat the leaves. The Irish produced Supernemos are said to be effective against strawberry weevils and may well be the answer.

Beet leaf miner10. Leaf Beet Miner

Beet miner’s are maggots that have hatched from fly eggs laid between the layers of leaves. There’s no cure, organic or otherwise, other than vigilance. Once you spot them, remove the infected leaves and the plants will recover. This post explains them in more detail.

Cockchafer (May Bug) aka root eater11. Chafer Grubs

The first time I came across one of these grubs (cockchafer pictured on the left) it reminded me of the enormous widgedeygrubs our children are fascinated with on ‘I’m A Celebrity’.  Almost the size of your thumb they eat roots and once they pupate the cockchafers will become Mays Bugs or Billy witches. We tried watering Supernemos onto the raised beds in Leighlin Parish Community Garden the first year we came across them and didn’t see them again as a result.

12. Gooseberry Sawfly

gooseberry sawfly

gooseberry sawfly larvae

Lots of people were tweeting about gooseberry sawfly larvae damage last year – a caterpillar than can literary strip bushes bare in just a couple of days. They’re also partial to currant bushes which I learnt when they took a liking to our red currant bush. Here’s a post on how to deal with them. I heard a tip recently suggesting laying rhubarb leaves at the base of bushes to deter this fly – something I’ll be trying soon.

There are many more pests and just when we think we’ve seen them all, along comes a new one. Lots of people have mentioned the weevils this year and ants seem to be causing a problem too. Ants won’t damage your garden but they do harvest aphids, a sprinkling of cinnamon or semolina powder seems to sort them out however.  I have a general rule of thumb in our garden – as long as the bugs aren’t trying to eat our vegetables, they can stay.

Have you come across any pests that have had you hopping mad at the destruction they’ve caused?

Community Gardens

How To Create A Successful Community / Workplace Garden

April 15, 2014

Focus On: Callan Community Garden, Co Kilkenny

pea supports

One of the benefits of working in a group environment such as a community garden is the amount of experience and knowledge we gain working alongside one other, as well as learning how to get the most from each other’s strengths by working in a team. This is relevant to both community and work place gardens.

I’ve written some guidelines that you can refer to if you’re wondering what a community garden is or how to set one up, but if you’re already involved with a community garden and wondering how to get the best from it, Callan’s story might be of help to you.

Autumn Prep at Callan Community GardenCallan community garden is situated at the back of the old Friary which is now the Droichead Family Resource Centre, a network of centres that were created with community and social inclusion as key elements of their ethos.

For the past 18 months I’ve been funded by Kilkenny Leader Partnership to work with the group of gardeners, helping them to grow their own fruit and vegetables as well as create an awareness of local food produce and it’s importance in the local economy. This project has also enabled us to create an opportunity for progressive development and sustainability by creating a mini enterprise.

Small Garden at Droichead Family Resource CentreMeeting for a couple of hours each week, we began in the autumn of 2012 with a short, basic theory led course where gardeners were introduced to vegetable families, crop rotation, soil requirements, the myriad of seed choices as well as the importance of incorporating wildlife into our gardens.

This gave the group a taster of the practical work that would follow in the more garden friendly months and in the spring of 2013, we started work outside on the very small space allocated to us.

At that time the garden and polytunnel were divided between several groups, including local transition year students and a FETAC accredited BTEI (Back to Education) course. As the summer holidays approached, the school and horticulture groups finished and the community gardeners began to mind the entire garden. This change inspired a blog post suggesting that schools might be the ideal and natural partners for hosting community gardens, ensuring that produce is cared for and minded throughout the year.

New gardeners learn about seeds guided by the more experienced

A new gardener with the group learns about seed sowing as the more experienced members encouragingly watch on

In the autumn we spent less time weeding and sowing and more time cooking and preserving, as well as learning about selling and marketing an artisan food product. During that time I was able to work alongside the group, preparing pickles and chutneys from produce we’d grown from seed. Once labelled, over a 100 jars were taken to the three-day Savour Kilkenny Food Festival where they were proudly showcased and sold by the Callan and Goresbridge gardeners who’d helped to create them..

Kilkenny Community Gardens Pickles & Preserves

Kilkenny Community Garden Network Pickles & Preserves

The mini enterprise was a success in many ways as the gardeners were able to take part and see, first hand, everything involved in setting up and operating a small, local business. The money raised will help to fund further development projects planned for the garden..

The activity also allowed the gardeners to come to the decision that they much preferred to grow the vegetables and give them to friends and not to sell them! It wasn’t a process they all enjoyed and the group have a new respect for those that do it to make a full-time living. They also have an understanding why small business’ have to charge realistic prices based on time and quality of ingredients. As a result and following discussions with Olive Maher, the forward thinking manager of the resource centre, over the coming months we’ll be trying a different approach with the garden.

Gardeners learn about recycling & gardening

Gardeners learn about recycling & gardening

Plans have been made to build more high raised beds that can accommodate people with movement difficulties and due to the extra growing space, will enable the centre to run very relevant and beneficial workshops for the community, using the garden as the hub.

Dee Sewell at Callan Community Garden

Dee : Photo Credit Catherine Drea

A basic budget cookery course is being planned that will use seasonal produce grown and harvested from the garden, as the core ingredients.

The feasibility of running a basic landscaping course, perhaps with some stonework, where participants will learn to make a seating area and outside barbecue/cooking area is also being considered.

The Family Resource Centre also plan to run a separate mini enterprise course for local people, again using produce grown in the garden.

These courses will be available to everyone in the local community at very reduced rates and the gardeners will have a choice on whether they wish to attend them or just continue working together in the garden and providing fresh produce for them. Lastly and perhaps most importantly in a community, the centre are planning a summer party for everyone who visits, volunteers or learns there and I will be working with the community gardeners to provide as much food as we can for that.

There are no hard and fast rules about community gardens – each one is unique. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out how to get the most from your garden and sometimes you have to adapt and change original plans, as in the case above.

Callan Community GardenCommunity gardens are however, excellent social levellers, creating excellent opportunities for people to integrate, interact, learn, work alongside one another and share; skills that are sometimes overlooked but are so necessary in functioning communities, workplaces, home and society in general.

If you’re interested in finding out more about community gardening and how it might help you, your community or workplace, contact me here for more information.