How To Create A Successful Community / Workplace Garden

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.

 

FACT: Global Warming is Accelerating Fast ~ What Can We Do?

The Greatest Threat to Earth

Credit: Emilys Quotes

As news of the recent  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report filters into our news stream and the realisation that time is running out for us to adapt to the massive changes in climate that will become our norm, my mind has turned to lawnmowers. Yes, those innocuous little machines that millions of us push or steer up and down our gardens on sunny days in a never-ending battle against nature.

The new IPCC report, where 1200 scenarios from scientific literature were analysed, show that global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change, with emissions growing more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. 

We’ve known for years that our dependence on fossil fuels has to change and that we’re going to have to alter our lifestyles as global warming and climate extremes begin to affect us all, but have we been sticking our heads in the sand? How did emissions grow so quickly when we knew there were problems up ahead? Cutting emissions from electricity production to near zero is commonly featured in the report’s scenarios. But using energy efficiently is also important.

So how can we make a difference? Where, individually, do we begin?

It strikes me that we have to start with a change in mindset and shake away some habits and beliefs of old, before the planet decides it’s fed up waiting for us, and strips them away fast.

Many of us are caught in fossil fuel traps that we can’t see our way out of. Thanks to the economic downturn, we can’t afford to change our cars to more fuel-efficient models however much we’d like to; public transport doesn’t exist for rural dwellers and solar panels are a pipe dream when we’re struggling to pay our day-to-day bills. We’ve switched to energy-efficient light bulbs, turned down the heating and we’re saving water which is all well and good, we’re doing our bit, but what else can we do? Surely it’s up to our governments and policy makers to see us through and make the right decisions for us?

Maybe not entirely. It’s easy to throw our hands up and think that our reliance on fossil fuels is someone else’s problem, but it’s not. We have to take responsibility for our actions and choices, both in our business’ and our homes.

So with that in mind, my eyes have turned to our trusty lawnmower.

We’ve been thinking about the redundant area that is our lawn for a while but it was following my recent visit to the eco village of Cloughjordan, a lawn free environment, that our lawnmower’s days became numbered. It didn’t worry me that the naturalised grasses growing between the houses there were knee-high because, as a chemical free gardener, I was too busy thinking what a fantastic place it was for wildlife and beneficial insects to live in too. Being in a lawn free zone made me question our own lawn making habits.

In our garden that was fashioned from a farmer’s field, we sowed a tough grass seed lawn “for our children”, yet the reality is that kids enjoy hiding in long grass, making secret dens away from the adults. Now they’re older they have sports pitches in the village they’re throwing, kicking or hitting balls around in every week, they’re hardly ever in our garden sitting on the lawn!

Irish CornflowerAs I was trundling my petrol driven lawnmower up and down once again, having locked it in the shed for the past six months, I was thinking about the fuel it was using and the time and effort it takes to cut the grass every week, and I wondered why we do it? How or why did this lawn mowing fashion begin? Was it some unconscious desire to prove we can tame nature or was it just because a perfectly clipped lawn ‘looks good’?

I grew up in a house with a lawn, all my neighbours had lawns, when I was renting I dreamt about a house with a lawn so it was by default that when we bought a house we’d sow one. A lawn looks pretty when it’s just been mowed, it’s the socially acceptable thing to do and that makes us feel good but on reflection, gazing at a field full of wildflowers can provoke a much deeper emotional response from many of us than admiring a stripey green lawn.

Mixed WildflowersAs a result of our realisation that mowing a lawn is a complete waste of time and energy, Mr G and I are now deliberating over the alternatives, which include:

1. Buy a couple of lambs to graze it, with a view to them finding their way into the (A rated) deep freeze.

Pink Wildflower2. Extend the veg garden and grow a lot more vegetables.

3. Buy a couple of piglets and let them turn the grass over so that in the long-term we can..

4. Plant a wildflower garden.

We haven’t decided yet. I think we may have to dig out the self-sufficiency books, put pen to paper with a few ideas. But whatever happens, the lawnmower will not be used as much as it once was. For the moment it’ll be pulled out of the shed to mow the paths between the vegetable beds, with the clippings used as a mulch, until we widen the beds and make them even more productive.

Wildflower MeadowWhat’s important right now is that we make changes to our behaviour, however small and seemingly inconsequential. We have to consider the impact we’re having on the environment, the landscape around us and how much we’re contributing to global warming and climate change.

What do you think? Could you ditch the lawnmower or have you already done so and have never looked back?

* The Press Release released today from Working Group III of the IPCC can be viewed here.

 

Feed Ourselves (Real) Food – It’s Time to Make Changes

How do you feel about large supermarkets these days? I’ve become increasingly frustrated with them and in particular since the pre-Christmas price wars that once again highlighted the fact that since their arrival in our slightly out-of-town shopping centres with their free parking, that village and town high streets have been slowly boarding up their windows and closing down.

It niggles me that supermarkets manipulate us to buy certain goods, that we repeatedly fall for their wiley ways, and that ultimately what we’ve gained in the convenience of being able to buy everything on our shopping lists under the one roof, we’ve lost by our village and town high streets losing their souls.

Essex Landscape ~ Photo Credit: Martin Pettitt

Essex Landscape ~ Photo Credit: Martin Pettitt

Rural Life

A big chunk of my childhood was spent growing up in a village store in a rural area of south-east of England. For years, Mum got up at dawn and for 6 days a week headed to one of the cold, draughty outbuildings in the 200-year-old property that was part of our shop and home. She’d take delivery of the piles of newspapers that were delivered, ensuring they were ready for the paper boys and girls to sort and post through doors before they headed on to school. On Sundays Dad and I completed the entire paper round delivery, giving mum and the rest of the gang and well needed lie-in.

During the weekdays, Dad would head off for work and Mum would walk with us down the long, quiet lanes past the fields of potato pickers to our school, before heading back home and opening up the shop. She’d spend the day chatting with customers, listening to all the village gossip, its highs and woes, and often times just being a point of contact for isolated men and women. When Mum locked the doors at night, she came in to the kitchen, lit the fires, prepared a home cooked dinner, before sending us off to bed to give her some quiet time to attend to the shop accounts, staff wages and other associated paperwork that are part and parcel of small business life.

Photo credit: Angus Kirk

Photo credit: Angus Kirk

Mum sold everything from fruit, veg, meat, bread, stationary, sweets, groceries, slippers, cement and kerosene and our weekly family outing was to the cash and carry. Mum was  renowned for her home baked ham. My Dad also drove a van full of food around the village once a week, so that people without transport could top up their cupboards, offering an early model of food delivery that was commonplace back then. Ours was a typical village in its time, with a doctor’s surgery, a police station, a bakery, school, pub, church and post-office, as well as a mixture of council and privately owned properties. I learnt a lot about hard work and the importance of communities, growing up in the hive of one.

On reflection my upbringing is probably the key to what makes me so passionate about community now and my gives me the drive to help make necessary changes that might ensure our children’s survival over the coming years as we face the uncertainties of food sovereignty in a warming environment..

However, this isn’t a post about my childhood or the big, bold supermarkets that have become our blessing and our curse. It’s about a movement that’s rippling across Ireland that with our help, can make significant changes to the way we approach food and to individually become involved with the nexus way of thinking mentioned a short while ago on world water day. This post shares a few ideas about something we can do to claw back some of the best parts of a community lifestyle – the companionship and our relationship with food from producers to smaller shops and ultimately us, the consumers.

CSA Conference, Cloughjordan

Photo credit: Oliver Moore

At the weekend a group of very committed people travelled from afar to share experiences and knowledge at the third CSA conference held in Cloughjordan Eco village.

Expertly facilitated by Davie Philips, we came together to talk about real, honest to goodness food in the form of community assisted agriculture (CSA), community food co-ops, community food buying schemes, community shops and community gardens.

If this is a new way of thinking to you and not something you’ve come across before, here’s a quick run down of just a few of the projects that are currently being run in Ireland that might give you ideas to initiate or get involved with in your area.

Cloughjordan Eco Village Hostel Menu

Cloughjordan Eco Village Hostel Menu

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Cloughjordan eco village were the first community I heard of that practice this model of producing food for the people, and are by no means the only one. If you’re interested in finding out more, their community farm runs tours and training events to promote and educate others about setting up and operating their own CSA.

The concept of a CSA projects is very simple. Instead of going to a shop and paying for your provisions as you need them, when you become a member of a CSA you pay a regular contribution (sometimes upfront) that covers the wages of the growers as well as the running costs and admin of the operation. In return, food is delivered to a central point for you to collect.

The food is fresh, it’s seasonal and the producers care passionately, not only about the sustainability of the farm and produce (in Cloughjordan’s case, the food is grown biodynamically and organically) but about growing the most optimally nutritious food they possibly can that hasn’t been diluted by industrialisation.

As a consumer and member of a CSA, you have the challenge of eating and cooking seasonally throughout the year, but the knowledge of exactly where your food has come from and how it was grown with no packaging, retail and very few transportation costs. You might even have given a few hours helping the farm out at a busy time and you’re certainly able to watch your food growing, but not have the worry of growing it yourself.

rocketCommunity Co-ops/Groceries and Food Buying Schemes

The essence of a co-operative is that the business is owned by and run for the benefit of its members (and not directors and shareholders). Membership is made up of both the consumers who shop there and the workers who work there. Membership is open to all.

Dublin has an established food co-op and Oliver Moore recently shared the story in his blog of Limerick Community Grocery’s journey. It’s early days for them but the fact that the group involved with the project in Limerick are hoping to make their’s the first cooperative city, is inspirational.

Community Food Buyer Schemes

These schemes work on the premise that buying in bulk is cheaper. By pooling their buying power and ordering food in bulk direct from suppliers, a group of people can buy good food at a more affordable prices.

Small food co-ops or buying groups work by collecting together everyone’s orders in advance, other models are run more like food businesses and order the produce from suppliers and then sell it to their customers via stalls, bag or box schemes, mobile stores, shops or other types of outlet. OOOBY’s would be an example of this scheme working well, with one in operation in Wicklow at Carriag Dulra Permaculture and Organic Farm for some time now.

Community gardens

Community gardens are usually small food gardens where the work and the resulting produce is shared. They’re generally too small to provide food for all the gardeners to take home or to set up box schemes, but they’re good social spaces that encourage and educate people about food and in particular vegetable growing. People can learn how to grow their own food in community gardens and take the knowledge home with them and replicate it, or they can just drop in and get their hands dirty, happy that they are at least connecting with the soil on a weekly basis. Community gardens can be incubation tanks for other projects such as those mentioned above and are increasingly being used to teach people how to create small, social enterprise projects.

Meet the CheesemakersSlow food

This is a non-profit member supported organisation that showcases sustainable agriculture and artisan food production, connecting producers with consumers, often educating the public where food comes from, how it’s produced and helping to create positive social change. Keith Bohanna of Biabeag has been working with Highbank Organic Orchards recently to hold regular “meet the food producer” slots that have been very popular. At these events small food producers honestly share the highs and lows of their profession and passion. As the community gardeners I worked with found out at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival last year, when consumers connect with food producers, we’re much more likely to buy from them.

CSA Conference Outcomes

There are many more initiatives happenings round the country and one of the outcomes of the CSA conference is that a list will be made of all the known ones that we will be able to find and link into.  If there isn’t a food co-op, CSA or community garden near you, an opportunity to create one is being encouraged.

Get involved

Duncan Stewart at CSA Conference Photo Credit: Bruce Darrell aka @cjredgardens

Duncan Stewart at CSA Conference Photo Credit: Bruce Darrell aka @cjredgardens

TV presenter Duncan Stewart is spearheading a “Get involved” campaign with local newspapers, a local sustainable community initiative that will encourage every community to become more food or energy aware. The scheme hopes that projects will link up and to a certain extent, compete with one another, and that all the knowledge learnt can be shared.

The Get Involved campaign will give every one of us the opportunity to become more connected at community level and offer us the chance to take back some control over what we eat and how it’s produced.

It will only work if we do as the campaign title suggests and “get involved”. I for one, am really looking forward to hearing more and supporting the community gardens I work with to come up with ideas for this initiative and I hope you will too. I would love to see a CSA scheme set up in my own area but whether it happens or not will depend upon the will of the people.

So what do you think? Am I living in the romantic past or do you think we have it in us to take back control of our food systems in time to survive the challenges global warming will throw at us? We live on a small island with a small population that’s more than capable of feeding itself. Have we got it in us to do it, to make the necessary changes and to reconnect with our food?

photo credit: Martin Pettitt via photopin cc
photo credit: Anguskirk via photopin cc

Five Ways to Help Bees Now

Blooming Flowers at Mount Congreve during Late SeptemberWe hear so much about the desperate plight of the bees but is the message getting through?

poppiesandbees.jpg

Scientists are still working to determine what exactly is causing their global demise, but as a result of the Varroa mite, *there are no wild honeybees left in Ireland.

As we begin to sow seeds, tidy our gardens and think about shrubs and summer blooms, it’s important to remember bees need our help if they are to survive.

I came across this alarming yet hopeful TED talk by Marla Spivak recently where she eloquently speaks about the plight of the disappearing bees which is worth listening to. At the end she highlights a couple of things that each and every one of us can do to help the bees and why it’s important that we do them now. I’ve added a few more…

Five things we can do right now to help the bees that will make a difference

1. Don’t contaminate the flowers that are growing. Stop spraying pesticides and herbicides on flowers that the bees feed on and ingest – that includes the “weeds” such as dandelion that are a veritable spring feast for bees as they emerge. Always err on the side of caution – if you’re still using chemicals and are not sure if they’re harmful to bees or not, DON’T USE THEMThe RHS carry a lot of information about bees on their website, including a list of withdrawn chemicals that can be referred to.

Cornflowers2. Plant more bee friendly flowers.

If you’ve a large area to plant, Sandro’s Irish Wildflower Conservation Grade Seed Mix might be for you. Not only will the birds, bees and butterflies love you for it, wildflowers are low maintenance (they generally only need one cut per year) and look stunning when in flower too.

A spring bee feeding on a Mahonia flowerOnce again, the RHS have a very detailed list of plants for pollinators on their website here, which will give you ideas for bee attracting climbers, trees, bulbs and corms, as well as annual, biennial or perennial flowers.

You could also plant herbs or vegetables that bees will enjoy feeding upon such as asparagus, broad beans, courgettes and other members of the squash family, hyssop, marjoram, mint, rosemary, runner beans, sage, thyme and allow some of them to flower too such as brassicas.

bee collecting pollen on a broad (fava) bean3. Take direct action.

Greenpeace are running a campaign asking people to support ecological farming, ban bee harming pesticides and adopt action plans that will help to monitor the situation. If you’d like to sign the petition and/or donate to the cause, click the link here.

4. Create Bee-Friendly Zones

Bees like nooks and crannies to nest, feed and hang out in. Learn how to garden without chemicals, plant bee friendly plants, make bee nest boxes or hotels and encourage your friends, neighbours, schools, creches, and clubs to do the same in Bee-Friendly Zones.

Encourage councils and tidy town groups to plant bee friendly flowers among hedgerows and verges and remind farmers to leave strips of wild flower areas on the edges of their fields and resist spraying them with herbicides and pesticides, which will provide the bees with unpolluted food help to ensure their survival.

If you’re looking for ideas on habitats, here’s a Pinterest board full of bird, bee and pollinator friendly homes and feeders.

honey bees5. Start a Campaign

Although there’s a breeding programme to protect the native Irish honeybee, as far as I can make out there’s no national campaign in Ireland to raise awareness about the plight of the bees and how important it is that we protect and help them, so consider starting one!

Encourage your communities to plant more bee friendly flowers, stop spraying unnecessarily and plant more wildflower verges and roundabouts instead of spraying and mowing.

Let’s get bees into the news and help to raise an awareness that will stop people spraying and more people planting. What do you think? Are you up for the challenge?

 

* source www.advancescience.com

 

 

Growing Vegetables in Containers

Vegetables Growing in Containers

A Container Grown Vegetable Garden

Not all of us are blessed (depending upon your point of view) with lots of land to grow vegetables at home and there may not be an allotment or community garden close to you.

The UK has a great scheme called Landshare created in 2009 by River Cottage, now with over 73,000 members but it’s not something that’s really taken off here in Ireland.

However, many of you who have the space, may not have the time to grow your own, or may feel it’s a bit of a waste of time when veg can be picked up so cheaply in supermarkets.

Container grown peas growing in a bagWe all have reasons for not growing our own food but if it is something you’ve considered having a go at but haven’t yet begun, container gardening is a great way of getting started.

Almost all vegetables can be grown in containers – as few or as many as suits your lifestyle and if they’re recycled, all the better.

In fact if you’re new to growing veg, having planters around your door, window or balcony might be just what you need to get you started. Once you’ve experienced the pleasures of harvesting your own food and eating it, who knows what’ll happen next!

So how do you grow vegetables in containers?

1. Choose your seeds well.

Start with reliable, quick-growing veg that you like to eat. Many varieties of seeds have been bred to grow especially well in pots and containers, so keep an eye out for them as you’re more likely to receive good results from them.

  • Container grown saladschoose what you like to eat: rocket, radish or mixed lettuce, cherry tomatoes or baby carrots, peas or salad potatoes can easily be grown outside a sunny door.
  • Bamboo or hazel canes can be decoratively tied in your container for growing mangetout, peas or runner beans.
  • If you’re pushed for time, buy some ready grown plants from a garden centre and plant them straight into your containers for instant gratification!
  • Look out for the label CCU (Cut and Come Again), more common with varieties of lettuce. This means you can take a few leaves off each plant when you need them and not harvesting the plant.
  • Many of the vegetables suggested in the post “growing vegetables in small gardens” are also suitable for container vegetables gardens.
Growing Food in Containers

Greenside Up Pinterest Board – Container Gardening

Most recycled containers are ideal for growing in as long as they’ve been thoroughly washed and cleaned out. I recently read the following so it pays to be cautious when growing edibles in containers and err on the side of caution by lining them before you add the compost (old pure wool jumpers or socks make perfect plant pot liners):

“Plastic that is safe to grow food in/with should have recycling numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 on the bottom. Plastic with a 3 have PVC in them. In time chemicals leach out contaminating soil, which in turn contaminates the food. Styrofoam is made of plastic number 6 and have cancerous effects, Number 7 contains bisphenol A which is harmful to the behavioural growth of children.”

A quick tip: the smaller the container, the quicker the compost will dry out, so as much fun as some of the quirky containers are that we see on Pinterest, unless you can make sure your plants will get a good water every day, try to stick to large containers.

Growing Food in Containers

These colourful containers really make me smile, but be prepared to water them frequently

Old tyres, baths, toilets and sinks have all been used to grow plants in. Thick plastic ‘laundry bags’ are great for growing potatoes, or brush up on your woodwork skills and you could also have a go at making your own window boxes and planters too – pallets are ideal for this purpose.

3. Drainage.

Lack of drainage can cause as many problems as lack of water.

Water must be able to escape in whatever you’re using so it’s important to make sure there are holes in the container that you’ve chosen to plant vegetables in. Most shop bought containers already have holes in them, or marks where you can punch the holes out. If you’re making do, you may need to make holes in your bag or container near the base (a masonry drill set at slow speed will work on earthenware, place tape on the surface before drilling).

Once you have holes in your container you can add ‘crocks’ to the base. We save all our broken cups, mugs and plates for this purpose, and are often reminded of old favourites when we clean them out again.

If you haven’t got anything broken to hand, a layer of washed gravel or chippings works well. Placing crocks over the holes will stop the compost from blocking the hole, and if you’re lucky enough to have some zinc mesh that you can cut to size, this can be placed over the holes and then the crocks added, which will help to prevent pests burrowing back into your pots.

container vegetable gardening4. Potting mix

In the past I’ve successfully grown vegetables in multipurpose compost and grow bags but being ‘soiless’ and peat based they dry out quickly and as highlighted by Gardeners World, contribute significantly to global warming. Peat free organic alternatives are now a readily available alternative which work well in containers.

Many gardeners swear by potting mixes that are John Innes based. These have been devised at the The John Innes Centre and each have different component mixes. They’re loam (soil) based with different quantities of loam, limestone and peat, depending upon their usage. So, for example, John Innes Seed Compost is for growing seedlings, and John Innes No 1 more suitable for slow-growing plants or tiny spring seedlings. No 2 is the general multi-purpose compost but No 3, a stronger mix, would be ideal for strong growers such as tomatoes, or sweet peas.

Whichever potting mix you choose or is available to you, it’s important that its fresh and disease free. Buy your compost from a supplier that has a fast turnover and when you get it home, once opened it’s recommended to store it in a plastic bag in a frost-free place. Always use fresh compost for seedlings, or they can suffer a disease called damping off (where they just flop over and die).

Why use compost and not garden soil?

Garden soil will vary in its pH (acidity/alkalinity), is likely to contain weed seeds, may container disease spores and will vary in its nutrient levels.

Growing Vegetables in Containers5. Watering 

Container plants will need regular watering, and if it’s a particularly hot summer that could mean up to twice a day.

There are a few things you can do to ease this burden.

Set up an irrigation system. Simple drip feed irrigation kits are now readily available, and getting cheaper every year.

  • Look out for window boxes that contain built-in reservoirs.
  • Stand plants on trays lined with capillary mats or wet sand.

Growing food in recycled containers6. Feeding.

Generally, potting mixture has enough nutrients to last a few months. However if you notice a check in growth, or you’ve planted particularly ‘hungry’ feeders in your containers, liquid seaweed is full of nutrients and trace elements and can be watered into the soil in the containers as can home-made nettle or comfrey feeds.

7. Location

Most vegetables like to grow in a sunny spot. The garden highlighted in these photos in the centre of Carlow town is quite a little sun trap and everything grows really well here. The great thing about container gardening is that you can move the pots to the sunniest spot and leave them there – you’re not constricted in the same way you might be with a garden.

Anything else to watch out for?

We have a cat who LOVES to sleep in containers full of lovely, warm compost, not caring a hoot whether it has tiny little carrot seedlings growing in it! If you’ve noticed cats around your containers or beds, this post here is full of tips that might help to keep them away.

If you’d like some more ideas on container gardening, check out the Greenside Up Pinterest board here. There’s also a board sharing some ideas for a recycled garden that you might like to look at.

Have you had any experience growing vegetables in containers? Any tips you’d like to share?