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garden design

Vegetable Garden

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

December 31, 2020

Are we selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

I published my last article back in May when we were beginning to come out of our first COVID-19 lock-in, a surreal time for many. Back then we were hoping the global pandemic would be over in a few months. Our own youngsters were wistfully dreaming about the festivals and concerts due to take place during the autumn. A winter lock-in seemed inconceivable if we continued to be ‘good’ and mindful of one another. 

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?Instead, as we stand on the threshold of a New Year, we’re heading into our third ‘wave’ and another full Level 5 lock-in as cases continue to rise at alarming rates. Even with the promise of vaccines in sight, we’ve still a long way to go before life returns to anything resembling our old ‘normal’. For some, that might never happen given the trauma this pandemic has caused due to loss.

As we take a minute to reflect back over the past months before thinking of the future, one thing has become clear. Gardening and nature proved to be far more important to our health and well being than many had ever considered. 

When the pressures of long commutes were eased due to workplaces closing or relocating to home offices, we were able to spend more time outside during the glorious few weeks of an early summer. For those of us lucky enough to have garden spaces, or somewhere outdoors to stretch our legs within our allowed kilometre range, we were able to appreciate the positive benefits that nature provides. Our hearts went out to those unable to share these simple outdoor pleasures and some thought seriously about moving out of their urban apartments to seek greener pastures.



We no longer felt that gardening was a chore that had to be undertaken in the few, precious hours of our time off during evenings or weekends. We were able to enjoy the simple pleasures of working with our hands outdoors, or simply sit in the soft summer breeze, noticing dew drops on the grass or the way the sun lit up the leaves on silvery branches.

We were afforded the time to embrace the biophilia effect and it helped us all

According to biologist Edward O. Wilson’s hypothesis, ‘we are innately and emotionally attracted to other living organisms’ and when we love, or are attracted to others, our oxytocin  hormone is released, filling us with a sense of well being, relaxation and happiness.

Cooking and eating can have a similar effect, releasing endorphins that make us feel good. This has got me wondering over the years, have we been talking about gardening in the entirely wrong way when discussing our green fingered pleasures? Has the way we explain the needs of a garden been putting people off experiencing this magical healing for themselves? Are we self sabotaging our trade?

Have you noticed how celebratory chefs and cooks talk about food, unconsciously or not, beguiling us to want to try out new recipes or ingredients as we allow our imaginations to wander? Sometimes it's good just to be seduced by the particular cheeses spread out in front of you on a cheese counter. - Nigella Lawson

Perhaps we should be placing more emphasis on the outcomes of gardening rather than how we get there…

Rather than saying “let’s go out and plant a wildflower meadow because it’s good for biodiversity lets try rephrasing to “Sometimes it’s good just to be seduced by the particular wildflowers spread out in front of you on a lawn.”  Once it’s there the wildlife will follow.

It’s just a thought…

Thankfully, when Ireland began to open up again in June, gardening projects were recognised for their usefulness along with feelings of well being and healing, allowing those of us working in the industry to get back outside and share it’s pleasures. Hopefully over the coming months, more will be tempted to feel the softness of cool compost as they sow their first seeds and experience the pleasure of watching their young seedlings stretch out and grow as they nurture them.

A full gardening diary

It’s been a roller coaster year of emotions for us all. As I mentioned in the last blog post, I went from a full diary to an empty one overnight. This unexpectedly turned back to a full calendar of events as social, therapeutic and community gardening projects returned with more vigour than ever before.

Are we selling the idea of gardening all wrongForóige were one of my first clients to encourage members to get their hands dirty with their Just Grow project in County Waterford. Working with children under the new social distancing guidelines, summer camps were held where 11 and 12 year old’s were allowed to see one another again for the first time since March. This was followed by older teen camps in Ferrybank then a new community garden project in a direct provision centre in Tramore. Another community garden was created within Portlaw allotments, where several mum’s and grannies have been able to bring their autistic spectrum children along to join the fun and learning.

When community education opened up with the Kilkenny & Carlow Education Training Boards, adult coordinators were keen to get members back into gardens, with some of my old and new projects opening up at the Irish Wheelchair Association, Merchants Quay Ireland, SOS Kilkenny and Respond Housing. 

Have we been selling the idea of gardening all wrong?Disability groups were one of the last to return to their day centres, giving their carers a break and introducing a social element back into the lives of this often neglected community. Adapting to the new ‘normal’, I worked with Carlow County Development Partnership (CCDP) to provide online classes to two local centres. Interactive, online craft and growing sessions were provided, with up to four pods of people joining each zoom session again, giving people the opportunity to see friends they hadn’t connected with for some time during these practical, nature based sessions. It’s only right to  acknowledge that these classes wouldn’t have been possible without the support and help provided by the local care assistants within the centres. 

Finally, I’ve been able to put my new QQI Level 7 Landscape Design Certificate into practice for a really enjoyable community design project thanks to CCPD support. I was on the verge of quitting the Waterford IT course in April, feeling incredibly stressed by the sudden switch to online learning that none of us had quite mastered. Thankfully I didn’t and apart from everything else, now have a much greater empathy for students and educators having experienced both sides through these strange times.

Are we selling the idea of gardening all wrong?

Who knows what will happen next, how long this virus will stick around or how it will further affect our lives and livelihoods. If anything I’m learning about resilience. We’re immensely looking forward to seeing our UK based parents once more and hoping that everyone will stay healthy in the meantime. We’re treasuring the bonus time we’ve had with our three young adults at home this year. 

Moving forward I’ll be giving some thought about how I mention the jobs we need to do in our gardens, and instead of making them all about work, will be thinking more about the vision and how we get there. If you can help with any of those phrases, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

For now, I’d like to finish up 2020 by wishing wishing each and every one of you a very Happy and safe New Year and thank you for your continued support as I head into my twelfth year with Greenside Up. 

By it’s very nature, let’s look forward to 2021 with hearts full of hope, it’s what keeps most up us gardeners growing.

Dee x




Vegetable Garden

How to (Re) Start a Vegetable Garden – Our Story on Instagram TV

May 21, 2020

How to Create a Vegetable Garden with Greenside Up

(Re) Starting a Vegetable Garden

The COVID-19 global pandemic has been many things to many people bringing trauma, pain and heartbreak but also space and time for reflection as the world slows down. There’s not a day gone by during the past three months when we haven’t felt blessed to be living in the countryside, forgetful of the many inconveniences that can dwell alongside it. Living miles from anywhere yet with a garden, albeit one that had become overgrown and unkempt from almost three years of neglect, has helped our mental health considerably during these difficult times.

How to Create a Vegetable Garden with Greenside Up

Encouraging biodiversity

On the 11th March 2020, as for many of us living in Ireland around that time, our world changed. All of my work stopped for the foreseeable future in what was to be my busiest year to date. Five of us were living under the same roof again and as parents, not only did we have our own worries and concerns to deal with, but had to consider how a lock-in might affect our three offspring as all their physical social contacts were cut.

New Skills

Luckily we had saved for and planned to make changes to our garden this year which included an entertainment area. As soon as it became apparent that garden centres and hardware stores were about to close and that fresh food shortages might develop, we threw ourselves into the work. I was able to use the new garden design skills I’d learnt in the part-time Advanced Landscaping course that I finished remotely in April. I also drew upon the personal experience gained of needing a low maintenance vegetable garden, and ensured we planned our space more efficiently whilst allowing habitats for biodiversity. Unexpectedly the kids got involved and helped to create new areas that far exceeded our own visions for relaxation.

During this unexpected time at home, I’ve had the opportunity to pull all my recent years of learnings together and in doing so, I’ve been sharing them on my new Instagram TV channel with the idea that I can continue to educate remotely and hopefully help some of you. Unfortunately I don’t have the video editing skills for fancy how to video’s, nor the broadband to allow for Zoom or live screenings, but Instagram TV gave me the opportunity, usually to film in one take, what’s been going on in our garden, warts and all.

All work, no play

It seems ironic that my hobby of growing vegetables at home, which turned into a working passion where I could help others start their own vegetable garden, became a monster that took me away from our own haven, where not a single seed was sown.

On the one hand I’d be talking to groups about the importance of not loosing life skills, of growing and buying local food and of food security, and on the other, was lucky to spend an hour or two outside a week at home cutting the grass. COVID-19 has changed that. It has given us time to reconnect, rethink and refresh.

I am thankful every day, not only that my friends and family have managed to keep their health, but to have had the time to spend in our garden and make the changes that were necessary. I hope that you have found the rewards that gardening and nature can bring too.

The following links to a sample of several videos I’ve made that you can find on Instagram. You don’t need an account to view them. If you’ve been thinking of creating a vegetable garden, or are looking for some tips and ideas on growing vegetables, I hope they’ll be of help. You can find the full series here, but in the meantime, here’s a few tasters.

How to Design a Vegetable Garden

I began with a practical session on How to Design a Vegetable Garden where I shared tips about how we planned to turn our lawn into a raised vegetable bed garden. There are more videos in the series that share how we did that, including the costings, soil and wood used.


View this post on Instagram


Dee talks you through the process she uses to plan and design her raised bed garden

A post shared by Dee Sewell | (@greensideupveg) on

How to Plan a Polytunnel Garden

This was followed by a mixture of short films that covered the almost overwhelming job of reclaiming the soil in our freshly covered polytunnel. Thank goodness I’d bought the new polythene back in the autumn from Highbank, even though I was cursing that we didn’t have time then to put it on the hoops back then.

How to Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

The film clips moved onto the front lawn where we installed the raised beds, planned for in the design video above. Although most vegetables are now planted and sown into the beds, we’re not finished yet as we still plan to cover the surrounding lawn with stones when funds allow, completely ridding ourselves of the patchy grass and its continual mowing regime.

How to Grow Courgettes

As the garden comes to life and seeds are being sown, I’ve started to include timely ‘How to’ guides for growing vegetables using techniques that have worked for me. For instance I recently planted courgettes in the polytunnel, saving some for outdoors.

There have been introductions to the various family members here, feathered and furry and how they will help to add organic matter to the vegetable garden in the months to come.

I’ve added some garden tours that follow the progress across all the areas. The most recent is a new Forest Bathing area in the little woodland on the property (or a potential Rave in the Woods once restrictions ease!)

During the past three months we’ve built raised beds, covered and filled the polytunnel, started to make a duck pond, cleared derelict buildings and made a garden bar. We’ve created a tranquil space in the woodland and made lazy beds for the potatoes in our one acre plot, we’ve sown seeds, transplanted plants, hardened them off, planted and pruned. The work is ongoing and I plan to continue with the videos over the coming months.

If you have an opportunity to watch all or any of the clips or have any questions or concerns in relation to creating a new vegetable garden please leave a comment. If you’d like to share how you’ve managed to get by during and if the garden or nature has helped, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime #staysafe

Forest Bathing At Greenside Up

Vegetable Garden

Herb Garden Design ~ How to Create an Herb Garden

May 4, 2014


Herbs were one of the very first edible plants I grew from seed over thirty years ago and they’re a great way to begin the journey of growing your own. They’re undemanding plants and can grow well in containers outside your door, in flower beds or in specially built herb gardens.

globe artichoke

globe artichoke

If you’ve thought about growing herbs but aren’t sure where to begin, the following will help you to start growing and picking your own herbs from your garden this year.

Soil Conditions for Herbs

Most herbs prefer warm, open sites that aren’t subjected to prevailing winds and are out-of-the-way of frost pockets.



Ensure the site has been cleared of pernicious weeds and there’s good drainage, which is essential for growing herbs as the majority of the ones mentioned below don’t like sitting in water. Try to prepare the area you’ll be planting herbs into a few weeks before planting time. This will allow you to remove any weeds that have grown in the disturbed soil.

Herbs generally like to grow in fertile soil with a neutral pH that isn’t too rich, so home-made kitchen compost or leafmould forked in as a soil conditioner when you’re preparing the soil will be perfect. If you don’t have your own compost to hand yet, head into a garden centre and ask the staff to point you in the direction of a good soil improver.



Herb Garden Design

When you’re choosing herbs to plant in the garden, it’s a good idea to place taller varieties in the back of the bed and  smaller ones at the front. In a circular bed place the taller plants in the middle.

With a careful mix of colour, leaf shape and texture you can create a herb garden that will be a joy to be in. For instance, tall architectural plants such as silvery globe artichokes are shown to their very best if they’re accompanied by the soft, feathery foliage of a bronze leafed fennel.

How to Create an Herb Garden

If you’d like some ideas for more popular hardy, kitchen herbs that are suitable for growing outside in Irish gardens click here for a free PDF of Popular Herbs.

borage plant

borage plant

How many plants?

A basic rule of thumb is ten plants per square metre (one plant per square foot) which will give you something to look at during the first year and a good effect thereon after.

Smaller plants such as chamomile and thyme will need to be planted closer and can make good edging plants.


Very little maintenance is required in the herb garden bar keeping the weeds down. Allow them to settle down and establish before you begin to pick them for the kitchen and make sure they don’t dry out if they’re in containers.

If you’d like more information about creating a herb wheel, take a look at the guest post I wrote for CountryLife last year which gives detailed instructions. There are several posts on the Greenside Up blog for herbal teas and vinegar too as well as advice on drying them.

Are you growing herbs yet? There’s nothing like snipping a few leaves of fragrant plants you’ve grown yourself and adding them to dinners or refreshing drinks.