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garden workshops

Green, Vegetable Garden

How to Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

April 28, 2019

How to Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

How to Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

This is a long overdue blog post for many reasons, not least that I keep thinking I’ve already written about how to make a plastic bottle greenhouse and referring people to an imaginary article!

I’ve had the joy of working with a lovely community group over recent years. Gleann na Bearu community garden, in partnership with Carlow Youth Services, was awarded with Local Agenda 21/Carlow County Council funding to buy the materials and tools needed to make a plastic bottle greenhouse. I’d like to finally share some images and instructions with you about how we built it.

Upcycled Greenhouse

Serenity Community Garden

Serenity Community Garden

The garden needed an outdoor potting space and a greenhouse made from water and mineral bottles seemed very fitting with the upcycled/recycled theme running there. Since we began in 2011 we’ve been highlighting waste and encouraging people to think about what they use, how it might affect the environment we live in and save the budding gardeners money in the meantime.

Since its completion, the greenhouse has won Carlow’s Pride of Place Upcycle Challenge in 2017 and received many complements and visitors. However, we weren’t the first to build an upcycled greenhouse, nor I’m sure the last. I first spotted a greenhouse made from water bottles in Serenity Community Garden in Dublin, followed by another in Ballymun.

How to Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

An Taisce published a ‘How to Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse’ pamphlet in An Gaeilge and English that we used to be able to download but I haven’t found the link so here’s an image:

How to Make a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

Using the pamphlet as a guide and with the help of volunteers, Mr G adapted the Gleann na Bearu greenhouse to fit the space and it wasn’t an overnight job. It took several months to collect enough bottles (around 2,000 I think they mentioned) and was a fiddly job cutting the bottles to fit the bamboo poles the bottles needed to thread through. Mr G used polytunnel plastic, excess from another tunnel build, for the roof which was then covered in chicken wire to prevent neighbouring cats damaging it. He also made it so that the bottles could be replaced when the sunlight broke them down.

All in all the new greenhouse has been a big success. A couple of growing seasons later, heaps of tomatoes have been sown, grown on and planted out from the greenhouse, as well as cucumbers and other seedlings.

Unexpectedly, the plastic bottle greenhouse has added to the art that decorates the garden. “When the sunlight catches it, the bottles sparkle like a waterfall” mentioned one of the regular gardeners. “It’s a joy to have here”.

Thanks to Kilkenny Carlow ETB Adult Community Education, I’m back in the garden providing gardening classes from 1st May, 10am to 12am for 6 weeks, costing just 50 cent a week to cover the refreshments, all welcome, come and see the greenhouse yourself.

Vegetable Garden

Dried Beans and a Smallholder Gathering

October 11, 2016

Dried Beans and a Smallholder Gathering

Green Fingers

I often hear the phrases “I don’t have green fingers” or “I haven’t got a clue about gardening” and I would have said the same myself in the past. We can apply that to all areas in our lives where we haven’t learnt some basics – “I can’t type” or “I can’t bake”. In the end it comes down to education, learning and practice and when we begin to open ourselves up to new experiences, our confidence grows and usually there’s no looking back.

In the gardening world we never stop learning. It doesn’t matter whether we’ve a PhD or a participation certificate, there’s so much to excite inquiring minds; nature isn’t something we can pin down and understand every nuance of, we’re always discovering new mysteries.

Climbing Beans

This week I grabbed a day out of the busy work/family schedule to clear out the polytunnel and found myself ridiculously excited to find so many dried beans hanging from the climbing plants that had gone beyond their best. One of the reasons pea and bean plants in the legume family stop producing is because we stop picking them; they think their job is done and they start to produce viable seeds instead of luscious green pods ripe for eating.

Chemical Free to Organic Gardening

Saving the seeds of vegetables I’ve grown isn’t a habit I’ve developed but as I make the transition from chemical free to organic gardening, it’s opened up so many possibilities.

During the spring I joined Irish Seedsavers who sell organic, heritage varieties of seeds suitable for the Irish climate, one variety of which were Mr Fern Climbing Bean. The beans were a delicious and prolific crop, giving us many summer dinners and several bag full of beans in the freezer for the cooler months. We didn’t pick them all and consequently, the seeds began to dry naturally in the protected environment of the polytunnel.  I’ve been able to save enough for my seed tin for a couple of years and will give some to community gardening friends too. I might even soak and boil a few to add to a supper dish during the winter.

Smallholder Gathering at 2016 Savour Kilkenny

As more people begin to take an interest in the food they eat, opportunities for learning new skills are increasing. This year at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival the organisers have added a Smallholder marquee to the cookery and food market village. There are lots of workshops planned to help people interested in growing food, rearing animals, learning traditional skills, or meeting up with like minded people and I’ll be joining them.

Dried Beans and a Smallholder Gathering

Rosemary

Greenside Up Talks About Herbs

On Saturday, 29th October from 11am -1pm you’ll find me talking about growing and using kitchen garden herbs and planting up a herb container. This is a free event and anyone watching will be given the opportunity to sow their own herbs and take them home. Herbs were the first plants I grew successfully back in my twenties and are part of the reason I returned to full time education to study horticulture in more detail.

There are many more talks and workshops planned throughout the weekend given by people passionate about food, all free or low cost. If you’re interested in learning more take a look at the Savour Kilkenny website where you can plan times or book tickets.

Contact me

If your group or organisation would like a grow your own talk, a gardening workshop or would like to learn more about the benefits of community gardening, take a look at the Workshops page for more information or contact me to discuss more.

 

Community Gardens, Lifestyle

Spring into Action

February 23, 2016

Springing into action

A strange thing happened recently. After 6 years of blogging I lost my ‘voice’. One minute it was there, then it was gone. I’ve countless drafts sitting in my google docs, but none made it here and I was beginning to wonder if my blogging voice would ever come back. Perhaps it was something to do with the flu bug I’m now sharing my fourth week with, but gone it was and it’s only as a result of taking these photos that I’m tentatively easing my way back in.

Springing into actionUntil this week outdoor activities have been at a minimum. Yesterday that began to change as Mr G and I managed to take advantage of the spring sunshine and we headed out for a walk. It was an amazing experience as the reintroduction into the wild was bursting with spring sights and sounds and I’m really thankful we took the time to do so.

Spring

We walked at a steady pace for fun and not exercise. Because of this, we were able to hear and watch the various birds twittering with one another and just caught the sound of twigs snapping, alerting us to a fox running for cover in the distance. We listened to streams trickling through the undergrowth as they headed down to the river. When we stopped for a few moments and were really quiet, we were able to hear the soft, deep sound of male frogs calling for mates throughout the woodland.

We are in awe of the amount of frog spawn that’s been laid in the puddles and ponds in the forestry. After the big machines and lorries departed, they left behind deep tracks all around the clearings which the frogs have taken full advantage of. There isn’t a single track that we could see that wasn’t full of the gelatinous spawn. We could hear the adults all around us but could barely get a glimpse. Whether they heard our tracks or could feel our vibrations on the pathways I’m not sure, but it was nye on impossible catching a glimpse of a frog, bar this one that we rescued before our young dog was tempted to play with it too enthusiastically.

Hopefully, I’m now turning a corner on the energy front as I’ve so many plans and ideas in the pipeline it’s starting to get frustrating. I’ve also been blessed with the help of an amazingly enthusiastic and upbeat work experience woman, Frances of Healing by Franc, who’s enjoying learning about the intricacies of running a small, social enterprise as she studies for her own Fetac 5 in Horticulture.

Having the responsibility of a trainee has allowed me to really focus on the weeks ahead and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. Here’s some of the plans.

Community Gardens Ireland (CGI)

After a week of day time TV, I couldn’t stand it any longer so sat down and wrote down my goals for the year, both personal and professional. My enthusiasm for community gardens hasn’t diminished at all and in fact, the more I see and hear, the more I’m convinced we need an active community garden network to support and help one another.

I took the opportunity of some quiet time to spruce up the new cgireland.org website and as a result, feel that it’s finally starting to take shape. We’ve begun mapping the community gardens, something we were unable to do on our forum site. We now have over 165 community gardens mapped, with the majority of Northern Ireland still to go. I’ve also begun to add In Focus posts on the CGI blog written by various community gardens; an idea I started on the Greenside Up blog but feel the real home of such posts should be on the CGI blog.

A section that’s been proving popular on the CGN website is the newly created Training and Education initiatives, as well as Synergies with other agencies and organisations. These are both tucked under the Resources section which apart from giving tips on how to set up a community garden, also include information on setting up food co-ops, community cafés and buying clubs, an idea Frances and I are about to start exploring with neighbours.

As a result of spending a few hours dedicated to this project, plans for the community network have fought to get out of my head and as a result, we now have a draft strategy document in place for the coordinators to work towards and we are actively looking for funding avenues to help us continue our work.

Creating Local Community Garden Networks

Talking of funding, at the end of last year I heard I’d been awarded a small amount of Local Agenda 21 funding to create a Carlow Community Garden Network and explore the possibility of community gardens becoming Eco hubs, or places of adult environmental learning. I’m in the process of planning a workshop in Carlow in April and am very much looking forward to helping representatives of the dozen or so gardens in Carlow sit down in one place and introduce one another.

Working with Community Gardens

Last year I was funded by Carlow Kilkenny ETB to work with a small community garden in Glenn na Bearu, Bagenalstown and I’m thrilled that more funding has been granted to this wonderful group to enable me to head back to them in April. Last year we ran a session on garden design and as a result, they helped design a bigger and better community garden, adding several more raised beds. If you’re local and reading this we’d love to see you in the garden on Wednesdays for the practical workshops, tea and cake. All are welcome.

More community garden projects will be coming on stream after Easter; if you’re interested in hearing more about them sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss out.

Glenn na Bearu Workshops 2016

Working with Individuals

In a couple of weeks I’ll be welcoming budding gardeners into our own kitchen garden and sharing the basics of propagating with them. From seeds to cuttings, layering and bulb division, we’ll be looking at several ways we can start growing food, shrubs and flowers without it costing a bomb. To accommodate the workshop the polytunnel has been repaired and tidied, the willow fedge and autumn fruiting raspberry canes have been pruned, and the garden in general is getting a good tidy up. Now if only the lawn would dry out I’d even be tempted to cut the grass.

There’s still a couple of places left on the first workshop in March so if you’d like to join us, you can read more about the course details here.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity is a wonderful word and within hours of writing down my goals, ‘coincidences’ began to happen, one of which, was an email landing in my inbox about a facilitation workshop that will be taking place in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary. As the opportunity to facilitate conversations about community gardens and the environment begin to happen, so too does my wish to learn more about guiding them. I can’t wait to learn more about the art of facilitating from a couple of men I greatly admire in this respect, Davie Philip and Chris Chapman who worked with us in the very early days of the Community Garden Network.

The Art of Facilitation Poster

Building Communities

Once we begin to look, there’s so much going on in communities that can engage us and give us the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Community gardens in particular have a massive potential to become outdoor education centres for adults, giving us the opportunity to step away from our screens or work, busy or lonely lives for a couple of hours and learn about nature, wildlife, food and the environment with others.

They are ideal places to go if you’d like to start gardening but don’t know how, if you live in a flat with no garden or live on your own with too much garden. Community gardens give us the opportunity to make friends, sharing the work and sharing the harvest.

Are you tempted? If so, take a look at the map above and see if there’s a community garden near you.