Browsing Tag

Gardening

Vegetable Garden

Gardening for Beginners – Getting started during Spring and beyond

March 22, 2021

Gardening for Beginners

Gardening for Beginners

Are you new to growing fruit, herbs and vegetables and looking for some pointers? With ten years of blogging experience, I’ve published over 500 posts on food growing, eco tourism, the environment, mental health, family, recipes and more. With so many articles sitting on the Greenside Up website, I took the decision a few years ago to divide them into categories to help visitors find their way around, but even I find them difficult to locate at times. I’ve been told that some people enjoy looking at the recipes, others at the eco tourism and travel posts, and many at the gardening advice.

In 2019 I began worked with the Foróige Just Grow Waterford programme, helping families to start growing their own food at home and in community garden projects across the county. During all my gardening workshops, I point people to the archived blog posts as an added resource. For instance Slugs – 15 ways to get rid of them organically never fails to become a conversation piece.

Although the posts are geared towards vegetable gardening, many of them form the basis for all gardening. Seeds are seeds and should be stored the same way whether they are flower or vegetable. Good soil is the foundation of all gardening and garden pests aren’t necessarily fussy whether they’re eating our roses or our beans.

Greenside Up on YouTube

In 2021 I revisited the Greenside Up YouTube channel as a way of connecting with some of the groups that I’m unable to work with face to face. In each of the short videos, I take viewers through the steps I’m taking to grow food in my polytunnel and later, into the raised vegetable garden outside.   You can find the posts that are updated weekly here.

The following links are to key articles on the blog and many are inspired by frequently asked questions from learners. It is hoped they will help you to garden more confidently, no matter what you’re sowing or growing.

How to Start a Garden

The number one tip in gardening for beginners is to plan big but start small which will allow you to see how much time you have to maintain the garden. Here’s several more links that will help to get you started.

3 Ways to Look After Your Garden Soil
3 Essentials to Help You Grow Your Own Vegetables
Annual Vegetable Planner
Composting
Fun Experiment to Help Determine Your Soil Structure
Growing Vegetables in Containers
Green Manures
How to Create a Budget Vegetable Garden
Keep An Eye on Your Seeds with a Garden Diary
Looking After the Garden in a Drought
Organic Mulch, What’s It All About?
Weeding Without Chemicals – What Are Your Options?
16 Natural Alternatives to Weedkillers and why you should use them
What does it mean when your vegetables are bolting?
How to Grow Your Own Food on a Balcony Garden

 

Seeds and Seedlings

Many of these links are the same for flowers and vegetables – storing, caring for and sowing seeds are all the same, no matter what you want to grow.

How to Choose Vegetable Seeds – What Should I Buy?
How long will seeds last? (Vegetables and Flowers)
How to Identify Seedlings
How to choose seeds – Pinterest
How to Grow Tomato and Peppers from Seed
How to look after your seeds – make a seed tin
Making a Seed Bed
Saving seeds
Starting Seeds Indoors – How Do You Know When Its Time to Sow
Thinning Vegetables – Now’s the Time

In the Vegetable Garden

There’s lots of information on the internet about the specifics on how to grow herbs, fruit and vegetables but here’s a few of my own tips.

Best Fruit and Vegetables to Grow in the Shade
14 Vegetables to Grow in a Small Garden
Broad Beans – A Great Crop for Beginners
Growing Autumn Garlic
How to Grow Leeks
How to Grow Your Own Overwintering Onions
How to Grow Your Own Pumpkins and Save Their Seeds
How to Look After Strawberry Beds
Introducing the Stunning Rainbow Chard
Kale – A Hardy Veg and Not Just for Beginners
Lettuce – How Many Should I Plant
Potatoes – All You Need to Know To Help You Grow Your Own
Rhubarb – growing, caring for and eating
Sowing Parsnips
What do I do with my strawberry patch

Pests and Diseases in the Garden

If you want to garden organically, you’ll need to learn to tell the good guys and the bad apart. These links will help you.

Slugs – 15 Ways to Deal with them Organically
12 Beneficial Creatures We Want to See in our Gardens
12 Garden Pests in the Garden
8 Tips for Managing Potato Blight
Aphids and Greenfly
Beet Leaf Minor
Choosing Blight Resistant Potatoes
Companion planting – understanding vegetable families
Cuckoo Spit
Earthworms – 10 Facts
Gooseberry Sawfly
Green Dock Beetles
Hoverflies
How to Plan Crop Rotation in the Vegetable Garden
How to Stop Cats Pooping in the Garden
How to Treat Powdery Mildew Without Chemicals
It’s Bath Time
Leatherjackets
Red Spider Mite
How to get rid of Mealy Cabbage Aphids on your Greens without Chemicals

Gardening Undercover

If you’re thinking of buying a greenhouse or polytunnel, or looking for advice on what you can grow inside one, take a look here.

Growing Undercover – Where to Begin with Polytunnels and Greenhouses
Growing vegetables under a cloche
Polytunnels and Organic Gardening During the Autumn and Winter Months
What to Sow in a Polytunnel in February
How to Build a Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

Other Useful Links

There are many more tips on the blog aimed to help beginners in the garden. These are just a few:

14 Tips for Watering Vegetables and Seedlings
7 Jobs for the Autumn Vegetable Garden
9 Winter Gardening Jobs we can do Inside
Growing Vegetables in Junk Containers
How to Create an Herb Garden
How to Make Nettle and Comfrey Fertilizer
How to Set Up a Rainwater Irrigation System
How to Use Coffee Grounds in the Garden
Month by Month Jobs in the Vegetable Garden
Pollinator Friendly Plants for the Garden
A Beginner’s Guide to Organic Matter
Once you’ve started growing your own fruit, herbs or vegetables you might like to check out some recipes.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, do get in touch. It may be lurking in the archives somewhere. If you’d like any help with other services Greenside Up can provide such as consultation and advice, garden design, talks or workshops let me know. You can find more details on the What We Do Page.

Best of luck with your gardening journey!

 

Food & Drink, Vegetable Garden

From Bush to Bun – Growing & Baking Blueberries

January 25, 2015

From Bush to Bun - Growing & Baking Blueberries

Blueberries are full of nutrients and are easy plants to grow in containers, making them ideal if you’re new to growing food or thinking of getting back into it again. But why would you bother? This article looks at the health benefits of these tiny fruit, explains how to grow your own blueberries in containers and finishes with a healthy recipe for fat-free, sugar-free muffin style blueberry buns that contain just 52 calories each. Read on if you’re tempted to try growing your own this year.

Healthy Blueberry Living

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake Blueberries

Blueberry, Strawberry & Blackberry Salad with Amoretto Cream from The Step House, Borris

A handful of blueberries carry about a quarter of our daily Vitamin C, are low in fat, packed full of antioxidants (good for protecting against cancer, memory loss and poor circulation) and they contain lots of fibre. They can be eaten raw, cooked or juiced and there’s nothing better than picking your own from mid summer to mid autumn from a fruit bush you’ve grown and tended. They can also be a bit pricey in the shops so what better reason to have some to hand.

Although US biased in terms of production, here’s an infograph from the US Blueberry Council that shares more information about the benefits to your body when you pop a blueberry into your mouth:

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake Blueberries

Photo courtesy: http://www.blueberrycouncil.org/

How to Grow Your Own Blueberries in Containers

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake Blueberries

The pink flowers before they turn into the blue berries

Blueberries can grow large in a garden environment – up to 2m in height and spread and need acidic growing conditions in soil of 4.5 – 5.5 pH. However, growing blueberries in containers will keep them in check and as you’ll be supplying them with the correct compost, will cut the need for trying to change the pH of your garden soil.

Kit List for growing blueberries:

  • *Two or more plant containers, at least 30 cm or 12″ in diameter each
  • Bag of Ericaceous compost (lime hating compost readily available in garden centres)
  • Broken pieces of crockery ‘crocks’ or washed gravel
  • Rainwater
  • *Two or more blueberry plants of different cultivars (varieties)

* Plant two or more different blueberry plants for this project. Blueberries are unusual in that they like to grow alongside other blueberry plants that are slightly different. They tend to crop more heavily when they have companions from different cultivars, so check the labels when you’re buying your plants and avoid buying two the same.

Method:

1. Make sure the containers are clean and dry and that there are holes in the bottom for drainage. Place a few crocks in the bottom of the container over the drainage holes. This stops the soil blocking the holes at a later stage.

2. Put some ericaceous compost in the bottom of the container, remove the blueberry plant from its garden centre container and place on top of the new compost.

3. Fill in the rest of the container with the compost to the same level on the plant as it was in its original container, until the compost is about 5cm from the top of the pot. Any higher and it will overflow when you water.

4. Pack the compost down firmly around the plant, but not too firmly that there’s no air in it. Using rainwater, water the blueberry plant in, aiming the nozzle of the watering cane around the neck of the plant and not sprinkling it all over, until the water runs through and out of the base of the container.

5. Place the containers in a spot that will see the sun for as long as possible which will help to sweeten the fruit and prevent disease.

If you’d like more guidance on growing food in containers, take a look at the article here here for more information.

Watering Blueberries

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake BlueberriesBlueberries like to be moist but not swimming in water so you’ll have to water them regularly, preferably with rain water, and make sure they can drain adequately. If you are thinking of installing simple rain butts off your roof guttering, now would be a great time. Alternatively, keep a container nearby that you can collect rainwater in. Tap water can contain lots of lime, something that blueberries dislike.

Pruning and Maintenance of Blueberries

Blueberries need very little looking after. If you like to feed your plants, do so monthly from springtime by adding an ericaceous liquid fertiliser (available from garden centres) and they don’t need a lot of pruning.

Let the blueberry bushes to do their own thing for the first couple of years then from the third year onwards, between late February to the beginning of March, remove some of the old wood with a sharp pair of secateurs (you’ll notice the colour change on the branches of the plants from old to new wood).

As the blueberries grow and look like they’re getting too big for their containers, you will need to change their pots for larger ones, at least 45-50cm (18-20in) in size.

Note that it’s unlikely you will see fruit on your blueberry bushes for the first couple of years, longer if they’re in an exposed or shaded area.

Blueberry Pests and Diseases

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake BlueberriesBirds are the biggest problem as they’ll steal all your berries before you get a look in. If you notice this is a problem, birds could well be the culprit. To prevent them stealing your fruit, drape some netting all around the fruit bushes to prevent birds stealing them but do make sure there are no gaps that they can get caught up in.

Blueberries aren’t prone to disease though might succumb to powdery mildew if it’s particularly dry and the plants have become stressed as a result. If you spot a powdery looking substance on your plant, remove the affected leaves and make sure the plants don’t dry out.

Aphids can be a problem too. Read here for more information about these little greenfly.

Cooking with Blueberries

Blueberries are in season in Ireland from July to September and imported the rest of the year. They’re tasty eaten raw and often added to desserts or smoothies. If you’d like to make a quick breakfast smoothie, add 100g (a cup) of blueberries and 125g (half a cup) of organic yogurt to a blender before whizzing together and emptying into a glass for a healthy start to the day.

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake BlueberriesNo Fat, No Sugar Blueberry & Banana Muffin Style Bun Recipe

I mentioned in an earlier post that Mr G and I have reduced our calories but I’ve found myself missing being able to bake. A fat and sugar-free recipe from the Hairy Dieters cook book caught my attention recently for Banana and Sultana Muffins which I’ve adapted to include blueberries, a fruit that Irish growers Keelings, are currently enticing us with in Irish shops.

Ingredients:

Makes 24 cupcake sized buns or 12 large muffins

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake Blueberries250g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 very ripe bananas (200g peeled)
250ml semi-skinned milk
3 free range egg whites
100g blueberries
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 210ºC (Gas 6½) and line muffin or cake tins with paper cases.

Sift the flour and bicarb together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mash the bananas until smooth then add and mix the milk to the mixture and the vanilla extract. Empty the banana mixture into the flour bowl and mix until fully combined.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form stiff peaks and lightly fold these into the flour and banana mixture. Add the blueberries and quickly but carefully mix them until evenly distributed.

Pour the muffin/cake mix into the paper cases and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.

When they’re firm, browned nicely and cooked through, remove the buns from the oven and place onto a wire tray to cool. Store them in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.

From Bush to Bun - How to Grow and Bake BlueberriesThe Verdict

Our children didn’t notice the fat and sugar were missing, only that the cake stuck to the paper cases, a problem that might be solved by wiping a small amount of oil around the inside of silicon bun cases. They loved the blueberry flavour best of all.

The little buns certainly left me feeling that I’d eaten cake and my thoughts are that a couple of these with low-fat custard would make a tasty dessert.

Nutrition Facts (per muffin cake): Calories 52, Fat 0.4g, Carbs 10.3g, Protein 2g

What do you think? Will you take up the challenge and grow blueberries this year or are you already growing and harvesting your own?

Community Gardens

Supporting Mental Health Needs with Horticulture

May 18, 2014

I’ve written a few posts sharing how mentally healing I’ve found spending time in gardens and soaking up everything nature has to offer. I was therefore pleased to discover that this weekend, Sonairte in Co Meath, Ireland’s National Centre of Ecology, would be hosting a training session for anyone interested in learning more about providing Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) for people with mental health support needs.

Tranquil gardens at Sonaitre

Tranquil gardens at Sonaitre

For the past few years I’ve worked with adults with intellectual disabilities offering a form of horticultural therapy and last week I finished a course with a branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association helping adults to grow food in recycled containers. Amongst others, I’m working with long-term unemployed, older people living alone and rurally isolated adults in community gardens around Carlow and Kilkenny.

I know I’m not alone in Ireland providing a horticulture service to a diverse range of people who might suffer with mental health issues from mild anxiety to depression, to more profound forms of mental health problems, yet unlike our UK neighbours there’s very little support available to us in this recognised and measurable from of therapy.

I sincerely hope that will change as the excellent training the group of occupational therapists and horticulture practitioners received this weekend, opened our eyes to the tangible mental health benefits that simply being or working in a garden can bring. The knowledge we’ve gained will begin to help us offer and better understand the practical elements of putting together a programme centred around people and not purely the needs of the garden. Damien Newman of Thrive, a UK charity that “champions the benefits of gardening, carrying out research, training professionals and offering practical solutions so that anyone with a disability can enjoy gardening”, delivered an excellent course that’s given us a lot to think about.

Sonaitre gardenHorticulture therapy for mental health isn’t a new phenomena. *In ancient Egypt royal physicians prescribed “a spell in the palace gardens for those troubled of mind” and in 1856 Dorset County Asylum wrote that “male patients shall be employed in gardening and husbandry… to promote cheerfulness and happiness.”

Having completed the second stage of learning, our group now have a year to decide whether we individually wish to take on an eight week distance course via Thrive and Coventry University in an undergraduate module leading us to an Award in STH, a project I’m planning to begin during the quieter time of my gardening year.

Sonaitre gardenIf you’re interested in learning more about Social and Horticulture Therapy in Ireland, contact Veronica Macfarlane of Sonairte for more information on future courses or check out Thrive in the UK directly who run a range of course options as well as gardens to visit, a library full of information that can support social and horticultural therapy students and practitioners, as well as professionals on hand to offer advice and information in general.

Have you noticed how spending a couple of hours outdoors can improve your mood and feelings of general well-being?

 

*source Thrive UK

Lifestyle

World Mental Health Day – What works for you?

October 10, 2013
It's a topsy turvy world we live in

Topsy turvy world

Today is World Mental Health Day and given that gardening and getting outside are cited as so good for mental health it seems appropriate to share a couple of thoughts with you.

In Ireland many cafés are being encouraged to collaborate with Mental Health Ireland’s coffee culture initiative so keep an eye out for events happening close by. However, as someone who prefers tea and the great outdoors I personally find the best therapy for my own mental health is to head outside to the garden or just to walk.

I’ve written a couple of posts on the Greenside Up blog about the ‘me’ times and I’m re-blogging one for you below which shares a brief time I took for myself during the spring of last year.  I wanted to share it again for anyone who missed it, having listened to Paul O’Mahony’s recent audioboo about things he finds helpful when he’s depressed which you can listen to here.

It really struck me as I listened to Paul speaking about his own issues that if more people opened up and were as honest as he, others with mental health issues might be more inclined to seek help themselves. Importantly, they might not feel as isolated or alone with their problems and just might feel able to reach out.

 

Taking some me timeSometimes we just have to stop.

Sometimes life gets too busy, too stressed and can overwhelm. Our goals and dreams become tangled in the matted knot of thoughts and pressures that bombard us daily. Continue Reading…

Lifestyle

Love is….

May 6, 2013

A day bank holiday weekend in the vegetable garden 🙂

The house is destroyed but I’m finally on top of everything in the veg patch. It wont last long but feels good for now.

The Greenside Up Vegetable Garden

The Greenside Up Vegetable Garden

It might look bare but in the ground outside we have red & white onions, early & main crop spuds, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, chard, broad beans & mangetout, celeriac & swede, asparagus & scarlet kale and early purple sprouting broccoli. We also have a bed of strawberries that has had an overhaul, rhubarb and lots of flower and herb seeds planted for the bees.

Now might be a good time to mention the leatherjackets. Has anyone else noticed the zillions of these wriggly little root eaters in their soil? They’ve already eaten one of my kale seedlings! I’m starting to see them in my sleep I’ve picked out so many, which doesn’t bode well for a happy late summer as I have a crane fly phobia 🙁

image

Rosemary in flower attracting bees into the polytunnel

How was your bank holiday weekend? Did you get to spend some time in the garden?

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.

 

Green

Gardens & Greens 3 ~ environment & gardening news roundup

February 2, 2013

News from the Eco and Gardening WorldThis week I spotted so many interesting news articles and links in the environmental/gardening world, it was difficult to choose which ones to share with you.

In the end I’ve chosen a mixture of seven links and hope that a few at least may be of interest, starting with some light reading about the shrub Sea Buckthorn.

Sea Buckthorn

www.happyfarming.com

Also known as Siberian Pineapple, this isn’t a shrub I’m overly familiar with so read with interest that the berries are full of health giving properties. It seems it’s a hardy plant and will grow easily in most places, from windy to coastal areas. If you’re thinking of growing Sea Buckthorn do bear in mind it’s very thorny (so would be great if you’re trying to deter people from climbing into your garden, but not so good if you’ve children with footballs that will be constantly punctured or if you’re trying to pick the berries!).

Al Gore Publishes New Book “The Future”

I have a lot of respect for Al Gore and his efforts to tackle the issues surrounding climate change. His first book, an Inconvenient Truth had a huge impact in my life, not least because it highlighted how people can really can make a difference once informed and motivated. When we changed our shopping habits and stopped buying aerosols containing CFCs, the hole in the ozone layer reduced. I was therefore delighted to see he’s published a new book, “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change” which is now top of my book shopping list. Al talks about it here:

Hazardous Gene Discovered in GM Crops

I’ve written about GM in the past, raising my concerns not only about the science but also the lack of interest from the majority of the population. Alarm bells started ringing when I read this latest headline Hazardous Virus Gene Discovered in GM Crops After 20 Years. One of the main concerns for many who campaign against genetically modified food is the lack of research of long-term effects caused by genetic modification. These findings bring home those concerns. I’m always slightly wary of “news” in this field as there are a lot of contradictions around though it does appear to be substantiated if this article is anything to go by. Take a read and see what you think.

Tsunami Debris

Would you be shocked to discover that 30% of debris cleared up from Alaska beaches consisted of Styrofoam that had originated from the Japanese tsunami in 2011? I was. This polystyrene is an environmental disaster – it’s very difficult to clean up, animals and wildlife are eating it, and to cap it all it’s not biodegradable so could last forever – something to think about next time you’re arranging your flowers.

We are connected

Have you ever considered just how interconnected we are to the world we live in?  A thought-provoking post from Lindsay Abrahms writing for The Atlantic looks at the phenomena When Trees Die People Die. Lindsay finishes:

“There is something fascinatingly mysterious about the entanglement of our health with that of nature.”

Felled Trees Call For Help

Staying with the theme of trees, I was intrigued by the headline above from Mark Avery so had to give it a click. I don’t want to give the game away, just to say the story involved illegal logging and using technology we’re all very familiar with to track down the culprits – mobile phones!

 

photo credit: DCSL via photopin cc

Community Gardens

Teenagers – doing it for themselves

June 22, 2012
Bridge Boys Youth Bench

Bridge Boys Youth Bench

We all know of areas in our towns or villages where groups of teens like to mooch around don’t we? If they’re not into sports or youth organisations like the Scouts or similar what is there for them to do?

Preparing the community garden flower bed

Working hard!

When I grew up there was a village youth club where we all hung out – we played pool, darts, bought snacks from the hatch or just sat and listened to music with our mates. But unless there are willing volunteers available to run these informal places where teens are allowed to be themselves, what else is there?Sowing seeds

This age group can seem intimidating or troublesome to some – they get blamed for all the vandalism and theft, they’re labelled and frowned upon.

Wildlife Friendly Flowers

Wildlife Friendly Flowers

However, in Goresbridge, Co Kilkenny teens are trying their best to change this perception by doing something for themselves, all under the gentle guidance of Martina from Ossary Youth.

In this pretty rural village the lads known as The Bridge Boys have rejuvenated an area they hang out in. With the EcoUnesco award as a goal, and a summer BBQ as a celebration of their achievements, the boys have been busy.

Snakes & Ladders

Snakes & Ladders (mobile phones act as counters)

I came across Jay, Evan, Aidan and David in February when I was asked to help them grow some vegetables for their party. They decided what they wanted to eat, they sowed the seeds and watched them develop. They were very energetic, keen to get stuck in and full of questions, slightly different from my usual gardening groups who generally prefer a slower pace and lots of tea! If you’re wondering what teenage lads chose to sow, what else but cosmic purple carrots! They also picked lettuce, basil, courgettes, peas, tomatoes, beetroot and lettuce from the seed tin.

Outside in the community garden they cleaned up an old bed, sowed wildlife friendly plants – sunflowers, cosmos, night scented stocks, calendula and aubrietta. The rest of the plants were put out by the river, the location of their summer shindig. We even snuck in a couple of courgette & tomato plants… wonder if anyone will notice.

What really blew me away with this project wasn’t the vegetable and flower planting that I’d been involved with, though I was impressed by their enthusiasm and hard work, it was seeing the boys handiwork building a “youth bench”. They’ve been cleaning and tidying all the benches by the river but creating the games bench apparently took four days of measuring, cutting, sanding, drawing and painting. When they’d finished they then went on to make three bird tables.

The outdoor games table has spinners that act as the dice and squares in the snakes and ladders large enough for their mobile phones which become the counters – isn’t it great?! This is ‘their’ bench. Now when the local youths hang out down by the river with their friends they have something to do. They also have a sense of pride and achievement and will be protective of their area.

Bridge Boys

Apart from feeling a sense of delight at seeing this project come to fruition, two other things made me smile ….the first was the expression on one of the mothers faces when she saw what her son had achieved (jaw dropping was a understatment). The second was the story I heard of an old lady who was spotted stealing all the flowers from one of the beds and squirreling them into her bag to take home. It wasn’t the teenagers messing up the village, but someone who really should have known better….

What do you think? Are you as impressed by the lads bench as I am? I can see villages everywhere wanting one of these. If you’re involved with any community groups perhaps you could make the suggestion and see where it leads…

Bridge Boys BBQ Veg

Lettuce, beetroot, basil, courgettes, carrots & tomatoes