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Community Gardens, Vegetable Garden

Now’s a great time to grow your own garlic

October 22, 2013

(…unless your soil’s too wet!)

planting garlic cloves in ClonegalWhen I switched the lights off last night and headed to bed, it was with slight concern. The weather forecast was awful for the morning and I was wondering how on earth I was going to keep 16 gardeners in Clonegal happy and interested in today’s grow your own lesson that I’d planned for them.

blue skies in Clonegal

The first two weeks in October in Clonegal

This is an outdoor class that’s enjoyed sunshine and warmth for the past couple of weeks and although we can dress for and work around showery days, the forecast was for torrential rain! As it happened, the worst of the rain kept away almost until lunchtime and everyone was dressed for the showers we experienced.

We covered several topics including soil pH and nutrients and managed to sow three rows of garlic before the downpour sent us scampering inside for shelter.

Continue Reading…

Vegetable Garden

14 Vegetables to Grow In A Small Garden

May 11, 2013


Vegetables for a small garden

14 Vegetables to Grow in a Small Garden

“I don’t have much space, what are the best vegetables to grow outside in my small garden?”

This has been one of the most often asked questions which is encouraging as one of the first pieces of advice is start small! Why? Because you’re less likely to give up growing your own if you don’t take on too much at once.

You’ve installed a couple of raised beds, you’ve cleared a space for some veggies somewhere bright and sunny in your garden, or you’re even planning on planting vegetables among your flower borders or in containers; now you’re wondering what you might grow in your small vegetable garden that will give you the most return for your efforts. The following might help you take the next steps to growing vegetables in a small garden. Continue Reading…

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.



A breezy couple of hours in the vegetable garden

March 29, 2013

At last, a few hours working in our own breezy but dry vegetable garden.


There’s nothing like a rant, rave & wrestle with a vegetable bed full of creeping buttercups to clear the mind, or the satisfaction when the job’s finally finished!

Three beds have now been cleared of kale and sprouts stalks in readiness for the onions and root veg.

The barrow loads of pernicious scutch grass and buttercup wont be heading for the regular compost bins (don’t want them multiplying in there) but to the big heap in the corner of the garden.


It was lovely to get some help from our nine-year old too. She was looking for a job so I suggested she plant the garlic.

She read the packet, split the bulbs, spaced all the cloves ready for planting and marked the rows. She then exclaimed “when I grow up mammy, I’m going to marry a man who’ll grow our vegetables for us” slightly puzzled at her ‘traditionalist’ outlook I ask her “why wont you grow them all yourself”, “oh I’ll be busy doing something worthwhile, like rescuing wild animals or dogs tied to posts” she replied… hmm, not sure what to make of that!

planting garlic

Hope we get a few more dry days as lots more gardening to catch up on after the last wet or frosty months. How are your spring garden preparations going?




Gardens & Greens – News Roundup from the Eco & Garden World

January 25, 2013

It becomes apparent how quickly a week passes when you begin a regular blog series, the days have flown by since the last Gardens & Greens news roundup. This week I’ve been busy planning and organising the Greenside Up Seed Collections and in particular making up packs of “Feeling Hot” pepper packs in time for Valentine’s Day.

Last week’s news streams were full of bee posts and pesticide links, today I have a mixture of posts and news stories to share with you, starting with a charming short film.

Recycling & Repairing

You may have spotted this lovely documentary already from Irish Folk Furniture which won the prize for the Best Animation at the 2013 Sundance Festival and is available only on YouTube. It’s about recycling and repairing old furniture in rural Ireland. If you haven’t seen it yet, do take a look. I was spellbound.

When is Enough, Enough?

“You can help to change the world by realizing in your own life when enough is enough.”

This post from Mother Earth News has been playing on my mind since I read it. The authors make a very valid point:

“What if enough took the place of more as the organizing principle for the economy?”

Take a read for yourself. It has to begin with each and every one of us.

Will this decision define President Obama’s Green Energy Agenda?

There have been lots of tweets in my stream (@greensideupveg) mentioning President Obama’s inaugural address where he stated that climate change would be a priority for his administration (again). Now we have to wait and see if he can stand by his principles as the decision about the controversial XL pipeline rears closer and the world waits to see which politically unenviable decision the President will make about its future. Matt McGrath, BBC environmental correspondent explains the issues surrounding this environmentally contentious oil pipe.

Could Biocontrol Be the Way Forward?

Continuing on the pesticide theme of last week, BBC News Technology looks at how some farmers in Brazil are swapping chemicals for wasps, or more to the point biocontrol in the form of parasitical wasps. Eggs are being emptied out of a plane’s hatch onto the crops below and once hatched and grown, they inject their own eggs into those of the pesky sugarcane borer. This isn’t a new phenomena, many gardeners have been experimenting with biological control for a while and Irish company Supernemos have been supplying and picking up awards for their own organic solution to pests with their nematodes. For more information on the Brazilian story and the trials the farmers are undertaking, take a look here.

aircraft spraying crops

When Plants Attack

Have you ever heard of the term Allelopothy? If you’re reading this from a regular gardeners point of view you may have come across it without realising. Perhaps you’ve  heard that some plants compliment each other and some don’t (nothing grows under Black Walnut trees for example). In this blog post from Emma Cooper, (aka @emmathegardener) Emma looks at When Plants Attack. Worth keeping an eye on if you’re serious about your gardens as Emma is promising more in the series of plants getting rough with one another.

Coffee Bean Crisis

If you’re a coffee lover you may have to expect to pay higher prices for your favourite brew over the next couple of years as a coffee fungus rampages plantations in Central America. Costa Rica are the latest casualties and have just declared a national emergency as a result of the rust that is so attracted to the plants.

There’s a lot of serious news going on around the world but to finish this week’s links with something a little light-hearted (though I’m sure very serious for some), I’m wondering how much do you like your garlic? Enough to try to win a prize of £100 and a trophy? It wouldn’t be my cup of tea but I’m sure there will be lots of silly people brave souls who will take up the challenge. All you have to do is eat 10 cloves of raw garlic in less than five minutes at the World Garlic Eating Competition on Saturday,14th September in Dorset, England.

If you think you can do it, bare in mind that the current record is 34 cloves of garlic eaten in one minute by Deepak Sharma Bajagain on 1 December 2009. Hopefully he wont be entering.

Radish SeedsFrom the Greenside Up blog… 

Finally, in case you missed it, my post this week was about seeds and in particular, how long you can expect them to last in storage. You might find it helpful if you’re sifting through your seed tins in preparation for the growing season ahead.



1. photo credit: via photopin cc

2. photo credit: 
kqedquest via photopin cc<

3. photo credit: Bush Philosopher – Dave Clarke via photopincc

4. photo credit: bernpics12 via photopin cc


Lifestyle, Vegetable Garden

Harvesting the garlic

August 19, 2011
Harvesting the Garlic in August

Harvesting Garlic Arno in August

Back in October last year I wrote a post on how to plant garlic. Today I harvested the bulbs.

They have a long growing season but once planted and all you have to do to care for them is keep the bed weeded – that’s it! They’re hardy (remember last winter) and survived our fluctuating temperatures and rain throughout the spring and summer without bolting.

I’m delighted with the results, loving the big bulbs and looking forward to eating home-grown tasty garlic over the coming months.

Having dug them up, the plants are now on a rack drying out thoroughly before I plait and store them.  In the meantime, we’ll be cooking some of the bulbs as we need them and keeping a few aside to split and plant this autumn.

Does anybody else grow garlic and do you have any favourite varieties?

Vegetable Garden

Planting Garlic (Allium sativum) Cloves in the Autumn

October 18, 2010

Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow and takes just a few simple steps.

How to Grow Your Own Garlic - Step by Step Guide

Three bulbs of garlic can divide into 30 – 50 individual cloves. Every clove you plant should develop into a new bulb in just a few months. That’s a year’s worth of garlic for your kitchen growing in less than two metres of space. It makes sense to give it a go doesn’t it?

Garlic Growing Tips

As with onions, garlic prefers a sunny site in soil that has not been freshly manured.

Garlic doesn’t like heavy or badly drained soil or it may rot. If you’ve got heavy soil you could try planting cloves into individual module trays in the autumn, that you remove and transplant into the soil in the Spring.  Alternatively plant your garlic in large containers.

Garlic takes a long time to grow and most types need cool temperatures of about 0ºc – 10ºc (32ºf – 50ºf) for a month or so to fully mature. If you plant it in the autumn/fall, you can expect to harvest your garlic around mid summer. Check whether the garlic variety you have bought is for Autumn or Spring planting.

It’s important to buy bulbs from reputable suppliers as they’re likely to have been certified disease free.  If you do this you can pretty much guarantee they will grow well for you and you can plant next years crop from bulbs you’ve saved.

How to plant garlic

Prepare the soil by removing all the weeds, roots and all, then remove any large stones and finally rake until the surface of the soil is smooth. Bulbs usually come in packets of three. Split the bulbs into individual cloves.

How to grow your own garlic - step by step guideLay the cloves on the top of the soil in a line, spacing them between 10cm (4in) to 18cm (7in) apart. Check the packet of the bulbs for more specific spacing guidelines relevant to the variety you’ve chosen. Once they’re all laid out in place, begin to plant the cloves up to 10 cm (4in) deep in sandy soils, or 2.5 in (1 in) in heavier. If you lay the cloves out on top of the soil before planting them, you’ll be able to see where you bury them as you move along the line. How to Grow Your Own Garlic - Step by Step GuideIt will also give you a second chance to check that you’re planting them the right way up. If your soil is in any way heavy use a dibble to make the hole and do not force the clove in – it’s easy to damage the clove if treated roughly.

Once in the ground garlic doesn’t need much looking after other than weeding.  When the leaves have turned yellow, usually around June to August, use a fork to loosen and dig up the bulbs and leave them to dry for a couple of weeks, preferably outside if it’s sunny, or inside in an airy place if not.  When the bulbs are fully dry they can be plaited or stored in a frost-free, dry place.  Depending upon the variety grown, garlic will keep for up to a year.

Here’s how Dee plant’s it at home, and where she shares a few tips about bulb dormancy and the need for some cooler temperatures needed to enable to clove to become a bulb.

Have you grown your own garlic before? Are you tempted to give it a go? It’s surprisingly easy and very satisfying.

Vegetable Garden

The Great Onion Harvest

September 6, 2010
31st May 2010

Ooooh, not sure whether to show you my onions or beans today…. onions I think as I harvested them all last week…..

Back in March I picked up a packet of Setton onion sets (small bulbs) from Heatons in Carlow.  I was a tad unsure about them as I usually buy my seeds/bulbs etc online or from garden centres.  However, on a whim I paid my €2.00, brought them home and planted them.

June 2010

Onions like to be kept as weed free as possible and they are last in my four year crop rotation, so were planted in the bed that last year housed the brassicas.  This is because the soil can build up eelworms (and other pests/diseases) if onions are grown in the same patch year after year. I didn’t manure the bed as I’d added a couple of barrow fulls before planting the broccoli.

So after what seemed like a slow start, they grew and the grew and they grew until the grew so much that I stopped them!

16 August 2010

You can tell when onions are ready to harvest as their tops start to die down and bend over. 

Although we’ve been using them fresh from the ground they were getting really big so I used a garden fork to ease them gently from where they’d rooted and then left them for a couple of weeks for the foliage to die down (almost naturally) before lifting them fully and drying them out (first in the garden and then moved into the polytunnel once the weather turned wetter.

 (Note: avoid bending the tops over to stop them growing as it increases the risk of rotting when they’re in storage.)

29th August 2010 – Onions drying in the sun once they’d been lifted

Once they’re fully dried out (the skins will feel like paper), I’ll hang them in bunches in the shed. I’m not great at plaiting onions (garlic’s easier as it’s smaller) but a similar effect can be achieved by wrapping them around string.  If you missed my Facebook link, here’s a great video on Garlic Braiding.

Last year we started to lose a few onions through rotting but managed to save them by trimming off all the bad bits then throwing the rest into a food processor, chopping them up and bagging them into meal sized bags and freezing them.  This turned out to be a great time saver as they could be placed straight into the saute pan from frozen!