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Grow Your Own Vegetables

Green, Vegetable Garden

Growing Vegetables in Junk Containers

March 1, 2015

Grow Your Own Vegetables in Junk

Are you a hoarder? Do you have a regular de-clutter or are your cupboards bulging with ‘stuff’ that you might need one day? I felt like I’d grown up when the dustmen finally added our address to their round and could take away all the recycling that used to fill our sheds, but we seem to have replaced the empty space with junk.

Mr G and I are shocking hoarders, partly because we have sheds that we can move all the toot into once it’s no longer needed indoors and partly because we might need it one day. While I’ve always been fairly good at giving away clothes that our children have grown out of, I’m afraid toys and other junk are another matter. Despite our youngest approaching her twelfth birthday, we still have Telly Tubbies and Tweenies in boxes waiting to be sorted and sold and I’m sure I spotted a Thomas the Tank Engine ticket office buried deeply out there when I was looking for seed trays recently.

During the New Year festivities we were making plans for the months ahead and decluttering was high up on the list. There must be a child somewhere that would love a little playhouse of their own and maybe if the Tree Change Dolls woman wasn’t so far away she might like to turn a Bratz party bus into a camper van for her growing collection of fabulous revamped, au naturel dolls?

Grow Your Own Vegetables in Junk

Not just talking the talk

With the promise of spring I’ve stuck my head into the potting shed once again which I’m now sharing with the stack of ‘temporary’  boxes of stuff. Last year I ran a six-week course funded by Local Agenda 21 Partnership funding for the local Irish Wheelchair group, Growing Vegetables in Recycled Containers where the group were encouraged to look at their rubbish a bit differently. If it once contained something, could it be used again to hold compost and grow food in?

Grow Your Own Vegetables in Junk

I showed the group my Pinterest board that contains a few ideas and fair play, they got creative. They weren’t convinced they would like to eat food out of a container that had once held a pair of smelly feet, so we opted to pop some companion plants into the boots, and the jeans were a genius piece of fun and talking point. I’d love to have seen them in full bloom.

Grow Your Own Vegetables in JunkSome of the ideas we’d seen online and wanted to see if they worked, like the milk container that could be turned into a watering can or a compost scoop, both of which worked brilliantly. The 2 lt drink bottles were pretty cool too once washed, labels removed, drainage holes made and filled with seedlings instead of their previously unhealthy occupiers.

Grow Your Own Vegetables in JunkI’m due to do a couple of talks about growing vegetables in recycled containers in the coming months. One live streamed around the offices of the Environmental Protection Agency and another at the Rothe House Garden Festival in Kilkenny in June.

With these two events on the horizon I’ll be looking through the containers in the shed to see if there’s anything in there that I can take along. As long as drainage holes can be made in a container, we can pretty much use anything to grow food or flowers in it, toxic materials excepting.

Growing food in junk is a great way of beginning to grow your own vegetables. If you’re worried about the initial outlay of pots, compost, seeds, tools etc., immediately you’ve eliminated one of the costs and once you begin, it makes you much more aware of all the packaging our ‘stuff’ comes in and you may find yourself trying to reduce it as a result.

If you’d like some more tips about growing vegetables in containers of any description, check out this article.

Are you a hoarder or are you super efficient with your old junk? Have you any tips to help someone like me who can’t throw anything away?


Vegetable Garden

Reflecting – Top 14 Gardening Articles For 2014

December 30, 2014

Reflecting - 14 Gardening Articles for 2014

Sometimes we have to look back to help us move forward. As the year draws to a close it seems like a good time to share with you the gardening articles from the blog that most caught your (or search engines) attention. I’d also like to ask you a question or two.

Re-Designed Website

cheeky hen2014 saw a slight shift in the information I’ve posted. A major website overhaul took place during the late summer which resulted in the scaling down of the thirty or so categories I’d managed to drift into, to just six.

This has given the blog more of a magazine feel to it and allows me to alternate my writing between Food & Drink, Green, Travel, Lifestyle, Community Gardens and Vegetable Gardening. This couldn’t have happened without the expertise of Ken McGuire of Event Media, who spent a lot of out of hours time working with me on the website so that the switch over could take place as pain-free and swiftly as possible.

During the year, 82 new posts were published, bringing the total archive to 429. I’m still plodding away, adjusting styles and fonts that didn’t make the transition, so please bear with me if you open an article that shouts words at you.

Beach - Clear Lakes and Guiness Cake by

A major website overhaul meant a lot of time spent indoors in front of a screen and not outside in our own garden, as did setting up the Green and Vibrant venture with my friend Susan and working with the various community garden and voluntary projects that have kept me busy during the last 12 months. This resulted in our own garden looking quite neglected, something we plan to put right over the coming months.

That brings me swiftly to the special word that “chose me” for 2015… BALANCE, something that I’ve struggled with but am hoping to remedy and focus more on over the coming months. Balancing family and home life with work, blogging and voluntary time is essential, particularly when I look at our children and see how quickly they’re growing up.

Feedback Please

At the beginning I mentioned asking you a couple of questions. Although an ‘experienced’ blogger, I still wonder at times if I’m regularly sharing the kind of information you enjoy reading. I’d be grateful therefore, if you would leave a comment at the end mentioning which style of article you like the most. In other words, am I doing it right?

Are you here for the ‘How to’ gardening tips or do you find the recipes helpful? Do you enjoy reading about our family life or the work I’m doing with community gardens, or perhaps the articles that cut straight to the facts, or the new travel section that I’ve explored over the past few months? Are you enjoying the new format where I try to alternate a bit of everything? All constructive criticism welcome, your opinion will help me write content over the coming months 🙂

That’s enough of my rambling for the time being. Here’s the promised list of the most popular gardening articles since the blog began back in 2009 – the 14 most popular posts for 2014, beginning with number 14.

No. 14 – How to Make Mini Scarecrows

A post I wrote back in 2012 but still a popular one. This is fun activity for all age groups and a handy one for wet weather.

How to make mini scarecrows - lady scarecrow

No. 13 – Harvesting Broad Fava Beans

Love them or hate them, there are several ways we can eat broad fava beans that might even make the nay sayers try them out.

Broad (Fava) beans growing

No. 12 – How to Make Comfrey & Nettle Fertiliser

Comfrey is a wonderful plant to have in your garden – bees love it, our skin enjoys it in baths, and our soil and compost heaps will thank you for it too as it nourishes the earth as a natural fertiliser. It can be a bit invasive but I’m delighted to see that so many of you are looking at ways of fertilising your soil without the use of artificial chemicals. This post will show you how.


No. 11 – How to Dry Herbs

Freeze, bake or air dry, here’s some tips on drying your own herbs. Herbs were the first plants I grew in containers and are ideal for newbies to get started with. There’s a post on the blog written this year that gives tips on how to grow your own herbs if you’re not already doing so.

How to dry herbs ~ air, oven & freeze

No. 10 – Gardening Under Cover – Where to Begin

This post was written for a twitter friend who asked for some advice. If you have a gardening question that you can’t find the answer to, let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

Nasturtium cookie recipe

No. 9 – Polytunnels & Organic Growing During the Winter Months

Number nine on the most read posts is a Guest Post that addresses many questions we all have about winter growing in polytunnels. The why, what, how of polytunnel growing during the colder months.

Growing vegetables in a polytunnel during the winter

No. 8 – How to Plant Garlic in the Autumn

Autumn planted garlic seems to grow so much better than spring planted, probably because the bulb is more likely to swell after a good frost. This post was picked up by a popular American blog this year and although written in 2010, after a re-vamp shot up the popularity charts, making it the eighth most read post on the website.

How to Grow Your Own Garlic - Step by Step Guide

No. 7 – Strawberry Cordial or Alien Aspartame

When trying to cut down on the additives in our children’s cordials by making our own juices, we discovered how much sugar is added to them. We also found that only one popular variety of cordial is available here in Ireland that doesn’t contain aspartame, added by soft drink companies as an alternative to sugar. Here’s a recipe for strawberry cordial as well as some information on aspartame and why we’re trying to avoid it.

strawberry cordial

No. 6 – Five Ways to Help Bees

Thankfully the plight of the bees is beginning to sink in as more and more of us become aware at how endangered they’ve become and how much we rely on them for our day-to-day food. This post gives five tips on helping the bees, as well as an inspirational video clip sharing how even the smallest steps we take, can make a difference to their survival.

Blooming Flowers at Mount Congreve during Late September

No. 5 – How to Make Blackcurrant Juice

It’s great to see that so many of you are experimenting with making your own juices and cordials from fruit you’ve grown or bought. This post gives a very simple and tasty recipe for blackcurrant juice. Well worth a go if you want to try the real thing.

Refreshing Blackcurrent Cordial

 No. 4 – Green Tomato & Chilli Chutney Recipe

I’ve received some great feedback on this recipe as many of you have a go at making your own chutney and not throwing fruit and vegetables away that are under or over ripe. It was also used by community gardeners for the last two years to make a chutney that we sold at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival.

5 Ideas for Green Tomatoes

No. 3 – Courgette Cake with Lemon & Lime Curd and Pistachio – Recipe

This recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson was written in the summer of 2010 and revamped this year. It’s been in the top 3 posts on the blog since then and I’m pleased to hear so many of you have tried courgette cake as a result.

Courgette Cake with Lemon & Lime Curd & Pistachio

No. 2 – Slugs. 15 Ways to Deal With Them Organically

This article started out as ten, then quickly grow to 11 and now 15 ways of getting rid of this annoying pest without resorting to the slug pellets. Beer traps still remain the most effective way in our garden. This post is full of more solutions that might help you.

14 posts for 2014

No. 1 – 14 Vegetables to Grow in a Small Garden

I was thrilled to find that the most popular gardening article is one that might help more of you to grow your own vegetables. The suggestions made in the post are based on tried and tested vegetables that we’ve grown in many of the community gardens I’ve been involved with, most of the plots with limited space. It’s also appropriate that the article has 14 vegetables for the 14 top posts of 2014!

Grow Your Own Kale

Grow Your Own Kale – one of 14 vegetables suggested for small gardens


That’s all from me for this year. Thanks so much for reading, supporting and interacting, either here in the comments, online through the various Greenside Up social media channels or by email or text. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year and here’s to a long and productive growing season in 2015.

Bhliain Nua Sásta