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nature

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 | Greensideup.ie (@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

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

What do growing veg, nature & photography have in common?

May 4, 2013
Photo Courtesy www.zwartblesireland.com

Photo Courtesy www.zwartblesireland.com

One of the surprising bonuses of growing your own vegetables that I hadn’t expected when we started years ago, was Mother Nature creeping up and gently stroking the back of my neck until I smiled, softened and basked in the calmness that the sensation evoked.

Flowering TreesAlthough born and bred in the countryside, as soon as I was able I left home, moved into a city life closer to work and friends, spent my daylight hours inside office buildings and watched the fields flash by on the two-hour daily train commute every morning and evening.

DaffodilOn dry days I would head outside to a park bench and sit quietly eating lunch under the trees with a book or my thoughts for company and on Friday nights, rush home to pack the tent and sleeping bag onto the back of the motorbike ready for a couple of nights under canvas.

I can’t say I fully appreciated all that Mother Nature offered back then. When the heavens opened I’d look up and shake my fist at her as the rain spilt down and soaked my jeans through to my skin and I’d have to constantly brush the droplets away from my visor so I could see the road. I’d curse at her when my hands were too darned cold to operate the clutch effectively or when I was sweating it out in leathers whilst the sun beat down so powerfully it felt like I was riding into a hot hair-dryer, but I daren’t risk baring hands or arms in case tarmac came closer to me than I wanted.

And then Mr G and I moved to our quiet spot in the south-east of Ireland and we began to grow our own vegetables. As I started to grow carrots and kale nature crept up on me.

beeFirst of all I noticed the wind; the direction the breeze predominantly came in from and how hard it blew, which helped me to realise that my little plants would need some shelter if they were to survive.

Bluebells I watched the sun rise in the morning and noticed how the shadows passed through the garden throughout the day, shading some areas yet leaving others in full sunlight. I became aware of how little or how much it rained, when the frosts arrived and when they were gone.

DovesI noticed the many varieties of weeds that grew in my garden, the colours, how they spread themselves, their seed pods exploding, scattering themselves all around or gently fluttering on the wind as our children blew their delicate seeds into the wind. I noticed the insects and learnt to distinguish the ones I wanted in my garden from those I didn’t and rejoiced in the sound of bird song rather than pumping beats from the stereo. I began to feel much closer to nature and not distant from her as I felt her healing powers weave their magic around me.

People PhotoI guess it was a natural progression that I’d want to photograph everything that surrounded me, to capture the wonder and emotion that the world of flora and fauna evoked. But I didn’t know how! Yes, I can point and shoot a camera and get some lucky Instagram shots but I wanted to learn more.

orchardIt was with delight therefore, that I was able to help Suzanna Crampton of Zwartbles organise her first photography workshop during the last weekend in April and in doing so, secure myself a place.

Skunk Cabbage PlantTen of us arrived at Suzanna’s enchanting farm for a full day of tuition, not quite sure what to expect other than we were to learn “composition”. She did not disappoint us. Suzanna is a natural teacher who shared her knowledge and guided us. We didn’t sit with textbooks or gaze at screens, we spent almost the entire day outside taking lots and lots of photos –  she helped us see what worked and what didn’t. We took stills and action shots, looked at straight lines and arches, flowers and trees and spent the entire Sunday indulging ourselves in something we all enjoyed – photography!

BlossomAll of the photographs taken in this post were shot during that one day (and a couple hundred more are sitting on my hard drive . I’m really hoping they’re the ones Suzanna liked! They’re not perfect, I’m still a beginner but I have come away from the workshop looking at photography in quite a different way and am in awe of the professionals who get it right.

wood anemonesI’ll keep practising (which according to Foxglove Lane is THE key) and hope that Suzanna doesn’t look too closely at my mistakes. If she does, I know that she’ll politely point out where I’ve gone wrong and make suggestions on how to do it right next time without making me feel uncomfortable or disappointed with my efforts.

Zwartbles Sheep

If you weren’t able to attend this photography workshop, hopefully Suzanna will run another in the coming months – the feedback from this course from participants has been fantastic.

Zwartbles
Leave a comment below if you’d like to be informed of any more workshops or contact Suzanna directly (see www.zwartblesireland.com for contact details) or just leave a comment anyway if you like 🙂

And if a workshop isn’t for you, next time the sun is shining and you find yourself with a free half hour or more, why not head outside and see if Mother Nature begins to tickle the back of your neck too… who knows where it may lead you.

 

Travel

Nature’s nature, wherever you live – Sandia Peak, New Mexico

August 13, 2012
Sandia Peak, New Mexico

10,8000 above sea level

I was reminded in a comment here that newcomers to my blog might, as a result of recent posts, land themselves in Carlow expecting to see massive canyons and unusual critters.

What a surprise then to arrive in our little county and find old trees and small villages, hills and green fields, long flowing rivers with bubbling weirs, large bales of hay and boney bottomed cattle plodding their way along tiny lanes on their way to milking parlours. Quite different from my recent travels in New Mexico and Nevada and not a hummingbird in sight!

Wildlflowers in New Mixico

This is primarily a gardening blog with a few recipes, green tips and home life thrown in. It’s about growing your own food, cooking and living in communities or in a manner that has as little impact on our planet as possible. But nature’s nature, no matter where we live. Whether it’s by the coast or on top of a mountain, in a desert or a valley, there’s always something different to see and hear.

So as we drove to the top of Sandia Peak in north eastern Albuquerque, a mountain 10,800 feet above sea level, we were to view nature in a different form.

The View from Sandia Peak, New Mexico

Sandia Peak overlooking New Mexico

Unlike the flat desert area surrounding us, the peaks are covered with trails and felled or fallen trunks, bleached white rocks of various sizes are scattered everywhere and roots clutch on to the side of the mountain like knarled, wizened old hands.

 

There are several trails around the forest, but with three children in tow, the eldest of whIch was a reluctant participant, we chose a short one that led from the gift shop and cafe on top of the mountain.

The trail on Sandia Peak

If truth be told, for all his whining and winging, I kind of agreed with our 13yr old as I too was slightly reluctant to venture too far from civilisation.. I’d been chatting to the assistant in the shop about the likelihood of seeing a black bear and was cheerfully told that it was quite possible! There had been quite a few sightings recently – she’d seen four this year on the road to the top, including a mother and cub. I picked up a guide paper to see how to keep ourselves safe should we come across one, only to read there are cougars in the woods too! How excited Mr G and the children were at the prospect of seeing these wild predatory creatures! As a mother however, they were the last things I wanted my family to come across on our short stroll!

Yellow flower

 

Nevertheless, the forest that stretched before us was too enticing to miss. The trail wound us around the edge of the mountain where the views were breathtaking before leading us to a well crafted stone stairway – an unexpected sight at 10,800 feet!

stone stairs

Although a short climb, the steps left us slightly breathless as we weren’t used to the altitude. It was with relief that we stumbled over a few scrappy tree roots and into the delightfully scented pine forest (not least because our middle daughter was intent on finding out whether the path we were walking along overhung the interminable drop!)

In the forest at Sandia Peak

I adore walking in forests (even with threats of bears and cougars) there’s just something about the light and shadows don’t you think? We tried to encourage our children to hush for a brief while so we could hear the unusual birds or look out for chipmunks, but sadly not to be. The girls chattered their way around, joyful to see the pretty wildflowers and chased after the grasshoppers whenever they spotted them. Maybe the noise was a good thing though as it was sure to have prevented a bear from accidentally bumping into us.

wildflowers and trees

The path was well travelled (though we only came across a couple of other visitors to it) and not too lengthy. The cooler mountain air was a refreshing change from the stifling heat of the city and before long we found ourselves back at the cafe where we were able to watch hummingbirds at close proximeity. The clip doesn’t catch the load hum they make as they buzz around, it can be quite startling when they whiz past your ears!

I’ll be back to my normal vegetable gardening blogging soon, most certainly with a new perspective, but in the meantime I hope you’re enjoying  the flowers, trees and wildlife 5,000 miles from our usual home.

Travel

The Beautiful Trail ~ from a Navajo song

August 4, 2012
The Grand Canyon

South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona

I found the lyrics below from a Navajo north American Indian song and they touched me.

The Beautiful Trail ~ from a Navajo song

They seemed to fit the images taken on my phone on our trip to the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The Beautiful Trail ~ from a Navajo song

They could equally apply to walks around the green lanes of home in soft rain, or padding outside bare foot in my dewy garden early on a summer’s day.

The Beautiful Trail ~ from a Navajo song

The Grand Canyon – 1 mile deep, 10 miles across

Beauty is before me

And beauty behind me,

Beauty is above me

And beauty below me,

I am surrounded by it

I am immersed in it.

In youth I am aware of it

And in old age I shall walk quietly

The Beautiful Trail.

The Beautiful Trail ~ from a Navajo song

Green

Bee Cause – How we can help the bees

April 15, 2012

Image courtesy of Friends of the Earth

Last week Friends of the Earth (UK) launched a campaign “Bee Cause”, calling on the British government to commit to a “bee action plan to save bees and save the country billions of pounds in the future.”

If you’ve been listening to the news over the past couple of years you’ll have no doubt heard that the decline in bee populations isn’t just a UK problem, it’s worldwide. A combination of issues from colony collapse disorder, parasites and shortages in habitats are being blamed but whatever the cause, it’s serious.

Bees aren’t just about honey – they help to pollinate strawberries, nuts, herbs, coffee and cotton to name just a fraction of items we use daily.

According to research released this *week it would cost the UK £1.8 billion every year to hand-pollinate crops without bees – 20% more than previously thought. That’s just one country, imagine that on a global basis. Finances apart, can you image a world without bees? I don’t even want to…

In recent years Britain has lost over half the honey bees kept in managed hives and wild honey bees are nearly extinct.  Solitary bees are declining in more than half the areas they’ve been studied and some species of bumblebee have been lost altogether. These figures are replicated around the world.

One reason for the bee decline is a shortage of natural habitats, so Friends of the Earth have outlined simple steps people can take in their gardens to help provide it:

  • Sow bee-friendly seeds and plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden such as mixed wildflowers packets, single-flowering roses, open and flat-headed flowers like verbena and yarrow and tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves.

    Image courtesy of Gardeners World

  • Create a place to nest for solitary bees by piling together hollow stems and creating a ‘bee hotel’.
  • Try to provide a small amount of rainwater in a shallow bird bath or tray which honeybees need to keep their hive at the right temperature.

So please “bee aware” and encourage these very special insects into your gardens – they really do need all the help we can give them.

Have you come across bees in trouble? Last year we spotted a large bumblebee covered in parasites and clearly in trouble. It was distressing to observe but by providing flowers with pollen that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals, perhaps it will help to keep the bees strong and more able for pests and diseases. It might be a small step, but it’s something.

 

* conducted by The University of Reading on behalf of Friends of the Earth (Reference: Breeze et al, 2012 – Chapter 4.) 

Lifestyle

Taking some ‘me’ time

March 2, 2012

rp_Blossom.jpgSometimes 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.

When that starts to happen we lose sight of who and what we are. We focus on the silly, inconsequential things, ignoring what’s important and then a rising panic starts to well that we’re not achieving what we desire, that we’re failing and that life’s starting to unravel.

Well I don’t know about you but that’s what happens to me on occasion and has been building over the past two or three weeks.

This week I was fortunate to be able to listen to Grainne O’Reilly talk about balancing our lives at Carlow’s Networking of Enterprising Women lunch and have been practicing the breathing techniques she showed us that help to calm us when we feel under pressure or stressed (breath in for a count of five, hold for a count of five, breath out for a count of five).

It works, I can categorically say that as I’ve been practising it a lot since and as  soon as I was able to calm myself I was able to recognise that I was so busy looking and worrying about everyone else, I’d lost sight of me and who I am.

So this morning and completely unplanned I took some time out. I dropped my eldest to school, parked up the car and sat by the beautiful River Barrow for 45 minutes. I stopped thinking about the dinner, the housework, teaching the class that I was due to see a short while later, social media, my own garden, the bank balance, the replacement car I still haven’t bought since crashing my own and the zillion other thoughts that whiz around my brain every minute of the day. I sat down on a faded and flaky painted bench and allowed myself to soak in what was surrounding me at that moment in time.

The roar of the weir drowned out most of my own noise as the water cascaded down the mossy concrete bank, taking its long journey to the sea. I was still able to hear the birds singing around me as they hopped around the pink blossomed branches of nearby trees and listen to the ducks quack as they jumped out of the river and settled down for a snooze.

I noticed the shadows cast from trees mirrored on the flowing river, the cold breeze on my skin and the clouds as they moved across the sky, darkening the light around me at times and then shining so brightly you could almost hear the daffodils sing as they soaked up the sun’s rays.

I stopped doing everything and lived for that moment in time, thinking how lucky I was that I was able to do just  that. How grateful I am that I live the life I do and am surrounded by the people I know in both real life and my virtual social media world. It was a special moment in time and one I want to keep hold of because all those worries I mentioned wont be going away, they’re still there but they needed to be put back into perspective.

I left that tranquil place and drove to my gardening class with a smile. Because I’d stopped for just a brief while I was able to talk about, teach and share my passion for what I do. I was able to function again.

Today is a new day. I’m back. Are you……?