Browsing Tag

pests

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!

 

Vegetable Garden

12 Garden Pests We Don’t Want To See In Our Veggies

April 30, 2014

Sometime’s it seems there are more bad guys in the garden than good. When we emptied a large strawberry container this week in a HSE garden that caters for adults with intellectual disabilities, we found four of the ten pests listed below in one container alone! When we’re gardening without chemicals it can be a challenge but not impossible to either get rid of, or contain the pests and the first step is identifying the good guys from the bad, something covered a couple of weeks ago with the 12 Friends We Want to See in Our Gardens blog post.

Companion Planting Nasturtiums

Companion Planting Nasturtiums

To identify the pests we need to see them first so the first rule of thumb when dealing with pests organically is vigilance. Check your vegetables regularly, daily if possible and if you spot anything unusual, try to find out what it is and deal with it immediately – it’s very unlikely it will go away on its own.

One of my favourite books to help identify pests and diseases is the RHS Pest & Disease book and I’d recommend it for all gardeners shelves. After vigilance there are several things we can do to prevent a build up of pests, from good soil management, hygiene, crop rotation, companion planting as well as learning pest life-cycles (the weevil below is a case in point), using fresh compost and encouraging beneficial wildlife – all topics covered in my workshops. To help you begin the pest ID, here are a dozen I’ve come across, though there are many more.

Leatherjacket

Leatherjacket – root eating cranefly larvae

1. Leatherjackets

Not the ones we wear, but little grey-brown grubs. Leatherjackets are the larvae of crane fly and are root eaters. They’re fleshy with no legs and can grow as big as 50mm. For more information on how to identify and get rid of them, take a look here.

photo credit: E_Journeys via photopin cc

photo credit: E_Journeys via photopin cc

2. Cutworms

Cutworms are moth larvae that generally live under the soil and are again, root feeders.

They’re larger than the leatherjackets mentioned above and are a green, grey, brown colour about 2.5 cm long. Supernemos are available online if you’ve noticed a particular problem with these grubs or the leatherjackets.

cabbage white caterpillars3. Caterpillars

Cabbage white butterflies and moths start appearing around May and lay their eggs on the undersides of Brassica leaves (kale, cabbage, broccoli). The eggs hatch and the caterpillars feast on the leaves of seedlings you may have lovingly grown, leaving gaping holes and if left unchecked, no leaves whatsoever.

There are a few ways of dealing with caterpillars organically. First of all cover the bed your Brassica are growing in with netting made with holes small enough the butterfly can’t squeeze through to lay her eggs. Make sure the net is fixed to a frame and not sitting directly on top of the plants or the butterfly will lay her eggs through it. If you do spot signs of caterpillars, pick them off the plants and destroy them or move them to a sacrificial plant such as nasturtiums where they can chomp away without damaging your precious leaves.

snails4. Slugs & Snails

I could spend every lesson in every workshop discussing slugs and snails as they’re the bane of gardeners lives! Instead I wrote a blog post that has 15 ways of dealing with them organically and a few more comments have been added to the list. Take a look if slugs & snails are your nemesis.

Carrot Root Fly Damage

Carrot Root Fly Damage – spot the larvae

5. Carrot Root Fly

I think I’d heard about carrot root fly long before we began growing veg but only came across this pest recently. Boy does it do some damage. I won’t go into detail here as I dedicated a blog post to it after we discovered it in Callan community garden, but trust me, you really don’t want this pest in your garden.

aphids7. Aphids

Greenfly, blackly – most of us are familiar with aphids in one guise or another.

They love our roses and they love our broad beans and they breed like mad. Here’s a post all about them with a few suggestions on how to keep on top of them.

spidermite8. Red Spidermite

My polytunnel became so infested with red spidermite last year I had to take everything out and wash the tunnel and everything it contained from top to bottom because the spidermite had infected it all. It was a demoralising experience that I don’t want a repeat of, ever. How did it happen? I took my eye off and didn’t spot them early enough. It was a hot summer and I didn’t keep the polytunnel damp enough – red spidermite thrive in hot, dry conditions. There’s no excuse as I’ve seen infestations a couple of times. Here’s a post about a red spidermite attack we spotted early enough in Goresbridge Community Garden a couple of years ago you might like to look at for tips and suggestions.

weevil grub

photo credit: Scot Nelson via photopin cc

9. Weevils

Whether the weevils are after your legumes as in pea and bean weevil or after your strawberries, as in strawberry weevil, they’re a curse as the distinctive orange headed larvae eat the roots and the adults eat the leaves. The Irish produced Supernemos are said to be effective against strawberry weevils and may well be the answer.

Beet leaf miner10. Leaf Beet Miner

Beet miner’s are maggots that have hatched from fly eggs laid between the layers of leaves. There’s no cure, organic or otherwise, other than vigilance. Once you spot them, remove the infected leaves and the plants will recover. This post explains them in more detail.

Cockchafer (May Bug) aka root eater11. Chafer Grubs

The first time I came across one of these grubs (cockchafer pictured on the left) it reminded me of the enormous widgedeygrubs our children are fascinated with on ‘I’m A Celebrity’.  Almost the size of your thumb they eat roots and once they pupate the cockchafers will become Mays Bugs or Billy witches. We tried watering Supernemos onto the raised beds in Leighlin Parish Community Garden the first year we came across them and didn’t see them again as a result.

12. Gooseberry Sawfly

gooseberry sawfly

gooseberry sawfly larvae

Lots of people were tweeting about gooseberry sawfly larvae damage last year – a caterpillar than can literary strip bushes bare in just a couple of days. They’re also partial to currant bushes which I learnt when they took a liking to our red currant bush. Here’s a post on how to deal with them. I heard a tip recently suggesting laying rhubarb leaves at the base of bushes to deter this fly – something I’ll be trying soon.

There are many more pests and just when we think we’ve seen them all, along comes a new one. Lots of people have mentioned the weevils this year and ants seem to be causing a problem too. Ants won’t damage your garden but they do harvest aphids, a sprinkling of cinnamon or semolina powder seems to sort them out however.  I have a general rule of thumb in our garden – as long as the bugs aren’t trying to eat our vegetables, they can stay.

Have you come across any pests that have had you hopping mad at the destruction they’ve caused?

Vegetable Garden

It’s Bath Time!

February 19, 2014

Bath Time

Spring Cleaning in the Vegetable Garden – There’s a Good Reason Why We Should Bother

Is there a job in the garden you try to avoid at all costs? One that has you procrastinating or ignoring altogether in the hope it will go away?

When I’m outside there’s not much I don’t enjoy, though I do like help and company when it comes to digging and sorting out the compost, but that’s as much to do with having a weak back and a fear of anything small with a long tail and sharp teeth than anything else.

My personal pet hate however, is cleaning the trays, pots and modules. Thoughts of standing at the kitchen sink, surrounded by sluggy, cobwebby then wet, drippy plastic has never filled me with joy and I’ll confess to avoiding the job altogether for a couple of years, just knocking the bits of old soil and compost out of the modules as I needed them. That was until now.

With thanks to a tip from Philippa over at Leighlinbridge Community Garden, spring cleaning the garden, and in particular washing the plant pots, just got more pleasant.  Continue Reading…

Vegetable Garden

Wednesday Wigglers ~ Carrot Root Fly

October 23, 2013

Whether you’re a gardener or not it’s likely you’ll have heard about carrot root fly, the curse of many a grower.

Although I’m aware of many cases where people have suffered this pesky little pest and read up on all the tips on how to avoid it, during the years I’ve been growing food myself I’ve never seen the damage the grubs cause until now.

The images below were taken in Callan community garden which saw its first infestation this year.

Carrot Root Fly Damage

Carrot Root Fly Damage – spot the larvae

No wonder people give up growing carrots and parsnips…. arrrghh! It’s heartbreaking to patiently wait for your carrots to grow only to pull them and find them all eaten, black and maggoty.

There are however, ways of tricking the fly and/or learning to accept that this pest exists and work around its life-cycle without resorting to the use of chemicals.

But first of all a few facts about carrot root fly…

It’s a small fly that lays its eggs in the soil around the carrots (but can also be around parsnips, parsley and celery that are all related to carrots). The eggs hatch about a week later and the maggots begin to feed on the seedlings or roots. It takes around three months for the larvae to develop into mature adults.

The carrot root fly generally has two egg laying cycles – April to May and July to August though there can be three depending upon the weather.

The insect can survive through the winter in the soil in its pupal stage. The maggots can survive through the winter months on carrots left in the ground if the flies lay their eggs for a third cycle.

Carrot root fly infected foliage

Carrot root fly infected foliage

Eight tips to prevent carrot root fly destroying your crops…

1.  Check your roots to see if they’ve been infected. The first sign (but not always) might be a discolouration of the leaves where they show a red or purplish tinge. Pull the carrots (or other roots) out of the ground immediately you notice an infestation. The infected roots can be fed to animals but unless you have a very hot compost heap, avoid adding the infected carrots to it.

2. Look out for resistant varieties of seeds that will be clearly labelled such as Fly Away, Carrot Maestro and Flyfree. Note that resistant is just that, these seeds aren’t guaranteed to deter the fly if it takes a fancy to your seedlings.

3. The adult fly has a very strong sense of smell! Avoid sowing the seeds too thickly which will result in you having to thin most of them out, attracting the fly as soon as the foliage is bruised. When you do thin the carrots, try and do so on a dry still evening when the fly isn’t as active and again, harvest them in the evenings where possible.

Carrot Root Fly Larvae

Carrot Root Fly Larvae

cloche4. Create a barrier around the bed, preferably using a very fine mesh or even plastic or cling film that the carrot root fly can’t get through. It should be at least 70 cm (over 2 ft high).

Alternatively plant the seeds into high raised beds or containers, again 70 cm high or over, or cover them with a cloche like the example here.

5. Carrot root fly doesn’t like the smell of onion leaves but to be very effective you’d need to sow a row or two of carrots between several rows of onions – three or four to one.

6. Grow undercover. The carrots grown outside in Callan were all infected by carrot root fly whereas all the carrots grown in the polytunnel remained untouched.

7. Crop rotation. Move crops around on a three or four-year rotation.

8. Garden Organic have an excellent tip about mulching around the carrots with a thick layer of grass clippings. Not only will it prevent the carrot root fly from laying her eggs in the soil, predators will hide and eat the larvae once they hatch.

Given that carrot root fly is so prolific, it’s likely that all varieties of carrots available in shops not labelled organic or chemical free will have been sprayed with pesticides to prevent it. Remember that next time you munch on a carrot straight out of the fridge without scrubbing it…

Have you any tips for preventing carrot root fly or have you given up growing carrots and roots altogether?

Vegetable Garden

Not everything green in the garden is good…

July 24, 2013

The beans have them, the chives have had them, the weeds have them and the windowbox lettuce is full of them…. do you have them? We’re talking aphids, greenfly or blackfly as they’re more commonly known and due to the warm weather there’s been a population explosion in the garden this year!

aphids2013 might go down in the record books for high temperatures and fabulous fruit harvests but in many gardens it will also go down as the worse aphid invasion for many years.

Despite planting lots of companion plants to attract beneficial insects, hoverflies and ladybirds have been very scarce in our own garden this summer. We spotted the first of both only a week ago which is way too late to handle this kind of infestation.

Greenfly on roses

Aphids on roses

In an attempt to control them, during the heatwave I washed the aphids off the roses and broad beans with the hose every other evening, holding the buds in my hand and rubbing the flies between my fingers as I sprayed to ensure that water wasn’t wasted. However, I soon realised that wasn’t enough to stop them reappearing a couple of days later so made a garlic soap spray for the first time in years which was carefully applied to rose buds and bean tops to halt the aphid breeding cycle. I haven’t removed the bean tops just yet which is usually recommended as the seeds were planted late and we need to see a bit more height in the plants before we halt their growth. Any day now I’ll be nipping the tops off and feeding them to our pigs! In the meantime the recent rain will help to control the aphid infestation.

Dealing with aphids and greenfly without chemicals is more labour intensive than the chemical alternative but it can be done. If you’d like to know more about their rapid breeding cycle take a look at an old Wednesday Wiggler blog post here. There’s also a blog post written here about mealy cabbage aphids you might like to check out.

Have you noticed a particularly troublesome bug this summer?

Vegetable Garden

Watch Your Bush! Gooseberry Sawflies may devastate it.

July 9, 2013

If you’re growing red or white currents or gooseberries you might like to pop outside and check them NOW!

gooseberry sawfly

gooseberry sawfly larvae

This pretty little caterpillar isn’t as cute as it looks. It’s the larvae of a sawfly that can devastate a currant or gooseberry fruit bush in a couple of days, stripping them of all their foliage and leaving them weak.

The gooseberry sawfly can have three generations over a year from April to September. Once the caterpillars are full they drop into the soil and pupate.

How can you deal with the Gooseberry Sawfly organically?

Vigilance! From April onwards check your fruit and currant bushes for larvae, picking any off by hand that you spot.

If you do spot them you can buy Nemasys Grow Your Own and water the nematodes onto plants. Mr Middleton stock them in Ireland and can post them out.

Try to encourage beneficial insects to your garden that will feed on them.

I’m trying a garlic spray on our redcurrants in the hope it will halt the caterpillars in their tracks.

 

Vegetable Garden

Sunday Snap: Clever Calendula

June 30, 2013

Calendula

A flower full of sunshine on a grey day.

Calendula (also known as Pot Marigold) is one of half a dozen varieties of annual flowers grown from seed in our garden. We add the vibrant petals to salads and one day I keep promising myself I’ll make hand cream from the pretty blooms. It’s been used medicinally for centuries and can also act as a companion plant by attracting whitefly so is a great lure, keeping the tiny flies off your tomatoes or beans (make sure to wash before eating). Are you a fan of this garden favourite?

Vegetable Garden

How to stop cats pooping in the garden

June 25, 2013

CharlieDo you have a problem with cats pooping in your garden? For some of us, cats are our very best friends, but for others they can be a real nuisance.

Thankfully, surrounded by fields as we are, our own cats have found somewhere else to head off to ‘do their business’ but it can be a real problem for urban gardeners.

Apart from the annoyance of finding cat mess among your plants, there’s a health reason why you need to discourage them from using your soil as a toilet. Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that’s extremely dangerous for pregnant women or anyone with a suppressed immune system, can be carried in cat faeces or in garden soil.

Over the years I’ve heard of many remedies for preventing cats pooping in gardens ranging from citrus fruit skins scattered around the veg, automatic water squirters, planting rue, moth balls, various essential oils and the more difficult for Irish gardeners to come by… tiger poo. I’m sure they all have their merits but one effective method we found to prevent our feline friends bopping down among the lettuce and radishes in a community garden was to scatter dried spices around the beds.

Cats don’t like sneezy pepper around them as they squat. After the first dose of cayenne pepper sprinkled around the soil the problem stopped. Others have tried chilli powder and some swear by cinnamon (which also repels ants so a double bonus). However, as Mona mentions in the comments, there’s no easy fix. The pepper seems to work long enough for the cats to go elsewhere but will have to be reapplied to keep them away.

Have you a tried and tested cure for keeping cats away from your vegetable beds?