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Vegetable Garden

Look After Your Seeds – Make a Seed Tin/Box

January 31, 2021

Have you ever worried that the seeds you’ve sown haven’t germinated, that you must have been sold a dud packet? I remember thinking something similar years ago. It didn’t occur to me that I might be the one at fault, that I might not have kept my seeds in prime condition. As it transpired, there was no might about it, I’d find seeds tucked away on shelves and in drawers, pockets and boxes and hadn’t realised that they were likely to last a lot longer if they were stored correctly.

I wrote a post a while ago, answering the often asked question “how long will my seeds last?” One of the prime considerations for seed longevity is how they’re stored. Seeds are living organisms (albeit dormant ones) and as such need to be treated  well.

Most seeds can remain viable for several years if kept in a cool, dry environment – the cooler the better. By keeping your seeds in an airtight tin or container in a cool, dry room (or even in the fridge) you’ll increase their storage life.

It’s never advised to store seeds in plastic bags which can attract moisture, instead keep them in the foil packets they arrive in. If they’re delivered from your seed supplier in small plastic bags as some of mine have been in the past, transfer them into brown paper envelopes as soon as they arrive before placing them in a container.

Make a seed storage container

So why make a container and not just throw your seeds into a tin or plastic sandwich box in a muddled heap?

Apart from the fact that specific seed packs are much easier to find if they’re ‘filed’ and you’re not having to rifle through the tin every time you want to sow something, filing them  between monthly divider cards will also help with your sowing plans.

Looking After Your Seed PacketsHow to make your sowing life much easier:

  • All you need is a good, rectangular or square airtight tin (biscuit or chocolate tins are perfect) to store your seeds in and some cardboard cut to size with the twelve months of the year marked on them.
  • Sort through your seed packets and take note of the recommended month of sowing. Bare in mind that sowing dates in Ireland can be a few weeks after the UK iwhere many guides arise from. If the packet suggests you can sow the seeds from March onwards, it’s usually worth waiting until the middle to end of March, weather
  • depending, unless you grow your vegetables in a particularly sheltered and sunny garden.
  • Pop your seed packets in between the dividers.
  • Filing seeds like this comes into its own when you’re sowing successionally. After you’ve sown a few rows, don’t put the packet back into the original month, place it into the next month as a reminder to sow a few weeks later.

Always check the use by dates and use those seeds first.  If you find you have too many why not talk to vegetable growing friends and have a seed swap… you never know what you might end up with!

For more more information on seeds, their importance and how to store them, have a look at the video below.

Have you any seed packet storage solutions? What works for you?


October is Reuse Month – What Will You Re-imagine?

September 30, 2017

October is ReUse Month - What Will You Re-Imagine?

Can Every Month be Reuse Month?

October is Reuse Month here in Ireland and over the coming weeks it’s likely you’ll come across several actions encouraging people to think about reducing, reusing or upcycling their ‘rubbish’. Running for the second year, this is an initiative of the Regional Authorities (@CRNIIreland) to promote reuse and a great opportunity for us all to think about waste and how we can re-imagine or eliminate it.

October is Reuse Month - What Will You Re-imagine?

Cress seeds growing in an upcycled chocolate box

At a SUSY in Ireland event in Waterford recently, I was invited to demonstrate how everyday items can be used in gardens to save money, create art, as well as protect the environment. From Ferrero Rocher chocolate boxes that we can reuse as seed containers and old cutlery as garden chimes, there are so many other uses for our rubbish once we begin to look at it differently.

Last week, a local community gardening project in Gleann na Bearu, Bagenalstown, County Carlow, entered both local and national upcycle competitions for their many reuse garden projects. Pride of place is the artistically created greenhouse shown above. It was mostly created from 2 litre plastic drink bottles collected by the community. If you’d like to learn more about it or other upcycled projects in the garden, you can view them on their Facebook page or if you’re nearby, visit the garden on Wednesdays between 9.30am to 11.30am.

October is Reuse Month - What Will You Re-Imagine?

Single Use Cups

One very quick way we can make a difference in helping to reduce rubbish that otherwise heads to landfill is by stopping or reducing our use of single use cups. As a nation we managed to decrease our plastic bag use by a whopping 90% with the introduction of a small tax, surely we can do the same with disposable cups without one?

In July, the Green Party introduced a Waste Reduction Bill to the House of the Oireachtas encouraging this and more initiatives; the bill has since been referred to the select committee for consideration. The transcript of Eamon Ryan’s debate explaining the reasons behind the bill can be found online. One of the problems we face with disposable cups, is that even if single use cups say they are recyclable, there are no recycling plants in Ireland that are able to recycle them and only one of two in the UK are actually doing so.

The Conscious Cup Campaign in Ireland are doing a great job highlighting the shocking waste caused by disposable cups and are encouraging cafés around the country to pledge to help by offering discounts on customer bills if they bring their own reuse cups. Minister Naughten commented on the problem of single-use containers and waste in Ireland during a speech to The Dáil in July 2017,

“As a society we discard an incredible 80% of what we produce after a single use. It gravely concerns me that 2 million disposable coffee cups a day are going to our landfills.”

VOICE Ireland Recycling Ambassadors

When I returned to adult education earlier this year, it galled me to see plastic spoons, non recyclable cups and plastic lids being thrown into black plastic bags in their hundreds, on a daily basis. I asked the canteen if they’d consider doing something about it given the negative environmental impact and was pleased to see a box of wooden stirring sticks appear on the counter the following week; sticks that can at least be composted or made into plant pot labels. Sadly that was the only move to sustainability I became aware of while I was there. I began taking in a travel mug every day and asked for my tea to be made in that.

October is Reuse month - what will you re-imagine?

Photo courtesy: Conscious Cup Campaign

Wouldn’t it have been amazing if the contractors had taken the initiative on-board and encouraged all students to do the same? They could have reduced the cost of the cuppa on till receipts if they did so, after all, we’re saving them money on their cups, but alas, this wasn’t the case. As a newly appointed VOICE Ireland Recycling Ambassador, when I return to my studies next year I’ll be banging the recycling drum even louder and talking to the canteen contractors about the Conscious Cup Campaign and see if they’ll follow Trinity College’s footsteps!

Thankfully lots of cafe’s are beginning to take this on board. Fellow blogger Melanie May, has published a list of café s in Ireland that offer a discount if we bring our own cups; hopefully she’ll be updating it as more establishments come on board.


October is Reuse Month - What Will You Re-imagine?Baring all of this in mind, I was pleased to be sent a KeepCup (@KeepCup) by a PR company recently. After a few weeks of use, I’m happy to say it’s the best reusable cup I’ve tried. I’ve gone through a few brands over the years but usually give up on them because they drip. Whoever designed the sippy lip on the KeepCup got it exactly right. No more spillages down the front of the tee-shirt, it’s a marvel. I was invited to choose a colour from many variations and carry it around with me most days now. 

KeepCup is an Australian brand developed by Abigail and Jamie Forsyth, a sister brother team who were dismayed at the large volume of waste that resulted from their Melbourne based café.

October is Reuse month - what will you reimagine?

The reusable cups come in a variety of sizes, colours, materials and designs and are available to purchase in premium cafés nationwide or online. Cafés and businesses can order larger quantities of KeepCups from Dublin based, family run distributor EA Symmons. The one I received (12oz original) retails between €12.99 – €14.99 and is BPA free. 

According to Canadian chemist, Dr Martin Hocking, the requirement to manufacture a reusable plastic cup versus a paper cup over a lifetime use was under 15 uses. Disposable cups are lined with polyethylene and there is enough plastic in 28 disposable cups to make one small KeepCup. The cups are guaranteed for a year under general wear and tear use.

Single Use Water Bottles

It would be good to see a similar reuse campaign for single use plastic drink bottles next. If anyone can recommend a decent reusable water bottle that I can take to my fitness class, please leave a comment or get in touch!

Will you pledge to reuse, reduce or upcycle more? What initiatives are you already doing? I’d love to hear about them.


* Verified by Simon Lockrey from the Centre for Design at RMIT who completed a Symapro Life Cycle Analysis and has independently verified KeepCups sustainability claims.


Community Gardens

The Garden Gate is Open Wide in Clonegal

October 8, 2013

When I was leaving home this morning to head over to Clonegal, a rural Carlow village close to the Wexford border to tutor the first of six grow your own sessions in their community garden, it was with some excitement.

Clonegal Community Garden

I caught a tweet last week that flashed a congratulatory message to Clonegal, home of the fascinating and historic Huntingdon Castle, alerting us that the village had just won a European Gold Medal for the Entente Florale Europe competition. The link explains the judging requirements in more detail but in essence, the competition is about improving the quality of life in rural and urban settings by developing an environmental awareness and greening the area with flowers and shrubs. Clonegal were chosen to represent Ireland in this prestigious competition and what an excellent decision that turned out to be.

Clonegal Community GardenI wasn’t disappointed when I parked and walked up to the gate. Clonegal village is enchanting and its new Community Garden a pretty addition to the village and a credit to everyone who worked to create it. Earlier in the year the garden, located in the centre of the village, was a weedy eyesore. Just look what can be done with a few volunteers and some vision.

Clonegal Community GardenAlmost everything used to create the garden was donated – from soil and beds to compost and netting and the Clonegal gardeners reused and recycled wherever they could.

Shutters were made from upcycled pallets to cover the bare windows in the adjacent barns, old ploughs and milk churns have been filled with flowers and almost everything wooden was painted a vibrant red to give the garden a lift and continuity throughout.

Natural Bug HotelThe insects are being looked after too. You can’t get a more natural bug hotel than an old tree stump. This particular one was the remains of a tree that had been growing in the village for many years and had to be removed due to a tragic accident. It now acts as a local memorial in the quiet garden.

All the tree sculptures once grew as majestic trees in nearby Altamont Gardens. They had to be pruned and are now giving the bee and butterfly attracting borders some height and interest. The compost area as well as some of the seating and fencing have been made from upcycled pallets too.

I especially like the tree stump tables and chairs dotted around for the children and that seating in general was a feature throughout this garden – it’s as important to take a few minutes out and enjoy your hard labour as it is to do it!

Clonegal Community GardenOur first morning covered several topics but included a discussion about what exactly organic means, why organic gardeners don’t like genetically modified organisms and the recent outcome of the EU Legislation about seed security. Although many of the gardeners had heard about GM foods given that a crop of genetically modified potatoes has been growing in the centre of Carlow, none had heard that an attempt was made earlier this year in the European Parliament to make it illegal to save our own seeds and were astounded to hear it.

Clonegal Community GardenOur conversations weren’t just about the more controversial aspects of growing food. We also began to explore the ideal growing conditions for vegetables, weeding without chemicals, companion planting, edible flowers and crop protection.

This carrot is a perfect example of a root vegetable that wasn’t enjoying the deliciously rich soil that had been provided for it or that it had been transplanted as a seedling from a pot into the soil. Root veg will often grow into all sorts of shapes and directions given those conditions. They much prefer to grow directly from seed where they’re to grow in soil that hasn’t had fertiliser added to it.

The oddly shaped carrot did however, bring smiles to our faces and will be cooked and eaten, unlike misshapen commercial carrots that will be ploughed back into the land or composted.

Fifteen gardeners from beginners to very experienced joined us this beautiful autumn morning for the first grow your own session in the community garden when it became a living classroom for adults. If you’re close by and you’d like to come along to the remaining five workshops in Clonegal (which thanks to Carlow VEC funding are running free of charge) contact me here for details.

Community Gardens

Upcycle Old Windows & Make Useful Cold frames

August 19, 2013

Upcycle Old Windows & Make Useful Cold framesBack in May I mentioned new structures that were being added to the Goresbridge garden and how gardeners can be great at reusing and recycling in general. A villager had donated several old windows to the community garden and they were propped up waiting for some magic to happen (or an enthusiastic diy’er to get hold of them).

Last week we arrived at the garden and the transformation had taken place, Brian and James had been busy turning two of the window frames into a made to measure cold frame that will fit perfectly against a sunny wall in the corner of the garden.

Upcycle Old Windows & Make Useful Cold frames

Cost of Finished Cold Frame – €50.00                 Photo credit: James Burke

Are you a fan of cold frames? We’ve been planning one for our own garden for a long time but the ongoing house renovations are taking priority. Luckily we have the polytunnel which offers protection for plants but if you don’t have a greenhouse or tunnel, a cold frame might be for you.

Upcycle Old Windows & Make Useful Cold framesUsually made of wood or bricks with a glass top, cold frames are a great way of extending seasons, allowing you to garden for 365 days of the year. They create micro climates, protecting plants from adverse weather and are useful for hardening plants off, allowing seedlings that have been grown indoors or in greenhouses to acclimatise before being planted outside in the garden.

Cold frames come in all shapes and sizes but the common theme is that they’re low to the ground and the lids can be opened and closed to allow airflow, acclimatisation and watering.

Upcycle Old Windows & Make Useful Cold frames

The mini cold frame designed by Sandra for the Community Garden Network garden at Bloom was a particular highlight as it showed yet another example of reusing plastic in a useful and practical way.

In Goresbridge the community garden polytunnel is full to capacity with tomatoes, peppers, herbs and squash with barely any room for anything else. We’ll be putting the cold frame to immediate use by growing some lambs lettuce, oriental leaves and chard in it that has just been sown into modules, along with lavender and rosemary cuttings taken this week.

If you’d like to have a go at making your own cold frame take a look at this video from giving clear instructions how. You may find it useful.

Community Gardens

Goresbridge, Co Kilkenny. There’s a sweet edible garden hiding there…

June 21, 2013

After the recent sunshine, warmth and rain Goresbridge Community Garden is starting to bloom.

Goresbridge Community Garden June 2013We were a little late planting vegetables in the polytunnel as it was full of plug plants and hanging baskets for the village scheme. However, the tomatoes, courgette and butternut squash, aubergine and chilli peppers from the Feeling Hot range of Greenside Up seed collections have now been planted and are starting to grow thanks to the summer heat. We’ve also planted basil, coriander, French marigold and Calendula amongst them, all useful companion herbs and flowers we sowed from seed earlier in the year. Continue Reading…

Community Gardens

Scarecrow Inspiration from an Irish Village School

June 4, 2013

I’m not going to write too much for this post, the photographs speak for themselves. I arrived at Ballon Community Garden this evening with feelings of delight. Not only were we experiencing the best weather this year with sun and blue skies all day long, but the local school garden had not one scarecrow in it, but several. In fact the whole school yard was surrounded by them. The children had a competition recently and the following are just some of the scarecrows on display. Apparently there were many more inside.

Ballon is really impressing me with its strong sense of community – from the local award-winning charity shop where all proceeds go towards the local improvement group, to the school and community garden. We could all learn something from this rural Carlow village.

What do you think of the children’s efforts? Do you have a favourite?

Community Gardens, Vegetable Garden

Fantastic cloche/mini polytunnel idea

May 18, 2013

Hinged cloche / polytunnel in an allotmentI admit, I’m not an allotment expert. All of my work and teaching has been in private gardens, village halls and community gardens so I was really looking forward to helping a group of teachers, parents and school children in the Kilkenny Allotments and Community Gardens.

Hinged cloche / polytunnel in an allotmentOne of the immediate benefits I observed of allotment growing was being able to pick up tips and ideas from fellow allotmenteers. I absolutely love this structure built by Gerry on our neighbouring plot! The mini polytunnel/cloche was made from recycled bits and pieces, is hinged and once opened kept in place by rope.

Inside Gerry has tomatoes, peppers and an aubergine growing, none of which would grow well (if at all) in the Irish climate outside.

Hinged cloche / mini polytunnelWhen we’ve seen them, the other allotment holders have been friendly and more than happy to share bits and pieces. I can now see why people enjoy spending time on their plots so much, working away on their own but able to have a chat over the fence.

Are you an allotment grower? Why do you enjoy it so much?


Community Gardens

New structures in the community garden

May 6, 2013

As spring belatedly arrives, the small community garden in Goresbridge begins to take shape…

New Structures in Goresbridge Community Garden

Can you spot the new structure that’s appeared between the beds? We managed to lure Peter back into the garden with his handyman skills and he’s built a lovely arch out of the old posts and wire that we found in the shed last week. We’ll be training the runner beans up and over it in a few weeks time.


Bridget’s learning how to toil the soil gently with the tip of the spade and knock the lumps of clay out.

Goresbridge Community Garden

It wont be long before the beds are full of flowers and vegetables

Inside the polytunnel the warmth has helped the plugs plants to come on. Thankfully we only found a couple of slugs and snails this week so no more seedling devastation for now. Continue Reading…