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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
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
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
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

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?

Vegetable Garden

Keep an eye on your seeds with a garden diary

February 28, 2014

garden diary

The Importance of Keeping a Garden Diary

One of the first tips I give to community gardeners when we begin is to keep a garden diary.

My last post mentioned one of my gardening dislikes but keeping notes in a diary is high up there in my likes, mostly because I have ‘a thing’ for stationary and in particular, pretty notebooks.

A seed diary, a garden work diary, a weather diary – it doesn’t matter how little or how much you add to your gardening notepad, the trick is to remember to do it.

Making regular notes about what happened and how your plants grew for you each year will help you to remember what went right or what went wrong in your vegetable garden and is an important step in the learning process. I’ve learnt so much from my mistakes over the years, but if I hadn’t written down the process, might never have remembered why!

garden diaryYour garden diary could include notes as brief as jotting down the variety of seeds you bought and whether all the seeds you popped into seed trays or modules germinated.

You might include notes on how long the seedlings took to push their way up through the soil and grow their first set of true leaves (the second pair of leaves you see growing on the seedling, the first set are known as seed leaves or cotyledon leaves), or you could include the name of the supplier and shop you bought the seeds from which will help you determine whether they look after the packets of seeds they sold to you.

Keeping a note of how well a particular variety of plant grew for you and whether you harvested lots from it, or whether the fruit or vegetables were the tastiest you’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing or the most mundane, will help you pin down seed varieties to grow again or recommend to friends.

If you’re following recommended crop rotation guidelines, it’s a good idea to mark in your diary which beds you planted your seeds or seedlings into, to help you keep track. Include a few photos or sketches too – I find taking photographs throughout the year is a great way of jogging my memory of final growing positions of plants, regardless of where I’d planned to plant them.

Keep a Diary - Polytunnel snow 28 February 2014

Snow on 28 February 2014
Polytunnel 2 degrees C overnight inside

Adding general weather conditions to your notes can help you work out when the last frost dates were, whether you had to cover plants or whether your success that year was as a result of non stop sunshine for days, or if the blazing heat caused every last one of your lettuce or spinach plants to bolt and prematurely flower.

Another tip is to keep a note of the compost you sowed your seeds into. I’ve found the brand can hugely influence how well and quickly my seeds germinate, again worth remembering for the next time.

Regardless of whether you keep your notes on paper in beautiful books (which I always return to, no matter how many gadgets I have), in simple copy books, recycled paper clipped together, or on your phone, tablet or computer, the main thing is to keep your notes up to date and to continue to do so, no matter how much bother it may seem at the time.

You’ll find you’ll learn so much more from watching and learning how your own plants grow in your own garden and by referring back to your garden diary than reading heap loads of articles telling you how to do it.

I’d love to hear how you keep a track of what’s growing in your garden. Do you keep notes on your computer or do you have a soft spot for beautiful notebooks like me, or do you even bother at all?

Vegetable Garden

How to Grow Tomato & Pepper Plants From Seed

February 25, 2014

Starting Seeds Indoors – Tomatoes and Peppers

Tomato Seeds

Tomato Seeds

Tomato and pepper seeds are some of the first that many of us will sow in the year and indeed, were the first seeds we planted in Callan Community Garden this week.

These plants need a long growing season if we are to harvest any fruit from them so February/March are often cited as the best months to sow them. However, tomato and pepper seeds need heat to germinate (between 15°C/68°F to 30°C/86°F for good results, the higher the better) so a heated mat, propagator or warm windowsill is essential for their success in Ireland.

Tomatoes and peppers are in the same vegetable family (Solanaceae) so their growing requirements are quite similar. Be very careful with your labelling if you’re sowing them at the same time as the seeds look almost identical and are very easy to mix up.

So what are you waiting for, would you like to have a go at growing your own tomatoes or peppers from seed? Here’s a step by step guide showing you how to sow the seeds.

Equipment Needed to Sow Seeds:

Seeds – Tomato / Pepper
Peat Free or Peat Reduced Compost
*A mini propagator with a lid (see image below for an idea – heated or unheated)
Watering can and an indelible marker and labels

How to Grow Tomato & Pepper Plants from Seed

How long will it be before I see any signs of life?

Germination, or the time it takes from sowing the seed to when you notice the first seed leaves bursting through the soil, should take less than two weeks, depending upon the temperature the seeds are grown at (the higher the temperature, the faster the germination).

Will I need to water the seeds/seedlings?

If you followed the steps above, you will have watered the compost before you sowed the seeds. It’s therefore unlikely the seeds will need any further watering whilst they’re covered as the propagator will act as a micro climate. However, after the seeds have germinated and the propagator lid has been lifted, keep an eye on the compost, ensuring its kept damp (not soaked) and that the seedlings aren’t allowed to dry out. The best way to test whether soil needs watering is to stick your finger carefully into the compost and feel how dry it is. In time you’ll learn how to recognise whether pots need watering by lifting them and feeling their weight. Watering the tray the modules are sitting in is preferable to watering the seedlings themselves as it causes less disturbance and a more equal distribution of water.

What happens next?

If you haven’t already, you might like to fill in the free email sign up form (on the side or bottom of this post, depending upon how you’re viewing it) to receive the Greenside Up blog directly into your email account. In a few weeks we’ll look at the next steps involved in growing your own tomatoes and peppers from seed and how you “prick the seedlings out and pot them on” into larger containers.

For a step by step guide for sowing peppers, take a look at the Greenside Up YouTube channel:

Happy growing!

Vegetable Garden

20 Tips to Help you in the Vegetable Garden

January 24, 2014
Grow Your Own Kale

Grow Your Own Kale

Very soon I’ll be returning to the community gardens projects I’m involved with and as the time gets closer, I’m feeling that familiar bubble of excitement.  The days are lengthening and the birds are beginning to chirp away in the hedgerows when the sun shines, reminding us that we will soon be enjoying another ‘grow your own’ year with friends and neighbours.

But wait. It’s still mid Winter. There’s not very much we can sow right now so what will we be doing? Over the coming weeks I’ll be guiding the groups through all the areas involved with growing vegetables. We’ll be looking at crop rotation, companion planting, moving compost heaps as well as washing down the polytunnels and cleaning the pots. We’ll be discussing what we would like to grow and eat, how we can continue to make the gardens more sustainable and how we can reach out to more people in the community and teach them the skills and many benefits of being involved with a community garden.

If your mind is beginning to wander to the growing year ahead, the following list may help you. I’ve collated some of the posts I’ve written over the past couple of years that might help you to practice patience, seed choice and care as well as tips on when and how to start sowing.

grow your own squash

grow your own squash

1. First things first, here’s a handy annual vegetable planner that will give you some idea of what needs to be sown when. Remember, if you live in a cool area, sow your seeds later than if you live in a warmer, sheltered one.

purple peas2. In the Monthly Jobs section there is a monthly guide on what you can be doing or planting now so take a look if you’re itching to get out on a sunny, warm day.

3. January/February are great months for sorting through your seed tins, checking what seeds you have and what to buy. Here’s a post that will help you figure out what seeds are viable – and how long you can expect them to last.

4. One of your goals this year might be to put up a greenhouse or polytunnel. This post will help you decide where to begin and this one asks the question about whether cheaper is better.

Runner Bean Seeds5. If you want to start sowing your seeds early and there are late frosts or snow forecast, this post describes planting under a cloche – it’s something we used to do a lot of before we put up the polytunnel in our own garden.

6. For the very impatient among us who are wondering exactly when it’s safe to sow our seeds for best results, you might find this post useful.

7. It’s vital that we look after our seeds to get the most from them. This post here will help you keep your seeds in tip-top condition.

8. When the sun comes out and the soil dries out a bit, I’ll be heading out to do some weeding. This article explains how to weed pernicious weeds without chemicals and this one gives 16 natural alternatives to weedkillers.

grow your own swiss chard

grow your own swiss chard

9. If this is the year you want to grow your own vegetables organically, here we look at exactly what it means to be organic.

10. When it comes to choosing the correct seeds for your plot, it helps to know what soil type you have. Here’s a fun experiment you can do at home.

11. Lots of seed packets will tell you it’s okay to sow parsnip seeds from February onwards. My experience was quite different.

12. Choosing what to grow and keeping tabs on it can be quite an art. I’ve found Pinterest to be very helpful.

grow your own potatoes13. If you like to grow potatoes, there’s a few posts to help you on the blog and in particular one written last year about choosing blight resistant potatoes and eradicating the need to spray against blight.

14. As the time comes, you may have a few questions on how to sow seeds. This post shares tips for sowing seeds in recycled containers as well as a YouTube clip with seed sowing instructions.

seedlings15. Once your seeds are sprouting, do you know how to identify them if your labels have fallen out of the tray? This post might help you.

16. If you’re new to growing vegetables you might find it quite expensive to begin with. Here’s ten steps to creating a budget garden.

17. Would you like more vegetables or herbs growing closer to your kitchen? Here’s some tips for container planting.

grow your own flowers and veg18. If you have a small space, there are certain considerations to get the best from your plot. This post helps you figure out what vegetables to grow in a small space.

19. If you don’t have a greenhouse or anywhere to start your seedlings off, a seed bed might be the answer for you.

20. Lastly and just for fun, here’s ten facts about our best friends – the earthworm.

There are many more posts on this blog to help you with your vegetable growing experience, as well as gardens to visit and our own growing experiences here in the Carlow hills. If you can’t find the answer to a vegetable growing question, leave a comment and perhaps I can address it in a post over the coming year.

So best of luck and here’s to a successful vegetable gardening year ahead!


Save your seeds (while you still can)

August 23, 2013
Aquilega Seed Head

Aquilegia Seed Head ready to shake

Do you save your seeds? I remember visiting a friend years ago and being fascinated by the way she held brown envelopes under fading flower heads, shook them over the open paper and let the seeds fall gently inside.

This was a practice I was unfamiliar with. It impressed me that she knew which flowers were ready to share, which ones she could open or shake. It seemed such a knowledgeable thing to do and I was in awe of her gardening prowess. In that brief moment, gardening became more than just pulling weeds, it became a fascination.  Continue Reading…


Love is….

May 6, 2013

A day bank holiday weekend in the vegetable garden 🙂

The house is destroyed but I’m finally on top of everything in the veg patch. It wont last long but feels good for now.

The Greenside Up Vegetable Garden

The Greenside Up Vegetable Garden

It might look bare but in the ground outside we have red & white onions, early & main crop spuds, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, chard, broad beans & mangetout, celeriac & swede, asparagus & scarlet kale and early purple sprouting broccoli. We also have a bed of strawberries that has had an overhaul, rhubarb and lots of flower and herb seeds planted for the bees.

Now might be a good time to mention the leatherjackets. Has anyone else noticed the zillions of these wriggly little root eaters in their soil? They’ve already eaten one of my kale seedlings! I’m starting to see them in my sleep I’ve picked out so many, which doesn’t bode well for a happy late summer as I have a crane fly phobia 🙁


Rosemary in flower attracting bees into the polytunnel

How was your bank holiday weekend? Did you get to spend some time in the garden?