Browsing Tag


Community Gardens, Lifestyle

Spring into Action

February 23, 2016

Springing into action

A strange thing happened recently. After 6 years of blogging I lost my ‘voice’. One minute it was there, then it was gone. I’ve countless drafts sitting in my google docs, but none made it here and I was beginning to wonder if my blogging voice would ever come back. Perhaps it was something to do with the flu bug I’m now sharing my fourth week with, but gone it was and it’s only as a result of taking these photos that I’m tentatively easing my way back in.

Springing into actionUntil this week outdoor activities have been at a minimum. Yesterday that began to change as Mr G and I managed to take advantage of the spring sunshine and we headed out for a walk. It was an amazing experience as the reintroduction into the wild was bursting with spring sights and sounds and I’m really thankful we took the time to do so.


We walked at a steady pace for fun and not exercise. Because of this, we were able to hear and watch the various birds twittering with one another and just caught the sound of twigs snapping, alerting us to a fox running for cover in the distance. We listened to streams trickling through the undergrowth as they headed down to the river. When we stopped for a few moments and were really quiet, we were able to hear the soft, deep sound of male frogs calling for mates throughout the woodland.

We are in awe of the amount of frog spawn that’s been laid in the puddles and ponds in the forestry. After the big machines and lorries departed, they left behind deep tracks all around the clearings which the frogs have taken full advantage of. There isn’t a single track that we could see that wasn’t full of the gelatinous spawn. We could hear the adults all around us but could barely get a glimpse. Whether they heard our tracks or could feel our vibrations on the pathways I’m not sure, but it was nye on impossible catching a glimpse of a frog, bar this one that we rescued before our young dog was tempted to play with it too enthusiastically.

Hopefully, I’m now turning a corner on the energy front as I’ve so many plans and ideas in the pipeline it’s starting to get frustrating. I’ve also been blessed with the help of an amazingly enthusiastic and upbeat work experience woman, Frances of Healing by Franc, who’s enjoying learning about the intricacies of running a small, social enterprise as she studies for her own Fetac 5 in Horticulture.

Having the responsibility of a trainee has allowed me to really focus on the weeks ahead and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. Here’s some of the plans.

Community Gardens Ireland (CGI)

After a week of day time TV, I couldn’t stand it any longer so sat down and wrote down my goals for the year, both personal and professional. My enthusiasm for community gardens hasn’t diminished at all and in fact, the more I see and hear, the more I’m convinced we need an active community garden network to support and help one another.

I took the opportunity of some quiet time to spruce up the new website and as a result, feel that it’s finally starting to take shape. We’ve begun mapping the community gardens, something we were unable to do on our forum site. We now have over 165 community gardens mapped, with the majority of Northern Ireland still to go. I’ve also begun to add In Focus posts on the CGI blog written by various community gardens; an idea I started on the Greenside Up blog but feel the real home of such posts should be on the CGI blog.

A section that’s been proving popular on the CGN website is the newly created Training and Education initiatives, as well as Synergies with other agencies and organisations. These are both tucked under the Resources section which apart from giving tips on how to set up a community garden, also include information on setting up food co-ops, community cafés and buying clubs, an idea Frances and I are about to start exploring with neighbours.

As a result of spending a few hours dedicated to this project, plans for the community network have fought to get out of my head and as a result, we now have a draft strategy document in place for the coordinators to work towards and we are actively looking for funding avenues to help us continue our work.

Creating Local Community Garden Networks

Talking of funding, at the end of last year I heard I’d been awarded a small amount of Local Agenda 21 funding to create a Carlow Community Garden Network and explore the possibility of community gardens becoming Eco hubs, or places of adult environmental learning. I’m in the process of planning a workshop in Carlow in April and am very much looking forward to helping representatives of the dozen or so gardens in Carlow sit down in one place and introduce one another.

Working with Community Gardens

Last year I was funded by Carlow Kilkenny ETB to work with a small community garden in Glenn na Bearu, Bagenalstown and I’m thrilled that more funding has been granted to this wonderful group to enable me to head back to them in April. Last year we ran a session on garden design and as a result, they helped design a bigger and better community garden, adding several more raised beds. If you’re local and reading this we’d love to see you in the garden on Wednesdays for the practical workshops, tea and cake. All are welcome.

More community garden projects will be coming on stream after Easter; if you’re interested in hearing more about them sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss out.

Glenn na Bearu Workshops 2016

Working with Individuals

In a couple of weeks I’ll be welcoming budding gardeners into our own kitchen garden and sharing the basics of propagating with them. From seeds to cuttings, layering and bulb division, we’ll be looking at several ways we can start growing food, shrubs and flowers without it costing a bomb. To accommodate the workshop the polytunnel has been repaired and tidied, the willow fedge and autumn fruiting raspberry canes have been pruned, and the garden in general is getting a good tidy up. Now if only the lawn would dry out I’d even be tempted to cut the grass.

There’s still a couple of places left on the first workshop in March so if you’d like to join us, you can read more about the course details here.


Synchronicity is a wonderful word and within hours of writing down my goals, ‘coincidences’ began to happen, one of which, was an email landing in my inbox about a facilitation workshop that will be taking place in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary. As the opportunity to facilitate conversations about community gardens and the environment begin to happen, so too does my wish to learn more about guiding them. I can’t wait to learn more about the art of facilitating from a couple of men I greatly admire in this respect, Davie Philip and Chris Chapman who worked with us in the very early days of the Community Garden Network.

The Art of Facilitation Poster

Building Communities

Once we begin to look, there’s so much going on in communities that can engage us and give us the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Community gardens in particular have a massive potential to become outdoor education centres for adults, giving us the opportunity to step away from our screens or work, busy or lonely lives for a couple of hours and learn about nature, wildlife, food and the environment with others.

They are ideal places to go if you’d like to start gardening but don’t know how, if you live in a flat with no garden or live on your own with too much garden. Community gardens give us the opportunity to make friends, sharing the work and sharing the harvest.

Are you tempted? If so, take a look at the map above and see if there’s a community garden near you.


If you don’t go outside this week…

March 14, 2014

You might miss the hawthorn leaves that are starting to unfold in the sun…….

Crataegus monogyna - or in simple terms the Hawthorn leaves are coming out to play

Crataegus monogyna ~ Hawthorn

Or you might not see the skeletal remains of last year’s foliage that managed to hang on through the harsh storm winds that ravaged the land…

Leaf in the sunlight

If you don’t explore the hedgerows this week you might miss the catkins on the hazel trees as they sway in the soft breeze…

Corylus avellana

Corylus avellana ~ Hazel

Or you might not spot the way the light catches them in the late evening sun…

Corylus avellana catkins

If you don’t take a few minutes to step outside the door and take a few minutes of peace for yourself, you’ll miss the sound of the birds and insects as they look for mates and food and nest and play….

Pussy Willow Catkins on the Salix

Salix ~ pussy willow

and if you don’t slow down you might not notice the way the pussy willow sparkles as as it catches the light.

If you don’t take a few minutes out of your busy life and head outside you might not feel the sunshine on your face as you momentarily stop, close your eyes, tilt your head and accept the warmth as it caresses your skin.

“Yesterday the twig was brown and bare;
To-day the glint of green is there;
Tomorrow will be leaflets spare;
I know no thing so wondrous fair,
No miracle so strangely rare.
I wonder what will next be there!”

L.H. Bailey

Will you take a few minutes during these dry, spring days to spend a little time practising mindfulness, bringing some calm and simplicity into your life? There’s a reason the word renewal is associated with spring, but you may have to head outside to find it…


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

Spring Hope In the Community Garden

May 9, 2013

spring flowers in Goresbridge Community GardenWhilst we huddle indoors out of the rain, outdoors the sunshine and downpours have encouraged the flowers to begin their display.

Apple trees, sage, chives and thyme are all bursting to bloom in Goresbridge Community Garden and with them our hopes for good growth and magnificant harvests.

Hurray for spring, however late she falls!

Vegetable Garden

Quick tip: Sowing Parsnips

April 6, 2013

sowing parsnips

Have you ever found parsnip germination to be temperamental? I’ve tried sowing them from early February through to May and the most successful germination has taken place once the temperatures have warmed up, around April and in particular, when I’ve sown them directly on top of multi-purpose compost in my vegetable beds.

Sowing parsnips

Don’t be deceived by a lack of foliage – there’s roots under there

This year I’ve delayed sowing everything until now (April) as it’s either been too wet or recently, too cold. We’re still not out of the woods in terms of temperatures but I’m taking a gamble and hoping the weather forecasts are correct and that the days, and in particular the nights, should be warming up soon. If they don’t I’ll cover the bed with horticulture fleece to protect the newly sown seeds or seedlings a bit more.

It’s worth remembering that unlike most other vegetables, parsnip seeds do not have a long shelf life – it’s best to replace them every year.

You can see from the top picture how stony our soil is and no matter how often we pick stones, they still keep coming back! We also have a heavy clay soil and all the books tell us that we shouldn’t grow carrots or parsnips in either soil type, but every year we do and every year they grow (so it’s always worth trying everything out and seeing for yourself). Okay so they’re not award-winning monsters but they are tasty!

How to grow parsnips

My quick tip for successful parsnip germination is: Line the cool clay shallow drill with a layer of multi-purpose compost, sow the parsnip seeds approx 2 cm deep then cover them with another layer of compost before finally covering them over with a thin layer of top soil and watering. Then patiently wait to see the little parsnip shoots appear. Germination can take as long as three weeks so don’t despair if nothing happens for a while.

Have you ever had problems growing parsnips?

Community Gardens

In the Community Garden in March

March 27, 2013

Here we are, the last week of March and more snow, more biting cold winds and still nothing at all sown outside in Goresbridge community garden! Thankfully the weather hasn’t been remotely as bad as those living in Co Antrim or the UK, (Lorna over at the Irish Farmerette blog has written a post about their hardships and the difficulties farmers are facing due to the long winter-spring). 

A tree in March in BaunreaghAs I left home to meet up with gardeners this week, the sky was heavy with its frosty load and the huge flakes softly floated around me as I tentatively set off once again down the slippery hilly lanes.

There was snow in the community garden with most of the beds frozen, but inside we were starting to see slow signs of life.

The potatoes are chitting nicely…


We transplanted strawberry runners into guttering that will be hung on the wall outside when the weather warms up a bit.

strawberries at Goresbridge community gardenVery few seeds have germinated that were sown two weeks ago, it’s been so cold. The rocket is just up, a few tiny lettuce plants and some kale. We’ll be sowing fresh seeds over the next few weeks to counteract the losses/non germination…

Lastly we were able to thin out and divide the chives that we planted from seed a couple of years ago that were in danger of taking over the herb bed.

goresbridge community garden chives

There is one delightfully uplifting area of the garden during this barren time… a large container full of pretty spring flowers. Fingers crossed for a warmer Wednesday next week!

spring flowers in the community garden


Vegetable Garden

Growing Vegetables Under a Cloche

February 25, 2013

Photo Credit: Mr H of Subsistence Pattern Food Garden

If you want to get ahead of the game and start sowing early vegetable crops, a very effective way of doing this is to plant seeds or seedlings under a cloche.

This is something that growers in colder parts of the world such as Mr H. in North Idaho of Subsistence Pattern Food Garden has had to do by necessity if he wishes to grow his own food for more than a few brief months of the year (he’s self-sufficient for 365 days of the year incidentally).

In Ireland early peas, carrots and lettuce can all be sown outside under cloches in late February and this handy piece of vegetable gardening kit can be quite useful if you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel or windowsills to start seedlings off inside. A cloche can also be placed over potato or other frost tender plants if a late frost threatens and will prevent their leaves being burnt.

Fleece ClocheCloches come in all shapes, sizes and materials including glass, fleece or plastic or you can make your own and are most often used to give your crops an early start or a late finish.  They’re placed over the soil or crops, protecting them from frost, rain and wind.

Bell Cloches (Photo Credit Nutley’s Kitchen Garden)

It’s recommended that cloches have end pieces to prevent them from becoming wind tunnels – in the case of fleece or sheet plastic the ends can be gathered up and pegged down.  Remember to ventilate them too as the weather gets warmer – temperatures can get very high, very quickly. By covering your plants you’ve effectively made a mini greenhouse or polytunnel for them. The hoops on the long horizontal cloches can be made from metal, flexitube or wood.

It’s important to remember to water plants when under a cloche and that the leaves don’t touch the structure (just as in cold, in warm weather they may burn too).

To make your own mini cloches, cut the bottoms off clear plastic bottles remove the lids and push the top part into the soil over the seedling.

These bottles have the added bonus of protecting delicate small plants from slugs, birds and mice are another great way of recycling.


Do you use cloches to enable you to start sowing vegetables earlier or protect the plants from frost or do you wait for the weather to warm up?