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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

How to sow Seeds: Hot Peppers

February 27, 2013

chilli pepper & tomatoesIf you like to eat chilli peppers, hot or otherwise, you might like to grow them… there’s nothing like picking a pepper off a plant that’s been growing on your kitchen windowsill, patio, greenhouse or polytunnel for freshness and flavour!

In the Greenside Up Feeling Hot seed collection range three region’s hot peppers have been represented from the Caribbean to Asia and Mexico. February and March are the best months of the year to sow the seeds in Ireland giving the plants a long growing period to form their spicy fruit.

recycled propagatorThe following YouTube clip explains how to sow seeds, propagator use, watering, seed  depth and compost requirements as well as showing you some ideas for using recycled containers to grow the seeds in.

If you have any questions after seeing the video please leave a comment below. For more tips, hints to help you in the garden along with chilli recipes, take a look in the Feeling Hot category of blog posts.

If you sow your seeds over the next few weeks you should begin harvesting, drying or preserving them from late July to August onwards.


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.


The Greenside Up Vegetable Garden – Video Blog

June 5, 2012
Structures in the Vegetable Garden

It’s a ‘soft’ day here – Structures in the Vegetable Garden

My Vegetable Garden (4th June 2012)

So here we are three months after my first video and it’s starting to look like a ‘proper’ vegetable garden once again. All the frames and structures are in place with seeds, seedlings and plants growing in most of the beds now.

Herbs in the Polytunnel

An insect eye’s view of the herbs

We’re picking and harvesting herbs, broad beans, lettuce, spinach and strawberries and with the warm weather a couple of weeks ago, at last we’re all noticing growth in everything. It’s been slow this year with the cold night-time temperatures causing many people I speak with problems. Even the heated benchdidn’t help us much here – my chilli seedlings are still tiny! The hope now is that the potatoes don’t succumb to blight when vegetable growers have only just got over the frost damage.

Slugs have been the most destructive pest here to date. I’ve tried egg shells (not bad), coffee (seems to deter them), organic slug pellets (see the photo on last month’s post – they were rubbish) and NemaSlug (think it was too hot for them and despite watering, the soil just not wet enough). I’m now trying a sample of Slug GoneWool Pellets around a couple of bean plants to see how they fare.

The Greenside Up Garden - 5 June 2012

The Greenside Up Garden – 5 June 2012

The best method I’ve found by far has been going out to the garden and picking the slugs off the grass surrounding the beds or even the seedlings themselves. I know Jane Powers suggested in her recent Irish Times article that the kindest way to dispose of slugs is by snipping them in half with scissors but I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do it. So into a bottle of hot water it is for them 🙁 maybe my nerves will strengthen in time and I’ll try the more humane method soon.

If you have any questions, observations or comments on the methods I’m using here please feel free to ask/say. Feedback is good and I might learn something!


The Greenside Up Veg Patch

May 3, 2012

My Vegetable Garden (3rd May 2012)

If you missed the first video clip in April I mentioned that the food produced here is for family and friends. We don’t sell the fruit or veg but freeze, preserve, dry or make into wine everything that isn’t eaten. Pretty much all of the planting and sowing is done by myself, though Mr G is great with a fork in the autumn and spring months and builds fabulous sturdy structures.

So what’s been happening over the past month? After a slow start the recent rain and then a bit of warmth over the past couple of days has seen the plants (including the grass & weeds) start to pick up again.

Outside the leaves on the potatoes have broken through the soil so they’ve been earthed up protecting them against blight, frost and the tubers rising to the surface and going green. It’s my first time growing potatoes under a mat so I’m interested to see how they compare with the rest of the crop.

The Brussels sprouts and cauliflowers have been planted out having been sown from seed on the heated bench a few weeks ago. Today I sprinkled some organic slug pellets around them in an attempt to protect their new leaves from the hungry little munchkins. The different kales were all started a bit later so a bed has been prepared ready for them.

Brussels Sprouts

Mange tout pea seeds were sown directly into the soil yesterday against the pea support and a green manure of phacelia sprinkled in between to prevent weeds taking over the empty space. There are some toilet roll pots with mange tout coming up in the polytunnel that will be ready to plant out soon, filling in any gaps and giving an earlier crop than the seeds.

One veg we like to be self-sufficient in are the onions and garlic so have two beds on the go which I’ll be adding some leeks to in the next few weeks. The onions have been planted at different times with a couple of bags of shallots only added to the collection last week so they’re all at different stages.

The last veg bed outside will host the ‘others’ so parsnips, chard, beetroot, radish and spinach have all be sown directly and I’m patiently waiting for the seedlings to appear. Carrots will be sown shortly.

In the polytunnel there’s a bit more action…. the globe artichoke is forming, peas are growing and sweetcorn, lettuce, carrots, rocket and broad beans all coming along. The strawberries have almost finished flowering and the fruits forming. There are lots of seedlings on the bench too. Tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, mange tout, scarlet, Tuscany and curly kale, courgettes, cucumbers and winter squash – am starting to wonder where to put everything!

So that’s it for this month and as you can see May will be a busy month planting everything out. If you have any questions or observations about anything I’m doing in my veg patch feel free to leave a comment or ask.


The Greenside Up Veg Patch

April 1, 2012

My Vegetable Garden March 2012

Summer 2010

Hello from my new WordPress Blog! We’re still tweaking bits and pieces to the website and blog but as I’m impatient and shot this video on 31st March, I’m firing away and sharing it with you now before it’s too out of date. (For anyone new to my blog, I’ve just moved here from Blogger.)

To give you an idea of how a vegetable garden can transform in just a few short months I’m planning to add a monthly upload showing you my own garden. At the moment it’s looking a bit bare and overgrown but in a few weeks time I’ll be adding more seeds, supports and transplants. You’ll be viewing the garden highlights and lows (yes we all have those) and if all goes to plan, seeing how much food can be produced in a few beds.

Potatoes & Companion Plants – spring 2011

Over the winter months most of the beds were covered with cardboard or green manures to protect the soil and they’ve recently been removed or dug in. Most beds except the area where the carrots will be sown have had very well rotted manure or compost dug in to improve the drainage of our clayey soil and replenish it with valuable nutrients.

You may notice from the clip that the soil is looking very dry… well it is, though only on the surface at present after the dry winter. This year I’ll be using straw as a mulch to protect it and to help to preserve moisture.

Hungarian Grazing Rye Green Manure Overwintered 2011/12

In case you’re wondering, we don’t sell any of the fruit or veg we grow. We eat it raw, cook it,  store and freeze it, as well as donate some to neighbours who help out with watering occasionally (or give us manure!)

Mr G has done his bit with the digging and manuring and from now on in it will just be me tending to the garden as a working mum with three children (who I hope to bribe to help me…)

So that’s it for now, let me know if it helps which will encourage (or not!) me to update you in the months to come and also ensure that I keep up with it!

Vegetable Garden

Sowing Seeds ? Paper Potter Product Review

January 16, 2012

Paper Potter Product Review

Last year I tried making newspaper pots for my seeds using a small plastic drinks bottle as a guide but found it quite fiddly, and could never quite get the base to sit correctly.

When I saw the Nether Wallop Plant Potter (great name!) online it was top of my Christmas wish list and I was therefore delighted to find that I had been a good girl after all when I was handed my presents from under the tree.

Some seedlings sulk if their roots are disturbed so they should either be sown directly into the soil (like parsnips and carrots whose roots generally won’t form) or into pots that will biodegrade (beetroot, beans, peas, squash and melons).

I’ve used cardboard tubes (from kitchen or toilet rolls) which work very well too but it’s questionable as to whether the glue used to stick them together is ‘safe’.

If you like to sow your own seedlings, making your own pots out of newspaper is a great money saver (even if you do have the initial small outlay of a wooden potter, better if it’s a gift) and you’ll be doing your bit to help the planet by recycling old newspapers too.

I really enjoy using my little potter. It’s made from FSC oak and beautifully turned, fitting into the hand perfectly. My eight year old made several pots too and loved helping mum – she didn’t want to stop! I was also impressed by the minimalistic packaging. Just a cardboard box with the instructions printed on it – no plastic and compostable – there’s a lesson there for other companies who over package…

There’s not much more I can say other than a great little tool that I’d recommend all gardeners have in their kit bag. These are available online for €11.75 plus postage… If you count up how much can be spent on seedling pots over the years, and the fact that once you have this tool you’ll never run out of them, I think it’s worth it.

If you’re not sure, or are just interested in how to make them, here’s a clip demonstrating how quick and easy paper pots are to make using the Nether Wallop Paper Potter.

Have you an essential piece of kit in your bag that you can’t do without in the garden?