Browsing Tag



Will the 2013/14 Irish winter be another long, cold one?

November 20, 2013
Snowy Road Winter 2013

Our snowy lane on the 19th November 2013

Can we expect a white Christmas in Ireland?

With the unexpected sign of snow hitting our hill-top this week, I immediately turned to the weather forecast to see what might be in store over the coming days and months.

First of all, because the Callan community gardeners mentioned him on Monday, my first Google search was for New Zealand weather guru Ken Ring. I found a short Radio Kerry podcast where his long-term forecast suggested hard frosts at the end of November, rain and frosts in December but nothing too substantial in the way of snow until mid February with frosts continuing until May – all in all, a typical Irish winter.

I then turned to Weather Online where nothing exciting is expected this week in terms of snow, but it will be chilly with night-time temperatures down to 0°C and daytime at 8°C.

The Met Éireann website isn’t offering much more in terms of exciting weather news, with maximum temperatures expected to reach 7°C in County Carlow and although their qualified meteorologists may be the experts, on the whole I don’t find their on-line information very easy to fathom.

Snow 2013

A snowy surprise was in store for us this week in the Greenside Up garden

Finally I came across the Irish Weather Network which is my favourite so far. Not only did it give me detailed information about the weather forecast this week, with wintry showers and sharp frosts expected, there’s also a page explaining how to predict snow, which might be handy next time I’m worried about making that dreaded school run down the slippery hills! I found their help invaluable a couple of years ago when we experienced the severe snow, as well as correct to within hours on their snowfall predictions.

So, back to the question about whether we’ll be experiencing a white Christmas, a harsh winter or long cold spring, I’m thinking I should have stuck with RTE’s Evelyn Cusack for advice, who shared a brilliant quote over the weekend during her evening weather forecast.

Do you rely on the postman or nature’s cues to gauge the weather or do you just take it as it comes?

Post script: the video linked is open to interpretation so it seems – mine might be different from yours! Check out the comments for clarification.

Vegetable Garden

Polytunnels & Organic Growing During the Autumn & Winter Months

October 18, 2013

From time to time I receive requests from people asking if they can guest blog on the Greenside Up website and in general I’ve declined but an enquiry a few weeks ago from Deborah of Premier Polytunnels was written so politely and on a subject I was about to post myself, I was more than happy for a polytunnel expert to write it for you!

It’s always preferable to support and shop locally but although I write largely for an Irish audience, I know that almost as many of you looking at my blog are doing so from the UK. The link for this particular Lancashire supplier is therefore for you!

Although Premier are more than happy to supply and deliver polytunnels to Ireland, we already have some good, competitive and friendly suppliers living here. Gillespie Polytunnels in Donegal and Highbank Polytunnels in Kilkenny have both been great friends of community garden projects and Polydome in the midlands are very popular too.

For now though, here’s some useful tips from Deborah…

October polytunnel

Spot the powdery mildew appearing on courgette leaves indicating the end of season

Polytunnel growing during the autumn and winter months

As autumn begins to set in, some of the gardening community are beginning to check their soggy borders as they contemplate a long winter with very little growing to enjoy.

Not so for those who’ve been fortunate enough to have invested in a polytunnel. Polytunnel gardening is not only a wonderful way to enjoy an extended growing season but it’s also a great route into organic growing.

Continue Reading…

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.

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?

Vegetable Garden

Growing vegetables at altitude/colder climates

January 30, 2012

Growing Vegetables at AltitudeI’ve often commented that growing vegetables 1,000 feet above sea level can be quite challenging at times.

Apart from having to put on an extra layer when we head outside, we’re on average three weeks behind the growing conditions of friends five miles below at the bottom of the hill.

In the summer time we can be as much as 6 or 7 degrees cooler (much to our children’s horror when they’re at school dreaming of the paddling pool on their return home, only to find it’s freezing!)

However, don’t despair if you do live in colder climes as there are several things you can do which will still make growing vegetables year round possible.

1. If strong winds are a problem consider using wind break fabric or planting a native hedge to lessen the impact. (If you decide upon a hedge, bear in mind shading and space – what starts as a little spindly stick may be taking up two metres or more of precious space within a few years and you will have to prune it).

2. When reading up on sowing times and you’re told you can sow between February to April – always choose April! The earlier month is aimed at people who live in warmer areas.

3. Stock up on horticultural fleece to quickly throw over beds if there’s a frost – this could be in springtime or autumn.

4. Choose varieties of vegetables that mature quickly, rather than the much longer to grow maincrops (especially carrots!)

5. Save up and buy a greenhouse or polytunnel. This really is worth considering. Ours transformed the amount and variety of veg we are able to grow. If you haven’t got the space or cash, consider using cloches.

6. Start seedlings off indoors, giving them a head start so you can plant them outside as soon as it’s warm enough.

7. Make sure you’re lashings are tight on any supports as the wind is quite likely to test them.

8. If you’re more experienced (and really keen), you can cover beds with clear polythene to warm up the soil, remove it, sow your veg then cover with cloches to protect them (not advised for beginners) though does work.

Do you have any more tips? If so I’d love to hear them…


Winter sunrise ~ a hill dwellers perspective

January 13, 2012

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveThere are many days on the top of our hill that we are engulfed in low cloud. Sometimes the damp air seeps through every crook and cranny of our house seemingly endlessly, so that in the end we resort to lighting the fire to dry it out.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveMy memories of August 2011 are waking up, hoping that I would jump out of bed, draw back the curtains and see the sun rising above the canopy of my favourite tree, but sadly it was not to be, yet another day of damp cloud.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveIn the colder, winter months however, the roles can be reversed and we are blessed with spectacular sunrises whilst the valley below is blanketed with freezing fog.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveAs we drive down the ‘horrible hill’ on the school run we see islands poking through the mist, the sky lit up with a myriad of colour, the views so spectacular that even the children stop chattering and gasp.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspectiveMornings like today make up for all those dull summer days. Mornings like today make living and gardening in an exposed elevated spot so worthwhile. Mornings like today can make my soul swell with happiness that we live on such a beautiful planet.

Winter Sunrise - a hill dwellers perspective


Vegetable Garden

What to sow in a polytunnel in February

February 26, 2011

If you’re undecided about whether to buy a polytunnel then I can’t recommend it (or a greenhouse) enough, and especially for any fair weather gardeners….. it was 20ºC in ours at lunchtime today!

It basically means you can start sowing seeds a bit earlier. Some may still need the protection of horticultural fleece or newspaper for the more tender varieties but it will give you a head start. If you plan well (and want to) it will enable you to grow a variety of veggies all year-long.

What to Sow in a Polytunnel in FebruaryI had a couple of hours to spare today so having covered the soil in well-rotted manure a few months ago, after a rake over and water we were finally able to sow some seeds into our tunnel. These included mangetout, dwarf french beans, lettuce and basil (under fleece at night), beetroot, perpetual spinach and scallions. We also moved a few strawberry plants growing outside into the corner of the tunnel in hope of an earlier crop.

All being well, in a month or two we’ll be planting courgettes, squash, cherry tomatoes and peppers and after we’ve harvested the beans and peas, some winter cabbage.

It feels great to get started again and am now chomping at the bit to get the rest of the beds ready outside.

Vegetable Garden

Warning: Brush Snow Off Your Polytunnel to Prevent Collapse.

December 1, 2010
Snow on your polytunnel - brush it off fast!

Four to Six inches fell this morninga word of warning for anybody lucky enough to have a polytunnel….. be sure to brush snow off it or it’s in danger of collapse.

Although it may seem like a good idea to leave the snow on to act as an insulating layer (it was 8oC inside mine today and
-3ºC outside), it isn’t!

A twitter friend @northcountryken who owns an organic farm in Newcastle, England posted pictures of one of his collapsed tunnels yesterday where they’ve been having very severe snowfall – several feet in places. It was a sight none of us would like to see in our own gardens, but even worse if it’s your livelihood.

bulging tunnelYou can see from my pics that it doesn’t need a massive layer to put pressure on the plastic, so if you’re able to get to your tunnel, try and remove as much snow as you can with a soft brush.

When the snow has cleared, check the plastic.  If you notice any tears or holes repair it promptly with special repair tape that you should be able to pick up from your local garden supplier or polytunnel supplier.  As polythene ages it can become brittle so repairing tears promptly will prevent them from getting bigger, therefore prolonging the life of your tunnel.