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Irish Seed Savers Workshop in Carlow Town

February 5, 2019

Irish Seed Savers Workshop in Carlow Town

What’s Happening with Irish Seed Savers?

On Saturday, 16th February 2019 from 10am to 3.30pm Wayne Frankham from Irish Seed Savers will be coming to Carlow town to run a workshop about saving our seeds and protecting our heritage. It will take place in An Gairdín Beo, a charitable project and community garden in the heart of Carlow town who are partnering the event. The cost for anyone participating is €10.00 each for the day. This includes refreshments, a light lunch of soup and sandwiches (vegetarian friendly) prepared by local social enterprise The Delta Centre, and the booking fee which Greenside Up has managed to absorb into the costs thanks to Carlow County Council/Local Agenda 21 funding, making this a not-for-profit event.

Pre-booking is essential due to the catering requirements and in helping Wayne prepare his material for the day; as a tutor I know the challenges involved in building a workshop that might be for 10 people or 60 people. If you’re interesting in joining us, the link to the booking site is below:


The workshop will include seed background including cultivation, culture & challenges, local & international solutions, basic botanics including classification, producing quality seed, bolting/overwintering, isolation, populations, manual handling, storage.

Why is this event with Irish Seed Savers important?

Irish Seed Savers co-ordinate the Seed Sovereignty Programme in Ireland. It’s a programme which aims to aid and promote the development of agro-ecological seed production in Ireland and the UK.

Set up by The Gaia Foundation in the UK, it works with new and established seed producers to increase consumer and producer awareness, and increase production opportunities for seed produced in the UK and Ireland.

Current figures suggest over 80% of seed is imported. Certified organic seed figures are even higher. Yet a handful of small enterprises including Real Seeds, The Seed Coop and Vital Seeds in the UK, as well as Brown Envelope Seeds, The Herb Garden and Irish Seed Savers here in Ireland, all demonstrate the diverse range of seeds which we can produce in our own environment. And they are all active in sharing their skills and encouraging more growers to produce great quality seed in our own farms and gardens.

Calendula Seed Head - ready to harvest

The programme has enabled training programmes for those wishing to diversify their commercial production to incorporate seed for own use, exchange and market. It’s a development which many growers find immensely rewarding as they engage in the full cycle of plant life. It’s not without its challenges, contending with pests, humidity and seasonal quirks and variables in weather. But with each plant generation, adaptation to regional environments occurs in each crop variety, and experience develops to share between growers.

This is a pattern which is emerging around the world. The Gaia Foundation took great inspiration from the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security who generously share their experiences online and visited the UK in 2014.

The Seed Guardian Programme from Irish Seed Savers

Here in Ireland Wayne Frankham is Seed Outreach coordinator at Irish Seed Savers. They have a dedicated network of Seed Guardians who help to expand the production capacity of the Seed Savers 20 acre farm in Clare. The Guardians have all undertaken four season Seed Saver training, with the most recent trainees beginning last November. Wayne has been visiting established Guardians, taking part in public grower and culinary events, and providing basic seed training for growers and communities, all around Ireland and the UK.

‘a food revolution starts with seed’

Why join the workshop on the 16th February?

This is a great opportunity to learn more about the trials and events touched by the Programme, as well as learning the essentials of seed saving for this and future generations. Because, as the Seed Sovereignty website says ‘a food revolution starts with seed’.

For more information about seed sovereignty and seed security look up Irish Seed Savers and see the links below, or come along to the workshop and find out more.

Seed Security Canada
Seed Sovereignty Info


Community Gardens

How to Encourage People to Join Your Community or Urban Garden

May 22, 2014

Over the past few years several people have contacted me asking how to start a community or urban garden. They have the land and they’re keen to create a garden that will benefit everyone in the local area. Although it’s best to start with the people as you can guarantee  an enthusiastic working group, it’s not impossible to begin the project with the land first.

Summer 2012 Leighlin Parish Community Garden

Summer 2012 Leighlin Parish Community Garden

You will however, need to gauge if there’s an interest in community gardening in your area. I’ve written a post in the past with tips on how to start a community garden but here’s a few more ideas on ways to attract attention:

  • Hold a public information meeting where you can share your ideas.
  • Put up flyers in shop windows and pin them to telegraph poles.
  • Contact your local newspaper and/or radio station and enlist their help.
  • Contact the department in your local council that looks after local community.
  • Hand our leaflets to parents waiting for their children at school gates or sports fields.
  • Have a targeted Facebook campaign inviting people to learn more or meet up.

Open morning at Leighlin Parish Community GardenSome gardens manage to attract lots of people without any problem at all but if you have a garden up and running and have found the numbers have tailed off you could try:

  • Holding an open morning inviting people to drop in.
  • Have a plant sale that highlights what you’re growing in the garden.
  • Invite different groups in for a gardening session such as active retired, local schools, scout groups or nursery schools.
  • Offer training, accredited or otherwise (contact your local ETB (was VEC) to enquire about funding a tutor.

The more options you give people for hearing about your community or urban garden project, proposed or current, the better. Not everyone reads the local notes or parish newsletter so if you only advertise in these two publications, you’ll miss a lot of people.

Focus on Leighlin Parish Community Garden, Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow

Community Garden Workshops

A good way to attract people to new or existing community gardens is to offer learning opportunities. Whilst folk might like the idea of growing their own vegetables they might not know how to begin or they might feel they don’t know enough to join a group.

Just like many other activities, community gardeners come in all shapes and sizes from beginners to more experienced and they’re a friendly, welcoming bunch by nature who are willing to share their knowledge. A beginners course held in the garden will introduce new people to the resident gardeners, lessening any shyness.

Outdoor Oven in a Community GardenOther ideas for workshops and courses might include cob oven building, willow workshops, basic landscaping, stone building, rainwater harvesting or even a basic cookery course using the produce.

Leighlin Parish Community Garden

The Community Garden in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow is currently addressing the issue of attracting more gardeners. It’s such a pretty garden in one of the most picturesque villages in Ireland it’s been a delight to be involved with it.

Fr Lalor offered part of his garden to host the new venture and work began in a cold in February 2012. Through sheer hard work and determination, the community garden came together quickly and amazed everyone who attended the weekly meetings just how fast a garden can take shape. A couple of the original members who’d signed up fell by the wayside as other activities took their time away but the group continued on and worked in rain, hail and sunshine to pull the garden together. Within a few months the community garden had turned from a lawn into a productive and pretty vegetable garden and since then has settled into a group of around half a dozen men and women that meet every Friday morning for two hours and potter away.

Leighlin Parish Community Garden is large, with around 300m² of space and has a dozen vegetable beds, herb and flower beds as well as polytunnel that was bought with support from the local area. It has room for lots more people to join in. To attract more gardeners to the group this year, the organisers contacted the local ETB (I’m on their registered tutors list) and brought me in as a gardening tutor to work with a new group for six weeks, teaching them the basics of how to grow their own vegetables in the hope that some participants will stay on afterwards, working alongside and socialising with the original community gardeners.

It may be that a Friday morning doesn’t suit the majority of the villagers if they’re working or have very young children, or that perhaps people still don’t quite understand what a community garden is exactly, so it may take a few different approaches to attract new members. In the meantime, the original group are thoroughly enjoying the peace, socialising opportunity and harvest the large garden is providing them with and the new garden workshop participants have a beautiful place to learn new skills.

Have you any tips or ideas how to attract people to a group you’re involved with that might be low in numbers? We’d love to hear about them.

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

Learning to take life in it’s stride ~ my job

April 12, 2013
Working with new community gardeners at Kilkenny allotments & community gardens

Kilkenny Allotments & Community Garden

A couple of years ago I studied, prepared for and subsequently held in my hand a Fetac Level 6 Train the Trainer qualification. During the training we were advised to find out about the clients who would be attending our training courses, prepare down to the last-minute what we would be teaching, sometimes planning months in advance so that we could deliver good, structured training to the people we were hoping to help. We were advised to write down our kit lists, organise our training rooms and have our bound notes ready to hand out to willing learners.

preparing raspberry beds at Kilkenny Allotments and Community GardensIn theory that’s all well and good. When I offer my five or six-week indoor sessions I’m able to prepare to that level of detail (though as an environmentally conscious business notes are emailed). However, outdoors, and in particular when I’m meeting new community groups in the middle of muddy fields on spring days, those plans can become redundant.

An unexpected bonus

Building raised beds in Kilkenny Allotments & Community GardensI’m a typical Virgo woman. I like life to be ordered, to know what’s coming, what to expect, to be neat and tidy and in control. I therefore hadn’t expected for one minute that community gardening would allow me to free myself from my celestial traits.

Every time I begin working with a new group it surprises me how much pleasure I get from thinking on my feet, adapting to new situations as they arise and being anything but structured, and apart from that I get to play in mud!

Building raised beds in Kilkenny Allotments & Community GardensYou see nature doesn’t allow us to be in control. We like to think we can mould her to our needs, and to a small degree we can, but nature ebbs and flows. Recently she’s been throwing us hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts and heatwaves to remind us that she’s in charge.

As well as working with the unpredictability of nature, as gardeners we also find that seeds don’t always germinate, insects munch away on our seedlings and diseases can wipe out our carefully tended crops. We can plan to a degree, have an idea when and what to do, but only very loosely. Gardening does that for everybody who chooses to get outside and try it ~ which is probably why it’s so good for our modern lives and ultimately for our mental health. For just a few hours, whenever we chose to head outside and do it, gardening can free us from our often structured constraints.

Sowing potatoes at Kilkenny Allotments and Community GardensAs a community garden tutor I rarely know if or how much a budget we have to work with, how many people to expect every week, what equipment, seeds or soil we have to work with or what experience the other gardeners might have. I do my best to find the answers to at least some of those questions beforehand, but more often that not the answers unravel and develop as the weeks pass. Funding is almost always an issue but luckily most of my time is funder by the local VECs or Leader Parnership.

To put my job into context, despite working with two gardens for the past five months, I still have no idea of our budget. We shop from week to week for seeds, compost and equipment and we muddle along. I can make plans and suggestions for the group, but each week we can only sow and grow what the weekly subs have allowed us to buy. I might advise the groups I work with to buy organic or untreated seeds or peat free compost from local garden centres, encouraging and explaining the reasons why, but if they don’t buy them because they feel they were too expensive or not available, we have to work with what we have.

Ultimate start up kit for a community allotmentOn the other hand, a new group at the Kilkenny Allotments and Community Gardens that I started with today, arrived with almost everything I’d emailed them in the ultimate start-up kit list. They’d shopped locally in a garden centre, bought tools, seeds and plants and even arrived with several bags of manure and a van load of scaffold boards. However, the raised beds weren’t in place as expected (not a bad thing as it allowed some transition year students to find out how to build them) and some of the area had unexpectedly been dug over and planted up by someone else.

Planting raspberries at Kilkenny Allotments & Community GardenToday was therefore a classic example of

“d’ya know what, lets just ditch the plan and get on with what needs to be done”

and so we did. As a result I’m now sitting her typing this post, not with a sense of despair at the plan I’d put together for the morning not working out, but with a big happy grin at everything the group achieved.

With the plan thrown out of the window, the group of teachers and students (and a roped in husband, thank you Brendan) managed to install and fill two raised beds as well as receive a practical lesson on planting potatoes, raspberry canes and strawberries. We also discussed red spider mite, recycled plastic pots and soil structure.

Teaching community gardeners how to grow their own food may not follow traditionally structured methods of teaching, but it’s very rewarding and we get the jobs done with team work, fun and a sense of camaraderie.

If you’re in or close to Kilkenny and would like to join this new group that’s a joint venture between three schools, parents and allotment holders, email me at for more information. Everyone with an interest in growing food is welcome.










Community Gardens

Growing vegetables in Ballon Community Garden

March 28, 2013

Ballon Community Garden

Thanks to Carlow VEC, in a few weeks time I’ll be running a six-week practical course on growing vegetables at Ballon Community Garden.

Ballon community gardenI was delighted to be asked to tutor in this garden by Ballon Improvement Group as it encompasses so many things I’m passionate about.

Ballon community garden  GIY workshopsFor a start the village of Ballon is very community orientated. In March they won an award from Carlow Enterprise Board for Best New Green Business for a project the improvement group set up to support and fund community work in the area.

Ballon community garden  GIY workshops


Using a disused tyre premises they opened the Siopa Glas in the High Street and invited everyone to drop in their old clothes, shoes, bags, bric-a-brac and furniture. All of the money raised in the thrift shop is returned to the community in terms of funding for street lighting, workshops, tidy towns and planting schemes. The shop has proved very popular with all sorts of events operating from it. From Santa visiting at Christmas for the children, china tea parties for visiting parties or cabbage and bacon days on St Patrick’s weekend this group are nothing if not versatile! They also offer shoppers a free cup of tea and a chat in their  village emporium.

Ballon community garden  GIY workshopsThe community garden itself is at the front of the village primary school and the children are encouraged to get involved and participate. The group is very keen to link up with other community gardens too and swap seeds, plants and have exchange visits.

Ballon community garden  GIY workshopsI love the way they’ve reused the old tractor tyres, old barrels, electric cord reels and even a pre-cast tank from a nearby manufacturer of them.

All the photos in the post were taken on a crisp spring day in March where snow carpets all the nearby mountains so we’ll have a bit of work to bring the garden back to order.

Ballon community garden  GIY workshopsIf you’re interesting in coming along to the practical, hands-on workshops where I’ll be showing everyone how to grow your own fruit and vegetables without the use of chemicals, we’ll be meeting on Tuesday evenings from 7.00pm to 9.00pm for six weeks from the 7th May.

Contact Eileen Murphy on 0872273516 or Marie George on 0872424934 for more details.


Community Gardens

Good things come in threes (or fours)

October 3, 2012

Goodness what a week! They say good things come in threes and this week has been no exception!


Number One

The week began here on Saturday with the news that I’ve made it to the finalist position in the Blog Awards Ireland 2012 which I’m thrilled about (see my sparkly new badge at the top of the column over there ——————->)

I’m in two categories (Lifestyle and Eco/Green) and in the company of some fabulous bloggers that you can see here, I’m truly humbled to be in the placings.

Number Two

Then I met up with Kilkenny Leadership Project to discuss the new community gardening project we’re about to get underway. I’ll be supporting Callan and Goresbridge and am looking forward to meeting the new gardeners and helping them to create  sustainable community gardens. I’ve also been putting together the programme for an after schools class at Bagenalstown Family Resource Centre as well as a couple of Fetac modules that I’ll be starting to teach to Millennium Community Garden in Kilkenny in the next few days.

Number Three

Lastly and very excitedly I’ve been working super hard on a project that I’ll be unveiling to you in the next few weeks. I can’t say too much as I want to be able to share the finished items with you and not just the pre-productions. There’s a very loose clue in the picture at the top of this post and if you’re at the blog awards ceremony on the 13th October there will be a tiny taster that I’m putting together right now, the rest of you will have to wait I’m afraid!

All I can tell you is that it’s a unique, handmade gardening gift product that will be available on-line once we have Halloween under our belts and feedback so far is very positive so I’m massively excited about it!!

If you don’t want to miss the unveiling, just sign up for the newsletter in the box below and the minute I can tell you more I will.

Oh and there’s a number four as well but it didn’t fit in with my best in threes theme, however it does deserve to be here… I won a makeover competition on Twitter to celebrate Kilkenny Fashion Week that will be running all of next week (there’s some fab things going on, do take a look).  The unveil will be on the night of the Blog Awards so I’ll be Very. Glammed. Up. when I arrive there (THANK YOU FASHION WEEK, YOU DON’T KNOW HOW HAPPY I AM ABOUT THAT!)

So a very a busy time for Greenside Up all in all. Look out for the blur as it whizzes past.


Community Gardens

Leighlin Parish Community Garden … 3 months on

June 1, 2012
Leighlin Parish Community Garden - 1st June

1st June 2012

Leighlin Parish Community Garden- 24 Feb 2012

24 February 2012

Leighlin Parish Community Garden group started on 24th February 2012 and after just three months, with minimal funding, they have achieved so much already.

The community garden is being created in Fr Lalor’s garden and the parish donated €500 to get it started. Carlow VEC have funded most of my time and anybody gardening with us on a Friday morning is asked to chip in €2.00 towards seeds etc.

Leighlin Parish Community Garden - 16th March

16th March 2012

Shear hard work and determination has got the garden to where it is, with more barrow loads of manure and top soil being emptied into the beds made by the gardeners than I could count.  Every week and through all weathers a core of hardworking volunteers have arrived with smiles and camaraderie.

There are a mixture of age ranges  – with Nana’s bringing grandchildren and Dad’s bringing their sons.

Leighlin Parish Community Garden

Jim & Luke

We’re growing a variety of basic vegetables – from potatoes, onions, garlic, kales, cabbages to lots of varieties of roots, herbs and beans that anybody involved in the project will share amongst themselves as they are harvested.

Several members of the group have never seen vegetables grow, only picking them up in supermarkets so they’re looking forward to watching the beans form and are fascinated by the swelling courgettes.

Collapsible pea support that can be packed away

Collapsible pea support made by Luke

As well as edible crops, the group are also creating a bed that will be full of flowers and used to create displays in the church ~ giving something back to the parish that has funded the project so far.

Leighlin Parish Community Garden - 20th April 2012

20th April 2012

There are lots of plans for the community garden in the future – creating more vegetable beds, adding more flowers and herbs, as well as erecting a fence and adding a polytunnel so that we can grow warmer climate loving crops.

The parish are hoping to encourage other local groups to make use of this facility too, making the gardening project a true community effort.

Leighlin Parish Community Garden

Leighlin Parish Community Garden – 1st June 2012

This was to be my last morning working with the group but as I sat writing up this post I heard that my funding has been extended for another six weeks. I’m delighted to have more hours with them as there’s so much more we can do and they can learn.

If anybody wants to find out how they can become involved in this or other community gardens in Ireland, you can email me and I will forward on information.

Happy Gardening!