04 April 2012

Last blog post......

Well not quite but from Blogger  anyway!

Little did I think when I posted my Milestone Thank You blog it would almost be my last from the Blogger blogging platform! Having been here since I started writing in 2009, this week I made the plunge and have moved my blog to Wordpress.

All of my future blog posts will now be coming from www.greensideup.ie so whichever way you're currently following them, please change your settings (RSS should automatically change) to ensure you pick up all future posts from there.

If you're following this blog via your Google ID you will have to re-follow using the subscribe form on the right hand side of the new blog (there's a message there pointing you to it). 

To give you a taster of things to come, my first post from the new site is a video blog of my vegetable garden taken on 31st March and I'll be posting more as the garden grows over the seasons.

As most of my fellow blogging friends will know, I've been a huge fan of Blogger since I started using it so it's with a touch of sadness and trepidation that I'm leaving it behind. It's easy to navigate, has lots of great templates to give interest to the page and for a non-techy person is a great place to blog from. I've argued it's pluses at many a bloggers meeting and had even agreed to talk about it at a network meeting this autumn. 

So why the change of heart?

·         My blog is now incorporated into my website which means there's just one URL (www.greensideup.ie) rather than two (website and blog) so no more confusion for readers or customers.
·        I have complete control over my website, how it looks and how it's updated (once I've learnt how to do it, in the meantime thank you Ken from Event Media for being so patient!).  I should be able to do all my own updates without pestering anyone.
·         Because my website is now hosted under the Wordpress.org site, it means that should I ever want to expand my business and add to it at a later stage, it's all set up to do so.

So I do hope you'll go take a look, say hello and let me know what you think. We're still working on a few small changes, checking links etc. but almost there now. If you missed the link at the beginning, here it is again www.greensideup.ie.

So all that leaves me to say is its goodbye from me here and hello from me over there!


31 March 2012

Polytunnels & Greenhouses - Is cheap better than nothing at all?

This tunnel was donated to a group - it had been previously abandoned
That was the question I posed to the Community Garden Network Group this week.

I'm often asked by the groups I work with for advice on buying a polytunnel or greenhouse and have always replied "the best that you can afford - you want it to last" but as funding for the gardens is getting harder to find, and communities are having to fundraise for everything from tools and seeds, equipment and education, a tunnel can be a huge initial expense.
Image via www.funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com

My question has received some great responses which I'd like to share with you in case you're not on Facebook where the Group currently reside and you're considering buying a polytunnel.

Andrew Jordan an alternative to buying a polytunnel is to build one with plastic water pipe and scaffolding bars.. another way is to build a geodesic dome with coppiced hazel/ash and water pipe for hubs.. i can describe the technique if ur interested

Larry Masterson Dee experience over the years with Community Gardens in the North West informs me that the real value of a polytunnel nevertheless isn’t directly to do with plants! Literature enlightens this topic more . . . any community-managed project relies heavily (and sometimes wholly) on volunteer labour, and how reliable this labour is determines how well the garden project will work – or whether it will work at all . . . for the marginally-motivated volunteer waking up on a cold or wet morning, the possibility of a cup of tea and a chat out of the rain can make the difference between being a fair-weather weeder and being a hard-working core member. . . the key factor here is human energy, a variable which is often overlooked when community projects are planned and set up .It encompasses motivation and burn-out, but there are things that you can do to tip things in the project’s favour. . . a short while spent looking around, or just chatting in the tunnel at the start of a ‘shift’ isn’t a sign of a lazy participant, but one who is reconnecting with the community effort and their place within it . . . definite break times when people are encouraged to meet for a coffee in the tunnel can also help foster this community spirit . . . moreover, work studies have repeatedly shown that people are most productive when they take regular breaks . . . meals aside, a fifteen to thirty minute break after every two hours worked seems to be a successful strategy . . . a selection of old boots, tools and waterproofs in the tunnel will save a lot of time when volunteers forget their own, and helps to build a sense of shared ownership . . . the tunnel crop bars are a good place to hang a few clipboards containing things like this year’s plot plan (with future crops marked), a duty rota, and a list of ‘free jobs’ – tasks for anyone with the time to do them . . . this helps people see how their own efforts fit into the larger scheme of things – vital for keeping them enthused . . . during wet periods of the year, most of the gardening tasks in the tunnel itself are suitable for the ‘free jobs’ list . . . when it rains, people will fight over them! As Hans in the Organic Centre would say “Do not buy a flimsy, itsi wizzy polytunnel, buy as big and good quality as you can get with the best ventilation possible”

Lily de Sylva Hi Dee, I'd agree with Andrew Jordan about building your own, a wooden frame with plastic works well too. However, for the real macoy I do find Polydome very good, and it is woth checking out this guy too (in Clonmel www.gardenpolytunnels.ie)

Matthew Wilson Andrew Jordan That deserves its own post.
I might nick it and post it in Natural Building Ireland.

Fearghus Thesoundfarmer O'Murchu lots of ways to build a tunnel frame.i have made a few with salvaged/upcycled material.i suggest not skimping on the actual plastic,buy the best cover you can afford then look for heavy duty plastic pipe or andrews idea of coppiced poles

Gillespie Polytunnels 
Trying not to have a biased opinion as we actually make polytunnels, but it's worthwhile for a community group to look at getting a tunnel to suit their needs, we made one last year for a community group in Derry where there are a large number using it, we made it considerably higher than normal and a few of the guys made shelving and used the crop bars to hang shelves, they were able to put potting benches in the centre too, so everyone had plenty of space for their seed trays eyc. there is pictures on John mc menamins Facebook page of the actual tunnel itself( he is on our friend list)
We have a few tunnels going up for community groups at the moment, some of which are customised to their requirements.
One thing we always hear from customers coming back is that they should have went for a larger tunnel, be weary of the very cheap polytunnels- first storm and a lot of them are gone, nothing cheap about them when you have to replace them!
Better to wait until your budget can afford for a good quality decent sized tunnel even if it means waiting another season !!

Additionally the post was shared and the replies included:

Paul Martin Polydome in birr might do a deal if its for community garden

Patrick Kelly There is a Dublin in ballycallan Laois,not far from strabaly,they are made from red tubing,used in the building trade for electricity

Hans Wieland Hi Dee, cheaper is not always better, I can only repeat, what I recommend at my polytunnel courses: 1. Do not buy a flimsy, itsi wizzy polytunnel. 2. Buy as big and good quality as you can get (typically 12-15 m long), 3. get the best ventilation possible going, by having the widest doors ever possible, 4. Do not buy a flimsy, itsi wizzy polytunnel.5. TALK TO HANS at hans@theorganiccentre.ie

Hans Wieland we have worked with community gardens etc for over 8 years and saving money on a polytunnel is not a good option, my advice get a few quotes from suppliers (the market is very competitive) and ask for the best deal

Patrick Kelly There is a lot of used windows out there,I know guys who repar double glaze windows and are left with the old window. You could make an glass house of sorts

Josephine Mcgee We managed to get a 18 f 28 f 8foot high second hand but be prepared to put the work in to go and pick it up and take it apart yourself then put it together yourself on site and with everyone helping many hands makes it easier and cheaper. You could have raised beds until you have the money together.

Done Deal advertise polytunnels too. One resembling this was used by a group Garath Austin worked with in Northern Ireland. He commented that "it worked well year 1, very successful" though has recently been dismantled. He also recommended Morris Polytunnels   in Omagh where you could pick one up for a similar price but for quality highly recommends Gillespie Polytunnels

I always recommend Highbank as they're local, extremely well made, helpful and friendly. Building your own is an option and if you have the manpower and little funds go for it. The tunnel in the top picture was a donation from a farmer who had the frame sitting unused and unloved in a field - the group just needed to buy the polythene.

Greenhouse made entirely from recycled windows & plastic
The example below was made by a gardener on the Irishgardeners.com forum site and a neighbour of mine has successfully built a similar one - here the metal frame was previously an old trampoline base cut in half. Being made from galvanised steel, it's the frame that usually costs the bulk of the money spent on a new polytunnel - that expense has immediately been spared, and why dump an old trampoline when you can upcycle it!

Picture from irishgardeners.com
Our local school is building a small greenhouse built from plastic drink bottles, but that perhaps is more suitable for schools and smaller gardens than those where 10 to 20 people might be congregating.

If you'd like to see some ideas how others have made their own greenhouses, I have a Pinterest board you can find here with examples.

So there you have it - lots of choices to help you with your decision making. I hope that's given you a few ideas to be getting on with.

The more I've looked at the lovely recycled images in Pinterest, the more I'm inclined to think that if you can build a greenhouse or polytunnel for next to nothing then why not do so and in the meantime start saving all your cash so that you can invest in something better for a longer term solution.

I'd love to hear how you get on or if you have any other ideas for saving money on a polytunnel or greenhouse in your garden.

24 March 2012

Reaching a Milestone...

When I first started blogging back in June 2009 I was busy posting away to what I thought were just two followers. I didn't mind, I was new to it, tentatively learning about this new blogging world and enjoying  being able to write about my own gardening experiences.

Initially the idea was to share with my customers my own gardening experiences to help to give my fledgling business some credibility. As time went by I started to include tips and advice, recipes and anything else that popped into my head.

It was a few months before I found my stats page and delightedly discovered that more than two people were actually reading my posts. Whoopee - what a lovely surprise!

In 2010 I joined the KLCK Bloggers Network Group and my approach to social media took a new turn. The speakers at the group shared their vast experience and knowledge with us all, made us think differently about our content, encouraged us to plan our posts and have goals. Goals? Strategy? Yikes! All I wanted to do was write. Something must have been sinking in though as my page views steadily grew. As I realised that people were actually looking at my blog, my confidence in writing it began to grow too.

Over the past couple of weeks I've watched the page views get closer to that magic milestone number of 50,000, helped along considerably by the unashamed pimping for the latest competition (thanks to everyone who's helped there too). I found myself asking why I blog and where is it heading, what would you like to see, do stats matter, are they important? I was happy to write when I thought there was nobody looking, is it any different now that I've had 50,000 + page views? The answer is yes and no. No in that I still write because I enjoy it but the fact that you are reading the blog makes me think a lot more about what I'd like to include in it. The stats help me to see what interests you, where my writing came be of more help.

So for any newbie bloggers who are reading this now, or for anyone else who's interested, as I pass my magic milestone I'm sharing the top five reasons why I blog...

1. Top of the list is because I enjoy writing. I find it therapeutic and like to lose myself  here (for too long my husband might say...)

2. It's a source of information for 'my' gardeners as well as for anyone else who likes to grow or eat vegetables or cares about the environment. It enhances my aftercare service as customers aren't just left alone once the workshops or advice has finished.

3. I can share recipe ideas that we've tried and tested at home. Lots of people new to growing their own haven't eaten or cooked many of the vegetables they're growing.

4. Blogging helps to keep me focussed and continue with my own education. Some of the articles I've written I've had to seriously research, for instance the GM post. If I wasn't blogging I'm not sure I'd be keeping quite so up-to-date about current and topical issues.

5. Because my blog's a mixture of personal and business, it shows there's a real person behind the business name who has as many successes, failures, angst and elation as the rest of you.

And to share the top five most popular blog posts  since I began writing it....

1    Yummy Courgette Cake
2     World Naked Gardening Day
3      Mealy Cabbage Aphids on my Brussels Sprouts
4      Pesticides & Fungicides Using Kitchen Ingredients
5      Potatoes - all you need to know

So a massive thanks to everyone who's dropped by - I hope you'll be visiting again. There's still lots of posts bubbling around in my head that I hope to spill out over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if there's any topic you'd like me to write about, please leave a comment here or on any of the other social media sites I frequent (and for anyone who knows me, that's most of them by now) and I'll try and include them.

Dee x

17 March 2012

It's a celebration weekend! So it's competition time for a gardeners goodie bag...

As we're having a double celebration here in Ireland with St Patrick's Day today and Mothering Sunday tomorrow, what better time to share the happy mood than to have a  prize giveaway!

The lovely Eoin Flaherty of  Sow Easy Grow has kindly donated the fabulous prize for one lucky reader of the Greenside Up blog. This is one of four kits available to buy on their website or at garden centres and would make a great starter kit for anyone interested in growing vegetables (or for someone like me who's tools are wearing out!).

With our environment in mind, this Gardeners Delight Kit contains the newly launched GrowGrid, Seaweed Fertiliser, Biodegradable 3" pots, organic seeds and aloe vera gloves, all contained within a handy jute bag.

Eoin has a passion for fresh, seasonal vegetables that have been grown without using chemicals and like many of us, knows from personal experience how labour intensive weeding can be. As a result he came up with the idea of the GrowGrid, a product manufactured in Ireland.

The GrowGrid is a weed membrane that lies directly onto a prepared seed bed and is pegged down with the biodegradable pegs. Vegetables are sown or transplanted into the ready made holes that are punched at intervals to suite a wide variety of vegetable crops. There are four different mats available for different vegetable requirements and you can choose from 4m or 8m lengths by 1.5m wide.

So whether you're into gardening or you have a friend or relative who might enjoy this fabulous prize, it's very easy to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment in the box below that contains the words Sow Easy Grow or sign up for the monthly newsletter (scroll down the column on the right until you arrive at  the Newsletter box - which will ensure you're in the draw if Blogger's playing up and you're unable to leave a comment.)

Apologies to all my further afield readers, but on this occasion the prize giveaway can only be mailed to addresses in Ireland and the UK (though if you have a relative or friend living there who might like to receive this lovely gift.....)

So why not give it a go ... and as it's a weekend of celebration and giving, please help to spread the word to everyone you know. The lucky winner will be chosen by a random generator next Saturday 24th March at 6.00pm.

Good Luck

Dee x

AND THE WINNER IS......................... JENNY DOYLE! Congratulations Jenny. Hope this starts you on  a new journey to grow your own! I'll be in touch regarding delivery.

13 March 2012

Tell me and I forget...

March - a month where gardeners everywhere start to get excited about the growing season ahead. For me that means I'm back doing what I love - helping communities set up gardens and teaching people how to grow vegetables.

Amongst other commitments I'm helping three gardens a week in different towns and villages in Carlow and Kilkenny, with another due to start up in a few weeks time. I've written a few posts on how and why community gardens are so great (see the tab at the top of the page for links) but today's post isn't about that. Today's post is about why I enjoy working with them...

Benjamin Franklin's quote sums up precisely why community gardens can be so good - practical, hands on, community involvement where people can learn.

I heard another quote today which also captures the essence of community gardening. As I can't find the original author, I'll credit it to Peter Donegan who mentioned it:

"gardens are for people and not just the plants"

If you're involved in community gardening a group of us are in the process of establishing The Community Garden Network (supporting community gardening in Ireland and Northern Ireland). We have an active  facebook group and a dedicated website is on it's way giving us a permanent home to connect.

If you want to learn more about gardening and growing vegetables, perhaps there's a community garden somewhere near you...
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