Grow Your Own Food
With help from Dee Sewell from GreensideUp.ie
Greenside Up is informative, well-written and brightly photographed, which justifiably earns it its award-winning website and blog status. Dee Sewell is the mastermind behind it all, but what is it all? What is Greenside Up all about and why is Dee Sewell the woman you need to seek out when you’re planning on greening up those fingers. And getting your ‘grow your own food’ mojo on?
I caught up with Dee to ask her some for some advice and tips on growing your own food. And find out how she lives the sustainable lifestyle she does. Which should set you straight when planning your gardening adventure. And will hopefully inspire you to start one.
Table of Contents
So Dee, who is Dee Sewell?
DEE: I’m a mum to three teens who play a myriad of sports, a wife to a hardworking husband called Ian, also known as Mr G on the blog, and a keeper of chickens, cats and dogs. Ian and I moved to Ireland from the south-east of England 18 years ago to ‘live the dream of a self-sufficient lifestyle’ but after spending ten years as a stay-at-home mum, I returned to full-time education when our youngest started school to study Horticulture.
We have 13 vegetable and fruit beds and a polytunnel in our garden and for three years kept our own pigs. However, a couple of months ago I became vegetarian as, when I looked into their kind eyes and watched their funny habits, I could no longer make excuses for my meat-eating habits. Yes our pigs were leading a better life than their factory farmed relatives but I realised in this day and age when there are so many alternatives for us than meat, I could survive very well without eating them.
What is Greenside Up?
Let’s just pretend that I know nothing about Greenside Up, what’s your elevator pitch?
DEE: Greenside Up is a social enterprise based in county Carlow that helps people to lead more sustainable lives by teaching them how to grow their own food, primarily in social community gardens. When we plant a seed into soil it opens up a whole new world in front of us that teaches us about food and food security, nature and the environment, biodiversity, water, food waste and the climate. Growing your own has been described as a gateway drug to a better life. I totally get that.
Growing Your Own Food When You Don’t Own Your Garden
I started my ‘Grow Your Own’ journey but only since buying my own home in recent years. I was interested in growing my own vegetables and herbs for quite some time before this but as I was renting I felt I couldn’t. In hindsight, it was just an excuse. What advice can you offer those who want to grow their own but don’t own their garden or home?
DEE: Find a community garden close by or start one up! Community gardens are places where we share the work then share the harvest. People enjoy the social aspects as much as the growing but they’re great places to learn about growing your own. Each community garden is unique. Some employ gardeners who can help and advise, some have tutors on board and some have experienced gardeners who are happy to share all their knowledge. They usually only look for you to go in and help out for a couple of hours a week, often on a set time or day but not always. They’re often free or ask for a couple of euro donation towards the tea and biscuits.
I’m a volunteer with the Community Garden Network and we’ve recently begun mapping all the gardens to help people find one close by to them. We can also advise how to start one up if there isn’t one nearby.
Instant Potted Plants – Yay of Nay?
In the past I have bought umpteen parsley plants from the supermarket. The longest one of these lived was about five months. They’ve all died on me. What do you think about these ‘instant’ potted herbs? Is there a way to make them survive or are they just another consumerism ploy and a waste of money?
DEE: Interesting question. I’ve bought them myself and am thinking you’ve done well to keep one going for that long. They’re grown in controlled environments so when they leave the greenhouses they’re grown in they soon begin to struggle. I don’t think the plants are intended to last very long however, you can try repotting the herbs into some fresh compost when you get them home and just snipping the tops off the plants which will allow them to bush out and continue growing. Alternatively I’d recommend heading down to the garden centre and buying herb plants of your choice and planting them into a decent, large container with some peat reduced or organic compost and growing your own. That’s how I began many years ago.
The Most Important Gardening Items
There’s ‘Irish farmer’ in my blood but I’m unsure if there is ‘gardener’ in my fingers, however I really want to make a good go of growing my own. What are the most important gardening items I need start this adventure?
DEE: Gardening can be costly when you’re starting from scratch but we can reuse or upcycle lots of household items to help us get started. Mushroom trays, yogurt pots and plastic food containers can make excellent starter pots for seeds once a few holes have been made in the bottom of them for drainage. I feel naked without my gardening gloves these days having accidentally come across some do