Posted by Michael Kelly, GIY Ireland in Features.

If you are looking for inspiration for your growing endeavours, it can often be found in the gardens of other GIYers. I always find that walking around another grower’s garden leaves me with renewed inspiration and several useful tips to take back to my own vegetable patch. I guess this is why the garden visit and meitheal are such important parts of the GIY group experience.

Irish Times gardening correspondent (and contributor to GIY’s magazine GROW) Fionnuala Fallon’s wonderful new book From the Ground Up—How Ireland is Growing its Own (Collins Press) is like going on several lengthy garden visits all without leaving your house. It takes, not just a peek, but a substantial gander at the veg patches of some of Ireland’s passionate food growers, with gorgeous and extensive photos from her husband Richard Johnston to bring the profiles to life.

The book reflects the variety of growing that is happening up and down the country—from an 8m² veg patch to urban and suburban pads to rural potagers. Featured growers include Trevor Sargent, Jim Cronin, GIY patron Klaus Laitenberger, Michael and Ethna Viney, Joy Larkcom, Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds, and Martijn Kajuiter of Cliffhouse Hotel. She even visits the teenage twins Micheál and Oisín Byrne in County Louth, who grow pumpkins to compete for Ireland’s Giant Pumpkin title. Fionnuala and Richard also visited us here in Dunmore East some time back to do the photoshoot and thankfully did so in the summer when the place was looking at its best—and of course, a great photographer can make any garden look impressive!

This book has truly been a labour of love for Fionnuala, and it shows. It’s a beautiful production and comes highly recommended. Incidentally Fionnuala is one of the speakers at the GIY Gathering on September 15th–16th (see below).

Things to Do this August

Lift crops which have finished growing and dress bare soil with manure, compost (or plant green manures). Wasps can be problematic as fruit ripens so make traps from jars of sugary water. Remove surplus leaves from tomato plants which allows air to circulate and sunshine to fall on the fruit. Go blackberry picking!

Last month for sowing perpetual spinach, chard and oriental salads—it will be worth it in the New Year when there’s almost nothing else to eat, so get sowing! In the polytunnel/greenhouse sow lettuce, mustard, coriander, parsley, radish, dwarf early pea, broadbean, cauliflower seed, rocket, onion seed and garlic. Outside sow white turnip seeds and autumn onion sets, eg. centurion and sturon. Plant out strawberry runners. Pot up some parsley for winter use.

Summer vegetables and fruit are joined by the great autumn veg like parsnips, swedes and celeriac. Lift onions and leave to dry out in sun or in the polytunnel/greenhouse for two weeks. Apples, plums, pears are now in season. Continue to harvest salad leaves, tomatoes, radish, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beetroots, cauliflower, cucumbers, peppers, beans, courgettes, spinach, leeks, red cabbage, summer cabbage, aubergine, sweet corn.

The GIY Gathering 2012
Whether you are an old hand or a complete novice at growing your own grub, this year’s GIY Gathering (Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th of September) is simply unmissable, bringing together some of the world’s leading advocates and experts on growing food to Ireland for two unforgettable days of talks, debates and discussions. Speakers include a BBC Gardeners World presenter, a head gardener from River Cottage and the inspiration behind Michelle Obama’s White House veg garden.

Hosted by RTÉ’s Ella McSweeney, we’ve got talks and discussions on self sufficiency, thrifty gardening, keeping hens, herbs, fruit, polytunnel growing, creative vegetable gardening, beekeeping, composting, growing for nutrition, growing in small spaces and much more. The speaker list is a veritable who’s-who of the veg growing world: Alys Fowler, Mark Diacono, Roger Doiron, Joy Larkcom, Klaus Laitenberger, Trevor Sargent, Peter Dowdall, Kitty Scully, Hans Wieland, Simon Dawson, Joyce Russell and many more.

The event takes place during the Waterford Harvest Festival so the city will be heaving with events to delight the palate. We are expecting all 400 tickets for the Gathering to sell out, so don’t be left out—get your tickets (priced at just €20) from or call the Gathering ticket office on 051 302191.

Recipe of the Week—Cucumber Pickle
A great recipe for storing cucumbers for the winter.


  • 4 cucumbers
  • 3 onions, peeled
  • 50g of salt
  • 570ml of white wine vinegar
  • 450g of soft brown sugar
  • ½ level tsp each of ground turmeric and ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp of mustard seed

Slice the cucumber and onions thinly, then layer them in a large bowl, seasoning each layer. Weigh down with a plate and stand for three hours. Pour away the liquid and rinse the vegetables. Put the vinegar, sugar and spices in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cucumber and onions to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes then remove the veg and continue to boil syrup for 20 minutes. Fill sterilised jars with veg and when syrup is ready pour it over the vegetables. Cover, label and store the jars.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland.
© GIY Ireland 2012—all rights reserved