Dee Sewell is a community based entrepreneur based on the Carlow/Kilkenny border. Dee created Greenside Up in 2009 to help promote the grow your own ethos and raise environmental awareness. She helps people to garden using organic principles, to consider biodiversity and food waste, and to live more co-sufficient lifestyles with an emphasis on social, community and therapeutic gardening. Today we ask Dee a few questions on gardening, we hear of the lifestyle benefits of gardening and learn how and where to start with your garden.
Dee you’re a qualified horticulturist. How did you become interested in gardening?
I used to help my Dad when I was small, then when I left home, I became interested in herbs and container gardening. I found herbs such a fascinating topic, their history, usage, etc., and when I was living in rented accommodation and could move my plants with me. Also, garden centres sold the best cake, so I’d often head to cafes with girlfriends for a natter and catch up. It was hard not to be tempted to buy plants once we were inside. I returned to adult education in my 40’s to studying horticulture and since then, learning myself, and educating others has become a passion.
Can you tell us about the therapeutic benefits you and others have experienced from gardening?
How can we encourage biodiversity in our gardens?
What are the essentials of starting a vegetable garden?
The main thing is to simply start growing. After that, my number one tip is to start small. It’s easy to get carried away, but if you have too big an area for vegetables, it can become overwhelming if you’re trying to work it into an already busy lifestyle. Also, grow what you like to eat. There’s no point growing 20 cabbage heads if nobody likes it.
Next, it’s all about the soil. Soil is more than just dirt, it’s teeming with microorganisms and thanks again to research, we’re beginning to learn about the connection between the health of the soil that our food is grown in, to our own gut and subsequent brain health. It’s a fascinating topic, but worth remembering, if we look after our soil, the soil will look after our plants. Adding lots of well rotted organic matter regularly is one way of doing that.
Can you grow vegetables if you live in an apartment?
Yes, absolutely. During the first lockdown I was following a lady on social media who was locked into her Dublin apartment. She was growing a myriad of fruit and vegetables on her balcony. From cucumbers to sunflowers, beans and herbs. The main considerations are wind, weight, sun and shade, container size and watering. I wrote more about it here How to Grow Your Own Food on a Balcony Garden (greensideup.ie)