Gleann na Bearu Community Garden is young in community gardening terms having only been around since the spring of 2015. We’ve achieved a lot already.
The small garden is located within the enclosed walls of a community centre in the heart of a Bagenalstown housing estate.
The community garden attracts around a dozen people with mixed abilities on Wednesday mornings from the surrounding area, as well as much further afield. Originally the garden was used by teenagers during the afternoon youth club in the Bagenalstown Youth Project.
They decorated and planted up old tyres with flowers, as well as brightened up the walls with art using a variety of paint colours generosity donated by the local hardware stores who gave the volunteers unwanted mixes.
In the spring of 2015 Sarah Barron, the Education Resource Officer for Respond! Housing Association applied for funding for a tutor from Kilkenny Carlow Education Training Board and Dee Sewell from Greenside Up started working with a new group of gardeners on what became known as an intergenerational gardening course within Gleann na Bearu.
For two hours a week for six weeks, Dee taught the adults the basics needed for a successful organic garden – crop rotation and vegetable families, weeding and pest control without chemicals as well as garden design, potting, planting and transplanting.
In the afternoons Catherine and Dani who work for Carlow Regional Youth Services, pass on everything they learn to the teenagers. The garden is like another room for the teens all year round and a place of tranquility for anyone looking for it. The young people are planning to build more pallet benches over the coming months and paint all the new raised beds; they’re an integral part of this shared space.
Last year Respond provided three raised beds and topsoil was sourced from the local hardware shop. Like many gardens, funding was tight so the group planted seeds into toilet rolls and tetra packs and learnt how to grow food on a budget. The course was so successful Dee’s funding was extended for another six weeks and more plants were grown.
During the summertime the group continued to meet, weed, drink tea and snack on biscuits, one of the most important aspects of a community garden. They held a garden party where food the gardeners had grown was cooked and shared, then in the autumn Dee returned and the group looked at the design once more. There was lots of space for more raised beds and thanks again to the generosity of Respond, the plans the group had discussed began to be realised and eight more beds were added.
The original lawn was sown in estate rubble and the landlord didn’t want the group to dig down so wood for the new raised beds was sourced from Griffiths the local saw mill, topsoil came from a farming friend of Frances and the wood chip from Tom Kane in neighbouring Goresbridge.
Unfortunately just after the topsoil was delivered it began to rain heavily for what seemed like weeks. The crumbly clay soil that had been dropped at the front of the building ready for the gardeners to wheelbarrow in through the side gate quickly turned into ridiculously heavy sludge that became almost impossible to move. However, everyone persevered, sometimes only moving a couple of wheelbarrows through, other times a morning’s worth and the new beds began to be filled, finally finishing just last week. Thankfully the woodchip was much easier to move!
Dee’s husband Ian was roped in to cut and build the raised beds and thanks to Catherine’s contacts, carpet offcuts were donated by the local carpet shop and various neighbours. These were cut and laid down to smother the grass and weeds before the woodchip was emptied on top of it.
During the Spring, Dee returned once more and she’s continued to advise and motivate us to do more in the garden. We’ve lots of plans.
The Youth Service are seeking funding to build a plastic bottle greenhouse which they’ll help the teenagers build using two litre drink bottles. We’re adding a tractor tyre pond and are hoping to build a green roof structure to cover the wheelie bins as well as add more tyre and pallet planters.
Catherine has entered the garden in the Pride of a Place competition and hopes that the gardeners will begin to grow plants for the front of the building and the surrounding estate. We’ll be planning a date for another garden party soon, only this year we’ll be inviting members of the new Carlow community garden network to join us as well as the local schools and tidy towns group.
Two new ladies Mary and Nicola have recently joined our group and more new faces are always welcome to join the regulars John, Susan, Siobhan, Esther, Dani, Frances, Catherine, John and Eamon.
We meet every Wednesday from 10am until 12 noon and donate 50 cent towards the tea and biscuits though we might have to look at ways of making a few cent more for the garden so we can buy seeds and compost next year. We welcome newcomers so don’t be shy if you’re tempted to join us.
The garden is an important part of our lives, apart from learning about flowers and vegetables it’s a place of laughter and friendship and of course a sense of community as its name suggests.