In association with Donegal Community Gardens Network, OURGanic Gardens and CG Ireland, we are pleased to bring our July event to Gortahork in Donegal. Bookings are NOW OPEN ON EVENTBRITE for the event on Sunday, 9th July 2017
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.
Spring is in the air at OURganic Gardens!
The following article is from Joanne Butler of OURganic gardens. Joanne is a horticultural tutor who is working with seven community gardens in Donegal (yes 7!). Joanne is self-employed and works mostly through community groups and other organisations funded by the Education Training Board. OURganic Gardens was created as a central point of contact for all the Donegal community gardeners in 2013 and currently has over 150 gardeners that have attended courses and events in Donegal. Funding to help the gardens to date has been received through GIY and Local agenda 21.
Community Gardens Springing into life!
Things are starting to get busy at OURganic Gardens at home and in the community gardens. Since most of the community gardens don’t kick off until mid-March I’ve had to begin at home sowing seeds for seven groups! It’s an OCD’s nightmare to be honest but I’m still managing to get everything sown on time.
I find it much easier to get a head start on some veggies here at home where I can look after them carefully … or at least try! Organisation is key and keeping records is very important. This year, as with every year, I make a determined effort to stay on top of labels , dates and notes (If I make it to April I’ll be doing well); but seriously having the notes to look back on and see what has and hasn’t worked is well worth the effort in the long run.
Creating a Network of Community Gardens
OURganic Gardens is about to start its fourth year and while creating a network of community gardens in Donegal I have learnt so much, and not just about growing veggies.
Community gardening is about people. Bringing like-minded people together and seeing the excitement that their first seedling brings, as well as the hope of the future it holds, is nearly as exciting as a load of well-rotted manure (I do say nearly mind).
Sometimes I get asked what’s the most important thing about starting a community garden and I have to say it’s the community. Yes, you need a site, insurance and all the legal stuff but once you have a group of people who want to make a garden a shared space open to all, as well as a difference in their community, then you’re well on your way. Trust me that’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Thanks to Local Agenda 21, this year OURganic Gardens has secured a small bit funding for seeds, soil and spuds for all the community gardens and gardeners that take part in the courses throughout the year.
I’ll shortly be facilitating seven community gardens for various community centers and projects, as well as my own on site garden here at home, which I’m super excited about.
I asked a few local gardeners to set up a committee and to make sure everyone can see it’s all above-board, we’ve drawn up a lease agreement for the community garden for one Pea (yes, Pea) a year 😉
Lets hope we at least manage to get that much growing!
With a bit of deep digging we will have our insurance sorted in the coming weeks so will soon be good to go. Again, all we need is the people, which with a bit of word spreading and unadulterated advertising (which I cannot get funding for) OURganic Garden’s hope is to entice gardeners of all ages and capabilities to take part this year.
Gardening courses about to start
So, with garden plans in back pocket, I’ll be off to my first six-week garden course which starts on Monday, 14th March in Dunfanaghy Resource Centre. After that I kick off in Falcarragh gardenTuesday 15th March at 9.30, Portanoo and Ardara on the 16th March, Gortahork (my own community garden) on the 7th April, Mountcharles on the 8th April and Ards walled garden project on the 9th April. It will be a busy few weeks but I hope the weather is kind to (all of) us and that we Spring happily into a glorious summer in the Donegal community gardens.
Joanne is the Donegal Rep for the community garden network and can be contacted on 0861789971 or @OURganic on Twitter or OURganic Gardens in Facebook. Take a look at our map for locations of the community gardens in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
If you’d like to share your community gardening story with our readers and help others with their community gardening plans and ideas, please get in touch.
Food Traditions in Ireland
Ireland has long been recognised for its culture, the beauty of its landscapes and seascapes, the buzz if its cities, and the warmth of its people. Now visitors are coming for its food too.
As a healthy travel option, Ireland has a natural, honest approach to food that’s rooted in tradition and worth making the journey for. From its mild climate, clean seas, fertile soil and high rainfall we have some of the best raw local ingredients in the world. Wonderful wild food foraged from hedgerows and forests and greens picked that same day add to the vibrant freshness of the local food plate.
More and more menus are starting to reflect their surroundings as a new pride in local food culture is emerging and East Clare is no exception.
History of East Clare Community Co-op
East Clare Community Co-operative in County Clare has been in existence for 28 years. It has been the starting point for a number of educational, community, social and entrepreneurial activities and has a strong proven track record of being able to deliver useful and lasting change in the community.
One of these useful developments was Scariff Community Garden which began as a joint initiative of the Co-op and the local Brothers of Charity in 2000. The Co-op had secured a long-term lease on a property centrally situated on Main Street, Scariff with Garden at the rear.
The neighbouring Garden was donated for Community use and a third strip leased off a neighbour, so together the three gardens form Scariff Community Garden roughly a third of an acre with 2 poly tunnels, a Food Theatre Barn area with stage, a men’s shed with wood fired pizza oven inside, a hazel hut, a stone tiled poets circle area, stony steps made with local men on a Community Education course, a permaculture area, forest garden area, and several raised and flat beds with fruit, nuts and vegetables growing all year round.
Some of the developments were volunteer led and created and some have been a joint initiative of the paid staff and volunteers. Talking of staff, in 2007, Pobal funded a part time gardeners position under the Community Services Programme and this was key to securing consistent crops and the development of some kind of plan for the future.
The RSS scheme provided another part-time post in 2013 and with this full-time equivalent, new developments in the garden have been possible with pockets of funding, donations and plants and food sales from the Garden helping to resource the work.
Over the years CLDC, the local Community development company have used the Garden as a place of learning as part of their horticultural courses and this has enabled some areas to be landscaped. But overall, the garden has evolved organically with the time, energy and vision of the people who have come and added their bit, whether weeding, laying paths, or mosaicing areas to beautify the space, so many hands, hearts and minds have contributed to the garden-saving seeds, singing songs, planting, digging, weeding, weaving, shaping the Garden’s future one action at a time…
Social and Educational
Our Community Garden is the hub of the community, drawing together people from all walks of life, breaking down barriers and allowing neighbours who would not normally meet to come together and share an interest in gardening and nature.
From an educational point of view, the Community Garden can draw out people’s hidden gifts and talents. It can help to increase people’s awareness of the local environment, social activities that are available, the local wildlife, as well as bringing awareness of local enterprises and what they are contributing to the locality.
At ground level in the planting and management of crops, we all encounter similar problems, and discovering what works, what does not work and why, are some of the challenges that all gardens and gardeners face. With all these elements in mind it is easy to see the potential benefit of sharing experiences between different communities.
We have a vision to move Scariff Community Garden forward to enrich the already abundant produce of the garden with a wider variety of fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants, to nurture further our outreach into the community and to really celebrate the unique gifts and qualities that the garden has to offer all of us.
We are offering access to the skills pool we have here in County Clare through our own garden activities. This is an exciting time in the development of the Garden and the Community Co-op as a whole.
And we have a Café…
Our beautiful garden meanders around vegetable beds, fruit trees and bushes and growing tunnels. You can talk to our gardeners while they work and join in with them if you feel like it. Then take yourself indoors to our Garden Café where we serve the best of vegetarian and raw food. Expertly prepared, served simply and fresh as can be is what East Clare Community Co-op’s Garden Café is all about.
Our food is grown on site so producing our own food in the backyard is as fresh and local as it gets. Local people are involved and we like to share our expertise and our food. It’s a simple place with no airs and graces. Also our Garden Café has the best of raw ingredients on site in the Community Garden but it’s the warm and welcoming people who turn this great Café into an experience that visitors will always remember.
All other food served in the Café that doesn’t come from the garden is locally sourced, such as our fresh spelt and gluten-free breads which are made in the next village. Five miles door to door. Tourists love it too, with Summer pop up bistros in the on-site Kitchen/Dining community facility( using garden and other local produce) providing a delicious and relaxing way to sample the food whilst viewing the garden.
There’s the chance to meet our local producers on Fridays when we have our local small holders market. Stay and have a chat, there’s always time to talk. Why not ask and learn about their traditional methods of baking! People will be glad to share and it will come from the heart.
As a co-operative community we believe in these small local producers and this is what makes the whole experience personal. It’s these generations of artisan producers that turn this great natural larder around us into masterpieces and experiences that visitors will always remember. If you have a day without a plan, call to see us.
We like to think that we are open and accessible to everybody and that our environment can be a place to chill out and relax – we certainly love it!
Please call in and have a chat and learn more about our ongoing development. You can find more about our Community Co-operative and Garden and all the work we are doing in Scariff on our website as well as contact details and opening hours.
If you’d like to know more about community gardening in Ireland and how others operate their gardens, please subscribe to the blog and keep up with the in-focus posts over the coming months. If you’re running a community garden and would like to share news about your own project, please contact us and we’ll be pleased to help promote you.