Registration and bookings are now open for the first of our 2017 events.
We’re starting the year by visiting County Offaly where CG Ireland are being hosted by Birr Community Growery. Kevin Dudley of Cloughjordan Farm will be demonstrating Orchard Care and we’re also including a Panel Discussion and Community Garden Q & A for all your community gardening queries. Here’s the info:
About The Growery
The Growery is a community based food commons project based in the heart of the midlands at Birr , in Co.Offaly.
As per the first principle of all commons, their model is simple, any who contribute can draw from the commons in due proportion . This initiative began as an effort to restore to good health of its founder after a 6 year bout of debilitating Crohns disease (this is Eimhin’s first year since 2008 not to be hospitalised – it’s working!)
Today the Growery team work with a number of sites welcoming Mental Health groups, Intellectual Disability groups, school groups, growers, gardeners, and the wider community to participate in their efforts to restore the conscious link between soil, gut, and soul. In 2017 they will open their first formally ‘social’ or ‘community’ garden. They are developing work with the Education and Training Board, Engineers Without Borders, and the Irish Archaeological Field School, to name a few. 2017 will be their third year.
These days, Kevin is one of the full-time farmers at Cloughjordan Community Farm, and helps to oversee the hundreds of native apple trees in Cloughjordan Ecovillage. Working with the beautiful old trees in The Growery’s walled gardens, Kevin will be giving practical demonstrations and expert advice on pruning, training and all aspects of orchard maintenance, giving you the confidence to go home and work on your own trees this season.
Panel Discussion and Community Garden Q & A
By request, we’re adding a new feature to our gathering and workshop day – an expert panel Q & A session. Here’s your opportunity to ask any question you can think of that will help get your community out there and growing with you.
If you’re planning on joining us we really need you to book your place for two reasons:
1: We need to know how many people will be there on the day to make sure there will be enough room… and enough tea!… for everyone.
2: CG Ireland does not, at the moment, receive any funding and all of our staff work as volunteers. Your contribution covers running costs for the day, and we couldn’t do it without you!
We like to make our events fair and affordable for everyone, so there are three pricing options:
The Standard Supporter – €25.00
This covers all of the running costs for the day, and includes the price of workshops, talks, a light lunch and all other refreshments.
The Skint Supporter – €5.00
We’d hate anyone to feel excluded just because they’re strapped for cash, so this option covers the cost of lunch and refreshments and you get all the talks and workshops for free. PLEASE, respect the hard work that the CG Ireland crew do and ONLY use this option if you genuinely can’t afford the full price.
The Super Supporter – €40.00
Maybe you’ve had a good week. Maybe you’re feeling a bit flush. Maybe you could consider paying a little extra to support not just this event, but all of the work that CG Ireland does all around the country, all through the year. If you can afford it we’d be eternally grateful for your contribution!
The National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford have been working hard to build a framework of guidelines for local communities, gardens, farmers, local councils, business and transport networks that will help us all make best practice decisions, benefiting pollinators in Ireland and helping to restore declining numbers. As a result, they have begun publishing Action Plans aimed at the different sectors.
While there are many things we can do to encourage and protect pollinators in our gardens, some action points will be easier to adopt than others and some community gardens will follow the guidelines faster than others. There’s no doubt that ingrained mind sets will be challenged and there will be resistance to some of the suggestions. We might find it easy to add the recommended plants to community gardens or build bug hotels for pollinators but when it comes to chemical use:
“We don’t have the time or the manpower to weed without spraying”, “we like tidy gardens without weeds”, “what else can we do to get rid of the greenfly or spider mite if we don’t spray?” or “I’ve always sprayed my tomatoes to prevent fungus and fertilised my lawn, why would I stop now?”
We have a massive challenge ahead of us. Pollinators are declining at an alarming rate and whilst many people are aware that the bees are in trouble, asking gardeners to give up their pesticides in favour of organic methods is another matter. Often it’s a simple case of people not knowing how to make the changes or what the alternatives are, in which case we’ve suggestions below on how to address that.
In the meantime, if you’d like to help pollinators survive and see their numbers grow once more, here’s a non-exhaustive list of 5 things you can begin to do now in your community garden or allotment that will help. All of the recommendations from the National Biodiversity Data Centre are as a result of solid research. We hope that between us we can help to save the bees!
No 1. Become a ‘community garden of excellence’
We don’t mean become a ‘perfect’ garden, more a place that people can go to for advice on how to garden for pollinators. The National Biodiversity Data Centre have published LOTS of tips and advice in their best practice guide. Become familiar with it and help promote it to gardeners everywhere. Offer workshops (see below), print out materials, put up signage, become a GOLDEN garden. Basically do anything you can think of that will help to educate yourselves and others about pollinators.
To achieve GOLD garden status community gardens will have to meet certain criteria which include the following criteria:
Have at least five different types of pollinator friendly plants for EACH SEASON. Planting suggestions can be found on the RHS website or in the table below.
Pollinators need flowers that produce lots of nectar and pollen to survive for energy and protein and just like we experience ‘hunger gaps’ in our vegetable gardens, pollinators suffer the same in the wild. Planting flowers for them out of season will help but actively choosing pollinator friendly plants over those that aren’t will make a difference too.
Bulbs are a great way of introducing pollinator friendly spring flowers. In the autumn plant Snowdrops, Crocus, Allium, Grape Hyacinth and the Bishop series of single flowered Dahlia.
Choose single instead of double variety plants which don’t contain any nectar or pollen.
Perennial plants are generally better sources of pollen and nectar than annuals. Traditional bedding plants like Geraniums, Begonias, Busy Lizzy and Petunias have virtually no pollen and nectar. Try planting other annuals such as Poached Egg Plant, Cosmos, Alyssum, Floss Flower and Night Scented Stocks instead. Trailing Verbena, Bellflowers, Wallflowers and Aubrietia will grow in window boxes year after year as will herbs such as Chives, Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, Marjoram and Thyme.
Still not sure? Keep an eye out in ornamental flower gardens and garden centres for the plants that the bees are visiting and choose those.
Allow some of your Brassica plants to flower and plant green manures after you harvest crops. These are fantastic not only for the garden soil but are a great source of food for pollinators. Buckwheat and Phacelia are particular favourites.
Create nesting habitats for solitary bees – for both cavity nesting AND mining bees.
Solitary mining bees need areas of bare ground to be able to burrow into the soil and create nests. Scrape away some grass in flat, sunny spots to create these areas. Scrape back vegetation that grows on south or east facing slopes for mining bees that prefer to nest in those conditions.
A small number of Irish solitary bees like to nest in cavities. If you’re growing raspberries, leave some of the old canes unpruned for them, buy or make a solitary bee hotel or drill south or east facing holes 10mm deep, 4-8mm in diameter at least 1.5-2m high for them.
Bumblebees often nest in the long grass at the base of flowering hedgerows. If you’ve space, consider planting Hazel, Willow, Blackthorn and Hawthorn. Once they’re growing, cut on a three-year rotation (outside of the bird breeding season), avoid cutting all the hedges in the same year so that some are always flowering and let the grass grow long at the base of the hedges – don’t spray with herbicides. If the area needs to be cut, do so between September and March to avoid disturbing nests.
Protect existing sources of food and shelter for pollinators
When there are lots of people working in a community garden, particularly if it’s a small garden, it can be tempting to tidy it up to perfection but we are being encouraged to think differently. Leave patches of weedy plants and if you’ve space, plant wildflower areas, flowering hedgerows and add small dry stone walls that will provide shelter for pollinators. Brambles, clover, thistles, ivy, nettles and dandelions are important food sources for all types of pollinators.
Biodiversity Ireland recommend that we completely eliminate the use of ALL pesticides in our gardens
Pesticides include insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. ALL of these can be harmful to pollinators, either directly or by damaging the plants and habitats they depend on.
Use alternative barriers for pests such as netting or physically remove them. Choose pest resistant varieties of seeds and plant in the correct season for the plants to avoid attracting pests.
Don’t use treated plants or seeds (read the small print). Some will have been treated with systemic insecticides call neonicotinoids that research suggests is harmful to pollinators.
Don’t use herbicides on laws or on verges as these often contain plants or areas that are important for pollinators to feed and nest in.
Plant to encourage pollinators that feed on garden pests. Hoverflies feed on aphids so plant flowers that will attract hoverflies close to others that attract aphids.
No. 2 Pass on the information
Share this article with your fellow community gardeners or allotment holders. Mention the pollinator plan at committee meetings or during the tea break and have a conversation about it. Create and publish guidelines for your community garden that encourage an ethos of chemical free gardening around the entire space and not just in the growing beds. Start questioning the use of chemicals outside of your community garden at playgrounds, sports pitches, in your own gardens and balconies as well as garden verges.
No. 4 Learn to identify pollinators in your garden and help to monitor them
Once you’re growing plants in your gardens that attract pollinators, learn to identify them. The Pollinator Plan website has lots of resources that will help with identification and you can get even more involved by becoming part of the All-Ireland Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme, a citizen science initiative managed by the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
No. 5 Sign Up for Our Newsletter
We recently published our core values that include “encouraging all member community gardens to follow organic principles and protect biodiversity, promoting good environmental practice and awareness”. Over the coming months we hope to help you do that by offering advice, links to best practices, workshop opportunities and more. Sign up for our newsletter and keep up to date with our activities.
Let us know how you’re getting on, if you have any difficulties or successes and we’ll share them where we can on social media.
With thanks to Dee Sewell of Greenside Up for writing this article. Dee is a qualified organic horticulture tutor based in Carlow/Kilkenny and Chair of CG Ireland.
Two or three times a year people involved with social community gardens from around the country meet up to network, chat and learn from one another. The get-togethers are free, anyone interested in social community gardening is welcome and we often share a potluck lunch; no better way to relax and form friendships than sharing food.
Following a survey of community garden needs a couple of years ago, we now include a workshop element which so far has covered topics ranging from seed saving, plant division and conflict management. Last year in County Kilkenny the topic was Funding and it became apparent that creating County community garden networks that feed into the national one (cgn.ie) would not only help local volunteers by spreading the workload, they would also be of great benefit to local communities, attracting funds, giving them access to local environmental and social inclusion groups, as well as offering more opportunities for education and support.
Creating Local Community Garden Networks
A few weeks ago Suzie Cahn of Carriag Dulra organised a very popular informal get together of Wicklow social food growers and the following week, Dee Sewell of Greenside Up organised another workshop when she invited community gardens in Carlow to meet for a few days; the day was more successful than she envisaged and Dee shares below the outcome.
The Carlow Community Garden Network
Thanks to Local Agenda 21 funding, on a cool Saturday in April several volunteers from community gardens in the county came together in the two acre community garden being created in Carlow Town, An Gairdin Beo and met one another for the first time. They heard about each others projects, listened to three speakers who talked about social inclusion and social farming, food sovereignty, food co-ops and community supported agriculture schemes, as well as the network of Dublin Community Growers and the service An Taisce offers to community gardens. After sharing food the representatives sat and brainstormed several topics ranging from funding, marketing, events and volunteers.
The outcome of the Carlow event was that each community garden agreed to talk to their respective groups with the idea of planning and hosting an event each during the coming year. They would then invite all the other county community gardeners to it, as well as invite local schools, tidy towns groups and anyone else in their areas they think might benefit.
To ensure a wide range of topics that include outdoor environmental education as well as growing food and flowers, some of the suggested events included organising a biodiversity walk, BBQ, horticultural training, film nights, harvest festival, cookery demonstration, food waste and composting talk and demonstration, pallet seat making, meitheals, food preserving talks, bird and bat talks, bug hotel building, integration and social inclusion events, outdoor shelter building and plastic greenhouse builds.
A Facebook group was set up and an email list created with a coordinator from each garden agreeing to pass information both to the gardens and to the national network of community gardens (CGN).
If this ‘bottom up’ approach works, the impact that the County networks could have on local communities could be tremendous. Instead of a local event attracting just a handful of people, they will have the potential to include many more, with members of all the gardens helping to publicise one another’s events and visit one another.
As the activities become more popular, by default they will attract new people into the community gardens as locals become curious. Funding and tutoring opportunities will grow as the numbers begin to swell and interest peaks, with more people becoming interested in local food, wildlife and environmental projects making public and community participation more meaningful.
Joanne Lindsay Butler from OURganic Gardens will be hosting a similar event in Donegal on Thursday, 19th May from 2.30pm to 4pm thanks to funding from Changemakers which will hopefully result in another network being created.
Dee Sewell is a community garden tutor as well as a voluntary coordinator of the CGN. Dee has worked with 14 community gardening projects in Carlow, Kilkenny and Laois, talked at music and garden festivals and events and published several articles about community gardening in Ireland.
When you plant a tiny seed and cover it with earth, you never know just how big it will grow. The same thing happened to The Moy Hill Community Garden.
A couple of years ago, a kind man generously gave us a small patch of land just outside of Lahinch in County Clare. It was matted with brambles and rushes but with the help of a few friends and a hungry pig called Holly, we began to clear it bit by bit. It began to transform before our very eyes, people came and went, strangers became friends and soon it became a beautiful garden full of flowers, vegetables and the buzzing of bees.
A wise man once told me ‘if you do good things, good things will happen’ and not a word could be truer in describing the success of The Moy Hill Community Garden.
Today the garden is owned by the community and is open to anyone and everyone. Whether it’s to plant a flower or simply sit on the bench and watch the world go by in Lahinch Bay, its open every day all year round. The garden’s roots have grown deep within the local community and this has not just happened by magic.
During the garden’s first Summer we held weekly cook-ups open to all that wanted to come and share some fresh vegetables from the garden and meet up with other like-minded people. Last Summer we were blown away by how many people came to the cook ups, from grandsons to grandfathers, it was incredible to see how such a space could bring all different types of people together. We began to realise how important good food is and that it should be accessible and affordable for everyone, so now every Friday in the growing season we offer a variety of vegetables in the garden on a donation basis.
It didn’t just stop at food though, the garden became a space for music where we held outdoor concerts in the amphitheater. It became a space for learning where we put on weekly kid’s activities up-cycling wellies and planting sunflowers. It became a space where anything is possible and this is what the garden has taught us.
So if you are ever passing through County Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way, stop into the garden, make yourself a cuppa and enjoy the view.
For more information on the garden and to sign up to our newsletter so we can keep you posted on any upcoming events visit www.growing.ie.
Our next Community Garden Networking Event and Workshop will be taking place in Ballymun, Dublin on Sunday, 18th October from 9.45 until 4.30 ish.
We have a great line up of people and topics, including a seed pollination, propagation and saving workshop, as well as discussions and chats about community gardening in general and supporting one another.
We’ll also be looking at the relationship between the Community Garden Network and other groups, bodies and NGOs involved with community gardening in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
This is a free event but if you have a bit of cash to spare, all donations gratefully received as they help us with the upkeep of the website and forum as well as to accommodate these networking events. Refreshments will be provided but if you can, bring a small lunch and a bit extra to share for a round table social meal.
If you’d like to join us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register and for directions. Anyone interested in learning from one another and promoting community gardening welcome.