What’s all this community gardening about then? This week marks Strawberry Week here in Ireland as the Sunny South East and other strawberry producers all over the country prepare to market their delicious strawberries at roadside stalls, farmers markets and in supermarkets. Strawberries are one of the plants that somehow manages to survive in my own garden and produce a reasonable amount of fruit each year. I wish I could say the same for my attempts at growing carrots (stunted as I hadn’t dug the ground enough not to mention the carrot fly) and cabbages (I didn’t protect them enough from catarpillars).
Vegetable growing has become very popular, not just because people want to produce some of their own food but they feel better, physically and emotionally, from having spent time digging the soil. It’s good exercise too so there’s been an emphasis on getting people of all ages, young and old, out into the gardens – to improve their fitness and their mental health.
However, what do you do if you don’t have a garden or if your garden is too small? Yes, you can grow vegetables in containers but there’s that satisfaction from seeing vegetables and flowers flourishing in ground that you dug over and weeded. At least that is what I tell myself as I groan when trying to straighten my back! Lack of space can be one obstacle, lack of knowledge can be another. While it might seem quite easy when reading the back of a seed packet, there seems to be more to it than meets the eye. That’s where community gardening come in.
Community gardens are used by communities to work together in a space, to often create a vegetable garden from an unkempt piece of land. Providers sometimes have funding to engage a trainer to facilitate the community garden which means they train those who want to learn. A group of people can sign up to attend the weekly classes, they learn together, they share the workload during the week, they harvest the fruits of their labour and they get to know each other better. A wonderfully fun and educational activity.
Here’s one example of how it works in practice. Dee of Greenside Up offers training in vegetable growing and works with many community gardens. This post explains how people can come together to set up a community garden or if they hear about one, what they will learn if they decide to join. What Dee has found is that while some groups tend to be quite similar in their demographics, e.g. over 55s, young mums, 20-35 year olds, some groups have been very mixed in terms of age, knowledge and background so the community gardening really does what it says on the tin, it brings communities together.
Dee has also worked with the Delta Centre and other organisations where they have flowerbed and vegetables beds at the appropriate height for wheelchair users so there are very few excuses. All you need to is a wish to learn how to garden (and a raincoat of course!)
Have you taken part in community gardening before? We’d love to hear if you decide to join one this summer.
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