SECTION: ORGANISATION SET-UP

0112092014 Setting up a Community Garden

Published: 12.09.2014 |
Last Updated: 08.02.2016
Derek
Derek
Derek O'Reilly

 Derek is Training Manager with the Carmichael Centre. He coordinates and delivers training and development programmes and customised training for boards and managers. Derek has been involved with the Governance Code Working Group since its inception and is on the Governance...

In early 2012 a group of people in our neighbourhood in Dublin’s North inner city came together to set up a community garden. This was prompted by a casual conversation between neighbours, and quickly led to the formation of a working group. The reason for the quick set-up was simple: we heard there were grants available from Dublin City Council and the deadline was only four weeks away!

In order to qualify for a grant we needed to get permission from the Parks Department to use an area in a nearby public park, form a committee, draw up a Constitution, set up a bank account and draw a plan for the garden. We also needed to call a public meeting in the locality and inform the local community forum of our plans. That first month was crazy. We were all busy with our own lives, but somehow found the time to get our act together.  An important part of this was identifying and talking to people who could make things happen, for example: a key decision-maker in the Parks Department; a local Councillor; people with experience in community work, writing grant applications, insurance, and of course gardening!

We managed to get the application in on time and were delighted to get the news shortly afterwards that we were successful. With the money in the bank, and the growing season almost upon us, we started building the garden. Again we were lucky to have access to people who knew what they were doing: building the raised beds, sourcing good soil and compost, getting the right tools, plants, seeds and seedlings, and all willing to give their time and energy freely to the project. The big advantage at the time was the level of local interest in the project. Many people in the community contributed in different ways, and even those who could not roll up their sleeves for the heavy work gave a huge amount of encouragement, including cups of fresh coffee and doughnuts on cold Saturday mornings.

The excitement continued over the first growing season when the garden started to take shape. We learned quickly what would do well and not so well, and what crops were easier to grow than others. We had a huge stroke of good fortune when a neighbouring business offered to give us access to their water supply via a stand pipe. That was probably the single biggest contribution to the success of the garden. It meant that we had an unlimited supply of water which kept the garden growing and producing all summer long.

Our first setback was anti-social behaviour in the garden at night. We had gone to a great deal of trouble to design and build a garden bench, which was meant to be the focal point of the garden. To our consternation, we started to discover drinks cans, used syringes and other drugs paraphernalia thrown among the vegetables. We spoke to the Gardaí, but soon realised that this was part of a much bigger and rapidly growing problem throughout the area. A serious implication for us was health and safety for both volunteers and visitors to the garden. After much soul-searching we agreed to remove our beautiful park bench. To our surprise, it worked. The garden was no longer a focal point for groups coming through the park at night.

Inevitably our garden has gone through peaks and troughs. Sometimes it’s a hive of activity and sometimes we are badly stuck for help. But despite all this, we manage to keep it going. Its rhythm is a bit like the seasons, sometimes bursting with energy and sometimes slowly ticking along. Our committee is also involved directly in the garden. That’s important, as they can see what the important issues are, what needs to be prioritised and what makes the garden successful. The encouragement we get from passers-by reminds us it is worth all the effort. One elderly gentleman who comes by regularly simply said: “The garden has given tremendous joy.” Long may it last!

 

My Top Tips
Top Tips
1
Identify key stakeholders and get them on-side quickly, e.g. people living near the garden, other community groups, local businesses, statutory supports.
2
Getting a committee together with motivation and commitment is essential. There is no point starting if people are not going to see it through.
3
If people can’t pull together, there is a real risk they will become demotivated and the project will fizzle out. Everyone needs to be patient and understanding of each other, especially in the early stages.
4
People need to understanding that there is work involved which takes time and energy.
5
If there are set-backs, people need to think creatively about how to overcome them.
6
Make sure the committee has a good mix of experience and expertise, i.e. people who can plan, manage finances, make decisions and do hands-on work.
7
Make sure you get your communication sorted out early on: a simple website with lots of pictures is worth the effort and can be the main source of information and updates. It is also a useful “window” into the garden.
Suggested reading
1
Dublin Community Forum, 2010, The Dublin City Guide to Community Gardening, Department of Community & Enterprise, Dublin
2
Carmichael Centre, 2006, Setting up a New Voluntary or Community Group, Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups, Dublin
SECTION 0: ORGANISATION SET-UP

0112092014 Setting up a Community Garden

Published: 12.09.2014 |
Last Updated: 08.02.2016
Derek
Derek
Derek O'Reilly

 Derek is Training Manager with the Carmichael Centre. He coordinates and delivers training and development programmes and customised training for boards and managers. Derek has been involved with the Governance Code Working Group since its inception and is on the Governance...

My Top Tips
My Top Tips
My Top Tips
1
Identify key stakeholders and get them on-side quickly, e.g. people living near the garden, other community groups, local businesses, statutory supports.
2
Getting a committee together with motivation and commitment is essential. There is no point starting if people are not going to see it through.
3
If people can’t pull together, there is a real risk they will become demotivated and the project will fizzle out. Everyone needs to be patient and understanding of each other, especially in the early stages.
4
People need to understanding that there is work involved which takes time and energy.
5
If there are set-backs, people need to think creatively about how to overcome them.
6
Make sure the committee has a good mix of experience and expertise, i.e. people who can plan, manage finances, make decisions and do hands-on work.
7
Make sure you get your communication sorted out early on: a simple website with lots of pictures is worth the effort and can be the main source of information and updates. It is also a useful “window” into the garden.
Suggested reading
Suggested Reading
Suggested Reading
1
Dublin Community Forum, 2010, The Dublin City Guide to Community Gardening, Department of Community & Enterprise, Dublin
2
Carmichael Centre, 2006, Setting up a New Voluntary or Community Group, Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups, Dublin

In early 2012 a group of people in our neighbourhood in Dublin’s North inner city came together to set up a community garden. This was prompted by a casual conversation between neighbours, and quickly led to the formation of a working group. The reason for the quick set-up was simple: we heard there were grants available from Dublin City Council and the deadline was only four weeks away!

In order to qualify for a grant we needed to get permission from the Parks Department to use an area in a nearby public park, form a committee, draw up a Constitution, set up a bank account and draw a plan for the garden. We also needed to call a public meeting in the locality and inform the local community forum of our plans. That first month was crazy. We were all busy with our own lives, but somehow found the time to get our act together.  An important part of this was identifying and talking to people who could make things happen, for example: a key decision-maker in the Parks Department; a local Councillor; people with experience in community work, writing grant applications, insurance, and of course gardening!

We managed to get the application in on time and were delighted to get the news shortly afterwards that we were successful. With the money in the bank, and the growing season almost upon us, we started building the garden. Again we were lucky to have access to people who knew what they were doing: building the raised beds, sourcing good soil and compost, getting the right tools, plants, seeds and seedlings, and all willing to give their time and energy freely to the project. The big advantage at the time was the level of local interest in the project. Many people in the community contributed in different ways, and even those who could not roll up their sleeves for the heavy work gave a huge amount of encouragement, including cups of fresh coffee and doughnuts on cold Saturday mornings.

The excitement continued over the first growing season when the garden started to take shape. We learned quickly what would do well and not so well, and what crops were easier to grow than others. We had a huge stroke of good fortune when a neighbouring business offered to give us access to their water supply via a stand pipe. That was probably the single biggest contribution to the success of the garden. It meant that we had an unlimited supply of water which kept the garden growing and producing all summer long.

Our first setback was anti-social behaviour in the garden at night. We had gone to a great deal of trouble to design and build a garden bench, which was meant to be the focal point of the garden. To our consternation, we started to discover drinks cans, used syringes and other drugs paraphernalia thrown among the vegetables. We spoke to the Gardaí, but soon realised that this was part of a much bigger and rapidly growing problem throughout the area. A serious implication for us was health and safety for both volunteers and visitors to the garden. After much soul-searching we agreed to remove our beautiful park bench. To our surprise, it worked. The garden was no longer a focal point for groups coming through the park at night.

Inevitably our garden has gone through peaks and troughs. Sometimes it’s a hive of activity and sometimes we are badly stuck for help. But despite all this, we manage to keep it going. Its rhythm is a bit like the seasons, sometimes bursting with energy and sometimes slowly ticking along. Our committee is also involved directly in the garden. That’s important, as they can see what the important issues are, what needs to be prioritised and what makes the garden successful. The encouragement we get from passers-by reminds us it is worth all the effort. One elderly gentleman who comes by regularly simply said: “The garden has given tremendous joy.” Long may it last!