Community gardening: a perfect pandemic pastime

Many of us are stuck at home with extra time on our hands. Nathan Davies discusses a safe and fulfilling pastime that many have turned to in recent months: community gardening.

Photo taken by Nathan Davies

The past decade has seen a steady rise in the number of community-run gardens being planted in Ireland. In the last year, however, this hobby has grown even further as a wholesome pastime during trying times.

Whether you have a spacious back garden or even just a south-facing window, there is plenty of room to plant some greenery.

For those with more ambition though, renting a plot in a local community garden is a perfect way to exercise your green fingers.

Unlike personal gardens or public gardens, community gardens are allotments given to a local community to do with as they please. Locals rent out spaces to grow whatever they desire – some people tend to flowers and rare plants to make the garden prettier, while others grow fruits and vegetables for harvest.

A volunteer-run organisation, Community Gardens Ireland, was set up in 2012 to oversee community gardens in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. The organisation promotes the building of new gardens and supports them financially. The CG Ireland Facebook page boasts almost 4,000 followers and is updated daily with photos from gardeners nationwide who are proud of their work.

Importantly, CG Ireland have put in place rules to ensure that participation in community gardens is as safe as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic. All activities are held outdoors, and many gardens have been reorganised to allow people to work on their plots while remaining socially distanced. Despite this, many gardens were temporarily closed off over the summer, but have since been reopened and remain open during the second lockdown.

Social Democrats Councillor Joan Hopkins oversees the Baldoyle Racecourse Community Garden. She explained: “The garden was started in 2013 with some help from the council.”

“It doesn’t look like much now in December, but it comes up lovely in the warmer months. There are people in the area working on it throughout the year.”

The garden is growing bigger every year according to Hopkins; however, the community is making sure that it stays as eco-friendly as possible.

“Everything in the garden is either upcycled or recycled out of plastic and old wood,” said Hopkins.

The effort that locals have gone to maintain the garden is striking – they recently strung together an entire shed out of upcycled water bottles. They put soil on the top of a second shed to allow for a roof-garden.

The work that the volunteers in Baldoyle put into their garden saw them win the Community Spirit Award in 2018 along with a €2,000 prize from Dublin Bus.

The rise in interest in gardening has many causes. In 2020, it is a safe and fulfilling hobby – one that you can reap the rewards of in several months’ time.

However, it also comes from the rise in demand for organic foods as well as food that has been produced with a low carbon footprint. Those who plant, grow, and harvest their own food can rest assured that they are eating the most natural food possible and enjoy themselves along the way.

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