The first community garden in Dublin was established along the Grand Canal in Dolphins Barn in 2005. This squatted garden acted as a knowledge sharing point for a number of activists and people living in the community at the time. The project is still ongoing in Dolphin’s Barn but has moved to a different site on the South Circular Road. Other successful community gardens in Dublin are The Sitric Road Community Garden and The Finglas Commmunity Garden. There are also a few up and coming garden projects planned in Summer Hill, Cherry Orchard and Phibsboro. It is clear from the success of these projects that the community gardens are very effective in their ability to create community cohesion and socio-political awareness.
Community gardens offer a way for us to re-create and re-think our cities and the way we use them. The economic downturn is an ideal opportunity to start looking at creating these community gardens. They allow us build on our individual horticultural knowledge; they create communities that will cultivate respect for one another and they support one another as well as supporting the environment.
Here are some basic steps to show how a community garden can get started:
1.Find a potential site.
a) Squat the site. The good thing about this is that the project can hit the ground running when the time comes. The bad thing is, naturally enough, that you may be evicted if you do not own the site.
b) Obtain relevant permissions. The community garden in this case got use of a site while it was lying dormant. The site already had planning permission to build an apartment complex but development had been stalled. In the current economic climate there is far greater potential for cultivating these type of sites, at least in the short term. You can also contact local city councillors and officers and find out from them if there is potential land available for particular projects. Publicly owned land is our common. Communities should have the right to have access and make decisions on how this land is used.
2. Test the soil. Before planting anything it would be a good idea to get the soil tested for contaminants.
3. Advertise for community interest in community centres or libraries, flyers, ask neighbours living near the site to help out.
4. Start clearing the site. People will naturally be attracted to a project if they see you working on the site and you never know, may even join you.
5. Collaborate and plan out the garden. Each member will bring a different skill set that will enhance the direction of the project.
6. Start collective composting. A good way to get people involved is to invite neighbours to put their compost in a collective compost bin on the site. (This is how the Sitric Garden in Stoney Batter got started)
7. Et voila…. you have created your community garden.