Respond’s Community Gardening Initiatives

Respond residents and staff have been busy setting up community gardens and allotments during the growing season:

Roof-Top Gardening Project at St Francis Gardens, Blackpool, Cork
The Blackpool roof-top gardening project began in St Francis Gardens in February 2011. The Residents take care of their rooftop garden oasis carefully and create a roster to ensure the correct care is available at all times. The plants and flowers are enjoyed by residents and clients of the Blackpool Day Care Centre and the vegetables grown are utilised by residents in their cooking. The area also creates a quiet space for the older residents to sit and relax in the spring and summer months.

A vegetable garden and flower garden was established on whatever roof space was available, all vegetables and flowers growing have been nurtured from seed and cultivated prior to planting out in the open. Classes commenced in February and run to July, rest for the summer months, but resume again in September – November for winter planting with Gardening. Classes take place every second Monday in Blackpool. The gardening classes are delivered yearly by Nicky Green who is a qualified horticulturist. He is ably assisted by Jacqui Kavanagh RSW and Derry Carey volunteer. Tutor hours are very gratefully paid for by Cork City VEC, however any costs associated with materials is paid for by Respond

The residents expanded the gardening project in 2012 to incorporate the planting of numerous bulbs within the communal garden space of the complex, this has enhanced the overall entrance to the development in the spring and has given the residents great pride and enjoyment.

The Project has been very successful with the residents and this year 2013 we are expanding to incorporate an area in the development to plant larger vegetables like cabbage, swede and potatoes.

Blackpool also opened a state of the art Biotech composter in 2007 by which not only solves food waste problems but converts organic waste into powder that is like gold dust for Respond local gardens enthusiasts.

Respond Community Allotments in Airmount, Waterford
The residents of the Respond Housing Community in Airmount are currently busy growing all types of produce in their community gardening allotments during the recent good weather. There are twenty allotments in the Airmount community complex that cater for residents living in various Respond estates throughout the city. In each estate throughout the country, Respond run a number of activation and socialisation programmes which in turn enable independent living. The allotments in Airmount are specially designed and are at a suitable height for older people and people with specific needs and requirements.

According to Eleanor Gaffney of Respond;

“There are enormous therapeutic benefits attributed to gardening and allotment programmes. It is a great social and recreational outlet for the residents to meet and share gardening tips and to build a greater spirit within the community”.

Respond are keen to highlight the support that we have received from the Waterford VEC who are based nearby in Ozanam Street. The VEC have kindly provided funding for a ten-week horticulture course which commenced on 12th April 2013.

Garden Allotments’ at St Joseph’s Gardens, Millstreet, Co. Cork
New Garden Allotments have been set-up in St Joseph’s Gardens, Millstreet, putting the vast garden area to good use, residents, with the support of Respond have developed a social gardening space. Although still in the early phases, the allotments already enjoy bright summer bedding flowers, onions, cabbages, berries as well as little plant from the Andes called ‘oka’.

Residents recently enjoyed a visit from the local ‘Secret Garden’ Centre gardener, Alan, who provided valuable gardening advice and tips. The allotment provides St Joseph’s Garden’s residents with a peaceful patch as well as a fruitful hobby.

Resident Support Worker Lynda O’ Donovan stated that “The gardening project in Millstreet has many exciting ventures planned so watch this space!!”

Longford’s Community Enhancement Gardening Project
The Longford Men’s Shed started the initial work (planning stage) of a community enhancement gardening project beside the Townspark Estate Community Building earlier this year. Three residents from the area then continued with this project and are working on its completion.

The residents plan to turn the unused garden, at the side of the Respond Community Building, into a Community Garden which can be enjoyed by the whole community. The ambitious plans include a tree planting scheme, seating areas and a water feature with raised flower beds throughout the estate

Respond Housing Association are providing the bulk of the funds required plus the actual space, while the participants are supplying the expertise, skills and actual physical work that will go into developing of the area.

According to David Parslow of Respond :

“Respond are delighted to be part of this project as it will provide a community space and an oasis of calm for all residents. The garden will also showcase what can be achieved by residents coming together for the greater good of their community”.

The local residents involved hope that others will join them, as a Respond Men’s Group.

Millennium Community Garden Project, Kilkenny
written by Penny Dwyer, Resident and Afterschool Childcare Manager
Our gardening project started in 2011, by a group of committee members who thought it would be a good way to get people together, learn to grow vegetables and also as a way to get local people to socialise together and have FUN. We really had no idea what we were doing and so we went ahead and put in eight raised beds, this would be easier as we would have no digging, just have to put the topsoil into them and we could start growing. Needless to say we didn’t have much of a crop that year and we also found it difficult to get people to engage.

So year two we had some meetings with some staff from Respond To see if they could give us some assistance on how to move our project forward where it was mentioned that we could apply for a tutor from the VEC and run a gardening course. We were very apprehensive about this as we knew that a lot of people would be put off as soon as the word “education” was mentioned but all agreed that it would be a way to focus the group and also allow us to achieve our goals of socialization, learning, positive mental health and most importantly have a bit of fun.

We started with 15 participants in February 2012 and had a great year learning about how to grow our own in an organic manner. We found over the course of the programme that being in the garden and working outdoors did wonders for our wellbeing, health and even helped with some of our fitness levels so now we were not only gaining from the social and fun side of the course but also from the healthy eating side, mental health side but also physical side, it was also good on our pockets as we divided whatever produce we grew between the members and whatever was left over was used by the resident afterschool service.

What makes our programme so unique is that when I say it is a community project, I really mean that the WHOLE community gets involved from the participants on the course to the children from the resident afterschool and youth services plus the local residents. Everyone has a part to play in the project and get involved in all aspects of it.

One of the memorable parts of the projects for me personally is when we grew some cauliflower and the children from the afterschool harvested a head from the garden, when we brought it inside to prepare it, one of the children stated that he didn’t know that that’s where you get cauliflower and when asked where he thought it came from he replied that his mammy always gets it from the shop. This for me was a great learning curve, not only that the children didn’t know where their vegetables came from but on another occasion there was a young lady that refused to eat any fruit or vegetables but when we picked some apples from the trees and washed them to share them she did try and liked it. This in turn meant that the project is a huge success in educating the children also. They loved harvesting all of the strawberries, broad beans, potatoes, onions etc….

This year the project has stepped up another gear in that we are still growing our vegetables and fruit but we are also learning about the care and maintenance of plants, we are planning on developing a wild, wooded area, a senses area, an insect hotel and a memorial garden to the front of our community centre. The participants in this project would say that they love the craic and banter from the time they arrive until they finish up. We have achieved our main objectives through running this project and much much more and would recommend anybody at a loose end to get involved in a community project like this near them we promise that you won’t be sorry….