Ballybane Community Garden

The Ballybane Community Organic Garden is organised through the Ballybane/Mervue Community Development Project (CDP). It was set up in 2006 by the Galway Healthy Cities Forum (Galway City Development Board). The project is funded by RAPID, Health Promotion Services, HSE West and City of Galway VEC. 

with Gerry Folan, member of the Ballybane garden on Thursday

The garden is on council land that was previously derelict.  But because the site is right beside a reservoir the council had some concerns about damage to underground pipes.  They initially gave just a small site for the garden and when  that was developed and the potential for an extension was seen, they eventually granted access to the second plot. 

the original space for the garden was from the wooden structure to the iron fence

The garden had to be fenced because of problems with anti-social behaviour in the area.  But efforts have been made to make the space more enticing. 

THe tea-room on the first section of the garden given by the council

  The garden looked very impressive when I arrived on Thursday.  The space is really well maintained, there were lots of veggies being harvested and the garden seems to be used to its full capacity.  

Cait Curran, local organic grower and activist is the gardener at Ballybane and was one of the driving forces behind the project from the start. 

breaking down barriers

With the help of funding from the VEC adult education program she can now work one day per week at the garden taking care of general maintenance and passing on her skills and knowledge to less exerienced members.  There has been a problem getting people to commit to the garden and members have come and gone over the last few years.

 But the core group still numbers around 12 with the garden being particularly busy when the weather is fine in spring and summer.  Members are mostly local but some do come from outside the area. 

planned willow tunnel

In an effort to get more local people involved a willow tunnel leading to children’s space with a sand pit is being built, so that people can bring their kids along to the garden.

The Brothers of Charity, a local HSE service provider for people with special needs have developed two projects in the garden and raised beds have been built at a reachable height for wheelchair users to make the garden as inclusive as possible.

raised, raised beds for wheelchair users

Courses in gardening have proven popular in the garden and more courses are planned for this year. 

One problem experienced by the group in the last year or so was too many keys being given out to people in the community; one or two people were coming to the garden to help themselves to the produce regardless of whether or not they’ve been contributing to the garden.  So key access has been restricted slightly.  Outreach and inclusion projects with the community in general  may need more structure and focus.  One successful project this year was the building of  a cob oven in the garden where members meet to cook pizzas during the summer.
 The group meets once per week with extra evening opening hours in the summer.  The veg harvested is shared equally among the people present when the group meets. 

a happy member reaping the harvest-not bad for a Thursday in November

There has been a good harvest of potatoes this year and other veg that grew well included pumpking, cabbage, spinach, beetroot and fennel.

 The local council have helped out the project by sending  somebody to collect seaweed from the coast for the garden.  That’s the only fertilizer used and by the abundance of veg being harvested this week, it’s working well. 
I asked Gerry, one of the members of the group in Ballybane, what he thought the key to the success of the garden was.  A strong leader was his reply. 

Brothers of Charity sensory garden project

 He felt that Cait’s presence had been crucial both in terms of providing the skills necessary to a group of novice gardeners and in helping to keep the momentum going for the project overall.     

Plans for this year include getting local artists and schools involved in designing more signs to cover the iron railings and to try make it  more inviting place for the community in general.  In the long-term, the guys also have their eyes on more of the derelict land beside the garden to extend the space further, to create a fruit orchard and to get more people growing food.
Lots of exciting ideas in Ballybane!

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