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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Courses in gardening have proven popular in the garden and more courses are planned for this year.
There has been a good harvest of potatoes this year and other veg that grew well included pumpking, cabbage, spinach, beetroot and fennel.
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.