An Gairdín Beo is a lovely Irish saying that literally translates to ”The Garden Alive”. It’s the name a group of us agreed upon last autumn for a very special urban community garden project that’s coming together in Carlow town.
Last year, the Mercy Sisters offered a 36 year lease on a two acre wilderness that sits next to St Leo’s College and Convent, giving the community an opportunity to create a garden that will be:
“based on an ecological orientation, on valuing diversity, sustainability, organic methods and indigenous species. It recognises that we as humans, are part of nature too. It is committed to the preservation and protection of the site as a green area for the greatest diversity of life possible.”
For the past few months I’ve been one of around twenty people who’ve volunteered to get this project off the ground, many representing communities and groups within Carlow town and several with links to St Leo’s College that stretch back to their childhood and beyond.
Watching a Community Garden Evolve
Excellently facilitated by Chris Chapman of The Change Exploratory and encouraged along by Srs Mary Carmody, one of the drivers behind the Baltinglass Community Garden, back in September we split into three teams – governance, landscaping and catalysing. It’s the later that I offered to help out with and since then our group have worked to create the garden’s vision, community involvement and put together documents that will help with funding applications. As one of the coordinators of the Community Gardens Ireland, the experience has been an enjoyable and valuable learning opportunity.
Over the coming months there will be a tremendous amount of physical work to do, money to be found and community engagement to be coordinated. However, a lot of groundwork has taken place already, the foundations of the project have been laid and we hope this community garden will now begin to grow and thrive, helping to positively contribute towards the ongoing development of the town centre and bring some life and purpose back to it. Time and care has been taken to engage everyone from the beginning with the hope that An Gairdín Beo will evolve gradually to “become a space in which diverse people can connect more to nature, to the growing and making of food and to each other”.
Come and Have a Look at the Wild Community Garden
On 21st March, the weekend of th Spring Equinox, we will be holding a “come and have a look” afternoon with various side activities planned from moss graffiti and seed planting and identification to chatting to everyone involved and offering refreshments.
We’ve sent invitations out to around 200 schools, organisations and the community of Carlow in the hope they’ll drop by then leave with the desire to get involved in this project as it progresses. In time we hope An Gairdín Beo will offer a socially inclusive combination of art, food, nature, vegetable growing and community to people of all ages in Carlow who want to engage with it.
We’re lucky to have two buildings on site already that will offer places for educational involvement and perhaps more importantly, hot cups of tea and refreshments and a place to meet and chat. I’m feeling very blessed and honoured to be involved with An Gairdín Beo from the beginning and can already feel new friendships being formed as a result.
If you’re in or close to Carlow town on Saturday, we hope you’ll drop by and “come and have a look” at what we’re up to. If not, I hope you’ll stay tuned to watch the progress of the garden over the coming months, to see how a community project can come together when lots of people are included from the start. You never know, it might help to inspire similar projects in your own communities.
Find Out More About Community Gardens in Ireland
If you’re interested in community gardens, you’ll find lots of resources here on the website. If you’re in Ireland, jot the 28th June into your diary where those of us interested in community gardens will be coming together at The School of Food in Thomastown, County Kilkenny to share our stories and learn more about this social form of gardening.