Community Gardens

When things go wrong in Community Gardens

February 6, 2014

For the past few years I’ve been blogging about all the positive aspects of being involved with a community garden. I’ve shared the social, physical and mental benefits we all experience, the fun, the laughter and the feelings of belonging and friendship that develop as groups evolve.

photo credit: Mechanekton via photopin cc

photo credit: Mechanekton via photopin cc

However, I wouldn’t be giving an honest, rounded view if I didn’t admit that sometimes things go wrong. As with any community in life, be it family, club, school, workplace or college environment, people fall out. It’s human nature. We might take offence at a throw away comment, not think before we speak, talk too much and not listen. We might not share the same objectives or like it or not, we might just generally be a pain in the backside because we don’t know or haven’t learnt to behave any better.

The fact is, conflict exists and some of us deal with it better than others. We’re not all born the same, naturally equipped to deal with insults, misunderstandings or hurt. Isn’t that what’s supposed to be great about being human, our differences? What’s important when conflict does rear its ugly head however, is how well we deal with it as it arises and that we don’t ignore or run away from it.

Conflict and Community Gardening

Conflict within our groups in one form or another is an issue that most coordinators and tutors will come across during their working lives, and yet it’s not something the majority of us are trained to deal with. Large, charitable organisations such as Scouting Ireland offer excellent and compulsory leadership development programmes for their volunteer leaders, but what about the rest of us who don’t have access to those opportunities?

We scratched the surface of conflict management in Cork on Saturday at the Community Gardens Ireland meeting in Knocknaheeney/Hollyhill when Thomas Reidmuller of The Hollies spent a few hours with the group sharing his knowledge of some soft skills that coordinators and tutors might find helpful.

Thomas offers conflict, communication and mediation training courses or one on one training in various centres around Ireland and is in the process of delivering a three-part, in-depth course in Cloughjordan Eco Village on Community Conflict Resolution and Mediation.

Community Gardening Tutors Want to Make a Difference

Every community garden tutor and coordinator I’ve met is passionate about their work. We want to help, we want to make a difference, we want to share our knowledge and skills and make the world a better place and it’s great to hear that there are communication and skills workshops in place that can help us. However, as usual there’s an obstacle. Most gardening tutors don’t have the funds to pay the kind of fees to attend these weekends. We’re not working in an industry that’s known for its high wages and even ETB paid tutors, who do receive good tutoring rates, might only pick up a few hours a week here, and a few more there.

Community gardening in Ireland is growing in popularity. Although I can’t give you exact figures as yet (we’re working on it!), as a coordinator of the Network, a purely voluntary organisation, I’m hearing about new gardens springing up on an almost weekly basis. As an example, the Network’s Donegal rep, Joanne Butler of OurGanic has recently taken over the coordination of five new gardens and in Cork, the Food Policy Council are planning to free up space throughout the city to bring people together who want to engage in growing. From my own perspective, I’ve been busy quoting and designing community garden projects in and around Carlow and Kilkenny and further afield too.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

So what’s the answer?

Having listened to comments made at this month’s meeting and as one of its founding members, I’d really like to see the network in a position where it can offer heavily subsidised training to community garden coordinators and tutors or anyone who wants to set up community gardens in their area.

When asked for feedback on Saturday, coordinators and tutors flagged areas they’d like to develop their skills in. Conflict management, filling out grant applications and seeking funding, as well as the many other projects that tutors and coordinators get involved with aside from their usual horticultural activities were highlighted. As agencies and policy makers look to trainers, who are in the most part self-employed, to help them develop projects that include social enterprise and social inclusion, we need the training to be able to do that to our best ability.

And to do that we need to attract some funding.

So this is a plea. If you know of anyone or anyhow or anyway, that Community Gardens Ireland, whose aim is to support community gardens, allotments and CSA’s in Ireland and Northern Ireland, can get access to such funding or sponsorship, please leave a comment below or contact me directly via the channels above.

We’ll be forever grateful. Thank you 🙂



  • Reply Larry Masterson February 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I just wonder could we as citizens seek and/or demand funding from our City/County Council Local Development Levy Fund for community garden projects. As interest and demand for community gardens are growing in every county as where local residents today recognise community gardening as an important part of their vibrant and sustainable community – surely that would be enough argument to get a slice of the local development levy. After all, what are we paying all of these local taxes for – surely we can remind our local councillors prior to the next forthcoming local elections Community Gardens come under Parks, Green Space and Recreation too. Larry Masterson

    • Reply greensideupveg February 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      I hadn’t thought of that Larry and will pass it on to Laura who’s coordinating all of this, thanks

  • Reply Larry Masterson February 6, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    You got me started . . . Our local reps need to be told a community garden is a shared green space which is maintained by community members for their use and enjoyment. Gardeners grow food and flowers, share knowledge with the community, celebrate through social gatherings, and enhance green space. A little reminder to local politicians that Community Gardens improve the quality of life for people in and around the garden hence stimulate social interaction, encourages self reliance, beautifies our communities, produces local in season nutritious food, reduces family food budgets and creates opportunity for recreation, exercise and education! Provides opportunities for inter generational and cross cultural connections and lots more . . .
    Funding a little for giving a lot more!

    • Reply greensideupveg February 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Larry that’s brilliant, glad to hear that as all ideas very welcome! I’m going to write a press release shortly which I’ll ask all the members of the forum to look at and will be asking the provincial/regional reps to send it onto their local press contacts (and if they don’t already know them, find them). It would be a good idea to send it to local TDs too. I wonder if there’s a central place that we can send it to in government buildings. The question is, how best can we get this information out there I guess.

      • Reply blissberryfarmmountcharles February 7, 2014 at 6:52 pm

        I believe it’s the County Counsellors that the Network needs to go after and not the TD’s this time as each county council has jurisdiction or control throughout its administrative area. Within the county council administrative area there may be a borough or town council area. The county council may carry out the functions of the borough/town council within its area either jointly or separately with the borough/town councils.
        As well as the county council, each county has a county manager. The county manager is the manager for each of the elected local authorities in the county. (Each rep could also have a word with each County Manager seeking a meeting on order to this item on the local agenda)
        I also believe there are 29 County Councils in Ireland with a total of 753 members.
        There is at least one Council for each county. Dublin county has 3 Councils including South Dublin County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Fingal County Council. Tipperary county has 2 councils; North and South Tipperary.
        There are 5 city councils. These include Cork City Council with 31 members, Dublin City Council with 52 members, Galway City Council with 15 members, Limerick City Council with 17 members and Waterford City Council with 15 members.
        There are also 5 borough councils, including Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo, and Wexford and 75 town councils.
        You can view a list of all local authorities.
        Under Local government reform some changes are taking place. Back in October 2012 the Government published Putting People First- Action Programme for Effective Local Government (pdf) which sets out Government policy for reforms across all the main areas of local government. Under the Action Programme I believe all 80 existing town authorities will be replaced by a comprehensive system of municipal districts, integrating town and county governance. The following local authorities merged:
        Tipperary North County Council and Tipperary South County Council
        Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council
        Waterford City Council and Waterford County Council
        There are 31 city and county councils with integrated municipal districts. A councillor will be elected simultaneously to both a municipal district and the county or city council.
        Further information on local government reform is available on the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government website.
        Each county has it’s own County Development Board – these May be a channel to get the message out! Good luck to all – keep the ‘green gardening faith’. Larry

        • Reply greensideupveg February 7, 2014 at 7:00 pm

          That would certainly help in regard to promoting community gardens within their areas Larry but not so sure they’d be in a position to fund or support the network so that we can help train and coordinators and tutors?

  • Reply blissberryfarmmountcharles February 7, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    You got to think this one out!
    The way I see it each local authorities throughout the state is required to source considerable amounts of money annually to fund a variety of public infrastructure projects. We know projects include road construction and improvements, the construction and upgrading of water supply and waste water systems. But my friend remember this Development Contribution Scheme also enables the Council to provide funding for amenities such as libraries, open spaces and playgrounds. ( I strongly suggest allotments and community gardens too) All in all such infrastructure enables future development to proceed and provides amenities for our communities and visitors to the counties.
    I believe the argument is more about local authorities determining future infrastructure costs with local communities. After all the aim of the scheme was to ensure that developments benefiting from infrastructural investment payed a contribution towards the provision of infrastructure that is essential to enabling that development in the first place. So it’s is therefore necessary to flag such infrastructure (allotments and community gardens) and the costs of its provision for each of these types of development anticipated as such costs should be classified under two of the four named categories (2&3) identified under this scheme.
    1. transport;
    2. recreation and amenities;
    3. community facilities (including in certain cases schools); and 4. water supply and waste water services.

    In conclusion I believe each local authority would then need to subscribe to the Network in order to do the groundwork and allow things progress.

    Local grants to local communities for Community Gardens administrated through the Network % towards running and admin costs, education training costs and development of allotments and community gardens via via county coordinators!

    No sure if I’ve lost you in this business case I’ll bee eying up with Joann on Monday and I’ll explain it more.

    • Reply greensideupveg February 7, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      Grand, look forward to hearing more! One of our members Laura took on the responsibility for this area at the weekend, so I’ll ensure she sees your comments and perhaps can follow up on them. Thanks for putting so much thought into it Larry, appreciated 🙂

  • Reply Lorna February 7, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Sounds like there’s lots of work ahead but those comments show that there are possibilities for funding. Good to hear. Good luck with it all 🙂

  • Reply Feidhlim Harty February 19, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Hi, I’ve just read your “What goes wrong” article from the Horti News website. Just some quick thought. Thomas Reidmuller in The Hollies Centre for Practical Sustainability offers conflict resolution courses and workshops if that’s any help. Also, Garden of Eden Projects Ireland can offer funding for fruit and nut orchards in community spaces. See for more information on that.

    • Reply greensideupveg February 19, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Hi Feidhlim, thanks for that, that’s really useful info about the Garden of Eden Projects which I hadn’t heard of. Thomas was actually our tutor at the last network meeting and as a result of his training made us realise how much we’d benefit from more of the same.

  • Reply Cecilia Lenagh August 2, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Hello. I am a dispute resolution professional, but too far away (Australia) to offer any direct help. But there are excellent free resources here:

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