Community Gardens

Have you ever considered volunteering? This might help you make your mind up…

July 3, 2013

The following post is a re-blog from The Community Garden Network forum site that’s only visible to members and I’d like to share it with you. Why? Because if you’ve ever volunteered or thought about volunteering, you might enjoy the stories of four men and women who helped out at the Bloom 2013 CGN postcard garden.

Apart from giving a shout out for help with the plant and equipment side of the garden, we also asked for volunteers to help build and man the garden over the five days of the Festival. This post is about them. I asked for their feedback (good and bad) on volunteering for Bloom and you might enjoy reading their insights (and perhaps offer your services next year ;)…

First up, Ruth Noble’s thoughts on volunteering for Day 1 with Sandra and Caroline Jolley

Thursday volunteers Ruth (standing) & Caroline (sitting) at the CGN Postcard Garden

Thursday volunteers Ruth (standing) & Caroline (sitting) at the CGN Postcard Garden

The Bloom Garden

“I volunteered to ‘man’ the garden because I think community gardens are a great idea, even if I’m not involved in one! There is a much appreciated one in my home town.

Roisin Markham sharing her skills

Roisin Markham sharing her skills

I had a bag of unused knitted and crocheted squares and was more than happy to have them put to some use. It was great to see peoples’ reactions when they saw the tree. Lots of people had heard of yarn bombing, some were even involved in preparing for yarn bombing in the near future, but few had actually seen it in action. That was the first thing most people noticed. A few people went on to notice the garden itself but most people got fixated on the recycled cold frame.

I wonder if there is a place for a garden featuring items like that, recycling items, money saving practical items. I had never been at Bloom before and I have to confess that the posh gardens were way beyond me, while a garden with really practical stuff would be up my street – and given the amount of interest particularly in the recycled cold frame, I’m probably not the only one.

Negatives: there was a arc between the bottom of my hat and the top of my blouse and it was a sunny day………I’m marked for the year!”

Then from Caroline Jolley:

The recycled cloche built by Heritage Community Gardeners

“I was so lucky that Dee chose to pick the first day at BLOOM for me to help out on the garden . The temperatures reached 23°c and we had to slap on sun cream. There was huge interest in the re-cycled cloche and I ended up going into teacher mode and talking about how plastic bottles can be made into slug traps and bird feeders. We decided that the instructions on how to make the cloche should go up on the website (Facebook) to encourage new visitors.

I met so many lovely people, the next door garden from Cavan is sending me yellow rattle seeds for our wild meadow, Horkans are donating some fire begonias and Agri-Aware are going to visit us.

A great way to network – or should that be knit work ? Would do it all again next year, and next time I won’t go home with my ticket !”

Roy (left) and Kieran (right) taking a well deserved tea break

Roy (left) and Kieran (right) taking a well deserved tea break

A Few Words from Kieran Craven who helped with the garden build and dismantle:

The rain hammered down outside and I hid under the covers for another 30min, grateful for the text from Sandra delaying our meeting time. It was Monday morning and I was beginning to regret my decision to volunteer to help set-up the Community Garden Network postcard garden!

With the rain easing, I donned my waterproofs and cycled into the Park to begin my work. Pedalling along the access road, it was impossible not to pick up the buzz about the place. There was movement and clanging everywhere as tents, polytunnels, raised beds and fencing were being hammered and banged into place. The scale of the operation was enough to make me stop, soak it up all up and delay my own participation for a couple more minutes!!

I arrived as the raised bed was being delivered. The rain had eased, though there were black clouds all around. The bed needed filling, and it was my job to fill it. It was meditative work, walking back and forth to the soil heap with shovel and barrow, passing the show gardens as they gradually took shape. With the landscaping mostly complete, plants were being added and the splashes of colour increased with every passing. I removed my waterproofs and spent the remainder of the day in shorts, with the sun making a few welcome cameos.

I left late afternoon, with the raised bed half full. It had been an extremely enjoyable day spent outdoors, punctuated with great chats and multiple cups of tea. While I was grateful of that extra half hour in bed, my one regret was that I didn’t get to witness the willow screen being woven by John!

A long weekend in Westmeath meant I missed Bloom entirely, I returned on Tuesday to help dismantle the garden. My habitually-late-arrival-times ensured the plants had already been removed from the bed so I must rely on photos to be assured of the finished project. It looked fantastic and credit must go to Sandra for coming up with such a great design! I poached a few spuds and cabbages and they’ve made their way into the SICCDA garden in Weaver Square, so their benefit should continue. I loved the experience participating in Bloom and am already anticipating next year!

Community Garden Network Garden at Bloom 2013Thoughts from Lynda who volunteered for the day on Saturday:

So I saw a post looking for volunteers to help man the Community Garden Network’s garden in Bloom. Yes please! I thought. Inside I was jumping up and down with my lámha suas shouting me, me, me as though I was back in school, outside I sent of an email saying I would love to volunteer .. you see its plants!.. and its gardens! and I love these! After the initial rush of eager excitement I began to worry, I do love plants and know some things about some of them but really very little about veg growing and I have only very recently become involved in my local community garden so it is very new to me. However as I said its plants! and its gardens! and I love these so I set off to help out at Ireland’s largest garden festival.

There I met the very nice Dee and Sandra who showed me the garden and explained the concept of the garden to me and, what a gorgeous little garden it was! The garden was in the ‘postcard garden’ category and how apt because it was picture postcard perfect! Pretty soon the first visitors started to come by, some will have a quiet look and then move on and some will be more ‘interactive’ and make a comment or ask a question. I listened in and took some mental notes as Dee or Sandra met the first enquiries, then off they went for a break and it was up to me and Kevin, who was also involved with the garden, to represent the CGN. I was slightly nervous at first that someone would ask me something I couldn’t answer but as it turned out I needn’t have been, you see my job was made very easy, by the garden which was beautiful and drew nothing but admiration and positive comments, by the fact that it was all about ‘community’ and bringing people together and sharing, and people are very receptive to that and by all the visitors who were all there for the same reason as I was there.. its plants! and its gardens! and we love these! and like to share that.

It is a long day (and it did rain a little) but it was a really enjoyable day, what could be better than have people smile, exclaim with surprise and joy and tell you that you’ve created something lovely, I felt proud and I didn’t even do anything with the garden except turn up one day to help out!, I can only imagine how proud Dee and Sandra and those others who contributed felt and so they should. I am certain that many people who saw the garden over the course of the festival will go away with inspiration and ideas for their own gardens or their community gardens. There may be some who will seek out their local community garden or set one up. I even spoke with a girl of around 10 years of age who loved the garden and wanted to know how old she would have to be to enter a garden herself! That to me feels like job done!

I had started the day a little nervous and hoping I wasn’t mad for volunteering but I finished the day delighted I had volunteered. I got to be a small part of the something wonderful that is community gardening, I got to meet and speak with people who have a shared interest and, on a personal level I gained a little confidence in what knowledge I do have. Ladies if you need someone for next year count me in!! :))


I’ve volunteered for many clubs and organisations over the years and on the whole received tremendous satisfaction from it. My role with the community garden network group is voluntary too. Some roles can take up more time than others. Being a group leader of a local scout group became an almost full time job when I was managing five sections in our local community, until I decided that it was time for work and family life to take centre stage again. However, other volunteers within that group might only have ‘worked’ for two hours a week as their time and circumstances allowed.

If you’re interested in volunteering, there’s a national agency which collates information and the local notes pages in country newspapers often advertise groups that are looking help too. Thanks to volunteering I have made many good friends and contacts which remain long after the initial meeting.

Blog Post Links and Mentions for the CGN Bloom Postcard Garden:


  • Reply Ena Ronayne July 4, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Volunteering is so good for the soul and can make a world of difference to the individual or organisation. Charities are always looking for volunteers and in some cases you don’t need any qualification or skill. @voluntireland is on twitter and their main website is Check them out… and Enjoy your time while volunteering….

    • Reply greensideupveg July 4, 2013 at 8:50 am

      And everyone is always welcome! Thanks for the link Ena 🙂


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