Independent Media Centre Ireland

Nurturing and reclaiming our city, our commons, our communities

category dublin | environment | feature author Wednesday August 12, 2009 16:12author by Gardener - Dolphinsbarn Community Gardenauthor email dolphinsbarngarden at gmail dot com

Community gardens are emerging in Dublin City. Is the economic downturn an opportunity for us to reimagine, recreate and design the city we would like to live in?

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Dolphin's Barn Community Gardeners

Nurturing and reclaiming our city, our commons, our communities

Community Gardens are emerging throughout Dublin city. These small projects have large narratives. When we create community gardens we build alternative ways that our cities operate and can be made sustainable. We build positive spaces, social spaces and community. We address land use, workers rights and learn to collectively organise. We seed save, skill share, reclaim lost knowledge and recycle. We re-establish a relationship with the cycles of life, with nature and become aware of our deep connection to our environment and each other. Community Gardens are radical spaces and the good news is that they are on the increase.

Over the last 10 years the destructive development of Ireland has been driven by economic greed with little thought for communities, nature and our collective future. Our ecological foot print increased dramatically. In 2006 we were top of the list on our rubbish per capita per year of 31 countries surveyed in the EU. Our resource consumption and our waste creation had increased exponentially.

Dublinís first community garden was set up on the canal in Dolphins Barn in 2005. This squatted garden acted as a locus and knowledge sharing point for a number of activists and people living within the community. The project is still ongoing in Dolphin's barn but has moved to a site on The South Circular Road. This is our most recent video. We have had visitors from regeneration committees, youth workers, students, Dublin city council, school teachers, St John of Godís, Eco UNESCO and community groups visit the project to learn how to go about creating a community garden. Other successful community gardens in Dublin are The Sitric Road Community Garden and The Finglas Commmunity Garden.There are a few garden projects that are just getting off the ground in Summer Hill, Cherry Orchard and Phibsboro. Those of us who have worked in and developed these projects have become aware of there effectiveness and ability to create community cohesion and socio-political awareness.

Food is a human right. Thinking about food makes us think about our consumption. It is a visible poverty in Dublin that those on low incomes and social welfare have no access to fresh organic food. Many of us living in the city rarely think about where our food has come from or under what conditions it may have been produced: the workers, the pesticides, the food miles or the conditions animals may be have kept under. When we do start to digest these ideas it becomes hard to take direct action when the organic food that we wish to purchase is out of our income bracket. Healthy locally produced food should be accessible and affordable to all in Dublin, in Ireland and globally. A way that this might be reversed is through Community Gardening. Imagine if each community centre in the city had a community garden and a non-profit community cafť with food made by different community groups each day from this locally grown produce.

Community gardening is a collective activity; it is a way to educate yourself and your community; itís a way to feel empowered and take local effective action. When you plant one seed let it develop and mature back to seed: it offers hundreds of seeds to be collected and planted the following year.

Community gardens offer a way for people to re-create and re-think their cities. The economic downturn can be used to build up communities, to awaken our communities, to create the communities that have and cultivate respect for each other, support each other and the eco-system.

Here are some basic steps on how to set up a community garden:

1.Find a potential site
a) Squat the site. The advantages of this is that you can get the project off the ground quickly. The disadvantages are that you may be evicted as we were a year after squatting the garden on the canal in Dolphins Barn. (Here's an example of a long-term successfully squatted garden)
b) Ask permission. We got use of a site while it is sitting idle, it has planning permission on it for apartment blocks. In the current economic climate there is the potential for greater access to these sites. There are many potential sites in the city. You can also get onto your local Dublin City councillors and officers and ask them if there is potential land for your project. Publicly owned land is our common. Our communities should have the right to have access and make decisions on how this land is used. ( has permission to use land belonging to a local school.)
2. Test the soil. Before planting it is best to get the soil tested as it may be contaminated. We were fortunate in that one of our gardeners fathers worked in a Lab so he was able to do this for us.
3. Advertise for interest in community centers or libraries, flyer your neighbours living near the site.
4. Start clearing the site. People will naturally be attracted to the project especially if they see you working in the site and many people will join you.
5. Get together and plan your garden. Each member will bring a different skill set that will enhance the direction of the project.
6. Collective composting. A good way to get people involved is to invite neighbours to start putting their compost in a compost bin on the site. (This is how the Sitric Garden in Stoney Batter got started)
7. You will have a community Garden.

Related Link:

Community Gardeners
Community Gardeners

Comments (7 of 7)

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author by Armchair gardenerpublication date Tue Aug 11, 2009 10:53author address author phone

Hi there,
Great article.
Its inspiring stuff knowing that all of this is going in in and around the city we live in.

I'd like to be more involved in community gardening -when is the best time for me to come to the SCR site to learn and share?

author by Dlphinsbarn Gardener - SCR Cmmunity Gardenpublication date Wed Aug 12, 2009 18:36author address author phone

Hi Thanks for your comment. We are in the Garden on Saturdays from 1pm till about 4.30. You can see a map on our blog (
Look forward to meeting you

author by niki - niki designpublication date Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:20author address author phone

As a gardener who lives just across the SCR Community Garden I am a great supporter of the initiative.
I have seen that:
- it is a space that nurtures community spirits as much as it provides food for the gardeners.
- it allows to keep the area save and purposeful.

I live just across the road from the garden. It is great to pass by every day and look at the life growing there especially being aware that I have contributed to it. It is a gift from everybody for everybody. Anytime I walk in, regardless of the time I have managed to dedicate to the project, the guys readily offer me something: a bunch of herbs or a bag of seasonal vegetables.

It is great to know that in the heart of the city I can still walk out of my tiny home and enjoy gardening in spacious and welcoming grounds.

But even more than just the gardening in its own right, the garden is a playground for grow ups! It allows people from different walks of life to contribute by expressing themselves through their work. So far the garden has propelled several community projects, there were video and radio footage of the work here and it has been greatly supported by the Irish Food Board.

Now I am grabbing the hand of my toddler, putting the baby in her pram and I am on my way to visit the garden and pick a couple of organically grown peppers for my children's lunch from the garden across the road. Free, healthy and fresh food for my babies and the chance for them to roam in great open space. There are things that are beyond money and the change of times (recession or otherwise) and it is a great relief to have a daily reminder of that in front of my eyes.


author by via toothpublication date Mon Sep 14, 2009 21:10author address author phone

Car Park Cultivation
by Nigel Heather

A history of the South Circular Road Community Garden.
Filmed March to June 2009.

Caption: video; A history of the South Circular Road Community Garden.

author by Quercuspublication date Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:38author address author phone

Lovely video, lovely work. Keep at it everybody. Hope your example inspires ventures in several other towns and cities.

author by Dunkpublication date Sat Oct 03, 2009 20:46author address author phone

Just came across a very interesting project in Brooklyn, NYC. BK FARMYARDS - which came about as a finalist in the 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge (bucky was a design genius who, amongst other things, developed the geodesic dome - they even found his structure in the atomic world and called a newly found molecule a buckminsterfullerine) .

bk farmyards is a Brooklyn based decentralized farming network providing local food to reduce the cityís reliance on fossil fuels and offering local jobs to boost the economy. We are seeking partnerships with developers willing to temporarily transform their idle land to farmyard; homeowners who want to eat from their own yard; and city agencies holding under-utilized land. Our strategy is to stay nimble, growing food between the cracks of urban development.

If you have a backyard or other outdoor space thatís lying fallow, and a hankering for fresh vegetables, get in touch with BK Farmyards. Started just last month, BK Farmyards is a decentralized farming network that will grow vegetables in your backyard for sale to your neighbors. In exchange for the use of your land, theyíll give you a percentage of the freshly-grown vegetables for free. Their goal is to reduce Brooklynís reliance on fossil fuels by cultivating local food. Theyíve already partnered with a few local homeowners in Ditmas Park and Bed-Stuy, including the founder of Lab 24/7, and theyíre partnering with a city organization to install educational plots in parks. So remember: Just because you live in the city, have no time, and no green thumb, thatís no reason why you canít have homegrown zucchini.
on the 2009 BFI challenge website: Idea Index - 2009 Finalist- -

see their final boards and written idea at

They have been largely inspired by the Cuban experience and from their site there is a link to another interesting project / collective: Not So Vacant Lots-

related vid: NYC's Cool New Backyard Farms: Growing More Than Just Produce-

Caption: NYC

author by dunkpublication date Fri Oct 09, 2009 13:11author address author phone

Carolyn Steel: How food shapes our cities

Every day, in a city the size of London, 30 million meals are served. But where does all the food come from? Architect Carolyn Steel discusses the daily miracle of feeding a city, and shows how ancient food routes shaped the modern world.

+ RTE wrap up-
GROW YOUR OWN FRUIT AND VEG - report on rte,...l,230

Caption: TED TALK - Carolyn Steel: How food shapes our cities

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