Community Gardens & Local Food Projects
Community gardens and local food projects are a brilliant way of bringing together different individuals and groups in a local area. They can be a green focal point in areas which can often be lacking in green spaces.
Edible Landscaping has been involved in a number of community gardens and local food projects since the mid 90s. Our main input is to assist the community group in designing their community garden so it is fit for purpose, long lasting and beautiful.
Sometimes, what can happen with a community garden, is that changes occur piece meal and without an overall vision. This can lead to add-ons which are lacking in aesthetic appeal, inefficient and confusing, especially for new comers. When this happens, the garden can become a collection of idiosyncratic endeavours without any unifying theme. Projects can happen without being thought out and without proper consultation. Often it can be the person with the loudest voice that gets their pet project to happen. This can lead to tension and unhappiness in the group. Further down the line, this can result in the project falling apart.
Either through our course ‘Designing a Community Garden’ or through employing us directly as designers, many of these problems can be avoided. Our philosophy in working with people is to listen intently to what all stakeholders want from the project, bring them together with creative discussions and activities around designing their garden, so that the end result is a garden which they all have had input into and all want to enthusiastically carry forward. Groups end up with a concept drawing at the end of the course and if they want to take it further we can develop the class drawing into a more fully fledged design.
Having a physical representation of your ideas in a drawing is important because this can be used as a communication tool to explain your vision to others – funding bodies and new volunteers alike.
Our last community garden project was with Bridgend Carers Centre. They have a lovely but neglected yard at the back of their premises, (full of quirky things like a double key shaped concrete pond with a rill between the two!) which they wished to rejuvenate into a functioning shared garden. We delivered our Designing a Community Garden at the centre and they now have a cracking design which is fit for purpose for all users of the centre – those being cared for, carers, staff and the Quaker Society of Friends who own the building and garden, as well as other stakeholders such as funders. We enjoyed delivering our course immensely. They are a lovely bunch of people and a pleasure to work with.
Here is a portfolio of the community gardens we have designed:
Community Wildlife Garden at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre in Lampeter, Ceredigion.
The volunteer group at Denmark Farm wanted their garden rejuvenated with some fresh ideas and to make their garden more easily accessible and enjoyable for everyone in their local community. The finished design includes a disabled access path, a range of wildlife friendly plantings, a wildlife pond, a seating area, a natural shelter and outdoor activities for children. This design fulfilled all of those functions and greatly adds to the aesthetic and functional value of the garden.
Following on from a design workshop with Canton Community Gardens group we then had a great opportunity to develop the design more fully, with a detailed planting plan and changes to the physical form of the site. The edible garden design is a cornucopia of food plants ranging from fruit trees (open form and espalier), unusual soft fruit, salads, vegetables, herbs, insect friendly plants and flowers.
The amazing Canton Community Gardens group then worked hard to raise the funds for the garden and in 2010 they were voted the winner in the Peoples Millions Big Lottery competition. This funding enabled them to put the design into place and now in 2015 the garden is a vibrant friendly space full of unusual and attractive edible plants.
Chapter Arts Centre, a leading cutting edge arts centre and home to the very best of art house cinema now has a garden that will reflects that cutting edge ethos.
The finished design followed on from a community design workshop,
where we worked creatively with the local community to visualise how the garden could be transformed. We then took these ideas and created a design for the garden incorporating a very young children’s play area, a disabled access ramp, a seating area, a pond, a willow structure, raised beds for wheelchair users, perennial food crops beds, a vegetable patch and a children’s garden – all in an 8 by 12 metre area!
For many years the garden was managed by Adamsdown Environmental Action Group with Polly Reichelt at the helm and a lot of hard work and fun was had. Both the community and the garden grew beautifully over these years.
Now Green City Events manages the garden and a new influx of volunteers have come forward to get involved. The garden is tucked away behind Adamsdown Resource Centre in Moira Terrace. If you’d like to get involved Becca of Green City Events would love to hear from you.
We designed Riverside Community Garden, (a video of the making of the garden called “Urban Oasis” is available), Cornwall Street Baptist Church Community Wildlife Garden and participated in the design for Fairwater Community Garden.
Please feel free to send an email if your group is interested in getting to grips with their community garden. We would be happy to meet with your group for an informal chat about their ideas.
Remember getting your design sorted out right from the start saves a lot of grief further down the line!