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 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 incompatible 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 me directly to creatively engage with your group, many of these problems can be avoided. My 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.
One of my latest community garden projects was with the Meadow Street Community Garden (see above design). I was employed by Renew Wales (now renamed Egin) to help them develop a large area of land as an allotment and community garden.
After an in depth consultation and a visioning walk and talk session with the group, I created a design which included allotment gardens with inclusive raised beds, two polytunnels, a goat tractor to keep japanese knotweed and wild bramble at bay, an outdoor events space, a community café and training hub, a café garden, a heritage fruit orchard, an outdoor natural play area, a quiet space with wild flower meadow and wild seed area for birds and a wildlife pond.
It was really great to be able to use my skills in helping this group achieve their aims.
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. As well as fulfilling all of those functions the design adds to the aesthetic and functional value of the garden.
Following on from a design workshop with Canton Community Gardens group I then went on to develop the design to a professional level, creating a detailed planting plan and new layout for 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 at Adamsdown Community Centre where I worked creatively with the local community to visualise how the garden could be transformed.
I then took these ideas and created a design for the group 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 and a lot of hard work and fun was had. Both the community and the garden grew beautifully over these years.
The finished design followed on from an extensive and intensive visualisation exercise walking the several acres of this green gem enclosed by houses on three sides with Llandough Hospital on the south western side.
I then took these ideas and created a design for the group incorporating a children’s play area, several different sized allotment plots for the different life styles and time constraints of the prospective allotmenteers, flood mitigating features, including wildflower meadows, a pond, a bog, absorbent paths and roads and a dyke, plus a welcome shed for visitors, shared raised veg beds, wheelchair friendly raised beds and paths, events space, perennial wildflower areas to cover all times of year, a shared orchard, water storage and sheds for all the allotmenteers, mown grassed areas and long grassed areas, a social and seating area.
With the community group REACT I designed Riverside Community Garden, (a video of the making of the garden called “Urban Oasis” is available). I participated in the design for Fairwater Community Garden and created a wildlife garden design for Cornwall Street Baptist Church – pictured below.