The concept of community has become increasingly important over the last two or three years as Covid measures fostered a sense of isolation and fractured our society. One of the highlights of the recent Platinum Jubilee festivities was the sense of people coming together in celebration, helping to create a sense of national unity.
We also recently highlighted another important community event - the unveiling of four national RHS community gardens. Horticulture has emerged as a powerful way of drawing people together, at the same time as helping to promote mental health, so it’s heartening to see the rise of community gardening as we hopefully head into the post-pandemic era
Maximising our land resources
Land is a precious commodity, and in relatively short supply in our densely populated island. One of the great features of community gardens is the fact that they are often set up on patches of unused land, or in urban areas where many people lack access to their own outdoor space. They have also sprung up in places which have benefitted hugely from beautifying and brightening, bringing people together in an effort to make their environment a more pleasant place to be.
An important tool for mental wellbeing
“Community gardens massively aid mental wellbeing,” says Ann Holland, garden designer and Britain in Bloom community gardening competition judge. “They give people a sense of purpose, they can see what they've done, and they provide vital social interaction.” Ann also has some useful suggestions for starting up a community garden.
- Explore your community. Ann suggests contacting existing community groups to see if there is any interest in setting up a community garden. A local Britain in Bloom group is ideal as they will already have horticultural interest and knowledge, but it’s also worth approaching other community groups, as well as advertising to the general public to attract interested parties.
- Have a vision. A community gardening group has to have some idea what it wants to achieve. What is the purpose of the garden? Will it be purely functional, a place for relaxation, a meeting place or somewhere that fruit and vegetables can be grown to share with the community? Blooming Milford is an example of a group that has been growing herbs to share with their community in Amberol’s self-watering planters for many years.
- Set up a committee. If too many people are involved in managing the group, the direction and vision can become muddled. Having a committee helps to drive things forwards – but don’t forget to involve people and to delegate.
- Finding sources of funding. There are inevitably costs to setting up a community garden. Groups will benefit from having a strategy for fundraising activities, and there are also sources of funding available as well as schemes that can help get things off the ground. For example, B&Q has a community grants scheme, while local garden centres and nurseries may be able to offer support, as well as your local council. And don’t forget to involve local businesses. Many of our customers fund the purchase of self-watering planters, seeds and tools by asking local businesses to sponsor their planters. This generally works very well and is relatively low maintenance to set up and manage.
- Finding the site. The first step after identifying suitable land is finding out who it belongs to. If it’s derelict, Ann suggests that the local council; should be able to help you find out who owns it. Local schools may also have land that they would be happy to offer as part of a community and curriculum initiative for their students. There may even be some local businesses with land that isn’t really being utilised. A community garden here can be a win-win situation, providing the community with a space while demonstrating the business’s commitment to its community.
- Assess site suitability. Questions to consider include how much sunshine does the site get? What is the soil like? Is there access to water as well as electricity if needed and are there facilities for storing equipment and tools?
- Be imaginative. Community gardens can exist almost anywhere: on grass verges and in alleyways as well as in larger open spaces. Wherever there is land, with the right care and attention, something can be persuaded to grow. There are many amazing examples of projects in the community, so visit other places or do some internet research to help spark ideas. The RHS and The National Garden Scheme are also organisations that can offer support with ideas and inspiration.
Using self-watering planters in a community garden
Self-watering planters offer flexibility and portability that is useful in community gardens and can be used in concrete spaces and small corners. They also solve the problem of poor soil and reduce the need for watering, making maintenance easier, especially where access to water is more restricted.
Can we help you enhance your community garden?
Amberol offer a range of self-watering planters suitable for different spaces in community garden projects. Check out the collection of self-watering planters here to see if any of the Amberol range would be suitable for your community garden. Call 01773 830 930 or email email@example.com for more information.