Saturday, March 18, 2017

Digging in at the Community Garden

Last year, when we were first in Moville, we walked around just to see what we would see. One day our travels brought us to the community garden. It looked like a good project, but we did not look into it any further at the time. A few months ago, Bill decided he wanted to check into it, so he found someone to contact and sent an email. She said there was space and would be in touch. A couple of weeks ago, she sent an email to say that there would be a meeting this morning, so we wrote it on the calendar. This morning we walked up the road, introduced ourselves to Mary, and looked around from inside the fence this time. It's a nice space in a good location. In addition to the outdoor beds, there are a couple of hoop houses, a shed, and things planted in pots. We both expected to get some information and then return home, but it was much better than that.

Once Paddy came, the information did start flowing. He is the expert of the group and is a good teacher. He has extensive gardens at his house, but due to some spinal issues, he cannot do as much as he once did, even though he has built his raised beds to accommodate his physical issues. He also has people come from all over the world--they learn about gardening and see the local sights. He has a great personality for that kind of thing. I immediately felt comfortable with him and I learned quite a bit just today. He explains things well and is clearly passionate about gardening. I also liked the way he gave us a task right away. I have a feeling that this will be like a fun, hands-on gardening class.

We assumed that this community garden set-up would be a situation where people just come and go when they want and if they happened to meet another gardener, there would be a chat, but it is much more social than that. People do come and go as they want, but there are also get-togethers like the one today. These happen every 3 or 4 weeks and include the very important 'tea and buns break.' Today with tea there were homemade scones with butter and jam and a homemade apple pie. We had refreshments before the flame thrower was fired up.

We were given an outdoor bed and two beds inside the hoop house. Paddy told us that were annual weeds in our outdoor bed, but they would be burned off and in any case, we should not plant anything there yet--nights are still too cold. We were also given two beds in one of the hoop houses. These had been covered in seaweed last fall and then covered with plastic. We were instructed to cover the top with compost from the pile just to the top of the bed and then it would be ready to plant. They use a 'no dig' method whereby the various nutrient providing things get placed on top. The compost was mushroom compost and also had straw, lime, and other stuff in it.They also grow organically as much as possible, which is great! No one will be spraying a bunch of chemicals around. Yay!

So we got a shovel and a wheelbarrow from the shed and started adding compost to our hoop house beds.
before compost

after compost

Bill spreading compost
our hoop house beds are ready to plant
After we got the hoop house beds taken care of, we went outside and learned about using a flame thrower to get rid of the weeds! We all had a turn using it.
Paddy waiting for the thing to get hot enough--just a small flame to start

then a bigger one!

Bill and I each had a turn--these beds had tougher weeds

Mary doing our bed, which did not have many weeds--she is experienced
Now we let our outdoor bed sit for a few days before going back and adding a layer of compost on top. In the meantime, we have to decide what we want to plant. We will have summer crops and then in August, we plant our winter stuff--broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Paddy is a wealth of helpful information and he seems to really enjoy sharing what he knows. This is excellent, because I do not know much about gardening and I am clueless about gardening in Moville.

In addition to the practical information, Paddy showed us the communal parts of the garden. There are a few apple trees in the main part of the garden, and a section with a couple of apple trees and various kinds of berry bushes.
doesn't look like much now, but things are budding
There is also a separate space that contains 12 apple trees--all are traditional Irish varieties. I love that!
future Irish apples
We discovered that this community garden thing is much more than we thought, and serves many purposes in addition to providing beds full of dirt. There is an educational aspect--not only is Paddy eager to share his knowledge with people who have a plot, but there are also plots for schoolchildren. He spends a day or two each week teaching kids about gardening. Inish Fusion, a restaurant (which is across the street from our house) is planning on having a barbecue sometime this summer--they will use produce from the gardens and talk about how to use it. Some hospitality industry students are growing things and learning how to cook with them. There is a social aspect--the 'community' part is very important, it would seem. We were told about the monthly gathering (and the tea and buns) a few times while we were there. People also advised us not to buy or start too many plants, because there will be plenty of them around and people will be trying to give them away. And it is just a really nice spot to sit and chat. There are some daffodils blooming now and we are told there will be more flowers. There are a few picnic tables of varying sizes and the view from those tables is not bad at all!
I had a lot of fun up there today and I expect to have many more fun times there in the months ahead. I also expect to learn a lot and to get to know some nice people, some of whom are our neighbours. I can see myself sitting there with my flask of tea on summer days after tending our little plots and enjoying the view. And we will hopefully end up with some yummy veggies and fruits too! I'm lookin' at you, Karen--with a little luck, there could be some Irish tomato sandwiches in your future!!

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