More than just a garden - Coleraine Community Garden at the Community Health Centre
The idea of a vegetable garden was put forward to the Health Service by community members back in 2017. With support from the Coleraine Hospital, a working group formed and ascertained broader interest by advertising in the local 'Wannon' Newsletter, placing posters around town and using word of mouth to move the concept forward.
The working group then had to decide where to plant the veggies, so they were accessible for all, including those in mobility aides. The group decided to spread the garden over a number of spots, and started with raised planter beds alongside a pathway near the Health Service, allowing residents from the hostel or nursing home to access the garden if they wished.
Starting with these beds, the group planted five fruit trees and some herb and vegetable seedlings to get things started. Soon after, some of the native plants in a larger existing bed outside the Medical Clinic were dying, so the group took the opportunity to plant here as well, with summer pumpkin, corn and pie melon vines thriving in the space.
Since this initial planting, tomatoes, green herbs, chilli's, eggplant and loads of winter veggies have been planted and harvested. Many of these plants are thanks to donations of seeds from the community.
The garden volunteer base remains small, but the tasks of weeding and planting new crops are manageable as the volunteers (Kate, Julian, Dave, Rowena and Elizabeth) who work in the garden really enjoy themselves – reporting it is very social and relaxing! One of the initial working group members and garden volunteers Elizabeth Guthridge from WDHS says, "You find you don’t have time to let the worries of your life creep in as you focus on your chores in the garden and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and chat to the local passers by".
The garden group hope to purchase one or two more fruit trees and make the garden a real focal point for community celebrations in future. Last year the gardening group encouraged the two primary schools in Coleraine to create Christmas decorations for the garden, and awarded certificates to participating children.
Ms Guthridge is happy the garden is serving its intended purposes plus some, "The Community Garden has enhanced the streetscape of Whyte Street and also the entrance to the Coleraine Medical Clinic. The community take an interest in the vegetables planted and wander amongst the beds helping themselves to the vegetables – which is what we want".
If you have any queries about the Coleraine Community Garden, or are keen to volunteer, please contact Elizabeth Guthridge at [email protected]
What is your community group, school, club or workplace doing to promote healthy choices? Let us know about it! Email or call Ebony at [email protected] or 5551 8475.