This is our no - dig, regenerative, organic vegetable garden.
From grazing cows to Philosophers’ Garden - Grow and Share
The idea to develop the walled garden at Townley Hall arose during a conversation among two students over a cup of coffee which was being enjoyed outdoors between two lockdowns. Overlooking idyllic farmland while the grain harvest was being gathered, the conversation led on to how the covid 19 pandemic has increased awareness of food security and has exposed the true fragility of the food system. Access to good quality fresh food is not certain for all the citizens of this country even though Ireland is a net producer of foods. Of course because of An Gorta mór (The Great Famine) providing food security and humanitarian aid runs deep in the Irish heart and the Irish psyche. Charities, for example ‘Food cloud’ (https://food.cloud) have come into being to glean surplus foodstuffs, redistribute to charity, reduce food waste and basically make the world a kinder place. Inspiring working examples like the ‘Share the harvest farm’ (https://www.sharetheharvestfarm.org/farm) in New Hampton show how communities can joyfully come together to grow produce for donation. Working in a community garden allows for the opportunity to increase one’s social interactions and gain a sense of social connectedness and commitment to the community.
Our school of philosophy is also a community and one of the four pillars of our school is service. Why not develop the walled garden which at that time was used for grazing cows, to enable students of the school, their friends, families and more to grow nutritious fresh vegetables with the main aim of distribution to charity? It is in our name, The School of Philosophy & Economic Science! It accords with Economics.
Originally this walled garden was designed to provide a bountiful mix of seasonal vegetables and fruits for the residents and workers of Townley hall. The high walls protect the crops from wind and frost and create a perfect microclimate for growth. It is a place of sanctuary and shelter.
Responding to the needs of the moment in reality means just to get on with the job and to start in whatever way possible. Starting a garden during strict lockdowns involved zoom meetings, presentations, planning and more zoom meetings until a clear picture started to arise.The progression of the garden to date has been one of bringing together an ancient and new story, that of the land in the Georgian walled garden and of the recent advances in soil biology, soil regeneration and awareness of climate change.The living component of soil ‘The soil food web’ refers to the community of organisms living in the soils and how they interact with the environment, plants and animals. Management of land can both affect and benefit from the soil food web.The ‘no dig’ method was settled on as the system of land management. It allows nature to carry out the cultivation, with minimal disturbance of the soil and preserves natural processes. Organisms within the soil can thrive, increasing the soil’s overall health forming a harmony that is good for soil life, plants, insects, birds and humans. The aim is for a ‘May all be happy’ garden, therefore no chemically produced pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilisers are being used.
In May 2021, when the country began to open up after another long period of restrictions, students from our school community and their friends and family (including children) came together to start to cultivate the land, to begin to expose the box of treasures. Growing beds were formed and a polytunnel was erected. The outdoor beds were sown, planted and tended each weekend over the next few months with salads, kale, carrots, beetroot, courgettes scallions, chard, spinach, pumpkins, turnips and leeks. The polytunnel was planted with tomatoes, cucumbers and salads. Year 1 was planned as a trial, to discover what grows well and find out what needs to be put in place to take the project further.The garden dovetailed with the already established system of summer service within the school. Currently there is a small team of students who have committed to give one day per month to work in the garden and are learning to become familiar with growing techniques, sowing, planting, weeding and harvesting so that this in turn this knowledge can be passed on to others.
The garden has yielded abundantly with beautiful vibrant healthy produce. It is a quiet, peaceful space to spend time, to practice paying attention and develop patience and resilience. Alfresco dining at lunchtime with our sandwiches and flasks around a stack of pallets is a pure delight. Not only does the food taste fantastic but the conversations and company is simply joyful.
The school is now registered with the department of agriculture, food and the marine as a primary horticulture producer; we are both farmers and philosophers. Work is underway to comply with food production legislation and the school has partnered with the charity ‘Food cloud’ to supply vegetables for the 2022 season. Planning for the choice of crops to be grown for Food cloud in 2022 is beginning. It is hoped to increase biodiversity and encourage wildlife to the garden by incorporating wild flowers and shrubs areas. A composting area is in place and this can be developed further, perhaps to incorporate other compostable materials from the Townley hall estate. Expansion of the growing area has started and there is a great need for more involvement from students in the school.
This can happen in a number of ways.
- Join the core team and commit to work for at least one day per month [Contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in joining the core team or to get more details)
- Drop by mid week during the summer months in particular and do a little watering or weeding. This may suit those who live close-by.
- Volunteer for ad hoc service opportunities for projects that will be publicised from time to time.
- Bring your friends and family along with you on the day.
Do help in whatever way that you can to support our philosophers’ garden!
[Hilda - happy in her garden - September 2021]