The Beechgrove Community Garden initiative began in 1996 and since then over 200 community gardens have been created the length and breadth of Scotland through this initiative.
In the early years the culmination of these Community Gardens was treated as an insert to the main programme, but in 2001, the 'Community Garden Specials' became entire programmes that followed the emergence of the new Community Gardens. The special programmes are based entirely from the area surrounding those new gardens. Using the emerging garden as a focus to explore the local community, the specials also feature inspirational gardens nearby; the team also solves local gardening problems, and gather hints and tips from the local gardeners, allowing each community/area to be covered on television in a gentle manner not previously seen.
Regeneration of communities and areas is a major theme of these projects and Beechgrove's involvement has helped not just to publicise this but has actually stimulated re-generation.
The Beechgrove Community Garden Initiative aims to encourage communities to identify and undertake environmental improvement projects in their local communities. As Beechgrove is a gardening series, the project must be the creation of a garden that everyone in the community can have access to. The main aim is that communities come together to create a garden for themselves, by themselves, with only a little help from the Beechgrove team.
The assistance that Beechgrove brings is:
- the time and talents of a garden designer
- support from the Beechgrove resources and team
- seed corn funding
- and of course the publicity that the programme brings
Beechgrove essentially acts as an enabler, a catalyst. Less tangible but clearly important is that Beechgrove imposes a deadline.
The Community Garden initiative has been supported over the years by a number of organisations, namely:
- The Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland
- The Greenbelt Group
- BBC Scotland
- Scottish Enterprise
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Forward Scotland
- RBS Supergrounds Initiative
- Garden For Life Forum
- Healthier Scotland
Greenbelt is delighted to be able to support the work of Tern TV in producing The Beechgrove Garden for BBC.
To be asked to contribute to the “makeover garden” series is an excellent opportunity to bring communities together and share the experience of tending to land. This theme is very much aligned to the Greenbelt model where open spaces and communities come together. We all hope the series is enjoyable and makes a difference to all who are involved.
Greenbelt Holdings Ltd
Apart from the obvious aesthetic benefits, the Community Garden projects benefit the local environment in the following ways:
All the Community Gardens employ local people and use local suppliers wherever possible. Seed corn funding from Beechgrove is small. The value of each project is difficult to calculate as most of the work and goods are given free of charge but recent estimates are that each of the projects are eventually worth many tens of thousands of £s. However, the value increases as the years pass as most of the projects continue to develop their sites.
Many of the projects have used long term unemployed groups and/or individuals to assist. They also involve both able bodied and non-able bodied and learning difficulty children and adults (many of the projects design sensory areas and most have wheelchair friendly access as part of the gardens). The groups also often rely on retired people to help. The groups all involve local schools, colleges, local horticultural groups and allotments.
Most of the groups gain added funding from other local non-commercial organisations and receive goods and services (FOC) from other local commercial organisations.
All the groups use recycled goods and materials as a matter of principle and necessity.
Clearly, each project has to form a group and we encourage that group to be properly constituted. The group then has to design and build the garden, and follow a critical path under time pressures. The group has to be self-motivating. Community leaders are found and made. They fund raise and motivate their team. Talent, new and established, is found and trained. It is hard work but incredibly satisfying (we are told).
Most of the community gardens reclaim or re-generate local land. Some have taken on completely derelict pieces of land that have never been cultivated; some are re-generating sites that had been gardens many years ago. In the case of re-generating old gardens, this often means that the garden then has an important historical or cultural element for the local community. Land may be urban or rural and all points in between.
Once the group has completed the garden project, they often move on to other projects in the local area.
In 2011, the Ypeople Garden in Glasgow was supported by Garden for Life and it was part of the remit for the garden that they understand, recognise and encourage local biodiversity.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) support is based on the Garden for Life criteria: peat free, organic, sustainable and wildlife friendly.
SNH has a number of guidance leaflets available on their website.
In many cases the creation of these gardens also provides a new focus for local tourism.
The gardens are also often used for purposes other than horticulture and the enjoyment of, they often have performance spaces built in and become the focus for other community activities.
Scottish Natural Heritage research carried out on behalf of the Garden for Life Partnership.
Garden for Life: research of support needs for groups undertaking community gardening (Yellow Brick Road 2005).
Community gardening is a concept that has been gaining ground in recent decades and the network of groups in Scotland currently extends to over 500.
Community gardening has long been a component of gardening in Scotland through the work of some very old and established gardening societies and through allotments associations. It has recently been given added profile and momentum through the work of The Beechgrove Garden team.
As community gardening has developed, so has work to conserve species and habitats through the UK Biodiversity Programme. The need to engage the general public in biodiversity has led to the recognition of the role of gardens as a natural meeting point for people and wildlife.
Below are some of the views of people who have been involved in community gardens.
“for children, the achievement of growing their own food has been tremendous – it’s been about demystifying a very simple and natural process, from which most of them are far removed”
“Community gardening is an easy way in for community groups into sustainability projects. They can see a result fairly quickly and work through the issues of landaccess, agreeing plans, finding support and keeping the project going. It is community sustainability in a nutshell”
“we’re the best thing in this area - in fact we’re the only living thing in this area”
What is currently happening:
"SNH already looks at corridors for wildlife in EU legislation and we need to do the same at the local scale...Our allotments site feels like an oasis in the middle of a roundabout and we need to change what surrounds us by turning the barren areas into habitats surrounding the oasis of gardens"
"Community gardens are an alternative to the green eyesore of mown grass in urban neighbourhoods. People want us to use that land"
Where do we want to go:
"We are trying to turn our community garden into a social enterprise, making it a centre for employment and producing food, compost, training and other services that people will pay for. You cannot live by voluntary effort alone."
On Beechgrove’s influence in this area the publication said:
“The Beechgrove factor? – Beechgrove is a highly influential player due its profile and popular appeal. For many people in Scotland, the programme defines community gardening, often seen as the rapid conversion of waste ground into an impressive physical garden. Some groups are now looking to extend the use of their garden area and the Beechgrove team will be returning to see how the groups are getting along and help motivate long term maintenance”.
In general, the activities associated with gardening can help lead to a healthier lifestyle. Whether getting together to cut back the herbaceous borders, using the garden to grow some fruits and vegetables or even walking down to the community garden, these spaces encourage people to get out and get active.
How to get Involved
We can only take on a few community garden projects each year. However, many community gardens have been created as groups who have applied to be involved with Beechgrove then didn't make it through, but have managed to create gardens for themselves anyway.
For more details please see our application information on apply to us.
The groups involved with the Community Gardens are always keen to share their experiences, both good and bad, with any group that is thinking of doing similar. You can see some of the processes that they went through to create their gardens by looking at our Community Garden Factsheets. Those factsheets are written by the communities themselves. The most recent communities featured are:
Glenfinart Walled Garden, Ardentinny
Colonsay Community Garden
Knockando Woolmill Trust Garden, Aberlour
Moniack Mhor Writers Centre Garden, Kiltarlity
Therapeutic Garden at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee
The Vale View Garden, Barmill
North West Community Garden, Kilmarnock
Clober Farm, Milngavie, Spinal Injuries Scotland
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Centre, Spey Bay
Girvan's Secret Community Garden.
Royal Edinburgh Community Gardens: Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Mornigside.
Dick Vet Community Garden, Celebrating the Human Animal bond. Easter Bush Campus, Edinburgh.
Tain Rose Garden.
Seil Drill Hall Community Garden.
Room to Grow, Colinton Primary School.
The Organic Growers of Fairlie, Fife
Cumbernauld- Glencryan School
Rothesay- Rothesay Joint Campus. Young Green Fingers
Nairn Leisure Link Scheme - Allotment Garden
Innerleithin - St. Ronan's Well
Banchory - Woodlands Allotment Society
Isle of Barra - Cobhair Bharraigh
Rhynie - The Wetlands
Blackwood - St. John's Primary
Islay - Bridgend and Port Charlotte