Bringing a garden-sharing scheme to new neighbourhoods

Game Changers: Caitriona Kenny and Scott Bryan have a waitlist of people, both garden owners and would-be growers. All they need is more funding to make more matches

There was glum news for vegetable growers recently when a study found the carbon footprint of home-grown food was six-times greater than the stuff we buy in shops. It probably felt like a poke in the eye with a pea stick for people busy turning compost and worrying that the seedlings are getting too leggy.

But before we hang up our dibbers, there was plenty of good news behind the headline. Not all growers are equal and not all crops are either. Home-grown tomatoes beat shop ones. Air-flown asparagus is far more polluting than spears grown in the back garden. The study, which looked at 73 sites in Germany, Poland, the UK and the US, recommended that urban agriculture focus on greenhouse-grown food and air-freighted produce to lower carbon emissions. Repurposing materials and sharing tools also lowers the impact.

Ask any allotment fan and they’ll tell you the social and nutritional benefits outweigh the carbon (and financial) savings. Growing can be a healthy hobby with physical and mental benefits. The biodiversity gains can be excellent. Just-picked kale comes packed with nutrients and not packed in plastic. Then there are the halo effects on food waste habits. Someone who knows the time and work it takes to produce vegetables is probably less likely to bin large amounts of shop-bought produce.

These are all the reasons it’s great to see social enterprise Community Roots ( expand from its Dublin 7 pilot to bring a brilliant garden-sharing scheme to other neighbourhoods. The project pairs people with gardens with people who would love to garden. At least two square metres of growing space is created (preferably in a front garden) and the often inter-generational exchange of resources begins.


Caitriona Kenny and Scott Bryan have a waitlist of people, both garden owners and would-be growers ready to match. All they need is more funding to make more matches. The scheme is expanding to Dublin 8, 14, 16 and Rush in Co Dublin.

And it’s not just gardens that are being offered, Kenny explained. She visited a nursing home recently with space that can hopefully be offered to residents of a nearby apartment building where they have a waitlist of people wanting to get their hands in the soil. Once matches are made, space owners and growers get together as a bigger group for workshops so it becomes a wider community-growing project.

“People find this project so positive,” Kenny said. “There are very deep emotions around having space. The feedback is that the garden owner feels they’re doing good for another person and it takes away the guilt that comes from not doing anything with it themselves.”