Our Story Weaver, Kaska Hempel, talks to Harold, one of the core volunteers running Fruit Bowls Community Garden.
The story is the fourth in a 5-part series of weekly interviews with members of Dundee Community Garden Network (Grow Dundee) recorded this June, and an audio tour exploring the meaning and impact of community gardening.
You can find a draft of the audio tour here:
Tune in next week for the final story from the Fruibowls Community Garden.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
We are looking for micro-story contributions about your community’s climate and social justice achievements this year so that we can include them in the next few episodes. If you or your community organisation had some proud moments, if you managed to create real glimpses of what’s truly possible or if you simply kept going against all odds please share it with our audience. You can record your message at this link (up to 90 sec): https://www.speakpipe.com/1000BetterStories.
Interview, recording and sound production: Kaska Hempel
Kaska Hempel: Hi it’s Kaska, your Story Weaver. Today I talk to Harold from Fruit Bowls Community Garden which is run entirely by volunteers. This is a second last interview in the series showcasing Everyday Changemakers involved in Dundee Community Garden Network’s open day in June.
After my lunchtime chat with Gisele at the beautifully diverse Victoria Community Gardens, I got on my bike to head North across the Victoria Park towards the path sneaking in between the twin wooded peaks of Balgay Hill and Balgay Cemetery. The shade was a welcome relief after the sizzle of the Victoria’s open space but I found myself struggling to pedal on. By the time I reached Fruit Bowls, tucked away at the edge of the Lochee Park on the other side of the hills, I discovered a slow puncture in my tire…which explained my slow progress…
Another warm welcome and an offer of a cake and a cuppa distracted me from the worry about travelling all the way back home with a flat…By the time I arrived the garden was winding down from the midday rush, with volunteers chatting to visitors and getting on with a bit of harvesting and gardening. A few families were enjoying a pop up loose parts play area set up by the Scapantics team on the lawn at the far end of the Garden. I felt a vague touch of deja vu as the layout of the space looked eerily similar to Victoria gardens – perfectly flat, surrounded by tall evergreen hedges, and equipped with a handy pavilion…Harold, one of the lead volunteers, assured me I was not imagining things…
Harold: My name is Harold, I’m part of Fruit Bowls Community Garden. I’m a volunteer here. We’re all, we’re all volunteers within Fruit Bowls. Um, which generally has individual beds for individual people, but also communal areas. So the general idea is just to plant things, ensure they grow, keep it tidy.
Kaska Hempel: Can you tell me a bit more about where this community garden is and describe your favourite spot in it?
Harold: Um, Fruit Bowls Community Garden is an old bowling green on Ancrum Road, just next to Lochee Park. across the road from Ancrum Road Primary School. Um, was two bowling greens, one converted into a pond area, one still same as the bowling green but with raised beds in it.
My favourite spot is the bench just over my shoulder there because it’s fantastic for the sun.
I mean, come up here and you do some work and it’s nice to sit down with a drink and look about. Because if I sit on the other bench along there, I tend to see things like, that needs tidied, then I’ll get up and I’ll go and do it, even though it’s not mine.
I just don’t like, I don’t like seeing weeds everywhere.
Kaska Hempel: What was your journey into this garden?
Harold: There was an event in the local park next to here and it was to try and sign people up to taking over an individual bed. My wife put her name down for it and then we got an email to come up for her to choose which bed she wanted.
So I just came up with her. And, my idea was, I was having nothing to do with it. It was for my wife, she wanted to do it. And then, and the more I started coming up, the more I thought, that needs done. I’ll take over doing this. Um, we have two beds across in the grass there. One was organised by Repollinate.
They do flowers for bees, obviously, pollination and things. So they were looking for a Bee Bed Champion. And basically I said I would consider it, and that was the worst thing I ever said. Because as soon as I said I would consider it, everybody says, Congratulations, well done, you’re the Bee Bed Champion.
And I find it, I find it actually, I like it better growing flowers rather than fruit and veg. So I’ve started that and then I’ve taken over another bed. We get loads of different wildflower seeds from Bonnie Dundee, things like that. But then this year, the beds just in front of us, where we’re sitting, and then the other two to the right there, we decided to take them over, and we have a, that’s somebody’s bed there, that’s their spare stuff.
And then the other beds, the one next to us is a soup bed. So, anything that you can make soup of, we grow it in there. And then the next one over is a Christmas bed. Parsnip and Brussel sprouts, and then look at that, carrots. So yeah, so that’s just a, just, it is a, it’s a really nice place to come to.
It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, even though there’s a main road runs right past it. You can sit here and the trees blank out the noise and that. It’s nice and peaceful.
Kaska Hempel: So what was the biggest challenge, you know, since he got involved in gardening?
Harold: The biggest challenge was stopping myself doing so much, really. There was, um, over towards the polytunnel there was an area across from the communal area and somebody had started laying a path and it was one paving slab so they dug all the area up and sanded down one paving slab and it was just getting overgrown and overgrown with couch grass.
Somebody kept saying, we need to do this, we need to do that, and nobody would do it. And then I just got fed up one day and thought, right, that’s it. And I spent about four hours just digging a straight line, about six inches deep, so that we could get it. And then luckily we had somebody who came and laid the stones and that.
And then, like I say, I just, I sit there and go, that needs to come out, it’s not my bed, but look at the weeds that are spreading everywhere. And I just need to see something, like tidy.
Kaska Hempel: So how do you stop yourself from doing too much?
Harold: Stop coming here. It’s difficult, it really is. I mean, we come up here with our, we bring our dog up here in the afternoon and the evening because it’s secure, she can run about, not an issue.
No other dogs fight with her in it if there’s any problems. And you sit there and you think, look at that, that needs to come out. Or that needs this and that needs that. And you think, no, I need to stop doing that. And then you just think. I’ll get that tomorrow. No, no, no. And I’ve even seen myself coming up here, leaving at 1 o’clock and coming back at 2, thinking, right, that job needs done, so I’ll let you go and do it.
If I didn’t do that, I would just be sitting at home.
Kaska Hempel: Yeah, so it gets you out, doesn’t it?
Harold: It’s good.
Kaska Hempel: It’s good to be outside.
Harold: Yeah, it is.
Kaska Hempel: So what would be the most useful tip you could give somebody trying to grow more flowers for pollinators?
Harold: Try and get free seeds. It may sound strange, but there are organisations out there where you can get seeds. Um, I googled one day, um, free seeds for bees. And I think it was something like 99 pence for postage. And you were getting two packets. And the packets are only maybe an inch square. But they cover such a big wide area.
Unfortunately, they were just annuals. So they were only, they were dying off after that year. And then, we’ve got all the community gardens in the, part of a network. So we have a WhatsApp group. So we were able to put on that, does anybody have this or does anybody have that. And this year Bonnie Dundee have managed to get perennial seeds for wildflowers.
So, it’s great, we’re not going to have the issue of where we’re going to get some for next year. I mean, it’s definitely worth doing because, OK, things grow but stuff needs to be pollinated. And for pollinators to come in you need to encourage them to come in. This bit where we’re sitting, the ditch, if you actually look there, it’s got flowers in it.
Kaska Hempel: Oh, that’s little pansies, isn’t it?
Harold: Just behind your foot there.
Kaska Hempel: Yeah, I’m squishing them.
Harold: It’s alright. It’s Alliums.
Kaska Hempel: Oh no!
Harold: Don’t worry about them.
Kaska Hempel: I’m so sorry.
Harold: So, we got the local primary school to plant them last year so they’ll come back every year. We have poppies growing. We try to keep some of the areas wild. I would encourage people to plant. As many flowers as possible. Makes the garden look better as well rather than just green.
I’ve been told not to do it by people. But, to me, it’s like, years ago I went to an agricultural college down towards Edinburgh and I got a qualification for, like, Countryside Recreation and Conservation Management and I found myself going more back to the conservation bit, for like the bees and that. And the thing that really annoys me just now is the pond, because it looks so overgrown, and I just want to do something about it, so that’s why I plant the flowers and that.
We’re getting that sorted in November this year.
There’s an organisation called Frog Life coming to help us. So, I’m dead keen to get it because we’ve got thousands of tadpoles in there at the moment, but you would never know there was tadpoles in it because you can’t see anything. And there’s just too many rushes and things like that, so we just need to get it cleared.
Kaska Hempel: Lucky here you don’t have herons.
Harold: Well, we actually do.
Kaska Hempel: You do get them. Oh my gosh.
Harold: We’ve come in here twice in a week and found a heron sitting on a pond across there. So they do scoop out a lot of the, yeah.
And we have a resident crow or something like that, which isn’t about at the moment. And that takes frogs, takes tadpoles and everything. It even brings chips or crisps from the local playground across the road and dips them in the pond to soften them up.
Kaska Hempel: Clever birds, clever birds.
Harold: Well, the benefit of it is, is obviously all the brassicas that are round about should be covered because of the pigeons, but because the crow scares all the pigeons off we don’t need to do that just now.
Kaska Hempel: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing actually.
Harold: It’s great, we’ve actually seen a couple of pigeons coming in and the crow flying from maybe one of the trees or something and they just scatter.
Kaska Hempel: Fantastic. Everybody needs a sentinel crow.
Harold: Yeah, that’s what you do. Just get yourself a crow.
Kaska Hempel: A pond and a chippy across the road. And that’s it.
Harold: Ideal. You can sit and dip your feet in your pond with your bag of chips and feed the crow down again.
Kaska Hempel: Yes. And then that’s your pest control.
Harold: It is. It’s amazing. We’ve noticed that. There’s only really sort of one net that’s up just now.
No other, any other time, just this year.
Kaska Hempel: Yeah, well, keep, it’s a keeper.
Harold: Yep, we just need to keep feeding it.
Kaska Hempel: Um, so if you were a flower, what flower would you be?
Harold: Um, it’s quite difficult. I had a lot of flowers that I liked. I liked lavenders and things like that. But since recently, uh, there’s one of the flowers just behind us. It’s not very good now. It’s called Alliums. It’s normally bright purple. They’re part of the onion family and that. And they look really nice.
Big ball on them, purple, bees love them. It’s probably something like that.
Kaska Hempel: You would be an Allium.
Harold: Or a poppy.
Kaska Hempel: They’re both striking flowers. You like to stand out.
Harold: Yeah, I do. I mean, why shouldn’t I?
Kaska Hempel: Exactly. So what’s the most rewarding thing about having, you know, been involved in the garden so far?
Harold: Things like this. I mean, we were, we were a bit panicking, like, because we thought it’s not going to take off, it’s not going to happen.
People were thinking, oh, we’re not going to do it, should we pull out? But no, and then this morning, we opened at 11. There was like one person come in with their little toddler and started it, we’re not going to get in. And then people were just coming flooding in. And it’s good to see people using the space.
So I mean, it’s, we’re open 24 hours a day, our gate’s never locked. The one on the main road. And it’s just like, seeing people actually using the garden. That’s what it’s for. As long as they’re not causing any damage, generally families like this will come in. I’ve actually had people wanting to use it. In a couple of weeks time for a birthday party for a four year old.
Kaska Hempel: Oh, lovely.
Harold: It’s just, it’s good. We just need to get the place used. Rather than it just sitting there and festering away.
Kaska Hempel: It’s great, it’s a great space. It’s very alive today. Yeah. And it’s nice to have a playground just there as well.
Harold: Yeah, I mean normally that gate across there isn’t open. But because we’ve got the event on the day we’re just keeping it open and people can go back and forward
Kaska Hempel: Yeah. Um, the last question I’ve got for you is sort of trying to imagine the future in ten years time. And it’s maybe imagining this, this space or other spaces that you care about and trying to imagine the best future for them.
I’d like you to then share one memory from that.
Harold: If it was up to me, I would like to see these raised beds in front of us carried on that way, to cover that area there. Um, encouraging more people in, more events like this, people using the garden. Uh, get some more scented flowers in as well. And we have a lot of wildlife about here, we have foxes come in here, we have buzzards that fly over, just to see, like, the space being used.
It needs to be used, it’s a good space, there’s a big area, and people, we’ve actually had people come in here who live in Lochee and don’t even know this place exists. So I suppose, to see, see people using it, to be able to sit there and think, people are coming here, we’ve had people here today saying, this is lovely and that, and it’s nice when people say things like that.
Just so that you’re bringing some enjoyment to people, people are getting to know there’s a space they can use safely. like that in the future, yeah, would be good.
Kaska Hempel: Well, thank you so much for talking to me. That was really great.
Harold: Yeah, enjoyable.
Kaska Hempel: It turns out that Victoria and Fruit Bowls are not the only Dundee bowling greens given a second life as community gardens to keep them in community use, help boost urban biodiversity and local food resilience. Fair Growing Green is yet another kid on this block, created as one of the Unexpected Gardens with support of Scotland-wide Dandelion project last year. There’s a great little video about the creative approach to getting Fair Growing Green off the ground in the episode notes for you. And apparently none of this would have been possible without the out of the box thinking and support from Dundee Council’s Green Spaces team.
It was time to move onto my final stop – a Wee Forest at Lochee. This one was a bit of a mystery – it did not sound like your typical community garden and it was tricky to pinpoint on a map. Thankfully Fruit Bowls folk had some great tips on how to find it and I set off on foot, pushing my deflated steed along. I was glad to be on the final stretch to be honest. Tune in next Monday to learn more about the wee forests of Dundee in our final Dundee community garden Changemakers interview!
Before you go away though, we would like to hear from you! To celebrate the outgoing year and all of our achievements, we want to include messages from our members in the upcoming 1000 Better Stories episodes. So if you or your community organisation has had some proud moments, if you managed to create real glimpses of what’s truly possible or if you simply kept going against all odds please record a message on our answering machine in the cloud. I have popped a link in the episode notes for you! Your message can be up to 90 seconds long. I can’t wait to hear your stories!
Fruit Bowls Community Garden Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fruitbowlsdundee/
Fruibowls Garden in a blog by Repollinate: https://www.repollinate.org.uk/2022/08/10/beds-for-bees-fruit-bowls-community-garden/
Dundee Community Garden Network/Grow Dundee https://growdundee.blog/
Scrapantics’ loose parts play https://www.scrapantics.co.uk/play
Fair Growing Green Video https://vimeo.com/778473010