Grow It Yourself at RTÉ

RTE Allotments_09

RTÉ let themselves go after the death of Gerry Ryan. Well they let their allotments go, which had originally featured on the late presenter’s show. Until recently they lay abandoned in the grounds of RTÉ. Their CountryWide radio programme, presented by Damien O’Reilly, now has ownership of the allotments.

“When CountryWide took over the allotment, earlier this year, it had been lying fallow for about two seasons,” Producer Sinead Egan explained when she spoke to NewsFour. “Before that The Gerry Ryan Show had it and after Gerry died, The John Murray Show took it over for a season during 2011. Now we have it and the Sandymount Grow It Yourself group were approached to take beds in it.”

GIY Sandymount is a group of about 15 like-minded growers from the local area. They are interested in building sustainability at a local level and consider the growing of organic food a big part of that process. “We’ve been meeting now for three or four years,” said Kathy Herbert a member of GIY Sandymount. “We’re all novices. One or two of us are skilled and the rest of us are learning as we go.

“GIY is about vegetable growing, which we try to do in as organic a manner as possible. We started off by having meetings where we’d compare notes.” They used to get speakers to come in and talk which was popular but difficult to organise. It was decided that the most important thing was the growing of the vegetables and to learn about that. GIY carried on talking to each other about their experiences of growing, their successes and their failures.

This is GIY Sandymount’s first allotment where they could put their theory into practice on a shared plot, rather than in their own back gardens. “When we got the allotment it was like a Godsend because all of a sudden it was practical,” said Kathy.

While growing in her own garden, Kathy, herself, was getting terrible results because the soil wasn’t great. “The soil in the allotment is fantastic.” She produced turnips – “the size of a head,” – which she dug up while CountryWide were broadcasting from the allotments. “Everything is huge.”

Located just across from the set of RTÉ’s long-running soap Fair City, the structure of the plots was already in place when GIY Sandymount went in. There were raised beds and fruit trees, but a lot of work was required to get them back to working order. “When we first got the allotments they were derelict. We had to spend a couple of days out there just digging and cleaning. Even the paths and everything were full of weeds. We each have a patch about a metre wide by four metres long.”

The allotments are now home to 12 spaces, a glasshouse, and some fruit trees. Their crops include rhubarb, apple trees, redcurrants, white currants, potatoes, cauliflower, onions and of course Kathy’s much remarked on white turnips. The growers take their crops home and are given the land to tend for free.

In August this year, RTÉ’s CountryWide programme broadcast live from the allotments, with a mobile farm and Nevin Maguire cooking up a storm using the harvested crops. CountryWide intend to check in on the allotments once every two or three months, “just to see what they’re planting, how they’re growing,” says Sinead. “The growers are up here a lot, they will come up once or twice a week to check their own beds and it’s looking fantastic.”

To follow their progress check:

Photo: Kathy with the giant turnips!
Photo by Kathy Herbert

By Emma Dwyer