Getting ready for winter … Already

If your like me this summer has been full on !!

Vegetables have been great and time has flown . But now we need to replenish the soil , take stock of our hard work and prepare to rest .


2018 … Springing back to life !

And Yes ! The spring is almost upon us , I know officially its here but as i look out my window to the snow laden peaks of Errigal , I am hesitant to jump into action just yet . Planning is still in earnest here at OURganic Gardens , As well as Joanne’s outreach work in community gardens still ongoing , we have a range of exciting in house courses’ in development for the coming year . We also have our herb garden project run by the amazing Angela Mc Gee and our ideas about our much wanted CSA (community supported agriculture) market garden are in development . So as you can guess , we are very excited about the year ahead !

And we welcome you and hope you can join us as ever in our journey as we develop this social enterprise into a place where people can come to learn and be educated about horticulture , permaculture , sustainability and everything in between .

Now over to Joanne :


Tree Planting , Seed Sowing and Spuds !

Busy Bees are us this past week , the weather is making a slow change but the cold is still upon us so patience a plenty we grab every opportunity to get into the garden . We also welcome Charlotte from Germany who has been helping us !



Kicking off the year we have teamed up with Changemakers Donegal to bring you all an excellent accredited QQI level 4 in Global Development . Starting on Friday 2nd March this course will look at key global issues such as inequality, gender equality, justice, environmental sustainability, and how local and global are linked and shape our lives.

Kate Wilkinson, Change Makers Project Coordinator said “This is the first time we have offered a QQI module in West Donegal and we are delighted to be linking in with OURganic Gardens who are hosting the course. Joanne Butler from OURganic Gardens has been involved in Change Makers for many years and our aims and objectives are very much aligned. The module is great – really open and interactive and everyone gets a change to share their views and learn from the other participants and the course facilitators”.

I have personally have completed this course in 2014 and it really opened my eyes up to solution based projects that we all can undertake locally and make a change in how we live (Hence community gardening !!)
We are taking now bookings for this course and the cost covers your accredited course tutors and delicious food and refreshments (€100 but €50 returned on completion) !
*This course has been postponed until start date 2nd March … Places still available .
We look forward to welcome new and familiar faces to this course and you can get in touch with myself (Joanne) or through Kate at Changemakers
QQI Level 4 Flier Gortahork Feb to April 2018-page-001

Community Gardens

Another great year planned for community gardens in Donegal . I am personally involved in five gardens this year starting in Gortahork and Ards on Saturday 3rd March , then Brinaleck on Monday 5th March , St Johnston on Thursday 8th March and Dunfanaghy on Monday 12th March . While id love to have the time to do more , i realise to be talking sustainability i need to be walking sustainability , so this way I get to do some time in community gardens, some time with my family and some time at here at home in my own garden and other projects . As you all know juggling takes a lot of time . There are 29 community gardens altogether in Donegal and lots of other courses are running out in these gardens also . As always most of these courses are supported by the @Donegal ETB who give their amazing support to these community education courses and without their assistance we would not be able to avail of facilitators in the gardens ! If you are interested in getting involved in your local community garden please get in touch with Donegal Community Garden Network (they also do a newsletter four times a year and meet in various locations around Donegal. ) . As Chairperson of this network I know most of the gardens around the county at this stage but we have a network event coming up on Saturday 10th March at @Twin Towns Community Garden and if your interested we would love to see you there . All gardeners welcome . DCGN will also help get you connected into your local community garden .

Spring 2018 Garden Courses Donegal 2018 (5)

Donegal Community garden network (2) (1)

QQI Level 3 in Falcarragh and Glenties

So as well as all the above I will be part running two QQI LEvel 3 horticulture and employment courses this year in Falcarragh and Glenties . The first course in Falcarragh is very exciting for me as it is a return to the first garden I ever facilitated @Pobail Le Cheile ! And this year we will be relocating the garden to a new site with a brand new lay out . On board with this project is Sarah Kernan who has designed and managed the build of this garden . I really look forward to the coming months where the students will be hard at work bringing this creation to life . I will be visiting Glenties in the coming weeks to get their plan underway also . Again thanks to @Donegal ETB for the opportunity to be part of this project and with the amazing summer we are going to have I can only assure great work will be achieved !

Permaculture Training and Upcoming courses

Yea !! im delighted this year as I get to be a trainee permaculture facilitator at the amazing Carraig Dúlra in County Wicklow . As part of their Permaculture Design Certificate that embraces head, heart and hands-on learning, I will get to learn onsite at this trans-formative and immersive educational experience at this 4 acre Permaculture research site in the South East of Ireland.
This PDC is designed to be as accessible as possible to all in its learning style, affordability, and ability level, and to all ages. For more info on this please have a look at their website

PDC Carraig Dulra (4)

The Song House and OURganic Gardens

This is BIG for us and we are over the moon to link up with our good friends at The Songhouse in Falcarragh to bring the first Autumn Garden Break to Donegal ! We are so excited to be able to offer people the opportunity to come and visit us at the garden and also at other beautiful gardens and locations that our part of the world has to offer (including Cluain Na dTor and Glenveagh National Park) . The Song House itself provides excellent accommodation , stunning mountain views and it’s very own permaculture garden . I will certainly be mentioning this again in the summer blog but for now see below for more details :))

SongHouse Autumn Break Main Page

More Details :

SongHouse Autumn Break 2nd page

NW Organics

This year OURganic Gardens have joined up with the newly formed NW organics Ireland This is a new network that’s aim is to develop organic gardening skills, share ideas, information and resources. Their mission is closely aligned with ourselves and we are looking forward to working with them and supporting their projects .

For more details see their website

Keep Calm , Keep Gardening

So thats just about it for now , I could add lots more but for updated events and other talks see Facebook page or check out the website which will be newly launched this Spring !! I hope you have enjoyed this update and I look forward meeting or hearing from you all over the coming months . Drop a line in the comments if you enjoyed reading this … it might get me more motivated to do more 🙂

Joanne x

Seeds ,  Seedlings and Sunshine 

Things are certainly warming up at here at OURganic Gardens this month , we are watching everything spring into life and getting a bit of that vavavoom back in the bones !!

We had a great success with the tiny homes event delivered by Suzie Cahn from Carraig Dulra in March with people coming from all over to participate in a natural building workshop exploring the idea of downsizing and living more in a more sustainable way . With the smells of homemade lunch and laughter filling the air it truly was a special day and a real celebration of all the hard work that has gone on to achieve the first workshop held at the garden.

We are delighted to have joined forces with  Gairdín Gort a Choirce which is a new community enterprise based here at the garden, the team at Gairdín Gort a Choirce will be taking care of the community end of things at the garden and will be in charge of the of running various projects as well as the monthly community garden . Joanne Butler will be the volunteer coordinator taking care of the day to day running’s tying in various new and existing projects and aiming to get the local and wider community involved as much as possible .

Going forward from that the monthly community garden that got underway in January is now in full swing welcoming gardeners all over to the garden. In February we had Ewan Barry at the garden demonstrating live willow weaving and then this month (March) we had Cary Meehan doing a wonderful woodland foraging walk and cookery demonstration. Next month we look forward to an introduction to home herbalism which takes place April 25th .

The other community based project that Gairdín Gort a Choirce is running is the amazing SEED project . This is a new Social Enterprise Enabling Development project that gets volunteers involved in growing seeds for community gardens and tidy towns . This is a pilot project that aims to create a sustainable in-house way of self funding a community project . If successful other gardens and projects can follow the model and in-turn sustain there own projects . So far we have reached over 50% of our target so we are delighted . We do however need more volunteers to help with transplanting so every Thursday 11-1 here at the garden we welcome anyone looking to help .

So just as the seeds spring into life and the soil warms up ,  we look ahead as seedlings ourselves and embrace what’s around the corner here at OURganic Gardens. In the coming months we look forward to more exciting events and plans are well underway ,we are open for visits on Tuesdays and Thursdays and soon we will have a program of events aswell as an updated website  !

If you would like to get involved please do get in touch or call Joanne on 0861789971

OURganic Gardens ‘The year ahead’

Hello Folks and happy New Year folks from myself Joanne Butler @OURganic Gardens , I hope you are all well and preparing your garden for a blooming year ahead.
I want to update you on a few things happening this year with myself and projects that I am currently working on.
My focus this year will  be mainly at my home in Gortahork
( )  where I will be running a Monthly garden project (Starting on Tuesday 31st January @10am-4pm We will also be hosting other various workshops including introduction to tiny homes , live willow weaving and herbal remedies to name a few . (dates of all these workshops will be announced in the coming weeks when we have our new updated website)
I will still be working hands on in a small number of community garden projects helping out with some new ideas and continuing some older ones!  Dates and times for these projects will be announced to gardens involved .
I am also working closely onsite with Gairdín Gort a Choirce volunteers in a project called the SEED project (Social Enterprise Empowering Development) . Here volunteers will gain experience growing plug plants and ground ready garden packs for community gardens and tidy town groups : the different packs include different sized vegetable gardens packs (small , medium or large) as well as the juicing garden pack , the herb garden pack , the polytunnel pack and also a pollinator flower pack consisting of 10 different varieties of bee friendly plants that will encourage pollinators and biodiversity into your garden or tidy town  .
All garden packs come with a garden plan and can be delivered when hardened off ready for the ground . This project has been funded by Local Agenda 21 and all profit will go directly into creating further enterprise projects for the group at Gairdín Gort a Choirce. This project has been approved by the All Ireland Pollinator Plan and will be encouraging more projects to be developed For the Community By the Community ! More details on The SEED Project  including a pre order form please contact me on . If you need any further information on this or would like to get involved please feel free to get in touch .
I will also continue my volunteer work as Chairperson for the Donegal Community Garden Network and work is ongoing to prepare for the launch of this in the Spring, as well as networking events and creating a community garden map in Donegal  . I am delighted to see this network coming to life and I look forward to meeting all the gardens throughout the year and in the coming weeks I hope to plan a strategic REPS meeting to find out the need and wants of community gardens in Donegal .   As some of you may be aware I am also the Secretary of Community Gardens Ireland and all the work being done in Donegal will be highlighted throughout the national network to promote what we do and to inspire other counties to do the same . 
And last but not least (for now!) I have developed a new Community gardens facilitator initiative where I hope to run a number of training sessions for aspiring tutors of Community Gardens in  the County . Gardeners that may already be running gardens or wish to start a new community garden , will be given the soft skills in likes of class planning , communication and environmental ethos. The aim will be that we have more community garden facilitators from the ground up helping make their own gardens and groups even better places where  people want to come to and get involved  . I myself will still be involved with the community gardens throughout the county but as hard as it is to admit I can not be in so many places as much as I was last year . For more information on this initiative drop me a line as we will be taking names to see if there is interest. 
I will be promoting all these projects and initiatives through social media other ways but if you can help spread the word in any way possible please do . I also want to continue to promote the All Ireland Pollinator Plan and the People4Soil Campaign .. if you want to help support and promote these also within your groups then please let me know !


With all this work ahead , I  really do look forward to the coming year and as I plan these dates and workshops in the next few weeks I look forward to hearing from you all if you need further information  . 
I will have more exciting news and events to promote throughout the year  but for now I want to thank all my gardeners and colleagues for their help and support to date and here’s to a very productive and healthy 2017 ! 

Spring is in the air @OURganic Gardens

Community Gardens Springing into life !

Things are starting to get busy at OURganic Gardens @HOME and in the community gardens. Since most of the community gardens do not kick off until mid march Ive had to begin @HOME sowing seeds for seven groups !! it is an OCD’s nightmare to be honest but I am still managing to get everything sown on time- I find it much easier to get a head start on some veggies here @HOME where I can look after them carefully ….. or at least try ! Organisation is key and keeping records is very important – this year , as with every year I make a determined effort to stay on top of labels , dates and notes (If I make it to April Ill be doing well ) ….. but seriously having the notes to look back on and see what has and hasn’t worked is well worth the effort in the long run !

Making sure all the seed trays are labelled and dated for future reference


OURganic Gardens is starting its 4th year this year in the community gardens .While creating a network of community gardens in Donegal I have learnt so much since the beginning and not just on growing veggies . Community gardens is about people , bringing like minded people together and seeing the excitement that their first seedling brings and the hope of the future it holds is nearly as exciting as a load of well rotted manure (I do say nearly mind !) . Sometimes I get ask what’s the most important things about starting a community garden and I have to say its the community – yes, you need a site , insurance and all the legal stuff but once you have a group of people that want to make a garden a shared space open to all , and a difference in their community then your well on your way !! and trust me that’s not always as easy as it sounds .

Its all about the People



Thanks to local agenda 21 this year OURganic Gardens has secured a small bit funding for seeds , soil and spuds , all for the community gardens and gardeners that take part in the courses throughout the year. This year ill be facilitating community gardens for various community centres and projects aswell as my own onsite garden , which im super excited about – Here @HOME , we got a few local gardeners to set up a committee , and to make sure its all above board we have drawn up a lease agreement to the community garden for one Pea (Yes Pea) a year 😉 …. lets hope we at least manage to get that much growing ! With a bit of deep digging we will have our insurance sorted in the coming weeks so will soon be good to go 🙂 Again all we need is the people , which with a bit of word spreading and unadulterated advertising (which I cannot get funding for ) OURganic Gardens hope is to entice gardeners of all ages and capabilities to take part this year .

Nothing beats a bit of local advertising to get the word out


So with gardens plans in back pocket , ill be off to my first six week garden course starting Monday 14th March in Dunfanaghy Resource Centre . After that I kick off Portanoo and Ardara on the 16th March , Gortahork (My Own Community Garden ) on the 7th April , Mountcharles on the 8th April Ards walled garden project on the 9th April and cara house letterkenny on the 12th April . It will be a busy few weeks but I hope the weather is kind to (all of) us and that we Spring happily into a glorious summer in the Donegal community gardens .


From planning to planting @OURganic Gardens

Things have been non stop this month between working @HOME and now planning the community gardens that I am lucky enough to be involved with this year in Donegal . From late winter until now I’ve spent quality time making sure I have all the seed , soil and accessories for the coming months – not to mention the energy required for the planting of a fair few tress before the end of the bare root season .

The seed selecting takes place late winter so once that’s done I just need to decide what goes where – working on eight gardens this year ive had to stay really focused and not to get them mixed up but I do have a great system at this stage and with to help me out , I can hardly take all the credit ;

the garlic went in the ground late this year – two reasons . 1) I was waiting for it to get a bit colder (and it finally has ) and 2) we got a later variety that can be planted right up until march so we were under no real pressure – I made sure the bed was well drained and had no perennial weeds – I find the trick is to make sure that no water lies in your soil at all – this tends to slow down growth and the garlic stays very small


At the beginning of February I kicked off my first garden at the rainbow project in Derry – They are bringing together a great group of enthusiastic gardeners from the “spring up” project that will be running for six weeks – we hope to create a beautiful veggi patch , some colourful vertical gardens and upcycle to our hearts delight .. loving it ♥


One of the many benefits that community gardening offers is a sense of achievement coupled with a sense of hope . At the start of the year you plan , you prepare and you sow . Then you nurture , care and defend. And then when all the hard work is done you reap the benefits . For me harvesting all OUR hard work throughout the year is one of life’s pleasures that luckily doesn’t cost the earth !

Now to get back to my plans , have a root though my artfully decorated seed box that my children created and get sowing !! :))


NB This year I will be running community garden courses for six weeks in spring – locations so far are Letterkenny , Dunfanaghy , Ards , Gortahork , Portanoo , Ardara and Mountcharles – the Rainbow project is in going and will finish up mid March – for more details check my face book @ourganic gardens or comment below .

Preparing our beds

The winter work @OURganic gardens has taken longer than expected this year – I’m not sure if its because lack of time or if its because I’m actually still waiting for winter to begin !! The weather is mild to say the least .

In December, we loaded four of our raised beds with seaweed to replace nutrients and work on the soil structure – we have fairly heavy soil where we are but it has great potential !
I have eight veg beds in total and I generally give four of them a good feed every year (I alternate four on four off ) – then when I rotate the vegetables I put my heavy feeders where there is plenty of nutrients and I put the other veg into the beds fed the previous year .

Then in mid January I’ve taken the used straw from the pigs bed ( but any straw would do ) and I’ve laid it on top of the seaweed – I then covered it with cardboard to help suppress weeds and also speed up decomposition

Now I “think” this is the lazy bed system but ill have to check that one out later – but it certainly saves me a lot of digging and as this particular one is my cabbage bed this year only time will tell if the greens will reap the benefit and return the favour !!

First week of the year @OURganic Gardens

Ok , so here we go – another attempt at blogging … only this time im serious !!! several attempts at getting to grips with it. I think the only way for me to actually do it , is to actually do it !!!

So ill blog and ill blog and we will see what happens .

Every Monday morning I am gona sit in my little office tucked away in my little cottage in Donegal , and tell who ever is interested out there what i’m doing in the community gardens. its hard to believe while we are in the grips of winter with the warm balmy weather , I am busy planning my year out .


Continue reading “First week of the year @OURganic Gardens”

Who we are


My name is Joanne Butler and I am a community gardener working in various locations in northwest Donegal .
As well as my own gardens in Gortahork I help other gardeners get that little step closer to eating local , naturally grown sustainable produce …. As well as having lots of fun along the way .
Collectively these community gardens are not organic they are OURganic ….

…… Growing food without a label.

The vegtable garden 2013 …. The beginning


This is a photo of my garden at the very start of my journey …… April 2013 .
Although I have been growing vegetables for the last 6 years I have never done anything on such a large scale . Since having my three children I have been focused on raising a young family and feeding them as healthy as I could. When the children were babies I would buy vegetables and make all my own baby food and I suppose it just progressed from there .
I started off just growing cabbages and then moved onto courgettes and now I do full crop rotations with as many vegetables and herbs as I can , I have been studying garden books with a passion during this time and I am now studying with the RHS at a home study course .

This year I’m really focused on the community gardens and working at a local garden centre, Cluain Na dTor in Falcarragh so I guess my own garden has been a bit neglected but never the less I look at it all as a huge source of enjoyment and learning and I hope you the reader will too as you follow me on my journey with the community gardeners in Donegal .

I will post regular updates in this blog site and also teaching aids that I use in my classes … This way I get to keep the paper waste down and save some money on ink !