RDS presents Ireland’s only national allotment awards
Allotments throughout Ireland were recognised at the 2013 RDS Allotment Awards today, not only for fantastic management of the sites by those involved, but also for the contribution they are making at a personal, community and environmental level.
Now in its 4th year, the awards have a total prize fund of €2,500 and are divided into two categories; allotment provider and allotment gardener.
The winner of this year’s Allotment Provider Award, which includes an RDS Silver Medal and €1,000, was Piltown Allotments in Kilkenny. Run by the local parish committee, the allotments were established in 2009 and have 34 members at present. The allotments have been developed using sound commercial and environmental best practice, such as the use of raised beds to overcome problems of poor soil with limited drainage potential. Piltown has excellent facilities, which includes a communal compost facility, a poly-tunnel with a section for each allotment holder as well as for the local school.
Piltown have also set aside specific allotments for the elderly of the parish as well as others for people with disabilities; which are used to promote the many physical and social benefits of horticulture.
In the Allotment Provider category the RDS also issued certificates of merit to Attirory Allotments in Leitrim and to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire. Attirory Allotments is an organic venture and is an excellent example of on-farm diversification by the McGuire family. Established in early 2012, the National Rehabilitation Hospital garden consists of 110 beds, many of them raised to enable mobile and restricted mobility patients to gain the therapeutic effects of horticulture, as well as the emotional benefits such as instilling confidence, self-esteem, value and empowerment through achievement.
The winner of this year’s Allotment Gardener Award, which includes an RDS Silver Medal and €500, was Desmond Reynolds from Shannon Allotments in Clare. Reynolds, who won the inaugural RDS Novice Gardener Award in 2010, impressed the judging panel with the variety of vegetables he grows and for his passion in promoting the benefits and rewards that come with vegetable growing. Desmond uses only natural fertilisers such as fish, blood and bonemeal and ensures that everything he does on his allotment is in harmony with the local wildlife and environment.
Second place and recipient of an RDS Certificate of Merit and €300 went to Jim Spain and Sean De Barra of Rathbeggan Lakes Allotments in Meath. Spain and De Barra make full use of the allotment in their everyday lives, regularly using the plots for picnics and teaching their children about food and where it comes from. Their allotment provides them with so much in terms of food, exercise, education, entertainment and company.
Allotment gardening has turned what might be a solitary activity into a real social and communal pastime for them. Third place and €200 went to Eddie Quigley and Wesley Dawson, of Tullow in Carlow, who run a shared allotment at Ballyconnell Allotments in Wicklow. Eddie and Wesley, who are only in their second year as allotment gardeners, have cooperated very well in setting up a well-designed garden with excellent disease, pest and weed control, giving healthy and vigorous crops.
Tom Cannon, RDS committee of agriculture chairman, said he was delighted to be able to meet so many of this year’s applicants. “The RDS Allotment Awards allows us to recognise the hard work and dedication of all those involved in allotments but it also allows us to bring together gardeners and providers from all over Ireland to share ideas and learn from each other which is one of the main goals of the competition.”
The RDS Allotment Awards are part of the RDS Foundation Agriculture and Rural Affairs programme, which aims to promote best practice and efficiency in farming to ensure farm household profitability and sustainability in Ireland.