two people holding a bowl of tomatoes (c) elaine casap

Community gardening

I’ve been volunteering at the Inspire Community Garden for a few months now and I’ve gained so much from it. I wanted to share a little bit of my story and what 2 hours a week has given me.

A practical way to make a difference

When I really started to look into sustainability and equality a couple of years ago I was left feeling a bit ‘numb’ and helpless. What on earth was I going to do that would make a difference? I’ll be honest, I became quite isolated as well. I just wanted to keep learning more – hoping to find the answers. It wasn’t very healthy because I kind of started to feel like the whole world was on my shoulders.

Of course it wasn’t, I was just in that very strange and scary place that you get in when your perspective on big things changes. I didn’t know at the time that this was what was happening, but I can look back and understand the whole process now.

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

Edmund Burke

The important thing I started to do was carry out small, practical changes that threw me out of my internal monologue that was running on repeat – kind of like changing channels. Going to the garden was one of those small activities that flipped the channel from ‘numb and helpless’ to ‘active and useful’. It helped that I felt instantly welcome at the garden and I still get the feeling of awe when I step into it once a week.

A community of like-minded people

A community garden is shaped by the hands of many people. Being a part of a team who share the same vision and beliefs as you is empowering and rewarding. You get to meet new people and you’re likely to learn something from them.

In return you’re giving something back. Even if you’re not as skilled yet you’ll have your own life story that adds value to the group and your own perspective on the world. You might end up talking about something completely random but you’ll be sewing that rich tapestry of stories shared and making connections you wouldn’t have otherwise.

A set of basic gardening skills

This is more valuable than you might think when it comes to gardening. In roughly 30 hours of volunteering I’ve learnt the correct way to:

  • dig a hole
  • use a trowel
  • select the right bean to pick
  • take side-shoots from a tomato plant
  • use a watering can for seedlings
  • use a sledge hammer
  • put in a fence post
  • select the right onions
  • pot up a seedling
  • dispose of weeds
  • make comfrey tea
  • plant rows of corn outside
  • plant aubergines and squash inside
  • make a cover for brassicas
  • select the right hoe for weeding
  • pollinate a peach grown indoors

And there’s probably loads more that I haven’t even realised I’ve learnt.

Local knowledge

Gardening is one of those things that really benefits from local knowledge. By talking to other local gardeners you learn:

  • what plants grow well in your climate
  • what plants don’t grow so well
  • where to buy the best seeds and materials
  • when to sow seeds and plant outdoors
  • when local events are happening and where
  • who to go to for more advice

Yes you could probably search online for all of these things but the the beauty of talking to a human is that, well, you’re talking to a human 🙂

Where can you volunteer?

You can visit the RHS for a list of opportunities to volunteer in your community.

You can work in the National Trust gardens.

I also have a volunteer in nature resources section where I list opportunities as I find them.

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