When we first moved to our house 20 years ago, we didn’t know a soul in this little New England town of 17,000. I was a new stay-at-home dad with a six-month-old baby girl; my wife commuted into New York City every day.
And I was LONELY!
I had no time to garden much that first summer with all those boxes to unpack and all my duties as full-time care giver.
And when I went to the park with my daughter to be around other people, I got suspicious looks from the moms. Stay-at-home dads were a new thing back then and I felt totally isolated.
But hope was right around the corner, actually half a block down the street.
A garden club saves the day
In my local paper one day, I saw a notice for a meeting of the Bethel Garden Club. Suddenly I saw a way to connect with my new community.
That Tuesday morning, with toddler in tow, I walked down the street to my first meeting of the Garden Club. The women were so welcoming and accepting.
I suddenly felt there was someplace I belonged besides unpacking all those moving boxes—not to mention dealing with all the dirty dishes and piles of laundry (one baby can produce incalculable amounts of dirty clothes).
I had discovered my first gardening community.
So here’s my advice.
OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip # 19: Get involved in a gardening community or create one.
If you are a new gardener or new to your community, it’s a great way to get involved and meet new people and learn new skills.
If you’re an experienced gardener or long time resident of the community, it’s your way of giving back and helping others.
And it can add a lot of fun to your gardening world!
There are tons of ways to get involved in or create a sense of community with gardening.
Here’s my “starter kit” of 11 ideas to get you going:
1. Join a garden club. Or start one! My little town only has one, but when I lived in Texas, we had a community Garden Center with about 23 different garden clubs. Find a group you like and get involved. The monthly meetings are always interesting and we even had parties in the spring and during the Holidays.
2. Help plant and maintain gardens in parks and municipal locations. Our garden club always plants the window boxes for the downtown businesses and plants the flowerbeds at Town Hall.
As my kids got old enough to help, they took pride in planting things for the town. It helped them feel part of things too.
3. Help with or start gardens at a local school or day care/pre-school. Years ago when my niece was in pre-school, I started a garden for the kids in the school’s back yard.
Those little guys loved planting the seeds and transplants. But they took real pride in watering and weeding the garden. And they were so excited to eat green beans “we growed ourselfs.”
This same niece is now very interested in organic gardening and farming. Hey, you never know what will happen when you help others with their gardens.
4. Start a garden for local vets or seniors to participate in. I’ve even heard of gardening programs at prisons where inmates from rival factions have learned to work together in the gardening program.
Gardening helps all sorts of different folks learn responsibility, self-respect, a sense of accomplishment, and even how to run a business. And gardening is darn good therapy for veterans, or anybody for that matter.
5. Organize and go on garden tours with fellow gardeners locally and take field trips to nearby sites. It’s a great way to get new ideas for your personal garden as well as any community garden projects you are involved in.
6. Attend classes offered through your local library, extension service, nurseries, etc. to learn more and meet fellow gardeners. Every time you get together with other gardeners, you’re going to learn something or share something with others.
7. Teach a gardening class. If you’ve been gardening for a while, you may be more of an expert than you think. Have you thought about offering some of you garden wisdom in the form of classes?
The local library is usually a great place to do this. Invite your friends. Make flyers. If you can’t do a whole program, be part of a panel discussion. Make sure you give time for Q & A and time to socialize before or after. This ramps up the community spirit for everyone there.
8. Organize a plant swap among local gardeners. When I first joined the Bethel Garden Club, every spring there was a plant swap. This was a godsend for me because I didn’t really know what grew well in Connecticut.
Some of the things that flourished in my Texas garden were total flops here in New England. The garden club ladies took me under their wings and taught me what worked and what didn’t.
The plant swap was perfect because I got some great plants that came from well-established, local gardens—for FREE—that I knew would grow. I still have most of those plants in my garden. And I love sharing them with others.
9. Organize a plant sale to benefit your garden club or a specific cause. Our club now has a plant sale every year. Members bring plants from their yards and start vegetable seeds. There’s always a wonderful variety and it raised money for the club to do the window box town plantings.
10. Plant a community garden with the purpose of growing food for local food pantries and homeless shelters. One town over from me, a local man has organized a community garden. All the food goes to local food banks.
The town provided the land. He got other groups involved and organized a cadre of volunteers to work the gardens. Talk about creating community! And what a blessing to the food banks.
11. And don’t forget gardening forums and blogs online, especially if you live way out in the middle of nowhere. There are some wonderful groups on Facebook and various gardening websites that can answer your questions and share ideas and help you feel connected. That’s what I hope to provide with Organic Gardening 365.
So get involved. Create something to involve others. You will make new friends and learn a lot in the process. And others will learn from you.
You all grow together. That’s what community is about.
I hope you’ve found some helpful ideas here. I’d love to hear how you are involved in a gardening community. Please share your comments below.
Here’s to gardening with friends,James Early Organic Gardening 365 Helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long. P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
To sign up for my bl0g (and receive a free gift), click here.