Gardening without a Garden
It is often assumed that one must own property in order to garden. If you are like me, and you live in an apartment or you have less than ideal land, there are alternatives. They are simple, practical and perhaps even more enriching than traditional backyard gardening.
Pondering out my North facing window on the top floor of my balcon-less apartment with a view of a concrete parking lot on a winter day last year, I felt completely defeated by the environment I was living in. I was chilled with a slight case of seasonal depression along with an urge to get my hands dirty in the earth. I wanted to touch plants. I wanted to eat plants. I wanted a garden. But how? And what about the rest of the population who found themselves in similar environments?
And so, the seed to my curiosity was planted.
How can I garden without a garden?
How can I cultivate a relationship with plants without owning land?
My inquiry grew, flourished and manifested itself into many answers as I explored the idea over the last year.
Garden-less gardening became a lifestyle from that cumulative moment and I have been completely pleased with the experiences and outcomes I have gained in the process. The following are alternative gardening options I would like to share with you.
Community gardening, or a gardening club.
I initially researched my options for joining a typical community garden, where one pays for an individual plot on public or private land. As an entry-level gardener and with an unpredictable work schedule, the sole responsibility of a garden felt slightly intimidating and was a high commitment.
Upon further research, I came across the option of joining a gardening club with South Osborne Permaculture Commons. As a collective, members have a wealth of knowledge with a diverse background of experiences and skills. We garden by learning from each other and new friendships are formed while harvesting and removing our beloved voluntary plants under the warm summer sun.
Whether you live within or outside of a city, learning about plants growing naturally in our environment is an empowering practice. The more you learn, the more you are able to recognize the abundance of edible and medicinal plants surrounding us everywhere, from undervalued ‘weeds’ and celebrated wild plants.
The best part is that there is no effort required to take care for the the land as compared to a domestic garden. All that is required is a picking adventure! Foraging has easily become one of my favourite activities for several reasons (learn more about those reasons here).
Help a Friend
Know someone who has a garden? Schedule a gardening date! From planning, planting, harvesting, to clean-up - there is always something to work on throughout the seasons.
I’m sure a friend would not refuse a helping hand that includes good company and perhaps even a dish of your freshly wild harvested greens.
Volunteer at Home
Many organizations, public or individual gardening projets require additional assistance in order to advance.
I have participated in local volunteering opportunities that I came across on my municipal website such as removing invasive species and planting trees in my neighbourhood park. It was a rewarding experience to contribute my energy into the park that returns so much value to my life living in an urban environment.
For the last 6 months I have been travelling in South East Asia and have spent 3 of those months volunteering on organic farms in Thailand and Laos.
I am supporting gardening initiatives while also learning about local plants and gardening practices across the globe.
It has become evident to my own life and the world I am interacting with that gardening is less accessible and often more challenging with increasing urban populations, decreasing land availability and the rise of property cost.
Thinking creatively to work with what is already available around me has broadened my limited belief that I need to own land in order to work with the earth.
I believe if we shift our perspective towards a community-oriented and land-based way of thinking we can create an abundance of opportunities to feed ourselves in a more local and collaborative way.
I hope you consider one of these gardening activities this growing season and share your experience with me. I would love to hear from you!