We work our gardens every year, toiling in the soil, getting dirty and hot and sweaty. Sometimes our spouses or children help, but we are often alone with our thoughts. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and gives us plenty of time to think about things that we need to think about, it does seem to be an anti-social kind of hobby at times. Yes, there are the garden clubs, but anymore, those are often conducted online with infrequent meetings and potluck suppers. That’s why I’m not a member of any garden clubs. Seed swaps are also conducted online, and again, that’s okay. However, if there’s one thing gardeners love to do, it’s talk about their gardens. We love talking about plants, showing off plants, sharing plants. One thing you can say about gardeners is that we are a generous lot. “Oh, you love my daylilies? Here…I’ll dig you up a division to take home.” “My pride of Barbados is really beautiful this year. Want some seeds?” “How do I grow such big, beautiful roses? Well, bury a banana peel and some crushed eggshells at the base of it.” We love to share and we love to help.
In days gone by, neighbors would discuss their gardens and share their knowledge over the garden fence. In this day and age, however, we don’t often know our neighbors in the city, and we live too far away from our neighbors in the country. That’s just the way it is. Socializing is done much too often by way of social media. I’m not saying social media is bad, but I do think it is used too often to replace true socializing. There are different ways to make gardening a social event, however. Here are some of my favorites:
A garden swap is just that, an event where gardeners with excess plant material can make trades. It can be as small or large as you like. Basically, it’s a garden-themed party. It’s quite simple to put one together and it’s a great way to make new gardening friends in your area. Fall or spring are really good times for one of these parties. People are cleaning up their gardens, dividing perennials, pruning plants, collecting seeds. They all have extras to share. Set up a time and date, print out invitations or flyers (depending on how large an event you want to have), and get the word out. The only conditions are that everyone must bring a snack of some kind and anyone with garden treasures to share gets to make trades. Set up a large table to hold the trade goods and have everyone sign in with what they have to trade and how many of each. If you bring three items to trade, you can go home with three new treasures for your garden. Having something to trade isn’t required. Often there are new gardeners that have nothing, but can certainly learn plenty from gardening veterans. Some are just looking for new gardening friends. If there do happen to be extras left over after the trading is complete, they can be divided among the new gardeners. For someone like me, someone who loves growing exotic plants from seed, it’s easy to just plant lots of seeds, pot up the seedlings, and give them as party favors to everyone who shows up. That way, no one goes home empty-handed.
Canning parties are an awesome way to get help with putting up produce at the end of the season. These are another easy way to make a time-consuming chore a social event. Again, it’s simple to put one of these together. Find someone to host it who has the kitchen space. Set a time and date. Post the information. I find it’s easier to limit the number of participants in this one due to kitchen constraints. The rules are simple. Everyone brings a snack. Everyone brings the ingredients (homegrown or store-bought) and jars to make a set number of jars of one thing, such as a dozen jars of jelly or relish. If you bring enough to make extra jars, that’s fine, too. Once everyone has arrived, pour the wine, pass the snacks, and start chopping. At the end of the day, everyone should have at least one jar of each thing that was made. This is a good way to avoid having 3 dozen jars of mint jelly in your pantry (Been there, done that, the struggle is very real.). You’re trading for a variety of other things, plus you get all kinds of new recipes and ideas for next year’s garden. Not only that, but with several hands working together, the work goes much faster and much more pleasantly (Okay, the wine might help a little, too.).
A variety of canned goods, including applesauce, dilly beans, greens, pickled beets, Asian preserved radishes, and spicy carrots.
Living in a rural area as I do, I don’t have the option to participate in a community garden, but for those who live in urban settings, a community garden is a wonderful thing. Not only do you get out and meet others in your community, but it’s also a great way to pass on the love of gardening to children who might not have the opportunity to experience such a thing otherwise. Community gardens are an excellent way to bring people together, young and old, in a peaceful setting to enjoy nature and food fresh from the earth. As I stated, often people living within the big city don’t get to know their neighbors, but working in a community garden allows for neighbors to work together.
No, I’m not suggesting that everyone should get a therapist’s license, but often, places that provide horticultural therapy for senior citizens or individuals with disabilities do need volunteers. Horticulture is used with these individuals to provide various benefits: a sensory garden for those with disabilities, opportunities to practice both gross and fine motor skills for those that need to work on those areas, or simply providing a useful and marketable skill to help those with disabilities to become more independent and self-sufficient. Imagine the confidence boost for a disabled adult who can now provide food for himself and his loved ones! These institutions can always use volunteers to help with the day-to-day chores involved in such an operation, and as someone who worked with individuals with autism and other disabilities for years, I can honestly say that this is a rewarding and enjoyable way for a gardener to spend their time and pass on their knowledge.
Floral design is a great way to work on fine motor skills for those with arthritis.
These are just a couple of ideas. Of course, you can always form your own garden club with your own rules, etc., but if you simply don’t have that kind of time, these ideas might be a good alternative. Enjoy yourself and your garden, and if you have any other ideas, please don’t hesitate to share! I always love talking gardening and plants, so contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!