Building garden communities

There are all kinds of online groups that we can join to share ideas with other like-minded people, but it’s really rewarding to connect with people in the real world. My long-time buddies like Novice Gardener and the Weed family (their online names) started out as fellow seed swappers, but are now our friends. We also have new neighbours who share our interest in growing edible plants and who have plenty of good information and seeds and produce to swap. Since we consider ourselves still on the learning curve and both have different approaches to growing things, we have had several interesting conversations over the fence just sharing ideas and experiences.

Alexius Yeo's permaculture garden, or urban farm

Alexius Yeo’s permaculture garden, or urban farm.

Recently, I was lucky to make the acquaintance of a young man who calls himself an urban farmer. The double bonus for me was that his approach to gardening is permaculture, a concept I’ve been interested in for a while. Alexius Yeo has accumulated experience in growing edible plants and is very passionate about teaching others how they can do the same, too. It is both work and pleasure for him, with the building of community at the core of it all. Following the permaculture principle of giving away 33 percent of your produce, he successfully started a home-based community called Project 33 which extends beyond his immediate neighbourhood.

I visited his garden-converted-to-a-farm and was so inspired by it! It is not large but is beautifully laid out and densely planted with many functional plants – if they’re not edible, they’re there for another reason, like to fix nitrogen in the soil. Finally, I was seeing permaculture in action! There was also taste-testing and so much information imparted that I couldn’t remember everything! However, Alexius made the impact that it is good to have lots of people involved. On a side note, I think we were both impressed that we each owned a garden shredder, but like a true guy, his gardening tools were more fun – his shredder is industrial standard and he has a chainsaw! I am in tool envy… :-D

Part of permaculture is planting densely - in this case, sweet potato with leafy veggies along the borders.

Part of permaculture is planting densely – in this case, sweet potato with leafy veggies along the borders.

There are many real life garden community groups around – community gardens at housing estates and groups like Edible Garden City that bring together people who want to grow their own fruits, herbs and vegetables. In land-scarce Singapore, container gardening is a good solution, and lots of people are catching on to that (and it’s pretty efficient). Try to find a suitable group near to you or start your own. I can tell you that it is great fun sharing produce with neighbours, because in true kampong spirit, they tend to give things back, whether it’s something from their own gardens or a dish cooked with something you’ve given to them. Just remember not to get too involved in too many things because then you may not have enough time for your own plants. I am truly inspired by Alexius’ garden which is quite matured and independent – the beauty of permaculture, which I’ll discuss later. For now, though, my garden community remains select, online and within my neighbourhood. Where’s yours?

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