In Ireland, some people consider May to be the start of summer.
This weekend certainly felt like summer in Dublin, with hours of beautiful sunshine (and frosty ciders in the garden).
In preparation for summer’s ‘official’ beginning, we’ve done a huge amount in the garden this month – mostly painting, moving mounds of earth and rubble and putting up fencing, as opposed to planting.
We’ve come a long way since summer 2016 when we moved into our house, with its overgrown jungle of a garden.
And now we’re touching distance from finally ‘completing’ the garden design.
It’s been a hard graft, with much heavy lifting and repurposing of existing elements (we were quoted crazy-money to clear away the old wreckage, and couldn’t face dragging tonnes of muck and rubbish through the house).
Growing for our household of two humans inevitably means surplus crops and seeds.
Last year, I totally overdid the leafy greens and had an abundance of kale, chard and spinach to share with colleagues and friends in raw and cooked form (a leafy greens, lentil and cumin soup).
This year, having learned a lesson about what not to grow, I dispatched with my surplus seeds – quality organic lettuce, kale, chard, and purple broccoli seeds -and my surplus chitted seed potatoes via WeShare.
The WeShare initiative is a not just about purging unwanted furniture and household goods (Freecycle, the ‘free stuff’ section of Adverts.ie do that just fine), it’s also about sharing skills and lending things to others. Right now you can take part in a tin whistle learning opportunity in Dublin 8, receive a DIY helping hand in Waterford, do a language exchange, or pick up a Boyzone necklace!
(Actually – it should be noted that both Adverts.ie and Freecycle can be pretty good for getting free stuff to help your growing. There’s always plenty of top soil going for one thing.)
My friend Johannah drew my attention to WeShare a couple of years ago. Specifically, their local fruit harvesting venture, Falling Fruit, which encourages people with surplus fruit from trees or bushes to share with others in the community.
I didn’t get involved then, and largely forgot all about them, until earlier this year that is – when I wanted to give my seeds and spuds away.
They went to very good homes and it was really nice to engage, albeit briefly, with people who are trying to live sustainably and develop a sharing culture.
My seeds would probably have only cost around €15 if bought new, but a family of four travelled from Bray to the city centre to make a day out of collecting them instead.
My dozen chitted seed potatoes were maybe €1-2 tops – but again the fact that they were being shared by a well-intentioned fellow gardener, increased their value in a wholly different, non-monetary way.
In both instances, I was contacted by multiple people who wanted to give me something for the garden in return.
I’ll continue to share the surplus, though I might link in with a local community garden (there are two gardens and two allotments within a two-mile radius – as yet uncontacted and unexplored) for a swapping session for next season.
When I was involved in a community garden in the north inner city, I witnessed generous inter-garden sharing. I also organised a couple of ‘meitheal’* events myself – where friends from the nearby Dublin Buddhist Centre helped paint the garden walls and do a big clear-up in the Spring of 2016, and again later that year, lay tonnes of new bark chips (donated by another community gardener) on the garden paths, and do some cutting back and weeding.
I miss the community of the community garden. Though, I thoroughly enjoy being the chief gardener at home.
*Meitheal is the Irish word for a work team, gang, or party, and denotes the old cooperative labour system in Ireland where groups of neighbours helped each other in turn with farming work, such as harvesting crops.