When times are hard, those of us who are lucky enough to have gardens and polytunnels realise just how fortunate we are. In this article, I want to take some time to explore how to help your community when you have a polytunnel.
Access to land and the space to grow good, healthy food should be a right. But the reality is that it is a privilege that not everyone has in our modern society. Many are stuck at home with no outside space at all. And while it is still possible for everyone to grow a little food indoors, it is important that those of us who do have growing space make the most of it.
As home growers, we are already contributing to society by helping to boost resilience in food production. We’re helping in our own small ways to forge a sustainable future for us all. Right now, when we are home much more, our gardens are even more important. None of us should take the land we have for granted, no matter how small and insignificant our gardens may seem.
So, what can we as polytunnel growers do to help our communities in times of crisis? Let’s take a look at some of the small ways individual gardeners could do their bit to help. As gardeners, there are potentially a number of different things we can do to boost community resilience and help others. In these difficult times, simple kindness and consideration are more important than ever. Here are some things you might be able to do:
Grow Excess Food To Give Away
Growing food to feed yourself and your family can already be a helpful thing to do. It can help to reduce the strain on food producing and food distribution systems. But we may be able to go further. We might be able to reach out (carefully, and keeping social distancing guidelines in mind) to help vulnerable people in our communities with simple gifts of fresh produce.
We might also be able to replenish stocks for charities and other groups and organisations which distribute food to those in need. It’s not just the food that can help, but the simple act of thinking about others. Giving food you have grown yourself could be a wonderful way to show someone who is feeling isolated and alone that there is someone who cares.
Grow Extra Seedlings and Plants To Help Get Others Started With Home Growing
If you have polytunnel space for sowing seeds and propagating plants, you might also be able to help others in your community get started with home growing. Even if they do not have a polytunnel themselves, they might appreciate some seedlings or plants left on their doorstep to help them get growing in their home or garden.
Many garden companies are overrun with orders for seeds and other garden things. More and more people are recognising the advantages that come with growing their own food. But the increase in demand means that some people are struggling to get hold of the seeds they need.
Gift those extra tomato plants that won’t fit in your polytunnel. Or give away other excess seeds, seedlings or plants to others in your community. These could be great ways to help. Helping out other gardeners isn’t just a way to help right now. It can also help build community resilience and make sure your community is better able to weather any storms that may come.
Make Your Own Soaps, Cleaning Products Etc. With Polytunnel Produce
It is important to remember that food is not all a polytunnel or garden can offer. You may also be growing a range of other natural materials that can be used to make soaps, cleaning products etc. that can potentially be given away to those in need.
As an established polytunnel gardener, you may already have some of the skills you need to make a range of natural products and help others with other choose and use sustainable products. Those who are struggling to make ends meet, or who cannot get out to the shops may really appreciate a package of natural soaps. Essential workers may appreciate gifts like soaps or bath bombs, for example, that allow them to relax after a hard day’s work. Again, be sure to practice good hygiene yourself, and always remember social distancing rules.
Share Your Skills With Your Community Online
Even if you cannot go out and about to deliver gifts to vulnerable people in your community, there are still things you can do to help others from home. One of the most important things that polytunnel growers can do is share their skills with others online.
Gardening is something that can only be learned through experience. But by sharing your own experiences, you can help others to get started on their own growing journeys. Sharing the joys and pitfalls of polytunnel gardening with others online is a great way to boost community resilience where you live.
You can share information with others on organic gardening, on seed sowing, growing certain crops, disease management, pest control, watering techniques, composting, and much, much more.
In addition to sharing gardening skills, you may also be able to share a range of other skills that you may have developed as a polytunnel gardener and home grower. For example, you may have skills to share relating to cooking or preserving the crops that you grow. You might also have more niche skills to share, in a wide range of topics from herbal medicine to basketry, to DIY projects, to plant fibre projects, natural dyes and more…
Everyone has skills to share, and skill sharing is a vital component in community building, and creating a sustainable future for us all. So get online and get talking. Communication is key to maintaining a sense of togetherness in a world that keeps us physically apart. You might write, create art, take photographs, make videos, have online lessons and seminars… there are a wide range of ways to share what you know with others in your community.
Inspire Your Community With Your Growing Efforts
But it is not all about learning. As a polytunnel grower, you know just how rewarding and fun polytunnel gardening can be. The yields from a garden are not only the physical ones such as edible food and other resources, vegetative matter for composting and mulches etc.. The yields can also be intangible – joy, peace, a sense of satisfaction when something goes according to plan. Gardening can be great for your mental health.
As mentioned above, not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a garden. But those who do not currently have growing space can still be inspired by the things that other gardeners are doing.
Sometimes, spreading joy can be as simple as sharing your own growing efforts. And allowing others to take a share in your own enjoyment. Seeing what is possible can give people hope for their own future. Even when your lifestyle is currently out of their reach. People who are stuck indoors may take a great deal of simple pleasure from following someone’s gardening adventures. Especially if you share your journey with a fun-loving and light-hearted approach.
Post photos, blog posts, videos etc. to show others the ups and downs of your own growing adventures. This can bring lightness into other people’s days.
These are just some of the small things we domestic polytunnel owners might be able to do, right now. These are just some ways to reach out and help our communities. In the coming days, it will be important that we continue to pull together. We must continue to fight through this crisis to reach the brighter future on the other side. A better and more sustainable future awaits if we all work together.
Share your own thoughts and suggestions below. Let us know how you are helping your community. How will you continue to help over the months to come? Give us your suggestions for what more we might do to act with kindness in these trying times.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.