Ten ways organic community gardening has changed my life

By Lisa Qin (Canberra Organic - Spring 2020)

I grew up in Canberra and after university left to explore the bigger and brighter lights of Sydney, Melbourne, Boston and Beijing. More than a decade later, married and wanting a slower pace of life, I moved back to the nation’s capital with my husband James this year.

I have always loved nature and envisioned myself wearing a big sun hat planting seeds in a garden. Unfortunately, our townhouse in Lawson didn’t have enough space for that, so I was pleased to find there was a COGS garden nearby. A plot became available in April, and since then James and I have delighted in beginning our gardening journey.

Lisa Qin at her plot

These are 10 ways my life has changed since then:

  1. I have a new-found appreciation for so many things: rain; the seasons and the magic of the life cycle; farmers; agriculture — the miracle of sunlight, dirt and water to grow such huge fennel, pumpkins, rhubarbs — and also weeds! How on earth do their roots get so deep?
  2. Noticing weeds everywhere and newfound propensity to get rid of them.
  3. Talking and singing to little seedlings. Getting to practice a sense of play and fun.
  4. A sore lower back.
  5. Enjoying a growing number of gardening puns and deliberately planting garden metaphors into conversation topics.
  6. Delight in recognising more plants/fruits and vegetables.
  7. No longer experiencing an aversion to worms, dirt, shovels, hoes and pruning — which has been fortunate, given the ‘can of worms’ this hobby has opened! This includes a surprising desire to watch Gardening Australia, read books on gardening and follow #gardening on Instagram, plus endless information to explore on gardening-related topics: organic gardening, what to plant for each season, composting, zero waste minimalist lifestyle, vegan cooking, DIY everything.
  8. Respect for the shared knowledge and generosity of my gardening community, especially during our working bees.
  9. Learning how to cook and use and regrow every part of the fruit and vegetable — let no celery stem go to waste again!
  10. Realising through weeding the plot and starting to plant that I need to clear space for new growth. Letting go of control means things can totally bloom in miraculous ways.

In fact, beginning to garden organically has led to a growing awareness of the balance between control and letting go of expectations. Although I can make a good plot bed for seeds and seedlings and regularly tend to and water them, everything else is out of my control.

There are no expectations for how long things should take to grow, how they should look, and how much work I should be doing on my plot. Since how we do one thing is how we do everything, this new mindset has translated well to day-to-day life. It has definitely helped me enjoy the slower pace of Canberra life!