I created this blog as I would like to share on the ongoing progress of the creation and management of a community garden at Pavilion Park, Singapore. This park is located right next to the estate I live in, and is pretty much under-utilised. I always look at the open green space in the park, and think “How nice if we can do more for this place! We could have an edible garden here.”
Creating a community garden open to all has been a long-time dream of mine. I was inspired by a street I saw in Sydney. Food plants lined the road verges that fronted a street of residental houses. There were little signages proclaimed “for residents, by residents”. I had just learnt the concepts of sustainability and local food, and thought it was such a brilliant idea.
One of the factors that stopped me from making it real was that I didn’t know my neighbours, even though my family moved into the estate 10 years ago! Another was the fact that I had been so busy with other things that are important to me, and I was certainly no expert when it comes to gardening.
A chance meeting with Steven (neighbour) one late evening in February led to a short Facebook conversation. I shared with him how I had this dream, and it so happened that he had, with the neighbourhood committee, spearheaded not one, but two community-in-bloom projects with 2 groups of neighbours (both of which I was totally unaware of)!
So in early Feb 2013, I was introduced to the neighbourhood committee (NC), where I was given a chance to voice my views. I was absolutely delighted to hear the Chairperson say that they were supportive, and willing to make a new application for a garden, and importantly (for them) invite the MP to the launch. I was overjoyed, before I realised, “Wait a minute! What about the community? I cannot have a community garden without the community.”
So, I started doing house visits. It was a very scary thing to do – I stayed in the estate for 10 years, and I didn’t even know my neighbours next door. What will they think if I came up now and said “Hello”?
Luckily, I have neighbours who encouraged me and guided me. We set aside 1hr each week to do the house visits. Some would say “no”, but most said “yes”. Some gave me the 2 thumbs-up! Usually, people say “yes” when they understand that it’s not about the garden, it’s about creating a safe space to come together as a community. New friends and fresh food harvests are a bonus.
We managed to cover 2 streets so far. To have a bigger reach, we also started making use of emails and Facebook.
A nice side effect from the house visits that I’d been doing – being recognised by neighbours, and being able to enjoy nice conversations with people who would otherwise be strangers in the street!
Many people said, “Why do you bother to do all this? All you need to do is to start the garden, and the gardeners will come.” Others said it would be a tough process for there are as many opinions as there are residents. However, I see all this as an essential process to get the buy-in necessary to sustain the garden in the long-term.
People may move in or out of the estate. The allocated space may be small, and not in an ideal growing location. It is OK. I want to focus on the key principles, get the basics right, and then let the garden evolve itself.
For to me, it’s not about gardening. It’s about a garden that provides safe space for residents to meet, gather, learn, share & have fun. It’s about a community that works together. It’s about creating kampung spirit.