Environ-Mental Gardening

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The picture above shows Milan on his allotment. Within walking distance of Dewsbury Road, he grows spinach, rhubarb, potatoes, sprouts, cabbage, apples, pears, cherries, sunflower seeds (for the birds), cardoon (a Malaysian ornamental flower). I went there with him a few weeks ago, and asked him about it.

He told me about growing up on Spencer Place in the heart of Chapeltown, and being encouraged to garden by a neighbour. Now he reckons his allotment gives him the chance to get away from noisy neighbours, and in the warm weather he’s been coming here to:

‘soak up the sunset, exercise, breathe deeply and enjoy the company of generous, sharing gardening neighbours’

– who are ‘fellows in that vocational hobby’, and share their seeds and manure (well, not their manure). Milan is a practitioner of Buddhism, and it’s easy to see how this influences his gardening. He says his allotment is

‘therapeutic, good for anxiety and a good kind of contemplation or introspection. I call it environ-mental gardening. I use a fork rather than a spade so I don’t kill things. I get fresh food but it’s not just about gardening. I think you should always try something new and be unpredictable against your own habits. There is only the moment, the past is history and all barriers are bridges’.

So having an allotment will not only help feed your mind and body, but could also shave a few lifetimes off your journey to enlightenment. Could it be fun too?

Over the past year or so I’ve very much enjoyed reading the blog of the Reluctant Gardener by local writer Mandy Sutter. Mandy is well known in Leeds writing circles and she’ll be reading from her first novel Stretching It at Waterstones on 25th September. Her gardening blog is very funny and chronicles the writer trying to help her dad with his allotment. If you want a good laugh and a slightly surreal low down on the inner life of having an allotment have a look at it.

So how do you go about getting an allotment?

I spoke to Judy Turley, the Secretary of Leeds & District Allotment Gardeners Federation, ‘the voice for allotment and leisure gardeners in the greater Leeds area’. see their website at http://www.ldgf.org.uk/

Judy shared Milan’s enthusiasm for allotment gardening. She said:

‘having an allotment is just fabulous – it gets you away from the rat race, and it’s an oasis in the middle of a busy city’.

There are 97 allotment sites in and around Leeds, and you can find out about a site near you at http://www.ldgf.org.uk/index.php/members or through the council’s Parks and Countryside Department by ringing 0113 3367427. The waiting times vary considerably – you might wait for several years in some areas, and get one next week in others, according to Judy. The cost for 2012/13 is £37 per annum for a full plot, or £18.50 for a half plot.

However, according to Milan, there are other options – if you know someone who can’t manage their own garden,  you could ask them could you share the produce, whether flowers, fruit or vegetables, for doing the tillage, with them, or if they are too old or disabled, for them.

Landshare is a way to share land, someone has land they can’t manage; someone needs some, and the usage and terms are negotiated between the two.”

In Leeds Urban Harvest also organises volunteers to pick fruit, give tree owners a share and distribute the rest to community groups in Leeds. This is just the right time of year to get involved. They’ve teamed up this season with All Hallows in Burley, and “now have a great kitchen for juicing, space for sharing and lots of friendly faces too.”

Finally, Milan made an offer you surely can’t refuse if you like cherries:

“If anyone wants any Cherry Trees, your standard Morello variety, with large purple black shiny fruits, then please call me 0772 2301 002, after 6pm is best, then we can arrange a visit to Parkside Allotment. All I ask in return is a donation, however small or large, to Leeds Buddhist Centre. I will pass on the cash, and get you a receipt if you leave your email address.”

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14 thoughts on “Environ-Mental Gardening

  1. Great post, good to hear about Milun’s project and philosophy very encouraging to hear so much is going on in ‘digging spaces’, (I’m not green fingered)! but there is something about soil, it’s smell as it’s tilled, especially after a rain shower that could get me interested, I love Mandy’s blog/website.

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    • yes sue
      reminds me of ”Yassoo” – ”Hello” in Cypriot Greek; I’ve been to Paphos twice and wrote a poem:

      the sea, the sea rippling like eternity/ a sun high in heavens hold/
      the panoramic view: ships drifting slowly majestically over the horizon, planes robotically landing, so near, beach people playing in the sun/
      a shore rocky, gritty and smooth, by turns/ a mossy sea wall/ with stray cats, tails aloft/ zig-zagging along their way/ a naked woman lies on her sunbed, oblivious of her beauty or not/ all this and more arouses a seamless passion, not of lust/ but the desire to stay, here, now, a 1,000 years in Cyprus/ knowing there’s no paradise.
      yes, these endless ripples of eternity have entered in the rock of my heart

      this was written in May 2000
      4 years before I became a Buddhist in a mitra ceremony
      however, it contains the Buddhist ideas / practice of non-attachment to lust, for money, materialism, even great holidays, and the worst passion wanton lust.
      there is no worldly paradise, nirvana the cessation of suffering is cultivated meditationally in the mind; something I taste most days, this letting go of pains, yes I do taste nirvana, as I meditate and have great oral but humourous friends

      amidst all the pain, and often no pain, bliss, there is joy rather like being in love: I have been so sad and happy simultaneously; now instead I am bittersweetly in love with the world.

      The sea.. poem Copyright Milan Ghosh May 2000

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      • Lovely poem, thank you Milan. I particularly liked ‘the stray cats with their tails aloft’. It would be great to have a blog post about Buddhism sometime – you’ve said quite a lot about how it can help our mental state, but it would be good to hear more, and also how someone could get involved.with it in Leeds. Terry

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      • Wonderful poem Milan, apologies if I mis-spelled your name previously, also very interesting to hear about your journey into bliss……contemplation over a cuppa is probably the nearest I get to meditation…

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    • yes I forgot to say I posted my comment poem ‘the sea, the sea rippling like eternity’ but its awaiting moderation sue, so ask for it sue if it doesn’t appear.

      ‘gardening is therapy and you get tomatoes’
      [and lots more to e.g. friendship philosophy from Martin the Parkside allotment philosopher]
      Milun/ Milan … you say I say .#. one can say m name 5 different ways in the Indian subcontinent, I’m told.

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  2. Thank you Su. I only once had a proper allotment of my own, a long time ago, but it was a really nice experience. There was a little old widower on the next plot who was a bit of a master and he told me what to do. The first time I met him I was looking at 6 months growth of 3 foot high dry grass and wondering what to do about it. He calmly struck a match and the whole lot burned down in about 4 minutes. It was rather exhilarating. Terry

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  3. Ah Terry this is a lovely post – very relaxing to read. And Milan I would have a Cherry Tree but I ain’t got a garden 🙂 Fab photo VIcky

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    • have a cherry tree of emptiness .. i.e. I your meditation – al mind and find joy, love inspiration, devotion to life love and humours to friends to and all that is wholesome, too under it.
      your mind is a refuge from suffering, to nirvana complete joy/ no suffering

      do you have a friend who wants cherry tree; I’ve got 8 , at least?
      Milan 0772 2301 002

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  4. I’m replying to myself for a change don’t we all!?
    the wellbeing blog is great.
    and we all talk to ourselves, to make ourselves happy, to reassure, and comfort ourselves, so say psychologists, but we don’t need their confirmation, we are free survivors and thrivers too.

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    • Pleased that you are enjoying blogging and that you think the Wellbeing blog is great, how you getting on with Bloggie? she is a good companion and never tells lies, although she is sometimes good with illusions.

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  5. Pingback: Network of Wellbeing – Monthly Update: World of Wellbeing News

  6. Pingback: Chat and Create Art Group, Swarthmore Adult Education Centre | Leeds Wellbeing Web

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