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Alchemica

Healing through a community medicinal patch

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I thought I'd share here a project from last year that gave me hope and healing through a community garden and how such can positively impact mental health

 

I have to find more ways to do projects like this, it was the first thing in a long time that improved my mental health

 

Late last year was the first time I've achieved a longer-term personal goal in a very long time. It's hard for people to understand when the goal-oriented, sequential step-by-step organisation for a longer-term outcome part of your brain doesn't work properly just exactly how hard that is.

 

In doing that, I managed to take the desolate wasteland of illness and imbued some hope, meaning, purpose and contribution. That process is reflected in the garden pictures below.

 

It's taken me a long time to start re-investing the illness force, allegiance to the pain, back into healthy things. I had invested a lot of my super scattered ill energy at the community garden and got a medicinal garden out of it through trial and error

 

It helped me develop a special healing relationship with plants while so ill. The medicinal patch became a sacred healing space for me to start caring for my personal ecosystem and stay connected to the community.

 

I enjoyed the medicinal patch as growing things was intrinsically motivated and there was no rigidity to an outcome - any success was a win and boost to self-esteem, any failure no big deal

 

It provided some vital aspects

- something to care for beyond the self
- novelty and seeing things burst to life
- Trial and error approaches, without ANY expectation of outcomes other than giving things a go
- Celebrating any small outcome of success, not "meeting quotas"


Like my life... initially barren, empty, dry

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Learning to rise from the darkness by growing seeds

 

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First glimmers of light

 

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Growth

 

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Coming to bloom

 

californian.thumb.jpg.681e737560d415f108a0c890346252ae.jpgchamomile.thumb.jpg.a239f632b08176bbf58bf0119290d8b0.jpg26800756_ladybirds2.thumb.jpg.33e4629d422a5cab9a0bc3ad1752bd6d.jpg1421988521_medicinalpatchladybirds.thumb.jpg.87f4731877bc1407aab19ef852c7896d.jpg64466952_inbloom.thumb.jpg.4198576cd5cabd90cd3224ded8671548.jpg

 

Returning full circle.

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My lessons in attempting a medicinal patch despite being functionally very impaired:

 

It's very different going from pots and home gardening and buying lots of plants to community garden plot planting from seed. Particularly going essentially solo and with severe functional impairments.

 

1. Start simple and get simple happening in the plot first before you go in anyway complicated. If the world of herbal medicinal plants too over enthuses you, pick just a few functional plants to fill a patch initially. Get a feel for it as you go and up your commitment as you see how things fare

2. You'll need so much time if you're starting from seed vs the rapid growth expected from conventional veggie gardening and faster plants etc. Some are slow projects from seed. White Sage, Dan Shen etc

3. Be patient for the seasons. Jumping in early even with a heat mat and greenhouse can just cause issues.

4. Work out weed control and watering options for warm months. For me, despite thinking I got all the soil 'good enough' prepared, weeds were problematic

 

Edited by Alchemica
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What a wonderful write up - thanks @Alchemica

I'd love to start a medicinal patch in my community one day. Do you need to get permission from your local council to start planting?

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There was space at a local community garden that was unused and unloved that was kindly offered. I'd suggest utilising local community garden land if it is at all available, sure keep the plants community friendly but you'd be surprised, often these community gardens are up for something people are enthused about beyond the normal food

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I am housebound most of the time. I can see how wonderful this would have been to do for your own sense of connection to community and of looking after yourself. Really cool.

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Thanks @HillLily. Hard to hear about your isolation, without knowing the reason could you try to form some connections in your community that might break that via your front yard? Ie. over here we have "Grow Free" carts where it's give what you can, take what you need but a simple something even a box that could form connection? A shared simple herb bed etc.

Wish you brighter days, best wishes

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I've thought of doing exactly that. I love the friendliness of it :) Maybe now spring is here I can get some ideas flowing.

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For those in herb gardens, my big tip to make use of the free bonus 'weeds', from Sonchus/sow thistle, as an edible, to cleavers, giving you a nice free cooling herb.

 

I regularly seed certain herbs on 'waste' land.  Fennel loves railway tracks so much I'm convinced it must have nerdy trainspotting plant spirits that love it.  Unlike vegetables, many herbs thrive on neglect and do well released into marginal urban land.  Aloe vera tends to do well anywhere with sun and not too much water.  Yarrow/Milfoil does nicely in a lot of places.  Liquorice will grow on quite poor ground too.  

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This year, I moved on to some new patches at home along with my own medicinal herbs and culinary stuff:

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For the herb beds I used Red Clover and Self-Heal as edible living mulch and focused on plants like Chamomile, Moldavian Dragonhead, Lemon Balm, Yarrow, Mexican Tarragon, Roselle, Tulsi, Marshmallow,  Echinacea etc

 

The other things were

- A bee and butterfly and flower garden (even has a bee motel)

- A 'medicinal weed patch'

 

The Bee and Butterfly flower garden has things like Rose, Yarrow, Chamomile, Anise Hyssop, Mexican Tarragon, Lemon Bergamot which are useful medicinally, but primarily this is also a place away from consumption where I make room for and nurture the feminine in life. It is a place I appreciate beauty, sensuality and healthy sexuality

 

I find rather than being something you need to consume from the garden, often it's connecting with the moment and multi-sensory enrichment via nature that is more therapeutic. It's also good to have a dynamic of novelty/new elements coming into play so each day you get to notice something.

 

It's a 'Positive Vibes Garden' with a free plants box still. I tried to incorporate elements that to me are useful to day-to-day boost mental well being, particularly that encourage contact with the moment and a sense of connection.

 

To me, those beneficial aspects include multi-sensory enrichment and company from 'friends'. I know it makes my day when something like a cool insect comes to visit.

 

It provides sensory enrichment with vibrant bold colours (sunflowers, Cosmos etc) and diverse plants, tastes and smell.

It tries to draw in nature - particularly winged creatures.


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The Medicinal Weed Patch has Dandelions, Wild Chicory, Crystal Ice Plant, Milk Thistle There's also purple carrots, chamomile etc spread between it

 

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It's a patch where I reflect on our need to love the unloved aspects of both ourselves and others to heal. Where we have to not fight with the darkness within and around us but accept and grow beyond it. Where when we nourish the darkness with mutual kindness, care, compassion and respect, it can lessen it's hold and be food for healing where we don't fight the old but focus on building the new of better, more loving ways

 

It teaches us we can take the unloved weeds of life and through loving them, nourish health

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