It's peak sowing and planting season at the moment and I'm working on A LOT of gardens! I really, truly believe that so much understanding about plants has been lost in recent years, and identifying them, and knowing how they can be useful will become more and more important as artificial resources become scarcer. So I like to use every opportunity to share a bit of knowledge.
Of course in a shared or community garden, this becomes even more important! It's not just about interpretation, but it's about communicating as a group. There is nothing more frustrating than carefully sowing a bed with seeds to find that someone else has followed you and done exactly the same thing a day later! How community garden communication is managed varies - some groups use spreadsheets, some social media, some chalkboards or white boards, some notebooks and pencils (Of course there's no substitute for talking, but that's not always possible!) But there's really nothing like a good sign!
Adding signage is tricky because there are a few hurdles to overcome: signs need to be weatherproof, they need to have the capacity to be changed quickly and easily without complicated tools (often outdoors) and, particularly for publicly accessible spaces, of no material worth! In my own garden, I sometimes used etched reclaimed roofing slates, but these are time consuming to make and require a multitool and power. (Thank you to the folks at Old Sleningford for that excellent idea!)
As so often happens, when I've spent some time musing and procrastinating, serendipity steps in and lends a hand (never lose faith in Fate!) My local farm shop was obviously having a clear out and had a box of these beauties for sale - only 20p each. They're obviously hand made - I think using some scrap wood and the edging strips that supermarkets use on their shelves. I'm sure they've had a good life, but there's still plenty more use in them!
Obviously, the labels needed changing (they are currently laminated card, but I really don't like this - laminating renders paper completely unrecyclable, and of course there's the small matter of not having, nor wanting, a laminator and pouches!) But what to use as an alternative? What would withstand the elements, what could I mark myself with limited tools, was there any material that I could repurpose?
Well I hit upon old drinks cans! Aluminium is such a precious resource and yet it's lying around all over the place. Even a short walk to and from my local shop yielded no fewer than 10 cans. If you've not investigated these before, they're pretty versatile. The cans can be cut open easily with scissors (and no, they don't leave a sharp edge) and they can be shaped and embossed, so much so that cleverer people than me are using them to make models and decorations, even functional household items. And of course the spare bits can go into the recycling (and aluminium is infinitely recyclable without any loss of quality).
I used the existing label as a template and cut a piece of aluminium to match. A few false starts later, I found that metal skewers are the perfect tool to mark the surface. I'm pretty sure these should hold up to the weather and of course if I need to make any changes, then it's simply a matter of more litterpicking! It feels really good to be not only buying locally initially, but also repurposing materials that would otherwise be waste. And I think they look OK too!
This particular sign, for one of my favourite plants (Lady's Mantle) will be heading to North Shire, where I'm working on the garden and I'll be doing more for growing sites locally too. I think they're going to look spot on!
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.