Episode 144: Sharing and Borrowing Gardens

This week, I’m talking to Joyce Veheary about her fantastic Lend and Tend project, which aims to match garden owners who perhaps don’t have the time, experience, desire or means to tend their garden with gardenless gardeners keen to employ their green fingers, 

pairing up people who are local to each other, then sending them on their merry way in the hopes they will have a long and happy garden sharing relationship. Joyce talks about why she felt the need to begin the project, how it works, what happens when it succeeds and why the idea is of benefit to whole communities, as well as the individuals involved.

Dr Ian Bedford’s Bug of the Week: Houseplant bugs

What we cover

Lend and Tend and how it came about

How likely are you to find someone on Lend and Tend who shares the same view of what a garden can and should be? 

Some of the keys to having a mutually beneficial relationship between lender and tender

What about tools?

Practical considerations such as insurance and references

The social element of Lend and Tend and how it benefits the community

Where to find out more and get involved

About Joyce Veheary

Joyce is the founder of Lend and Tend and is a self-taught gardener with a passion for sharing skills and experiences. She is particularly interested in growing her own produce to cook with and she’s a keen forager too. 

Joyce is always looking for ways to look after the environment and to promote social justice. Her aim with Lend and Tend is to democratise access to growing space, which she rightly views as an act of horticultural rebellion.

She’s also a film and TV actor and her latest role is in Zack Snyder’s Justice League where she plays a Gotham cop. Talk about multi-talented!



Lend and Tend on Facebook



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Joyce Veheary 0:00

So Lend and Tend is a garden sharing project. And I help people who don’t have a garden, try and find a friend who owns a garden and potentially doesn’t use it or can’t use it any longer. And vice versa, I help people who own gardens and don’t want to use them or can no longer use them, I help connect them and make a friend with somebody who wants to use a garden and can’t access one. And it all came about about seven years ago, now, well, my entire adult life, I’ve just been moving constantly from one flat to another and had a little bit of balcony that I could gardened, and then my landlord sort of threw me out and I had to move. And it’s that kind of, I suppose it’s what you might say is quite a nomadic lifestyle, continuously being uprooted, and that I decided to do things differently in respect to gardening, because I didn’t have any kind of permanent address for long enough, I couldn’t really join any allotment societies. And the waiting list is ridiculous as everyone knows, but you’ve actually got to like be registered to live in that borough to, you know, have an allotment in that area. And by the time I’d kind of my name on a waiting list, it’s time for me to move again. And it was just, it was just a nightmare. So I just wished and wished that I could go in someone else’s garden. And I said that enough times to enough people that somebody came out of the woodwork very kindly, a friend of a friend came through and started letting me share the garden. And then I was at the time, I think I had like a Tumblr page. I was sharing all my stuff on Twitter and the early days of Instagram and other people were like, Oh, that’s a cool, how can I do it? So I just started helping other people do it. And then it grew from there.


Sarah Wilson 1:58

Brilliant. I mean, I’ve got a million questions actually, that came into my head as you were talking. There’s so many different aspects to this. So but first of all, does it operate just in the UK?


Joyce Veheary 2:11

Well, it currently has a bit of interest in Ireland, a few people have signed up in Canada, Australia, and in the States, I can’t remember which states. And although I can’t immediately help these people, because I have no local knowledge, it is open for anybody anywhere to sign up to. Although so far, I only have made matches for people in the UK.


Sarah Wilson 2:40

Fair enough. So I mean, I would go on there, and I would find a lovely garden in California and think, Oh, I’d like to I’d like to go and tend that. But I guess that you find a patch match in your local area. But that’s probably just the first step is it? I mean, how likely are you to find someone who shares the same view of what a garden can and even should be?


Joyce Veheary 3:03

Difficult because it’s primarily based on a geographical match. So you know, for places like London, where there’s a lot more take up, and big cities like Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, where there’s a bit more of a take up, there was a bit more of a chance to then curate those matches and say, Okay, what are your aims and goals and how many times a week you want to visit. At the moment, I’m basically introducing people based on their kind of geographic match, and then saying, it’s basically a friendship that you have to kind of build with each other. And I guess, by allowing people to kind of work those things out themselves, you’re giving people the independence to kind of work around problems, which is what you have to do. I mean, essentially, one person desperately wants their garden garden done, and they need help and another person that’s so desperate to, you know, use a garden and have the joy and opportunity of being outside. I guess you kind of have to enter a contract of mutual respect. First and foremost. You know, Fred, the garden owner has got some prized rose bushes that he says look there in my special part of the garden. I don’t want you to go near that you go. Yeah, sure. Okay, right. I won’t go near that. And he’ll, you know, the garden owner might say, this is the part of the garden that you can have free rein on this half of the garden. The garden tender might say, Well, what about all the veggies I grow? Are you going to pinch my veggies? Or do we share or do you want half of them? And actually, I found a lot of the garden owners who said oh, I’m not really that bothered about veg, you can just come and do the garden, maybe mow the lawn once a month in summer or something like that. So yeah, hopefully In the future, if I ever get the opportunity to kind of build a more techy platform, then people can start kind of putting more preference in their search a bit like what you would do on, I don’t know, bumble or Tinder. But at the moment, it’s literally like just trying to grab people and get them together who had the same interest in garden sharing, and then sort of helping them navigate the kinds of pathway to how that might work out with each other.


Sarah Wilson 5:27

Yeah, so you mentioned contracts, is that something that you would encourage people to have?


Joyce Veheary 5:33

Yeah, well, I have helped people in the past kind of draft up a template agreement. I mean, some people have inquired, you know, does it include an insurance product? You know, do I need to see a solicitor and it’s like, Well, if that’s what you want to do, that’s absolutely fine. Great, go ahead and do that. But essentially, again, you’re kind of basing this on a mutually respectful kind of friendship. And if either party, the garden tender, or the garden lender does something to break down that relationship and disrespect one or the others wishes, then it just means that you won’t be able to go out there anymore, or you won’t let that person in your garden anymore. So it’s really based on, you know, respect and just consideration of your garden sharer’s wishes.


Sarah Wilson 6:26

Well, that makes sense. So I guess one of the questions was, do you need references, but again, I’m assuming that you just would kind of have an interview with somebody and, you know, suss that out their skills from that.


Joyce Veheary 6:39

Yeah, I mean, for the more tech savvy of the users, I would say, you know, it’s very easy now to do a quick stalk of somebody on social media and, you know, look at their LinkedIn page, or Facebook, or Instagram or whatnot, and it’s, you know, generally there is one social media platform that shows a representation of ourselves and that we are that person. But when it comes down to the actual trusting of each other enough to meet each other, in a very private space, which is somebody’s garden, what I generally have mentioned, and this is really helped in lockdown, where I thought lockdown would have killed the project, I said to people that, first of all, have a chat via email, then the next step will be to either have a chat by phone, and if you feel comfortable, maybe have a chat via a video platform, like zoom, or Google Hangouts, or whatever your favourite video platform is. And then once you feel happy to take the next step, definitely have a partner or a friend or colleague, neighbour, have somebody with you at that initial meeting. Because in the excitement of going, Whoo, we can garden, you might actually mention things that you might want to agree to that you might later forget, and just having a second pair of eyes, walking around the garden with you, or just having a supportive family or friend or community member with you, in your home in your garden, just having them will just kind of give you that confidence in meeting a new person for the first time. And you know, and I have said in the past to, you know, to continue to do that until you’re happy to go ahead and start, you know, doing the official garden sharing. But generally, for a lot of the successful patch matches, as I call them, the gardens have been accessible without entering the homeowners, a garden owners home. And there’s no need to kind of interfere with the lives of the homeowner, and vice versa. But despite that people have seemed to kind of made friends and have a chat and get on well.


Sarah Wilson 8:45

That’s lovely. I mean, that I guess would be one of the massive benefits and aims of doing it. I’m just thinking, is there a minimum size of garden that you could list?


Joyce Veheary 8:56

Well, I got a bit excited when I first started. And I was saying to people look, whatever space you’ve got, if you want to go and borrow your neighbour’s hanging baskets, you know, the next door but one house from you, and they don’t use the hanging baskets. Why not ask them. I mean, you might not need me to help you in that exchange. But if somebody’s got empty windowsill pots, if they’ve got a bit of garden that looks untended, just if you don’t feel comfortable saying hi can have your garden, if you say look, there’s a garden sharing scheme, we can kind of do this semi officially, would you be interested in garden sharing? So no, there’s not a minimum size really. So really, you know, there isn’t a space too small, and somebody that’s quite new to gardening and might not really have much confidence in growing things might want to start off with something really small, like a little kind of raised bed or planter that you know that you see in front garden.


Sarah Wilson 10:20

Yeah, and thinking that if there was a bigger garden listed, for example, would it be possible that there might be more, there might be multiple tenders to one lender?


Joyce Veheary 10:30

Yeah, well, so this is the amazing thing. And I just wish I could just divide myself into 12 people, because there have been people that have signed up in the past. One person in America, he was like, I’ve got 15 hectares. And I would love it if a load of people could help me. And I was thinking immediately, wow, a community can create a CSA, a little market garden programme in their neighbourhood. There was a chap signed up in and he said, Look, there’s loads of space, I’d love it, if more than one person could do some gardening, because apart from the farming side of things, there was a lot of space to create like a little mini, or large vegetable garden. And then it comes to the issue of scarcity of space, and the amount of need for that space. So in places like London, I’m kind of saying to people look, would you want to treat this like a little kind of community garden, and although there might only be like a 10 by 10 patch that you can all share. So if there’s three or four people that could potentially, you know, think about sharing the garden, together in a kind of community gardening kind of project, it just means that there’s less work to do. So, you know, whenever you’re growing something or feeding or harvesting, you always see a weed, you know, there’s always something to do, and then just when more of you are doing it together, many hands make light work as they say. So in a way, it can really work with more than one tender working on a lender.


Sarah Wilson 12:13

Thinking about the sort of nuts and bolts of it, if you needed some tools, or you wanted to buy some seeds, or you want to buy some new plants to put in the garden is it up to the individuals’ agreement as to where the cost for that comes or who owns the tools, for example.


Joyce Veheary 12:30

Yeah, yeah. So if you’re lucky, and generally, this is the case, that garden owners that can no longer manage their garden, who are sharing their gardens as lenders, you will find an absolute treasure trove of tools in their garden shed that are going begging. And generally, garden lenders have the impression that if someone’s going to come and help them, do that gardening for them, then absolutely knock yourself out and use the tools. But then when it comes to buying new things, like seeds, bulbs, and seeds, plant small plants, that kind of thing, then generally, if you’re bringing any plants in for your own benefit, so you know, I would like maybe be planting some things to start harvesting to eat later in the year, then I think about what benefit is it to you? If it is just going to be an agreement where you take all of the produce, then maybe you should expect to shoulder that cost. But there there are lenders and tenders who split the cost of things, because they might be taking 50/50 of the produce. But yeah, again, I can help people have those discussions with each other. But really, it comes down to what those individuals want. And you know, everyone’s absolutely different. So it will really just be about being aware of each other’s wishes, and kind of what you want them to get out of a project.


Sarah Wilson 14:01

Yeah. So you were saying sometimes people make quite good friends with their lenders and tenders. Is it just about the work? Or is there a social and leisure element to it as well?


Joyce Veheary 14:17

Gosh, there are so many, multiple benefits of garden sharing could potentially do for society as well as individuals. I mean, immediately there is physical and mental well being benefits to gardening and having the access to a space where you can garden compared to not having access to a space where you can garden for the garden owner, potentially older, maybe isolated people, particularly in the last few years. Just having a familiar face popping by once or twice a week can really kind of boost that isolated person’s morale. There was something I was reading into in the very early days of trying to promote this idea, but generally, where you see, for instance, a front garden that’s unloved and untidy, unkempt, it will generally attract more rubbish to be thrown in that garden, and more neglect and sort of, basically sadness all around for that homeowner, and for the people walking past that garden. And I think it’s called the broken window effect. So in our neighbourhoods, you know, where you do see those unutilized gardens that could be loved, and could be turned over and could be put to productive uses, there is the benefit on the people that pass by and look at that garden every day, there is the benefit for the homeowner to feel a sense of pride in their garden and a sense of joy looking out their window, even if they don’t get to use it. You know, and that’s obviously good for the neighbourhood, when there’s pretty gardens and house prices, and all that sort of stuff. But yeah, there’s so many multiple benefits for both parties, either the garden owners, and the garden gardeners. You know, not to mention, I mean, yes, gardening can be expensive, I appreciate that plants can be expensive, it can be expensive. But after the initial costs, once you start in the habit of seed saving, as my lovely late friend Esiah Levy promoted, you know, once you start the cycle of gardening, it doesn’t have to be expensive. And after a few seasons, you will never not have food. And that’s obviously something that can save households a lot of money. And also be good for your actual health, as well as your physical health in doing the gardening. I mean, that’s the first thing that I can think of I think there’s about five there, but I’ve been told there are more!


Sarah Wilson 16:54

I’m sure they’re are. Yeah, but I was thinking as well. If you were working in a garden at the end of the day, would it be okay for you to just kind of sit down and enjoy the garden that you’ve worked in as well? Is that a thing that people do?


Joyce Veheary 17:09

I did a poll of people I introduced a few years ago and this lady she said, Look, I’m not really good at gardening, I don’t really want to do gardening. I don’t want to grow food. Sorry. She said, I just want to smash up some dandelions, I like to weed and get sweaty and get rid of my stress from the day. And you know, I might want to read a book in the garden as well. I’m not really fussed about growing anything, would that be okay? And there was a garden owner who was like, Yeah, sure, come and take some dandelions out of the lawn, and feel free to come and sit in the garden on a nice day and read a book. So yeah, so I personally, I’m more interested in gardening for growing food because I love eating. Who doesn’t. But yeah, there are lots of other kinds of ways people would like to use the garden. I mean, I’m not suggesting that I’m an events company, but you could have a party in someone’s garden. But again, it’s down to the individuals, if the garden space is big enough, and their garden owner permits. So long as that you get the consent, to do that thing that you want to do, then fine, do whatever you guys feel is appropriate and permissible.


Sarah Wilson 18:36

You could see a circumstance actually where a space was neglected and somebody said, look, if I overhaul this space for you completely, can I then use it for some sort of get together that, you know, that seems perfectly feasible?


Joyce Veheary18:50

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Why not?


Sarah Wilson 18:51

Yeah, exactly. Are there any other kinds of really successful stories that spring to mind of people that have matched?


Joyce Veheary 19:00

Well, the thing is I am just desperate. So lenders and tenders, if you’re out there, and you’re listening to this, please get in touch with me and tell me how you’re getting on. Because a lot of the time I put people together and it’s really hard to kind of follow up on them and how they’re doing. And sometimes I think, oh, they’re not doing it anymore. That’s a shame. Oh, well, I’ll see if I can sort of put them back out there. And then I’ll hear from them, like six months down the line, and they’re saying, oh, yeah, working fantastically. Thanks. And that’s it. But that’s fine. I’m so glad if it’s working for you. And if it’s not working, I’m happy to sort of try and rematch you. One then guy got back to me and said So yeah, I’m a chef, and I’m trying to grow some veggies for my menu next year. And the gentleman who was tending his garden was like, yes, it’s working fantastically. And signed off! That was it and I thought, okay, brilliant. You know, that’s all I needed to know. So yeah, I mean, I do appreciate that a lot of people are shy and not so interested in being on camera. But if there were any lenders and tenders listening and they wouldn’t mind me visiting with my camera phone, I would love to do some more video content of people that are out there. And I think this time of the year being winter, it’s really hard because a lot of people are like, Oh, it looked amazing. It looked the bomb in July, but now it’s all died down. So yeah, there’s that as well. So happy to kind of be patient and kind of flow, the ebb and seasons and changing kind of weather and you know, people’s availability. But yeah, I think generally when people do get back to me, they’re really, really happy about how it’s going. And if people don’t get back to me, then maybe they found it too difficult or they’ve moved or you know, something has happened, you’re not able to do any more. So then the opportunity to either share that garden again or try and get that garden tender a new garden somewhere else.


Sarah Wilson 21:05

And how would people get involved if they if they hadn’t already done it? How would people get involved the first time?


Joyce Veheary 21:10

Yeah, well, you can shoot me a message on any of the social media channels, lend and tend, or the easiest thing to do is to go on the website lendandtend.com and it’s quite easy to see there – there’s a “Do you want to lend your garden image?” Or “do you want to tend?” and you just click on one of those buttons and fill in the signup form. And I will get back to you when there is a patch match available. Basically, it’s very, very simple. There’s no you know, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg kind of tech. It’s basically just me looking through the list and phoning people or emailing people like Cilla Black’s blind date but the gardening equivalent.

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