In the Novo Lisiche Park, at the outskirts of Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, 50-some enthusiasts for the second consecutive year have been working in the Bostanie Cooperative Garden. The enthusiasts, including, of course, young people, through training and workshops, can learn gardening and composting, how to protect and nourish the plants, but they can also plant vegetables in their own separate garden beds.
Bostanie was officially opened in August 2021, and Dimitar and Aleksandar from the civic organization “Zelenata arka” (The Green Ark”) say they spent 2 years preparing and developing their idea from the second half of 2019. The joint work of the people is the pillar of this social garden.
The name “Bostanie” itself is actually an amalgamation of two Macedonian words: “Bostan” (which, in its turn, is borrowed from Turkish and means “cucurbits”) and “vostanie” (uprising), hence: Bo….stanie.
“During each phase of the formation of the garden, the enthusiast gardeners worked toghether and we formed the garden beds, set the fence, and that way, all of the participants can feel like they truly belong here and have their share, which will make them perceive it as their own,” Dimitar Samardziev of The Green Ark organization explains.
He invited all the young people who want to do gardening or learn gardening skills to join the Bostanie Cooperative Garden. There are two ways to do that.
“The one way is to dedicate oneself during the entire gardening season, during the whole calendar year, at a designated garden bed. That can be done through the online registration form,” says Dimitar, stressing that in this case a full dedication is required if one wants to grow the vegetable crops from planting to harvesting.
The other way is the temporary involvement, and this is suitable for the people who cannot dedicate enough time for doing the gardening work at a specific garden bed. All the enthusiasts can participate in the work on the common garden beds and participate in the educational part with raised beds or to assist other gardeners.
“There are a lot of activities that may not seem like gardening at first glance, but are very helpful for the development of the garden. Also, this is a good place for the young people to learn basic life skills – how to grow food themselves, since gardening denotes growing edible garden crops,” Dimitar explains.
A very important ingredient of the Bostanie Cooperative Garden is the socializing, felowshiping with people of different age groups from different cultures and experiences, that not only can help in the growing of the plants, but also to acquire new life experiences. For the forthcoming period, The Greek Ark has plans organizing open air film screenings at the location.
Apart from filling in the online application, all interested parties that want to garden at Bostanie as a pre-condition need to accept the 25 basic rules that the garden imposes i.e. to obey them during the gardening activities.
“We put an effort to make the rules as precise as possible, clear and simple, and to refer to everyday activities that are essential for the maintaining and the development of the garden. We have coordination meetings monthly, when we analyze the current situation, the challenges that the gardeners might face, what comes next and what we as a group should do, then the care for the whole space, we discuss the shared responsibility for the garden’s maintenance, instead of focusing on a certain garden bed or lot” explains Dimitar Samardziev of The Green Ark organization.
He explains that for this season they planted onions, lettuce, garlic and Swiss chard, and at the moment of our visit we noticed planted strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and aubergines.
“You can see a cornucopia in such a small space, and this is why we are encouraging people not to focus only on mono-cultures but to try to raise horticultural associations that will supplement each in their growth and development,” Dimitar explains.
Nevertheless, this season Bostanie Cooperative Garden also grows Peruvian strawberry, turmeric and other cultures that aren’t native to North Macedonia. If some of the people are interested in growing plants that are not common for this part of the world, they can do it if they can manage grow fruit and seeds for the next year, provided the plant isn’t invasive to the surroundings.
Apart from the 50-some people who are actively involved in the gardening, during the weekends much more people visit Bostanie, often whole families or groups of friends. During the workdays, they come in the afternoon or early in the morning. The Bostanie Cooperative Garde was created as a result of a project financed by the City of Skopje titled “Development of the First Urban Garden in the City of Skopje” by The Green Ark organization. The members hope that gardening will spread as a cultural effort in Skopje and the other cities in North Macedonia as well.
“The message for the young people would be to come and do gardening with us. I think you will find favorable conditions for gardening and socializing, and that is the essence of this garden,” Dimitar concludes.
Author: Bojan Blazhevski