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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Community Gardens: A Few Things to Consider

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Apartment dwellers, gardeners with limited space, people who are looking to share their garden experiences and new gardeners can all benefit from a community or a shared garden.  We've been a part of shared gardens for years before we got a plot at a new community garden in our area.

Our first shared garden experience involved driving a good 20-25 minutes to even get there.  A friend of ours shared a few rows of their garden space with us because we wanted to expand our tomato crop.    We learned a few things from sharing the space that helped us as we eventually gardened with another friend some years later even farther away from us!  Our community plot is only about 5 minutes down the road and has obviously worked the best for us.  

So here's a quick look at the upside and downside of sharing a garden space.


Our very small backyard garden

Why even consider community or shared gardens?

Lack of space, space, space!!  That is the reason that prompted us to look outside of our own space at first.  We actually wanted to grow lots of tomatoes to preserve, so we were looking to plant more. Having much more room to plant means opening up your options for more variety of vegetables.

To keep your yard freed up for other uses.  We know one gardening family that have a very large yard, but it bordered on a woods and the deer ravaged it year after year. For them, it was easier to grow it off premises and keep their yard wide open for their two young daughters.  

To learn from other gardeners.   Our second shared gardening experience was with a senior who had been tilling the soil for years.  He not only shared garden space with us, but also introduced us to new varieties and shared his growing wisdom as well.  It's amazing how much we don't know about gardening at times, and being able to talk to others who are planting in the same soil conditions helps a lot.  Seeing other people's plots in a community garden gives you new ideas for setting up your own garden space too.  I always study what others are doing and copy what looks like is working for them. 



 Some advantages of shared or community gardening:


Bonus Plants: No matter where we gardened, we always enjoyed bonuses...plants being one of them.  A community garden is an easy place to share, swap and exchange plants with others growers.  Our community garden has a covered shed where extra plants are available for those in need.  One year we were given a bunch of hot peppers.  We didn't want to grow too many so we gave our extras to some Hispanic gardeners who were happy to take them off of our hands.  We also were able to plant extras or left overs from other people's gardens which gave us some different veggies to try without any money risk of our own.  It's nice to share and trade, it creates a great way to get to know other gardeners.

Bonus Vegetables: Last year, we were able to give away our zucchini extras and allow other gardeners to try an heirloom variety that they found out they loved!  We often would harvest vegetables and either give away or trade for something we weren't growing.  We got a spaghetti squash last year for some winter squash, giving us a break from the overload of produce.  We still had more than plenty for fresh eating and preserving.  We like to grow an abundance so we can give it away as well...

Bonus Friendships: Our community garden is located behind a large local church and we were able to reconnect with friends from there and meet different people around us.  It's always great to cultivate new friendships.



The Disadvantages?


Traveling to your garden.  This means you have to carry your tools with you unless your community or shared garden offers storage or shared tools.  


Having to be more organized about working in the garden.  It's important to work in the garden 2-3 times a week in the beginning of planting, to water and weed.  If not - weeds will quickly wreak havoc in your garden.  Once the garden is established, we usually go once a week to water if needed and to keep up with weeds. We need to go more often once harvest begins. Sometimes it's easy to forget a garden, so planning on what days to go is crucial. 

Following the community garden's rules.  Every  community garden needs rules in order to keep peace and structure.  It's important to be supportive of the rules and guidelines in order to respect and honor the vision of the garden.  You will want to be on friendly terms with other growers and know if its vision will be compatible with your gardening beliefs.  Also, you will want to consider if you're willing to compromise in any area.

Having to adjust to different growing conditions. I thought I knew a lot about gardening until we started gardening in other places.  All of sudden, we had to deal with different soil conditions, sometimes different frost zones, different plant diseases and especially different insect pests.  In our community garden, we planted tomatoes but were flanked by potato growers.  This caused a huge surge in the potato beetle population which in turn worked on devouring our tomatoes and ruining our eggplant.  Also, the soil was so sandy that our first crop of green beans plants were the size of a full grown green bean.  We were ready to give up, but found that other crops that didn't do well at our house were thriving at this garden.  So we gave up on the tomatoes, (grew them successfully again at home) but planted root crops for a few years until we built the soil up.  So this I look at a disadvantage, but also as an advantage.

A few more tips to consider:

Be purposeful about what you plant.  Vegetables such as green beans, and onions can easily get lost in weeds AND it can happen fast.  If you only want to visit your garden once a week, these crops won't do as well.  I'm speaking this from experience! We grow lots of summer and winter squash as they are much easier to keep up with and grow better at the community garden than in our backyard space.

Consider mulching to conserve water and suppress weeds.  We mulch heavily with black and white newspaper topped with straw to keep up with the never ending weeds.  Shredded leaves are another great resource.


Overall, our shared gardening experiences have been well worth the extra work.  We are able to grow abundant vegetables there that the insects will ravage a few miles away and it's been working for us for a number of years now. This is a great bonus when gardening without using pesticides.

Even if you have plenty of space to garden, you may want to consider garden lending to help someone else out.  If you do, it would be important to establish rules and guidelines in order to maintain your relationship with those who are gardening with you.  It's a great way to teach a new gardener too and pass on valuable information to others in your community.

Have you ever gardened with someone else or in a community garden?  What was your favorite experience from it?



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42 comments:

  1. This is a great post. Thank you. I've thought about doing a community garden in my front yard. We have a ton of space and a ton of space. I'll have to keep thinking about it.

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    1. Thanks for your input Colleen. It's definitely a big undertaking if you do step out into it. Maybe think about starting it a plot at a time with a few others...then you can see if it's something you would want to expand. It could be an added source of income too if you are able to rent out space low cost to others as long as you have a water supply that could handle the garden. We use rain barrels at our house to water with and they are perfect for the garden. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I've never gardened in a community garden before, but I think if I needed extra space for planting, it would be perfect. I just don't know if I could get over having to travel to tend the garden. I'm so used to just walking out my back door to water the plants and pick weeds. It would be nice to garden alongside those more experienced and get some advice from them, though. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages, and you lined them out perfectly.

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    1. Thanks Tammy. It is difficult to have to "go" to one of our gardens, but since we've done it...we have learned quite a bit. It's a great option for those who want to garden but can't because of lack of land or space. Thanks for reading!

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  3. Oh community gardens are such a wonderful idea. I have never had to use one having so much acreage of my own but I have had the pleasure of seeing them in the city. One I remember in Vancouver was very impressive. Popping over from Valentine Day Blog Hop nice to meet you. B

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    1. They are a great help to lots of people who want to garden...it would be nice to see the one in Vancouver - it's always great to see people working together! Thanks for visiting!

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  4. I'm visiting from the Boost-My-Blog Party!
    Happy Valentines' Day! May your day be filled and overflowing with LOVE! :)

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    1. Thanks so much...I receive the love and send lots back your way too! :)

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  5. I have always gardened at home, but a community garden sounds neat.

    Thanks for participating today in teh Boost my Blog party!

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    1. Thanks for hosting Lisa, Happy Valentine's Day!

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  6. hey, i hopped over from Boost-My-Blog Party! nice to meet ya. have a great <3 Day!! big hugs. what a cool idea. i wonder how it work around here. at least many folks would be working together instead of just you. neat!! ( :

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    1. Thanks for visiting! I'll be sure to stop by and visit you back...Have a great day!

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  7. This is so informative and although we have a lot of land for gardening, I learned quite a bit too. I love your blog and know I'll be back for more, much more ! ( By the way, I am here through the Boost-My -Blog party )

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    1. Thanks so much for visiting and your imput. I visited you too through the blog party and am following you as well...enjoyed seeing your sheep shearing photos! So nice to meet you!

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  8. Great information Nancy -- I learned a few things I know I will use sometime this coming gardening season.

    Thanks so much for joining us at the BMB party. :)

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    1. Thanks so much for hosting the party Nancy...I appreciate being a part of it! :)

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  9. Thats is a great way to garden. Thank you for sharing!

    http://theredeemedgardener.blogspot.com

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  10. Found you today in the Boost Blog Hop... and I'm so glad I did. I'll try to be a regular reader now. We raise more than we need to give away, too.

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    1. Thanks Mary Ann! Thanks for visiting too...am following you as well! :)

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  11. Stopping by from the BMB party.

    I'm your latest follower!

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    1. Thanks so much for following will visit and follow you back!

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  12. I have gardened in a community garden ever since I outgrew our apartment balcony. Everything you mentioned is what I've encountered in my community garden. It's been a lovely place to garden and I've also had exchanges with other gardeners in plants and produce. Now I've moved into a house but I still use the community garden because our entire property is surrounded and filled up by enormous evergreens that block out every shaft of light and make it immpossible to grow anything let alone sun-loving vegetables. Our community garden has been grocer and therapist for me and I love it! Thanks for sharing all your experience with community gardens!

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    1. That's a great story Jenetta! I appreciate you sharing your experience too...it's always great to hear first person testimonials. Thanks for visiting!

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  13. I live in an urban area and one thing to consider is how secure the garden is. My good friend had to deal with the drive to her community garden, hauling water back and forth, and all the other toil and labor that comes with a garden - - - only to have every tomato, bean, cucumber, and melon stolen out of her plot! Fellow plot owners had the same problem. The only crops to survive the theft were those that grew underground (potatoes and carrots). What a shame! Unfortunately not all community gardens center around "community" so make sure yours is relatively secured in some way!

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    1. Very true. I had a few peppers taken from mine one year, but that was all. An urban garden should really have some kind of fenced in area in order to secure the garden and for the gardener to feel safe if it's in an inner city. Our biggest "thieves" in the suburbs are deer, but they can be an issue most places. Thanks for the tip.

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  14. Super great tips, Nancy! Are you able to use it in the fall/winter at all?

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    1. Yes, it's our plot all year long although I haven't done any gardening over winter there...great question! We just have to keep our gardens tidy, although they aren't super strict about it. :)

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  15. I hopped over from Living Green and want to thank you for this post! I am hoping to start a community garden with our church next year and this gives me a starting point to think on and build from!

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    1. Thanks Tillie. It's been an overall really good experience and it has helped us out a lot. Our community garden has a rototiller for others to share, a compost pile and donated piles of mulch and cow manure from others. It's not organic though, and that would be something to consider depending on where you live...it could be a great way to educate others on growing naturally if you garden that way. Hope yours goes really well!

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  16. Great post! I just joined a community garden this year, hoping to supplement my own small backyard garden. Our town's community garden is actually a communal garden, rather than separate plots -- with a Farmer Dude who is paid by the city to organize and coordinate the plantings, care, and harvest -- so we're kind of like share-croppers, lol. This is only the second year for the garden, so I am curious to see how it all works out.

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    1. That sounds pretty amazing! Will be interested in hearing your experiences from it too. We have been with our community garden since its beginning and had to deal with getting the soil in better condition...didn't think we'd hang in this long (4th or 5th year) but the soil is so much better that all the work is paying off! Hope yours goes well too...let me know if you ever do a post on it; I would be interested in reading!

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  17. Community gardens are popular here in the UK, where land is scarce. Thank you for sharing the pros and cons of community gardening with us here on Seasonal Celebration Wednesday! Rebecca 2 Natural Mothers Network x

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    1. That's really interesting how the UK is taking advantage of these gardens. Love how people will band together to help each other towards a common goal. Thanks so much!

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  18. Great post Nancy! I've gardened in shared and community gardens in the past too. I would love to have you share this on The HomeAcre Hop tonight!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-7.html

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    1. That's great you've been a part of other gardens. Hoping there will be more community gardens available for others in the future as it's a great way for beginning gardeners to start. Thanks for the invite too...I will stop on over! :)

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  19. Great post with so much practical, first hand information!

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  20. Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop!!! Can't wait to see what you share this coming Thursday :) Here's the super easy link to the next hop!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-8.html

    If you haven't checked out Wildcrafing Wednesday yet, please do! :) It's a hop I co-host for herbal remedies, natural living, real food recipes, and self sufficient living. Here's the link for tomorrow's hop:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/wildcrafting-wednesday-10.html

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  21. Hi Nancy!
    I'm featuring your post on The HomeAcre Hop! I'll be tweeting, pinning and sharing it on Facebook too! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks so much Lisa! I really appreciate it!

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