Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our community garden

I've mentioned a couple of times that we are part of a community garden, and recently a couple people asked me to share more about it, so I wanted to do so here in case others were interested.

Our community garden was started by a local church that had a large and empty parcel of land just past their parking lot. As church members brainstormed ideas for how best to use the land, this idea was one many people were excited about.

The garden was perfect timing for us because it started three summers ago when we moved into this house. If you've been reading long enough, you may remember that we had a garden in our former yard, but here we have too much shade, and we're on a corner lot without a backyard. (We have a sizable front and side yards, but the layout of our house is such that our garage is behind the house.) The community garden is located just a few blocks from our house, so it is very convenient. If it was further away, we would be less thrilled with this option.

The details have changed a bit since we first joined, so I'll just share the current set-up. Each plot is 20x20 feet. Because we don't need that much space, we've actually shared the plot with another family every year. It works out great, and we split the modest $20 fee. (That fee includes tilling and water supply!)

Gardeners are each assigned a specific staked-out plot, and everyone has access to a shared tool shed. Eric and the kids do pretty much all of the gardening itself, and they almost always see others working at the same time, giving it the community feel that was intended. It is not uncommon for gardeners to share both advice and extra produce with one another. This year, we brought home dozens of beautiful zinnias, some jalapenos, a cantaloupe and a couple cucumbers. Eric has often asked more experienced gardeners for advice in planting and harvesting--what a helpful resource!

Yet another benefit is that the garden offers three huge wooden compost bins. We certainly do our part contributing! I fill gallon ice cream buckets with peels and scraps, and my crew takes the bucket every time they go to the garden--about three times a week.

I've mentioned another positive of the garden, which is that they have planted a few crops to be shared among the members. This past year, we were allowed to take as much rhubarb and raspberries as we wanted, and we definitely took advantage of that. Garden committee members recently planted several fruit trees, and in the future, what they produce will also be shared.

Last time I mentioned the community garden on my blog, one person commented that they observe a lot of waste in their local community garden. Eric definitely notices that here, too, but our garden has tried to counter that problem by 1) having a shelf against the tool shed where gardeners can leave surplus produce, and 2) committee members monitor plots to make sure they're being tended. Garden members are also encouraged to share extra produce with local nursing homes. It seems to be working, though of course not everyone holds up their end of the bargain.

If you have additional questions about the garden, please let me know. We have greatly benefited from this arrangement!


Wendi said...

In a world where we see less and less community activity I love the idea of this. Behind our church there was a garden planted to feed the hungry. It didn't work out very well, but I think a community garden might work. Thanks for sharing!

Carrie said...

Thank you for sharing more about it!

So, you say you share a plot with another family. Do you decide with them what you will plant? Or is that fairly random? You just plant what you would like and they plant what they would like and you share primarily with them? Little confused still as to how that works - deciding who plants what and where and why. =D

*carrie* said...

Hey, Carrie. Sorry for the confusion!

We split the plot down the middle with a rope, and we do our thing on our side, and the other family does all of their own planting and care on the other. We do help each other water, especially due to summer travel. It's worked well for us!


Katie said...

Thanks for sharing more about this community garden, Carrie. It sounds like it was a wide success for all involved. I love that the surplus was shared with others, too, what a kind act of service! And how neat that you live so close to the garden. When our church had a community garden, we didn't participate because it was about 10 miles away. I'll bookmark this insight for future reference, perhaps. =)

erin said...

Something interesting I learned about in Tacoma this summer is called the 'Gleaning Project', they are encouraging home gardeners, as well as people that bring produce to the local Farmers Markets to donate any excess produce to homeless shelters and food banks in the area. It sounds like it has been pretty successful in the past -- several thousand pounds of produce collected!

Mom said...

This is such a great idea -- I'm glad it's available to you. :) love, Mom