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Re: Locked Gates & Questions

Hi Kristi, I belong to a garden in Astoria, Queens.  We became a public
park, community garden and community center this summer.  We were having
problems with the neighborhood kids turning our plots into bases for
baseball games.  

We came up with a solution mostly on accident, but it might work for you.  A
young college man that lived in the building next door approached us about
the neighborhood kids, disrespect for our crops.  He had been living in the
building for ten years and the kids looked up to him.  He started talking to
the kids and implementing small rules, if they swore, or fought they had to
leave the garden for a day and apologize to all of the kids the next day
when they returned, if they walked through our beds they had to apologize to
the gardeners. We then replaced the baseballs with wiffle balls and so
forth. The student wanted us to sign off that he did a certain amount of
hours of community service for college.  After this he continues to
volunteer his time.  If you have a college near by, utilize it!

This worked so much better than I had thought because he was not a stranger
coming in just to plant and leave, he lived among these boys and grew up
with some of the older boys and they respected that he respected our
gardens.  While planning for fall plantings and more plots we decided to
leave a small triangle as a community 'neighborhood kids, plot' my theory on
this is that if they have a section of the garden to call there own than
they will understand what goes into gardening and have a new respect for our

We also locked the gates for two straight weeks (sort of like a time out)
the kids did not have any access to the park at all during this time.  When
the gates where reopened they had a new appreciation for the park.  

Although we don't deal with them stealing our veggie, I am sure that would
have been the next step if we had not put a stop to the baseball games.
Perhaps the kids that are jumping your fences would like to have the
pleasure of eating fresh food also.  It seems this way since they are taking

My idea is to  invite them in.  

Another idea is to publish a one or two page flyer/newsletter/information
page about who you are and what you do.  Include a cover letter that voices
your concern with your relationship with the adjacent community (or lack of
relationship) and what you as a community garden can do to benefit them and
what they can do to benefit you. Pass out this information to the block or
place it in their mail boxes.    

If you have room for more plots invite some of the parents from the adjacent
building to garden and join (I am learning now that there is never enough
plots).  If this is not an option maybe a workshop about balcony gardening
that they can attend to introduce them to the joys of gardening. Maybe a
workshop for the kids on window sill gardening, composting or an art project
that includes gardening and a sharing theme.  You can look into opening your
garden and having a 'community garden open house day' once a month or once a

Invite them in and have a social gathering.  Not sure if any of this is
helpful.  My feeling is if you lock them out they will find a way in.  If
you invite them in at selected times, you will introduce them to an aspect
of life they might not have all that much experience in and they will not
want to be in the 'forbidden garden' so to speak.  By all means still use
the locks but who knows of the potentials one day one of those children
might found their own community garden.  

...now that I have babbled on I have a few questions for all of you...

It is my experience that everyone in  my garden would prefer to pull up all
the grass, they claim it doesn't grow organically and it is too time
consuming to take care of.  How do you grow grass organically?  Does grass
seem like a favorable thing to have in a garden?  

Has anyone ever had events at their garden outside of garden events?  For
instance someone would like to get married in our garden.  Because we are a
public park is this allowed?  Does any gardens have rules or policies on
this?  A few neighborhood parents have asked to have children's birthday
parties at the garden and we have said no. Any policies on this?  

Another question is about green patches in front of local businesses.  We
would like to approach local merchants to plant trees/ green boxes in front
of their stores.  What type of incentive can we use to get them to 'buy'
into our idea?  (besides the aesthetic and environmental incentive).
Because we are non profit org.  can they feasibly get a tax right off for
doing so?  Has anyone done this before?

Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.  

Thanks for your time....sorry I wrote so much!

Stephanie Powers
ARROW Community Garden

community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com

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