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Re: doing the basics

  • Subject: [cg] Re: doing the basics
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 13:06:03 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, Jack,

Very good question.

We've had some success locally by parnering with Waste
Reduction to set up a Saturday morning 'drop in'
landscapes basics class called PLANT (for Piedmont
Landscaping and Naturescaping Training). I'll include
the website, though it probably isn't something you'd
want to just adopt whole hog. A couple of things that
work for us:

The class has a hands-on outdoor component (because of
the Waste Reduction/Recycling funding, we have to do
composting, which we do very simply and Peace Corps
style, hands on.) This is very popular, and much more
effective than simply sitting people indoors in front
of flip charts or power points.

We use park nature centers for most of our classes,
but have also used churches, especially in the inner
city. In addition, you can model many of the skills
and techniques you want to encourage by including them
in a landscaping for a community garden, church or
community center/school/library/police station.

We encourage landscaping with low maintenance native
plants, which are becoming more available all the
time, instead of only discussing lawns and shrubs.
Don't get me wrong, we still do the whole thing on
good lawn care, and have nothing against lawns - plus,
that's what many people want. But they often fail when
they try to grow grass in the wrong spot, and we try
to encourage alternatives.

We teach the classes using only skilled paid teachers.
However, we also offer a once-a-year 'Master
Composter' program that's 12 weeks long (once a week
classes, plus field trips). The 'graduates' of this
program must pay off their training by applying it to
a community project. You might try something like this
once you get your classes up and running. Of course,
if Master Gardeners still exist in your area (Coop
Extension), they could be very helpful with this kind
of thing.

As for other programs, Betsy Johnson's training
program that her group developed in Boston has ideal
material to adapt. I believe Philly and Brooklyn
Botanical Garden both also have very good stuff.

You might want to look at what they are doing in
Philly - though let me say up front I don't care for
it myself at all - in terms of doing conventional
grass/fence/shrubs on vacant lots instead of community
gardens. Their point is that the slurbby landscape is
less expensive to create and less complex to maintain
than a community mixed garden.

My own preference is to look to traditional
landscaping. There's a local tradition here, for
instance, of rose growing. Pick up on that kind of
thing in deciding what you want to emphasize, don't
just go to the big boxes and the 'burbs for models.
You may get some non-bourgeois yard art, but, hey,
that's not necessarily a bad thing...

Good luck, and keep us posted please on what happens -
that's a great idea, I think.

PLANT is at


Don Boekelheide
Charlotte, NC

> From: "Jack Hale" <jackh@knoxparks.org>
> Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004 17:03:09 -0400 (EDT)
> Subject: [cg] doing the basics
> --623132567-1093294989=:30253
> Content-transfer-encoding: quoted-printable
> Content-Type: text/plain
> Hi gang-
> I have a challenge.  It's not typical community
> gardening, but it is certain=
> ly gardening in  community.  Here in Hartford, we
> are looking toward widespr=
> ead improvement in the physical condition and
> esthetics in our neighborhoods=
> .  The official reason is to make neighborhoods more
> attractive so that more=
>  people will want to buy houses there (Hartford has
> a very low home ownershi=
> p rate).  My reason for working on it is that we
> will be able to encourage p=
> eople to be better stewards and better neighbors and
> we will be able to give=
>  them some of the tools and knowledge to do that.
> Anyway, I'm looking for other programs around the
> country/planet that aim at=
>  encouraging people to "do the basics well."  It
> will be pretty low-level st=
> uff, but my hope/wish is that once people get a
> handle on the basics they wi=
> ll get interested in the more complicated gardening
> activities.  By basics, =
> I mean things like appropriate watering, effective
> use of mulch, edging beds=
>  and sidewalks, basic tree care, hedge maintenance,
> removal of ugly chain li=
> nk fences, etc.  We want to help people feel
> comfortable with a brand of gar=
> dening/landscaping that is quite a few notches short
> of HGTV fantasy, and qu=
> ite a bit cheaper, too.
> We expect to employ tactics like spots on public
> access television, multi-li=
> ngual hand-outs for distribution at neighborhood
> meetings, short workshops a=
> t community meetings, neighborhood make-over days,
> etc.  We have a youth con=
> servation corps to back up some of this stuff, so we
> think it has a good cha=
> nce of having significant impact.
> So....is anybody out there doing something like
> this?  We feel completely co=
> mfortable stealing ideas from others.  For that
> matter, we'll be happy to sh=
> are some our successes and failures once we
> experience them.
> Thanks for taking the time to think about this.
> JH
> Jack N. Hale
> Executive Director
> Knox Parks Foundation
> 75 Laurel Street
> Hartford, CT 06106
> 860/951-7694 x11
> f860/951-7244 =

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