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RE: Re: offering tilling as part of community garden services

  • Subject: RE: [cg] Re: offering tilling as part of community garden services
  • From: "Jack Hale" jackh@knoxparks.org
  • Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2003 15:04:29 -0500
  • Importance: Normal


Hi all-
We started our first community gardens in 1972, the idea being that we could
give some city-bound back-to-the-landers a shot at getting their hands
dirty, and we could help deal with what then was a surfeit of vacant lots in
the city.  It was a do-gooders paradise.  We did everything for the
gardeners - water, compost, soil tests, plowing, marking plots, etc.
By the time I came on board in 1980, we had around 20 garden sites, and lots
of things weren't working so well.  In particular, folks always wanted us to
till as early as possible, and it seemed that we were always having to pull
the tractor out of the mud when it hit a particularly wet patch in one of
the larger gardens.  If we had an especially dry spring and really got out
there early, people complained that their soil was compacted and full of
weeds by the time they got out to plant their tomatoes on Memorial Day.
Seemed like everybody was mad at least part of the time, and our garden
coordinator (me) just had to run around like a chicken with no head from mid
March to mid June.  Not only that, but the soil was never ready in time for
people to plant their peas on St. Patrick's day (traditional around here) or
get their spinach in nice and early.  Our machines, operated by friendly
farmers, couldn't be expected to work around everybody's little early crop
patch or their winter-over patch, although they did try.  And the fall
harrowing always conflicted with some people's desire to have fresh
homegrown collards for Thanksgiving.  And of course, nobody could grow
asparagus or strawberries or raspberries.  And the best part was that the
tractors tended to break our water lines.
So, we took a page from Portland's book and tried to set aside part of most
gardens for "year-round plots."  We proposed cutting the fee by $5 a year,
leaving tilling to the gardeners, and granting 365-day access.  That was
probably a good idea for starting a garden, but getting people to switch
plots so they would be in the right part of the garden for their personal
style and desires was probably the equivalent of getting people to switch
babies.
Next idea - all plots are hereby declared year-round plots.  Everybody's fee
goes down.  We refer people to folks who will do tilling.  Sometimes, if
they beg, we will lend them one of our tillers.  Our youth corps members
will do tilling at a nominal price, but we make it clear that it will be
done on our schedule.  Most folks figure out something on their own or
together with other gardeners at their site.
Everything is perfect now (heh, heh!).  We have peaches and raspberries and
strawberries and perennial flower gardens and late crops and early crops and
over-winter crops.  Most folks seem moderately happy with the situation, we
don't go quite so crazy, and we hardly ever lose a tractor.  Just a few
small problems.  Fact is, there are lots of sloppy gardeners out there.  We
have some concern about poor garden practices leading to unhealthy
situations and complaints from neighbors, and we really don't have much
interest in being the garden police.  Cripes!  These folks are adults,
aren't they?  Our task comes to be encouraging gardeners (together) to take
responsibility for the success of their own gardens and to adopt garden
practices that are effective and yield good results.  Encouraging change is
a challenge, particularly when folks think they are doing just fine, thank
you.  Sometimes you just have to let folks take their lumps when the guy
from the health department comes out and says they better clean up the
garden or the City will come in and mow it down.
Boy, does this ever remind me of trying to raise adolescents (another of my
hobbies), with all its risks, rewards, and consternations.  Using big sticks
doesn't seem to work - they can always be turned against you, and some
people really take offense.  Relying on good intentions is also a losing
proposition.  I figure we're down to occasional pronouncements, an
undercurrent of feather-light nudges, and all the trickery and guile we can
muster.  Every once in a while you run into a gardener with a big smile on
her face telling you how grateful she is and showing you her beautiful crop
of sweet potatoes, or a bunch of gardeners decide to have a party for all
the other gardeners in the city.  Whoo-ee!  That's what I'm talking about.
Happy holidays, everybody.
Jack

______________________________________________________
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services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find
out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org


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______________________________________________________
The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org


To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your subscription:  https://secure.mallorn.com/mailman/listinfo/community_garden





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