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Questions on getting started

  • Subject: [cg] Questions on getting started
  • From: LarrmoNC@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 8 May 2005 09:46:14 EDT

Hello, all.  My name is Larry Kroutil, and I'm new to the community  garden 
I live in Durham, North Carolina.  I am a member of Calvary United  Methodist 
church.  Our facilities are in a central city  location.  We have a vacant 
lot next to our Education Building that would  look to be an ideal site for a 
community garden.  We have members in our  church who are no longer able to 
garden or to get out much; particularly for  older members on fixed incomes, 
providing them with good-tasting, nutritious,  home-grown produce (and the 
interpersonal contact we have with them in  doing so) could be important for their 
quality of life.  In addition,  depending on the size of the space, we might have 
produce that would be  available to local food banks or community kitchens.  
Because we are in a  central city location, low-income neighbors also might 
benefit from having space  to grow some of their own food.  It also would be 
important to me that we  have good participation from our church, in supporting 
our members, having  a role in hunger relief in our city, and in connecting 
with our  neighbors.
There is quite a bit of work to be done to prepare the site, so we are not  
thinking about having a garden ready for summer crops.  However, this  also 
gives us an opportunity for careful planning and building of support  to do the 
work to sustain an effort such as this.  With regard to the  latter, people may 
say that they think this is "a great idea," but when I  ask them about their 
willingness to work on this effort, verbal support  often doesn't translate 
into action.  That being said, I gradually am  finding people at church who are 
voicing their interest in contributing to the  success of a garden.  We're 
probably better off with support building  slowly and deliberately, as opposed to 
us having an intense, emotional  groundswell of people saying they were 
willing to work in a garden, only to see  that support not materialize.
I wanted to throw out some questions to get others' collective wisdom and  
experience as we plan and prepare.
1) What has worked well for you in terms of organizing the gardening  space?  
For instance, I'm thinking that a model that might work well would  be for 
the church to have some common space that we use for some of the needs I  listed 
above, and for households from the neighborhood to rent a plot (or a  portion 
of a plot) with an application and for a nominal fee.  That would  deal with 
the issue of how the harvest gets shared -- i.e., those who are  assigned a 
given space get "first rights" on the harvest, and it would be up to  them to 
decide how and with whom they want to share any extra produce.
2) What has worked well for you in terms of dividing up work assignments,  
such as weeding or watering?  If people have their own  plots, have you shared 
weeding and watering responsibilities as a group,  or are people generally 
responsible for weeding and watering  their own space? 

3) Assuming we went with an approach where people are allocated space for  
their own vegetables, what would be important things to include in an  
application/contract?  If anyone has examples of an application or  contract, I would 
love if you could share them.  In particular, how are  community gardeners' 
rights and responsibilities spelled out?  What common  work assignments or 
responsibilities do you have, such as maintaining compost  bins?  What happens if 
people don't maintain the plots they are assigned or  don't fulfill their shared 
work assignments?  We're also thinking that we  would want people to agree to 
follow organic gardening  practices in their spaces (and not use chemical 
fertilizers or  pesticides).   
4) If people are assigned space in a community garden, what have been the  
pluses and minuses with regard to crop diversity, crop rotation, soil  
maintenance, and pest control?  For instance, I know from my own gardening  experience 
that an important aspect of control of animal pests and plant  diseases is to 
put plants (or related plants) such as tomatoes or green  peppers in a 
different location each year.  I could envision, for  example, that we might get 
several households all wanting to plant tomatoes or  related plants somewhere in 
their space.  Then the following year, if  we were to rotate the space, someone 
might want to plant peppers or  eggplant in a space where tomatoes were grown 
the previous year.  How  have other groups dealt with some of these issues?
Many thanks!
Larry Kroutil

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