Bob Ewing – It is not necessary to have a back or front yard and be able to grow your own food. Apartment dwellers and others who live where they have no direct access to a yard can grow fruit, herbs, flowers and vegetables. Space is necessary but that space does not have to be private property. It can be communally owned, shared or rented space. If you are curious about how this can be done, well, it involves cooperation and sharing.
A community garden is a shared space where a group of gardeners, how many depends upon the size of the land, come together to grow what they want. The group decides how the garden will operate, will it be an organic site, for example; it also develops a contract that each gardener signs. The contract lists the responsibilities the gardeners agree to and the terms each plot must follow, such as not letting your plot get overrun with weeds as this impacts other gardeners.
Land, suitable for a community garden site,may be available from the municipality or a vacant lot could be rented for at least a five year term from the property owner.
When I was in Thunder Bay, the city made land available for community gardens for a small yearly fee.
Some things to consider when planning a community garden, one, water, where will the water you need come from? Is there a source on site, can you set up a rainwater catchment system? What do you do during dry spells and droughts?
Gardeners need tools; will they bring their own; can they store them on site ? In Saint John, the community garden I belonged to had a storage shed on site and each gardener had a key and could use the tools there. We also took turns cutting the lawn and in general site maintenance. These chores can be set out in the contract.
If possible, a community garden coordinator can be employed to lend assistance to new gardeners. In Thunder Bay, I held this position for two summers. At the beginning of each gardening session, we all got together to prepare the site for planting and at the end of the season we did the same for fall cleanup. I offered organic gardening classes three times through the season, for no charge.
The community gardens provides an opportunity for people who otherwise may not be able tog row their own to do so, but it also provides another benefit, one worth just as much as the food grown.
Community gardens grow neighbours. They bring people together, people who may never have met or had a conversation, come together over a garden bed. They now have something in common; the garden becomes a common ground where gardening stories and seeds are exchanged. People cooperate out of a mutual interest and when they see each other on the street, no longer walk by, but stop and say hello.
Community gardens grow community and good food.
If you want to garden in community first find out if there is one near you, the public library, community centre or city hall may be able to provide this information. If you want to start one read next week’s column, until then happy gardening.