The weather in the mid-Atlantic states has been, well, awkward this spring. April temperatures have been cooler than February temperatures, and drought conditions are already a concern. But with spring comes new buds, rebirth, baseball, and the opportunity to establish that community garden that you and your neighbors have been talking about all winter. The University of Missouri Extension Program has released one of the best guides we have ever seen about getting your community garden out of the dreams of you and your neighbors and getting it into the ground for everyone to enjoy. We also found some great advice to keeping it well watered as the summer approaches.
The motivation behind the ‘‘ is to help neighborhoods appreciate the planning that can make a huge difference to the success of such a garden. Of the ‘Ten Steps To Success’ listed in the UM guide, eight of them involve meetings and evaluations and plans to be considered before one spade hits the dirt. Here is the short-list of questions the Toolkit encourages you and your friends to ask before you start developing the land (p.12):
- Does the group have access to the necessary tools, especially earth-moving tools if necessary?
- Is a shed necessary to share access of tools or can other arrangements be made?
- Does the site need to be fenced?
- Will the garden and/or community group need liability insurance?
- Are Master Gardeners or other guidance resources available for the community, including information-sharing with other community gardens?
- Are local government agencies, nonprofits, or businesses available to help sponsor the garden and its materials?
Though the toolkit is a fabulous resource, it is not all heavy lifting and its tenor is meant to emphasize the joys that a (well planned) community garden can bring to those who work on it and those who enjoy it. Indeed, the tenth ‘Step of Success’ is “Celebrate Your Success!” with a garden party inviting neighbors and local businesses to show what the garden has already brought to the community and what their participation might grow in the near future.
To water that lovely garden, consider a quick and easy rain barrel or three. A post on the home-improvement blog ‘The Soffritto’ (‘The Basics’) walks you through the easy 30+ minute project of installing rain barrels. The posting includes sites she perused before deciding which type of barrel to buy, and she provides a number of photos of the process. The rain barrels will provide access to rainwater collected in the spring weeks to help keep the garden refreshed in the summer months.
Does your community have a garden? Have any special tips or experiences you can share with us? Please let us know in the comments below!