Grow Your Own Food: The Joys of Community Gardening - Goinggreen


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Grow Your Own Food: The Joys of Community Gardening - Goinggreen

  1. 1. community gardensGrow Your Own Food—The Joys of Community Gardening ”What are we doing today?” Steve Lee except the tomatoes is weeds. I’ll showhears the same question every Tuesday you. ” He shares a trick: “That little fork rakein Folk’s Community Garden. “Today,“ he loosens the soil up, too, which makes hand-answers, “We’re weeding that tomato bed.” picking them out easier.” The volunteers look doubtful. “How do The day’s volunteers set to work, pickingyou know what’s a weed?” someone asks up speed as they gain confidence. “You stayhesitantly. Lee reassures him, “Everything as long as you want,” says Lee. “I’ll be here ‘til about seven.” By the end of the evening even the beginners can tell a tomato seedling from a weed, and beds are clean and ready for the next planting. “Good job” laughs Lee. “It looks like a different place!” With increased awareness of the ben- efits of nutritious, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, more and more people want to be involved in growing their own food. Those who have the space and know-how can garden at home. But many have limita- tions: no land, no sun, or—for many—no ex- perience growing vegetables. Participating The Castle Street Community Garden yields both in a community garden offers a solution. vegetables and medicinal herbs. The Echinacea shown here thrives in the sandy soil whether or A community garden is a piece of land not soil amendments have been applied. Herb- gardened collectively by a group of people. alism classes taught at the Community Action Some are designated for a single communi- Center next door frequently involve a trip into the ty, such as a school or a development; others garden, to examine plants first-hand. invite anyone who wants to participate. The structure can be tailored to the community it serves, and reflects the interests of those who tend it. If the gardeners have an appre-Kathryn Sisler and Courtney Matheson harvest ciation for organic food, they’ll be willing tocarrots from Folk’s Community Garden. take the extra time to hand-weed instead of spraying pesticides. Gardens also vary in in- Volunteering at an existing garden is a tent: while many focus on food production, great way to get a feel for the kind of gar- Birch Creek has a centrally-located flower den you might like to start yourself. Here are some in Wilmington with openings. garden for all to enjoy. Hillcrest Community Garden, a SENCFS project, helps schoolkids Folk’s Community Garden 1300 block Princess Street learn about growing healthful food. Communal and individual plots Gardening appeals to all ages. When Steve Lee • Buddy Milliken developed Woodsong, Castle Street Community Garden a sustainable neighborhood in Shallotte, 4th & Castle Streets he included community garden space for Communal plots residents to grow good food and enjoy Kathryn Sisler • shared activities. To his surprise, the first Sisler is also available to advise anyone to sign up was a seven-year-old girl; she with an interest in starting a new garden. still participates regularly. It’s not unusual (908)670-1590 for gardeners to bring their children to Beach Road Farm Community Garden help at garden work parties; on any given During a Folk’s Community Garden work session 222 Heathcliff Road, Monkey Junction area day three generations of people might be Steve Lee positions a bean trellis he fashioned of Individual plots for rent pulling weeds, watering, and tending plants bamboo, wood and twine. “This is where old Boy Scout skills come in,” he volunteers. Julie Congleton (910)409-2336 together. (continued on page 5) photos this article by Valerie Robertson
  2. 2. community gardensGetting Started When herbalist Kathryn Sisler was askedto start the community garden on an urbanlot on Castle Street, she had a lot of choicesto make. A project of the SoutheasternAlliance for Community Change (SEACC),whose efforts to strengthen community-building and social justice helped set thetone for the garden’s development, it cameabout when a sympathetic landowneroffered access to the vacant lot next to thegroup’s community center. They also agreedto supply water. But questions remained—Who would do the work? Would it be opento the community at large or just neighborswithin walking distance? What would theyplant? Where would the seeds or starts comefrom? Would decisions be made by consen-sus or by committee? How would they usethe resulting food? Would each volunteerhave an individual plot, or would everyonework the whole garden communally? Armed with a strong background inherbalism and with community gardeningchecklists she’d found on the internet, Sislerscheduled an organizational meeting and New to gardening, Heather McLelland and Cedric Turner came to Folk’s Community Garden during ainvited everyone she knew. The volunteers designated work session, when organizers could explain the work to be done and suggest tips for mak-she attracted were of like mind: they would ing it easier. The prize? A new skill, a sense of accomplishment, and a ripe watermelon to take home!use no pesticides, they would garden the area communally, and offer the food to the surrounding community. Community Garden Resources North Carolina Cooperative Extension The result: Castle Street Community Garden. Anyone can come grow vegetables “Home Vegetable Gardening,” publication and medicinal herbs. Members keep costs #AG-06, is one of numerous useful online low by seeking donated seeds, manure guides to gardening. and building materials and using simple American Community Gardening mulches of straw and cardboard. All plots are Association (ACGA) held communally. Volunteers can work any Information on starting gardens, with time, but regularly scheduled work sessions detailed checklists to help make sure you ensure that routine tasks get done and that don’t overlook anything important. new gardeners receive any coaching needed. Rebel Tomato At first members discussed instituting a sort of point system: those who worked the Hosted by ACGA, this offers fun informa- most hours would receive a corresponding tion on learning to grow your own food. Food Not Lawns International share of the harvest. In practice, it works is the movement’s out for volunteers to just harvest food when website, moderated by Heather Flores. it’s ready; what they don’t take home, they Books we like deliver to neighbors. “Over time, those who Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into are here the most are here when food’s ready a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a to harvest,” says Sisler. “It all works out.” Community, by Heather C. Flores Food Not Bombs, by Keith McHenry and C.T.The Wooster Street Community Garden was start- Beach Road Farm Community Butler.ed on the site of an empty lot for sale; tilling the soil Garden Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets offor new beds turned up a variety of construction The nine-acre Beach Road Farm Companion Planting for Successfuldebris. Volunteers sorted the debris and made cre- Gardening, by Louise Riotte. For thoseative use of old bricks, concrete rubble and other Community Garden in Monkey Junction who have mastered some basics.finds to edge garden plots and walkways. (continued on page 6)Summer / Fall 2010 Cape Fear’s Going Green
  3. 3. community gardens Share your offers a different experience. Renting one of its 20 x 20 lots at $12/month offers plenty of green initiative news! room for production. It’s a great set-up for those who want to do their own work, although organizer Julie Congleton notes gardeners do like to share information on site. “And people often sign up with a neighbor, to share the responsibility.” The Southeastern North Carolina Folk’s Community Garden Food Systems Program Steve Lee and Kathryn Sisler started Folk’s Community Garden, also a project of SEACC,SENCFS is a BUY LOCAL economic development as a school project: a neighbor across the street from New Hanover High School loaned theproject. We connect local farmers with local buyers,helping to strengthen the local economy educate empty lot, another neighbor provides water. Lee and consumers on the many important reasons to Sisler developed an interdisciplinary program. Students BUY LOCAL! researched plants, planted and tended the garden dur- ing the school year—picking up credit in math, biology and English along the way. At the end of the school year, the garden was opened to the community. Some opted to rent indi- vidual plots, others were interested in the communal experience found at Castle Street, so the garden now offers both options. Even seasoned gardeners enjoy the opportunity for community gardening.Join us for quarterly meetings. Volunteers needed. Veteran gardener Angelika Lacer can garden on See website calendar for details. a much bigger scale at Folk’s than she can at home. “I W W W. F E A S T S O U T H E A S T N C . O R G have the sunshine and the space there, and the camara- Rain barrels donated to Castle Street derie—that’s a big, big piece, too. It’s really nice to meet Community Garden now provide others that are interested in sharing expertise.” most of the water required. For a And although she now has space at home for her MONTHLY EMAIL NEWSLETTER brief time during a work session, they garden, Christina Chiarchiaro continues to help out at Everything Gardening Wellness served as a temporary parking place for that day’s harvest of kale. Orange Castle Street. She enjoys the community aspect, and Are you aware of? Butterfly weed flowers attract butter- helping others learn as she did at the beginning. “WhatCommunity Supported Agriculture (CSA) flies and bees to pollinate plants. better way to learn than to actually do it and have 2010’s potential food shortage somebody overseeing Rain Water Harvesting it so you can ask ques- Wheatgrass Sprouts tions along the way.” Making compost tea Even though com- What’s in tap water? munity gardens range Organic lawn care Don’t from large to small, It’s Urban Agriculture miss from private to public, FREE Hydroponics anot they tend to share some so is our her post tea!! Fluoridation issue characteristics. One com Composting common challenge is more! keeping momentum. Start receiving The Progress Report today. “You start out with a Click lot of interested people to sign up! in the beginning, but it’s the coming back The Progressive Gardens Show every day that’s difficult Every Saturday 9:30-10am to maintain,” says Lee. WAAV980am • 910-763-4000 Listen live call with your questions Lacer agrees. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm to Be aware. Brought to you by: start with but then the Rows of vegetables in the Folk’s Community Garden, planted by students endurance part can be in the spring, were tended and watered daily through the summer heat difficult.” by members of the community who signed up to participate in a water- Gardeners agree, ing schedule. As part of a three-year plan to build up the soil, walkways between the rows are covered with compost, then cardboard, then a though, that the layer of leaves. The layers suppress weeds, and weeks later evolve into rewards are worth it.6005 Oleander Dr., Wilm. • 910-395-1156 mulch that can be turned into the vegetable rows in the spring. (continued on page 7)
  4. 4. community gardensLacer is looking forward to fall, when leafy tional therapist with the school system, shegreens grow well and cooler temperatures looks forward to introducing her studentsmake chores easier. She finds gardening to the community garden this fall.teaches “Patience, and tolerance and a little Sisler says she is pleasantly surprised bybit of faith in...whatever. There are so many how much support there is for communityaspects to it that we don’t include in our gardening in the area. “If you have thebusy lives anymore, especially young kids. energy and dedication it will happen.” AtI think when they come across something the Carolina Place–Ardmore Neighborhoodlike nature and interact with it, it really adds Association‘s July meeting two dozenan important piece in their life.” An occupa- neighbors showed up, all with garden savvy and all wanting to get involved in Garden Essentials community gardening. Veteran gardener Amy Finelli got her first taste of What do you need to get started? gardening organically when she planted 600 chilies For Chiarchiaro, it’s being surrounded • a piece of land (and permission to use it) in her plot at Beach Road Farm Community Garden. with other volunteers, “like-minded people • 6 or more hours of sunshine on at least part She plans to make powders to sell to local restau- of the land who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, rants. Soccer goal components support the beans. • a source of water like learning about plants, have a general • people to do the gardening focus on eating healthfully, buying locally.” list and all the planting dates…” Lee starts • someone knowledgeable about gardening It’s Tuesday, and a new volunteer is listing the vegetables, not wanting to send • materials: tools (and a safe place to keep eying the plot he has just adopted at Folk’s the newcomer away without an answer. them), soil, soil amendments, edging or Community Garden. “What can I plant?“ he ”Winter squashes, greens, spinach, almost fencing material, and plants or seeds wants to know. all of the hardy greens like kale, collards; • an organizational approach and a plot plan “Go to the North Carolina Cooperative carrots and radishes. There’s a lot of stuff • system for gardeners to communicate Extension Service website: they have a that can go in now.”Community Building Oregon-Style At first glance, Annie and Chris Donahue live in a typical ornamentals and cheerful signs,Eugene, Oregon home: a modest house with a large vegetable is inviting in any of the mildgarden out back, a compost heap, and a handful of chickens seasons. But a closer look showsscratching behind the rain barrels. The front yard, brimming with something more happens here: community. Annie had been mowing the grass alongside their side fence, facing an alleyway, for years, when she decided to plant food there instead. Now the row holds a dozen towering tomato plants and fifty feet of green beans. A clay flowerpot dispenses plastic produce bags next to a sign inviting neigh- bors to pick vegetables for dinner on the way home. On almost any summer evening Annie and Chris can be found out front watering, weeding, and letting folks know that yes, it is OK to pick the vegetables. A steady stream of neighbors drive, walk, and cycle home through the quiet streets. They all seem to know Chris and Annie. Those who don’t, aren’t strangers photos and story by Mary Robertson long. “Sure, come on by. These beans need to be picked!” AnnieThis issue’s cover shot may look like it hails from an organic truck farm—but shows a neighbor boy how to find the ripest beans, then how toit is right out of someone’s front yard. Chris (seen here watering) and Annie check the temperature of her corner compost bin. Another familyDonahue plant vegetables in the sidewalk strip in front of their house and heads home, hands full, ready to cook dinner.encourage neighbors to pick a salad to take home for dinner. Their effortshave expanded to include the alley alongside their house and the 40 by 80 “We built the street-side garden thinking it would satisfy thelot across the street, now a bustling community garden that helps connect neighborhood’s need for fresh organic vegetables,” says Annie.and feed the neighborhood. See “What we found is it satisfied our need for neighborhood connec-gardening.html for more on the Common Ground Garden. tion and growing community.”Summer / Fall 2010 Cape Fear’s Going Green