When you look at the calendar year, and you think about the community garden, the important thing is that the year always started the year before. So, if it’s a new garden, you’ll need to make sure that the summer before you prepared the soil, eliminated weeds and excess vegetation such as Bermuda grass and other weeds. You’ll need to remove or kill all of the weeds, and then till the soil in the fall. Then, you’ll need to prepare for the next season.
The winter months in a community garden aren’t a stagnant time, because that’s the time that your group can have some of their organizational meetings, elect their board and elect their officers, talk about finances for the year and see if any of the fees need to be changed. You may want to talk about policies such as the type of plants that will be allowed in the community garden. You can decide if you’re going to till every fall so that you can’t have perennials, or if you’re willing to work around them. You can discuss if some things are just too hard to manage such as mint, which tends to spread throughout the garden. So, you’ll need to do some housekeeping activities and plan for the upcoming season.
In early spring, you’ll do some tilling. You’ll need to stake the plots and start taking the garden rentals. If you’re an ongoing garden, those rentals may have started in the winter months where people signed up again for the plot they had last year. After the gardens are rented and plotted, people will be assigned their spaces, have some organizational meetings, and then jump in and start gardening. Everyone in the spring is anxious to garden and get going.
In the summer, you’ll continue to maintain the garden, keep track of the common areas, do some mowing to keep the paths clean, and other activities. One of the things you may have to address over the course of the summer is dealing with gardeners who get lax in the maintenance of their plot. Perhaps they’ve had to move away, or they forget to take care of things and don’t water it. Through your policies and rules, you may have to visit with those folks and talk to them about getting their garden back in shape. If they decide that they want to quit in the middle of the season, that plot may be reassigned to someone else who is on a waiting list.
In the summer, you’ll have all your fun social activities such as cookouts, pot-lucks, and fun meetings where people share their produce and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Then, when you move into late fall, you’ll shut the garden down, close it down and pull the stakes and strings, and move all the debris to the side for composting. You’ll also need to till the soil in the fall so that going into the winter it can capture that good winter moisture.
The great thing about a garden is that it’s always changing. There is always something going on in a garden. And, there is never a down time in a community garden.
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension Youth Gardening Specialist, 4-H Youth Development. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.