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 Community Gardening: Becoming a Community


Story:
Events and organizational activities are a big part of a community garden. When we think of the term community garden we’re obviously thinking about people in a garden. It’s not just about everybody starting to garden, and not having any involvement with each other. So, there are some different types of events throughout the year that a community garden often has. 
 
The first one to consider is some organizational events. Many of the gardens in some way have an organization such as a board of directors and some officers. They may even have a garden manager. They need to meet a few times a year to help decide what they’re going to do in the garden. 
 
How do they establish what they want this garden to be? They need to help decide what kind of policies and rules to have, and initially set up a constitution and by-laws. That just helps to make the whole organization to run more smoothly as you head down the road. You may have to have some meetings where you elect some officers, help decide what kind of fees to charge, and other things.
 
Social events are also important to the garden because a community garden is actually a community within a community. It’s important that those gardeners get to know each other, feel comfortable with each other, and develop some bonds. It helps to know who should be in your garden and who shouldn’t be there. If you’re going to be out of town for a week, you can find someone to step in and help water for you while you’re gone. So it really helps to make for a better social situation in your garden. 
 
Some of those events might be very simple. You might have a watermelon feed when the watermelons are in season. A couple of times in the summer you might have a pot-luck where everyone brings a dish that they made that incorporates some of the produce that they grew in their garden. Or you could have a cookout or other type of activity. It doesn’t have to be complicated – just a fun activity for all the gardeners to get together.
 
There is also the need to do a little maintenance during the year. It’s good for the gardeners to help be involved in that. At the beginning of the year, you may have them come out and help stake out the garden, get the plots labeled and ready to go. You may have a rotation of who keeps the garden paths clean or does the mowing around the edges. Another common activity at the end of the year, when you get ready to take everything down and pull the stakes and get the debris out, is to have a work day where everyone comes to help clean up the garden at the end of the season.
 
The last activity is one of the most important – and that’s education. You not only need education about the garden itself and your policies and how it works, but there are so many different opportunities for education within a garden. Some of your gardeners may never have gardened before, or they may be new to this area. They may have gardened someplace else in the United States or in North America, but they may not have gardened here, so they’re not very sure about the seasons, the timing, and how things work when you garden in Kansas.
 
In those cases it’s a good idea if you have a system of assigning a garden mentor where an experienced gardener might be willing to help a less experienced gardener work on some projects. And, we often have situations that arise in the garden such as an outbreak of disease or insect pests. You may like to educate gardeners about those situations. You can show more cost effective ways to garden and more productive ways to garden. So, education is a great part of the community garden.
 
As you’re planning your community garden, don’t forget those events: organizational type events, social settings, days when you work together to make the garden a better place, and then where we all learn together. Those types of events make gardening much more pleasurable for all of your gardeners.
 
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.