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More information on community gardens

Posted: Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Ed Close

Community gardens are a wonderful thing when theyíre done right. A lot can go wrong, though, so a few guidelines might be important for those thinking about starting one.

There are steps that will help, though they donít guarantee success in enterprises like community gardens. The first and best thing to do is form a planning committee. Have a meeting and figure out a few basic facts about the garden you intend to start, like who will use it and whom it will serve, whether it should have its own farmerís market ó things of that nature. At that meeting, vote on and choose a garden coordinator.

Other things that need to be discussed and assigned to various people on the committee are sponsorships, fees for use of the garden and how much grown there needs to be given back to the garden for the farmerís market.

Sponsorships can take on several aspects that need to be explored. Sponsorships can be a tremendous asset to such projects, and provide excellent advertising to local businesses that contribute. Items that can be contributed include tools, seeds, fencing, soil additives, money or land. Many companies have land on their properties that lies unused. Since a business is located on the rest of the property, there should be water available. And be sure the community garden can raise enough funds to pay for the increase in the contributorís water bill.

Make a list of companies from your community and contact them. Drive or walk or bike out to their property and look at it before you bother the business owner. It may seem a good location while sitting in a garden committee meeting, but not actually be a suitable location once you see they lay of the property.

Churches, schools, citizen groups, private businesses and recreation departments are worthwhile places to start a search for a garden.

While forming the committee, try to pick people who have gardens at home ó people who know what grows in your area. Share information about gardening at the particular altitude at which you live. Altitude is a major stumbling block when you garden in a location as high as Evanston.

Try to find at least one person to join the committee who knows how to write grants. Grants through state offices and departments are good sources of revenue to pay for supplies, lumber and bags of soil and compost. Some sites have very poor soil and will require a great deal of work and expense before any gardening can begin.

Organize the garden and how it is best to lay it out after finding a location. Also, remember that if the elderly want to be involved, many canít garden as they used to, and raised beds are an excellent way to combat that problem.

Last, but not least, be sure the garden coordinator you choose is well-organized. If the garden coordinator isnít organized, the garden wonít be either, and challenges will be harder to overcome in the long run.

Good luck if you decide to go ahead with a community garden project, and remember: all community gardens are not the same. Some are only for one neighborhood, while some are for an entire community. Be certain which it is you want to create, and then get to work on it. Donít think for a minute a lot of hard work wonít be required. It will. Roll up your sleeves and grab a shovel or a rake. Spring is right around the corner.

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