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nightmare experiences - seeking consolation and advice

18 years ago

I'm wondering whether other people who garden in community gardens have ever had experiences similar to mine.

The garden I joined is on a vacant city lot but is fenced in and gated. It was overgrown and weedy when I got there, but I've seen pictures proving that at one time in the 6 or so years of its existence it was a thriving garden.

When I joined there was only 1 member who actually gardened, and since he lives sort of far away he doesn't come to the garden very often. The person who manages the garden lives nearby but doesn't seem to like to garden, although she calls herself a gardener.

I got excited about the possibilities and right away started working. I helped clean up large weedy areas and dug several small plots. The soil was full of broken glass and trash, so it was time-consuming to work.

I bought 2 fig trees, 4 blueberry bushes, and 2 thornless blackberry bushes, and prepared nice large holes for them. Watered them all summer and mulched them heavily with mulch I purchased or collected myself from city mulch piles.

Unfortunately during the summer one of the blueberry bushes somehow was pulled up out of the soil, and I didn't discover it until days had gone by. I believe it happened when the garden manager had neighborhood children visiting the garden and left them unattended for a while, and I'm sure they didn't mean to knock the bush out of the ground. When I found it days later, it looked dead, but I soaked it well and put it back in the ground, mulched it heavily and kept it well watered and mulched all winter. Miraculously, it put out some green leaves just a few weeks ago. Most of its branches are dead at the outer lengths, but closer to the trunk it is still alive. Of course it will take time to recover, and unfortunately it was originally the largest and healthiest of the 4 blueberry bushes, so that accident set the overall blueberry production for the garden way back. But I'm glad it didn't die.

Also unfortunately, a bed of carrots I fall planted was mowed down by a criminal community service worker who was left unattended to cut the grass in the garden this winter. The carrots were not ready to be harvested, but had to be harvested that day. The carrots were well weeded, with large feathery carrot leaves, impossible not to notice.

That same day, the same community service worker also mowed down another of the blueberry bushes. It had been surrounded by a 3-foot diameter, quite conspicuous pile of wood chips, and was in blazing red leaf glory. Impossible not to see.

That same day, the other gardener lost an entire trellis of English peas. I don't mean just the peas. I mean that the entire 8-foot by 8-foot wooden trellis of peas, which were in full glorious bloom and lush green growth, were cut to the ground. As I was the person who discovered this loss, I demanded an explanation and was told that the community service worker couldn't be blamed for the peas being cut down, that the garden manager had done it, she couldn't say why. Since then she has said she did it because they were brown and dead, which is not anything like true. In any event, they were growing in another person's private garden plot, so shouldn't they have been left alone?

In the fall I asked for a spot for my own garden plot and was given the worst spot on the land, a spot which had never before been broken, with hardpan clay as stiff as rock, and which appeared to have been used as the garden's trash pile during the years. As there were still only 2 gardeners, it was unclear to me why this was necessary but I bit my tongue. I decided I could amend the hardpan clay soil which you couldn't even put a shovel into, and had all winter in which to do it. I began work immediately.

I knew of a horse stable nearby where I could get free manure and bedding. I don't own a truck but save all my soil bags and don't mind getting my car dirty. So I began visiting the stable and filling plastic bags with manure and bedding, then hauling them to the garden. I had to trek through wet manure to fill the bags, shovel them full myself, load them into my car, then climb the steps up into the garden with them and carry them across the entire length of the garden (about 200 feet) as my plot is at the back and uphill all the way. I estimate I did this no less than 20 times, each time bringing about 20 bags of manure, each weighing probably 35 or 40 pounds minimum. I am a 48 year old woman, by the way, and have arthritis in my hips, hands and back. It wasn't easy, but I figured it was worth it.

The other gardener helped out by bringing me many large rubbermaid containers of coffee grounds from Starbucks.

By turns I let the manure and coffee grounds stand on top of the ground, let the ground freeze and break, let the earthworms come up and carry things down, and mixed it all up as the clay began to break down. Then I'd add another layer on top and start all over again. Each time I'd climb into the plot and pick through it all, taking out any glass and trash I found, as well as pulling out crabgrass, nutgrass, wiregrass, and other perennial weeds. I did this all winter long.

About 3 weeks ago I declared my work finished. I raked the plot, which is about 8 or 10 feet wide and maybe 15 feet long, and decided to let it sit through a few rains and settle before making rows or raised beds. As I'm planning to grow climbing lima beans, melons and tomatoes, all things that like a warm soil, I had time to spare before the soil would be warm enough to plant. I felt the soil, which by then was a fine black stuff, clean and wonderful to run through your hands, needed to rest before then.

This weekend I visited the garden because I had been told new plots were being marked and dug for new garden members. I had not been there since last weekend. When I walked over to admire my own plot I immediately noticed the sun glinting off hundreds of pieces of broken glass all over the surface of the ground. Then I noticed lumps of red clay, and deep impressions everywhere that looked like shovel holes. I walked around and around my plot, not understanding what I was seeing, and frankly not believing my eyes.

Then I walked over to the area where new plots had been broken. I noticed one rectangular area where the soil had barely been broken, and next to it another similar rectangular area where the soil had been finely worked. Very finely worked. So finely worked that it had the appearance of potting soil. Not a shard of glass in sight, not a clod of clay in sight.

I then looked at a series of raised beds, plastic forms where the garden manager raises vegetables as a youth project. During the summer and fall and all winter long these plastic raised bed forms had been full of clay soil, loaded with glass and weeds, which I knew because I had tried to help weed them from time to time. On this day I reached down into one of them and my hand sunk into soil fine and black and clean. My soil, in fact. I recognized it as soon as I touched it.

I walked back over to my own plot and could see what had happened. My soil had been removed from my plot. The soil from the new bed and the raised forms had been removed from those places and carried over to my bed. The soils were switched.

As gardeners reading this, I know you will understand how this all makes me feel. When I confronted the garden manager she denied any knowledge of the switch and blamed it on the community service worker.

I don't know whether, as a practical matter, it is really possible to switch things back the way they were. Or whether it is better for me to give up on this community garden now, in light of all the events leading up to this event as well as this incredible event and what I can probably expect in the future as well.

Should I fight for my dirt? Or should I walk away? I've already decided that if I walk away, I'll consider the fruit trees a donation to the garden, even though I know they probably won't survive the kind of mistreatment they'll be getting.

I do wish I could stay long enough to harvest my thriving garlic bed, but that won't be ready until June. And I have a feeling the chances of me actually getting any of it are slim to none, anyway. The garden manager already expressed her desire for it. And she lives closer to the garden than I do, and doesn't have a day job. So I guess that's already a losing battle.

So I'm interested in hearing what other gardeners think. I've noticed there isn't much posting going on in this forum. Is that because everyone has bad experiences in community gardens? Or is my experience unique, and everyone is just too busy to write?

If you were me, would you walk? Or stick it out?

Comments (17)

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have been involve with a dozen community gardens over the last 20 years. (I'm currently involved in two.)

    I've had similiar experiences. The worst experience I have had was when my own roto-tiller was vandalized. (I shouldn't have taken my eyes off it.) I've had paving stones, railroad ties, and compost stolen.

    But I've had other good experiences were I've met interesting people and was able to share experiences. So I think community gardens are worth it.

    Funding is an other issue which leads to either having a secure location or not. If it's a project which has money donated for rehabilitation purposes, then you will probably need to accept this type of behavior. And so you will need to take extra care in the design of your plot. I have seen people who thought it was a good idea, loose interest, and at that point the garden became a jungle and a dumping ground. However, some of my best experiences have been the result of difficult situations.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm so sorry that you are in this situation! These people sound incredibly selfish and inept, and in my opinion you should get out of there as fast as possible!

    This has been going on for a year and shows no indication of stopping - your work is being exploited, and whether it's being done on purpose (by the garden manager) or by 'accident' (by the community service workers), it still boils down to the same malicious thing. This does not sound like a healthy place to garden.

    Maybe there are other pea-patches you could join in the area? And perhaps you would not feel the least bit guilty renting a truck, enlisting some friends to help dig, and taking your soil with you when you go . . .

    If there are no other places to garden in your area, consider starting a pea-patch! It will be a lot of work, but chances are it will be a much more positive experience than staying where you are.

    I am not in as dramatic a situation as yours, but I have three roommates who do not garden and a big yard, which I have been trying to turn into a functioning garden for two years now. And just when I feel like I am getting close to a milestone, such as finishing the handscape or digging out a new bed, a particular one of my roommates, who has never been in a garden in his life before now (I don't think he has even touched soil), 'cleans up' and destroys the project completely.

    Just yesterday he threw away a huge bag of hosta. They were from my Mom's overgrown bed that hasn't been divided in 15 years, so you can imagine the amount of work that went into digging up and dividing what was a 6 inch deep mass of rhizomes! It took two weeks to get (over 70!) healthy plants and the bed finally prepared, and it took my roommate 10 minutes to stop that project in its tracks. It's not the first time that this has happened. I am very frustrated with the whole thing and have almost given up on the yard several times!
    Looking back, what I should have done is quit last year when things like this first started to happen and joined one of several pea patches in my area. But I stuck it out, and now I am moving in a few months and can't commit to a new garden.

    Take it from someone who has been trying unsuccessfully to deal with behavior akin to what you describe. You can't change how these people treat you and your hard work. If they don't want to learn, they won't. Get away before you get so frustrated that you begin to hate gardening!


  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Have you considered contacting your local media? You might as well forget about getting along with these people after that, but we're talking dishonesty and destruction of community property here. You've got an even better "case" if you paid a rental fee for your plot. Just a thought.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for your thoughts and support. I have just experienced crazy community garden manager Number Two in a garden I joined for relief from the experience I described above. This one had control issues that culminated in a physical confrontation in which he pulled something I was planting right out of the ground and actually physically struggled with me, because he felt I was working in the garden too late in the evening, and "without his permission." I had not been told, when given a key to the gate, that I had to ask for permission every time I wanted to go to the garden. And oddly, I had coincidentally called and mentioned to him that I was going over to plant something, which is how he knew I would be there. I don't hate gardening yet, but I have begun to wonder about the concept of community gardening. How do these people get to be in charge? Is it because they have unstoppable egos? I always thought of gardeners as peaceful people in touch with nature and Mother Earth, but I am seeing a whole different side of gardeners now that I wish I had never seen. These people seem to be on extreme power trips.

    Interestingly, both of these gardens had no or almost no members when I showed up. I believed their sad stories of neighbors moving away, and old people dying off. But after my experiences I think the real reasons for lack of membership are more clear, and maybe the lesson to be learned is never to join a community garden unless it has a waiting list for new members.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I've been considering starting a community garden. I've subsequently been cured of that desire!!

    Unless I had the only key, there were security cameras, and each plot had a name engraved on a little plaque that was secured to the ground by a 5 foot stake, forget it.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    There should be a clipboard or workboard that everyone must read BEFORE doing anything. Each bed should be labeled with a number or letter and assigned to a person and also labeled as such. The clipboard should contain a worksheet that describes the status of each bed.


    I would never work in that garden again.


    What is the roommate claiming? That it was an accident? Or was it clearly malicious? I can't believe your roommates are throwing things out in the yard/garden without asking first. They know that you are working out there and the rest of them aren't particularly interested.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I can sympathize with the experiences mentioned above. I have started or co-started two community gardens over the years, and helped revitalize two that were run down (although I abandoned one of them later - read on). This often involved considerable community outreach, negotiations with the owners of neglected property, or obtaining sponsorship from urban development authorities or social programs.

    Sadly, sometimes it just won't work. If your garden is in an urban blight area, you will find yourself dealing with people who think that your garden is their garden. A CG in urban San Diego was just getting off the ground, and was being widely publicized. Working in the garden one day, I confronted a group of adults that had followed another gardener through the gate, and were just wandering. When I asked them what they were doing, a lady in the group told me "This is a community garden, so I can take what I want". After losing whole crops in the dead of night, and having my children witness a gang beating in broad daylight, I left for greener pastures.

    Even in the best of gardens, things happen. One of my success stories was another garden in San Diego, where getting the local Asian community involved led to a thriving garden. But I had trouble with my new neighbors literally reaching under the fence between our gardens, and stealing my dirt as far as their shovels would reach. Theres one the by-laws didnÂt cover! It took an interpreter to overcome the language barrier, but the issue was resolved peacefully, and the next newsletter addressed it to the membership.

    And sometimes, CG managers are just controlling, territorial sociopaths (the original post comes to mind), and the plots are overgrown & neglected for a reason - everyone else has had enough, and pulled up stakes. In such a case, if you canÂt take over, take your garden elsewhere.

    I can think of five things that make a good community garden:
    (1) Sponsorship - either a community organization, company, club, or community association. This could also be the property owner. Helps with establishing the infrastructure (fences, piping, trash removal), provides continuity, may have access to grant money, and is an arbiter when problems arise.
    (2) Accessible management - to do community outreach (see "communication" below), assign plots, organize special activities, maintain security, resolve conflicts, manage expenses, coordinate property upkeep, etc.
    (3) By-laws - clearly establishing the CG rules, and a gardenerÂs rights & responsibilities, to be read & signed prior to plot assignment. These include defining which areas are common access, keys/combinations, dues & water fees (if any) and when they are to be paid, weed & pest management responsibilities, pet regulations, when a garden is considered abandoned, noise regulations (for power equipment), hours of operation, conflict resolution, prohibited activities, etc.
    (4) Security - anything which maintains the sanctity of the gardens. This can be everything from ensuring that plot boundaries are clearly marked, to fencing & controlled access, to lighting, to getting a little extra attention from local law enforcement overnight. It also includes the prompt removal of those who do not respect the by-laws, or the property of others. Theft & vandalism must be prevented to the greatest extent possible. When enough gardeners become actively involved, the extra eyes can make the difference between success and failure.
    (5) Communication - to ensure that gardeners are informed of upcoming events, and that they have a forum to bring concerns & suggestions to management. A bulletin board on site along with a suggestion box, periodic newsletters, and scheduled management hours on-site are all helpful, and build a sense of community. Where other cultures are involved, every effort should be made to communicate in the appropriate language, perhaps through a liaison.

    OK, thatÂs how it should be... but if youÂve had it up to here with mismanaged CGÂs, consider this. There are always neglected properties: utility land, government property, vacant lots with absentee owners, elderly who can no longer maintain their property. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and your negotiating skills. I have spent a lifetime gardening on borrowed land; sometimes in exchange for property upkeep, sometimes rented, sometimes in exchange for a portion of the produce, sometimes because I gave something back to the community. Consider the needs of the property owner, and have a proposal in hand; you might be surprised how often you can work something out.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I am sorry for these outragious managers. They should not be put in charge at the first place. Their own abrasive actions will eventually bring about their own demise, so keep close eyes on those places. Chances are theose reigns of terror would colllapse on themselves. One step further, you might inform the higher levels of the community gardens of the troublesome situation. If their responses are quick and positive, then you know there is hope for those gardens. Good luck and keep gardening!

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Heartbreaaking stories. I have several plots in a condo community "village". IT is a good neighborhood and gated, but some gardeners have had produce stolen. Some of our neighbors apparently think the tomatoes are there for the taking or something. Now many have put up signs and the community paper has notified everyone. THis seemed to help, but I still try to maintain some reserve strength in case I should go up and find things destroyed. (anyone can walk through the "gate" and we have had packages and mail stolen here)

    People who don't garden, seem not to realize what work and care goes into it. Before this experience I had not ever done much. But it has turned into an obsession. Right now I have so much lettuce I am begging people to take it, last year it was peas. In the cases mentioned here though it seems the motive was just to trash it, not to eat it.

    That is criminal and if you have paid for your space I think the police should be involved. Or certainly the upper level city or community people who started it in the first place.

    Most here, now fence their plots against the ducks, who like to pull down peas and beans and will trample anything else. Although the ducks have been better behaved the last couple of years.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My sympathies, as well, and I agree with SOME of the responses. My take is this. All communities are such because of diversity as well as similarity, it is inevitable that there will be elements in any group that are at odds. It is simply a fact of life that must be recognized and accepted. What is important is how you choose to react. Do you want to continue to nurture your preference/belief that gardeners are people with certain traits that earn your respect and admiration? Then you must behave as if that is still true. I've seen some less than ideal behaviour in the few short weeks that I've been involved in the group I joined in Philadelphia, and I am trying to respond with tolerance and generosity, hoping that some of the 'bad' behaviour will stop, but unless I am there all of the time I recognize that my remedies are limited.

    I believe that informing those who have some oversight over the managers ought to be in order, as well, but you may be unaware of the socio-political ramifications by which those managers were chosen in the first place (another inevitable element of communities), and must be prepared to face those consequences. I wish you luck and perseverence. Space is rare here, so those are my best choices in dealing with similar, if less extreme, circumstances. You'll feel best being the person you most respect, and acting accordingly.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow.... I am so sorry to all of you who have had hard experiences. I work in a cg here in Colorado and we have had difficult to crazy behavior here this summer too. Difficult was when a family used raw human excrement on their garden almost daily to save money on fertilizer - crazy was when after repeated attempts to get them to stop they destroyed people's plants, smashed the hoses and dug two feet deep of soil from their garden and moved it all out in buckets...Frankly the last part was kind of comical because the rest of us were relieved that it was gone while they were glorying in that they kept the rest of us from their very precious soil.

    Still I love the cg because I love what i learn and I love to help out. We have a great group and I believe its largely because there are good boundaries in effect. You pay a yearly fee and sign a contract that you will lose your garden if you break the rules. It is a very mellow place usually and people tend to share with one another rather than steal. We keep a lock on the gate which helps keep it basically protected from deer and those who might not be respectful whether well meaning or not. I hope you find a really wonderful place to garden - you deserve it after all you have been through.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I wanted to post an update to my original message here. Against all the advice of my friends and family, I am still gardening at the same community garden. I've worked very hard to recruit new members, and we now have over a dozen members. I have a sometimes difficult relationship with the woman who calls herself our garden manager, but I try to work with her because there seems to be no other way. No one is all bad, and some of her ideas, such as sharing our harvest with local senior citizens, for example, I strongly support. But in many other ways, it's a constant struggle for me, and the community garden experience is not the pleasant, rewarding one I had always envisioned. Sometimes I have to force myself to go there.

    As a gardener, though, I have always told myself when things don't go well that there will be another season, another year, another crop, another opportunity to try to grow something different. I really like our new garden members and enjoy talking with them and seeing them in the garden. I love sharing my vegetables with the senior citizens I have adopted. I have just begun talking about a new project with a friend - an idea for our two community gardens, which are in the same city but not very near each other, to become "sister gardens." I'm really excited about this idea and full of hope because of it.

    When I drive up to the garden, I am usually tight with stress, worried about what kind of damage or loss I will find in my garden plot. I hate that feeling. But often now I am distracted from it by seeing a new garden member working in her plot, or a neighbor driving by who stops to talk to me because I've given them vegetables. I tell myself, and I know it's true, that no amount of damage can't be undone. I know how to rebuild and replant.

    One day late this spring I was struggling with a part of my garden plot, planting seeds for the third time and frustrated because I couldn't figure out why nothing would sprout in spite of my best efforts. I looked over at another gardener's plot enviously and wondered why his tomatoes were growing so lushly when he never came to tend them, whereas my efforts yielded nothing at all. I felt depressed and decided I must be a very bad gardener, whereas he must have a remarkable green thumb. Then, as I sat on the ground feeling sorry for myself, I suddenly remembered. The soil in his garden plot was the soil that had been removed from my plot after I worked on building it up all winter. I remembered that I had felt pleased when he chose that plot, because I like him and knew I wouldn't feel so bad about him getting the benefit of all my labor. I had decided it was impossible to undo what had been done, that I would simply work with what I had left, clean out the glass and trash, and add more manure and build my plot back up in the few weeks I had left before planting time.

    All of a sudden, that late spring day, I felt fine again. I knew without a doubt that I was a good soil-builder, and that if I could build such great soil once, I could do it again. I knew I had also been right when I decided the soil needed to rest for awhile before planting; that's why my seeds wouldn't sprout. I decided that next winter I would try again, and meanwhile I wouldn't be so hard on myself for any failures in the garden. I also decided not to hold onto my grudge so tightly. It might not have been "just a few shovelsful of dirt" as she once said when confronted with taking it, but at least it was producing nice tomatoes for someone.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My apartment building has a community garden of about 18 or so raised beds, built by one of the tenants a few years ago. Last year the tenant that built the place and the school across the way were the only ones actually utilizing beds. This year, it was me and the school.

    This was the first time I'd actually tried to have a garden, and I only had one 4 x 8 plot near the front. Other than the school's, which were in the back, mine was the ONLY plot used this year. I had two squashes, a pea, ten carrots, a sage and a lavender. I tried broccoli and peppers but they didn't last too long in the heat. Not very much, just what I felt I could handle and learn from (as in, how much room squash needed! LOL!) I did have to build up the walls with some temporary barriers and dog repellant to keep estray dogs from walking in it and doing their business, but other than that it was going pretty good.

    Then a new neighbor moved in. An older gentleman, who claimed he had nothing to do other than sit outside, and watch TV. He fancied himself a gardening expert, and deposited his potted peppers (who weren't producing) next to my plot. This was okay with me, as he seemed an okay guy.

    It became apparent, however, he was a bit of a control freak and had issues with me. It was pretty hot, and he decided my watering schedule of every three days during the really hot times wasn't enough. So...he watered his peppers and my garden EVERY DAY. For AN HOUR. And got very nasty when I asked him to stop. We even had a confrontation in front of the manager, and he called me names. Needless to say, we're not on speaking terms anymore. He finally stopped, but only because I made sure I went down every single day and checked my garden, and if he was out there, watered it myself...or rather watered the plants that could take a bit of excess water. And I had an unpredictable schedule, too, so there were times when he got surprised. I also moved his peppers to the opposite side of the garden.

    I lost one squash (but not the plant), and the sage got stressed (yellow leaves), but they all bounced back like gangbusters when he stopped watering them (at which point I did, too, tho I continued the 'surprise' inspections). Unfortunately by the time he did stop, it was already September, so I didnt' get the veggies I could have until just the other day.

    I've talked to both the building manager and the building owner so that the prep work I did this month won't get taken away from me by anyone next spring, as I'm afraid he'd try that. They both said they'd back me up if I put my name on the plot, which I did via a small pitchfork stuck in the dirt with my name on it. :)

    People around here are actually pretty darned nice...except that one guy. I just needed to vent. :)

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Very sorry for your troubled experience. I moved into Harlem last May and my bldg has a front garden which I've been tending, many people express appreciation, but a few plants were pulled out last summer, not so bad though. There are 2 community gardens close by, 1 is very thriving another very neglected. A neighborhood lady helped maintain it, but she seems to be all by herself. people dump trash all over it, which infuriarates me. Anyway, no one registered it for the next 2 years, and the city might take it over to develop it. I tried to help her clean it last Saturday, but I didn't find her there. This lady says people always stole her veggies/fruits. It seems more of a challenge to have what a community garden should be, teamwork, community, etc.
    I think you could maybe find a plot at an organized garden, many people like your garden's manager will not change, and only will give you trouble.
    I am reluctant to join it, as I see troubles, however, it might be good if I help out.
    I may just stay in my building's garden, I don't have to fight over anything.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow you are very determined to have stayed through all that abuse. I was a member of a community garden for 3 years and it was run very well-- even in the best of situations things like theft, and accidental damamge can occur. I would absolutely confront the manager of the garden. Perhaps not with a laundry list of complaints -- but a list of "I feel" - I'm very frustrated, I care very much about..." think it out - even write out what you want to say-- with a purpose in mind. It seems to me like it would be wise to have areas of the garden which could be claimed by gardeners, where they could claim a plot and then the produce, work, etc would all be theirs-- you might suggest this be a fenced area or some other kind of barrier so that helpful community workers couldn't run mowers over the fencing or barriers, and then suggest - general areas - in which things like blueberry bushes, community projects or more pernnial projects could take place. You may need to offer some really solid suggestions to problems you see-- ie..I did all this work and now the ground I worked on-- is covered with glass. I have been a valued memeber of the garden for years and for me this represents alot of work, I need to know this won't happen again-- so here is what I suggest as a possible solution. At the beginning of every spring I would be happy to help to divide up this area into individual plots and be responsible for "renting" out each staked off area to interested parties-- we can each have our own area- with returning gardeners getting to put a claim on the area they cared for last year as a first preference. In exchange I would like for you to explain to the worker on site that this is not an area of the garden that he is responsible for-- but that once a year after the stakes are removed he may mow it to the control the weeds. Perhaps your manager is overwhelmed or burnt out and doesn't have the energy or time for enforcing common courtesy, or simply doesn't see the need-- but for your sanity -- surely that is neccessary. That may be the reason there are only two surviving gardeners on the plot..I tell you the first time someone plowed over my carrots or put broken glass in ground that I had worked -- I'd be gone.. and if a healthy discussion -- and offering to take over or assist with the situation didn't help it in some way-- I'd bug out, or at least back down on the amount of energy I expended there.
    Like I said -- I used to be part of a community garden and it worked fabulously-- there were no fences, but some basic rules. Here is what we did-- someone was responsible for getting names and dividing up plots-- also for getting the entire area tilled, every year. We each paid some small amount for this-- I think it was $20 or something-- that funded the tiller rental & water useage. Each plot was about 12x12. If it was your first year- you could have one plot, unless there were extras--there was usually a waiting list. After you had kept a plot for a year- you could ask to have more than one and veterans got first dibs on spaces & on extra plots. There was a letter that was sent out every year with a map of the plots- on the map was the persons first name and phone number-- this made everybody accountable-- your space, your responsibility, and your produce. If your plot wasn't weeded or cared for next year you didn't get a plot-- if someone had a problem with something in a neighbors plot or a question you could call them-- you knew it, they knew it and it helped. Everybody had the managers # and could call them too. It was also nice cause if you were out working saturday - you could say hi to bob or sue or joe and you at least knew their name. The small amount of money paid out in spring was a way of seeing who was interested enough to do it- and got some buy in and-- helped to cover some of the costs. Every fall everything was broken down and there was an end of the year potluck and work party, and every spring it was all put up was somewhat limiting-- but it did make it easier and it ran very smoothly. Rules were clearly written out -- they used cheap wooden stakes and string to mark the plots, and it was a wonderful sense of community-- a joy. Rules and respect are essential in most things-- community gardens are no exception. Good luck to you!

  • 16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I've had a pretty good year this year in my apartment's community garden, since the neighbor who was watering my garden bed moved out. The soil has gotten pretty darned good, too. I even took over a couple more beds.

    Unfortunately I found out the day before yesterday that the building owner is going to put parking where the garden bed are sometime next summer. He may or may not rebuild the beds in a different spot, but either way gardening for next year is hosed, as are the plants I'd put in with the intention of them being there for years. And the 9 year old rhubarb with its massive crown will be killed. I might be able to do some container gardening, but where I'll put them I don't know yet.

  • 16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I thought I might revive this thread and give encouragement that there are great community gardens out there. My plot pictured below is in Slippery Rock, PA. There is a wonderful sustainable living research center that offers a fenced community garden for only $20 a year. You got all the free compost you want plus they collect water from the barn roof. I never had a problem there and grew the best veggies of my life. Unfortunately I relocated to Raleigh, NC and have no where to garden.



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