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The Negatives of a Running a Community Garden

11 years ago

I am in charge of a fairly large community garden. I thought I would post some of my experience in regards to it. I live in the city of Buffalo and there was a lot of land next to my house that was torn down for parking. The block club was assured this house wouldn't be torn down but was. After the parking lot was shot down by the city I attempted to purchase the land from the authority that owned it assuming since they couldn't have their parking lot it would be of no use to them. After being turned down, as they are probably waiting for the right time to build a parking lot again, we got Grassroots Garden of Buffalo involved and are on a 5 year lease for our community garden.

People love the thought of coming together for the community and people love planting plants and coming by once a year to do so. What people won't show up to do is weekly watering, mowing, or weeding. It's not fun and the results, while important, are not nearly as rewarding. Do not be surprised by this nor do not take it personal. Unless you have a core group of people that you know it just will not happen but fall on you alone or a few people.

People will come along and build a flower bed, or plant a tree, or plant a plant in the stupidest most inconvenient spots and then never return to care for it. Say there is a narrow heavily used path in your garden. Do not be surprised when someone comes along and plants a tree smack in the middle of this path.

If you plant vegetables and other edibles do not expect to reap the rewards. Say you have a squash plant that you water every day, pick the beetles and smash them, and tend to it for months. Then when it comes time to pick that squash that you've been watching since it was a mere flower and BAM your neighbor "who has been waiting for those squash all summer" gets to them first while putting no work in. It's frustrating so if you can't deal with this happening don't plant them.

Do not leave anything behind. If you leave any garden equipment do not be shocked when someone takes it. Now you may be thinking to yourself "bums, crackheads, thieves!!!" Well I hate to break this to you but it is other gardening folks who are taking it. If a crackhead thief was to wonder into a garden he will not be selective, he will take everything. But if a shovel and a nice pair of pruners are next to each other and someone takes the pruners and leaves the shovel it is probably another gardener taking your stuff.

People will take plants. Some people will tactfully divide a nice looking hosta so you won't even notice. Others times people will take a giant chunk of your hosta and leave you a straggling piece if it. Other times people will take the entire darn thing. Do not plant anything expensive or unique.

Do not plant fussy or invasive plants. Community gardens need to get to a point where they can take care of themselves until you can get to them. If you plant plants that spread and put them next to other less aggressive plants but don't want to pull then expect a bed full of goose neck loose-strife. You want to plant that water hungry plant but miss a week expect it to die in July.

With that being said on the polar opposite side of that you also want plants that fill in nicely so you don't have to put money into mulch or you will be weeding a lot.

Do not spend too much of your own money but rely on non profits, people, and other community gardens for divides and donations. In the beginning we took any and everything. Those ditch lilies everyone has? We'll take. After a while after there was no more room you turn them down and start working of variety.

Do not take anything with out examining it to the core. We've had people donate iris infected with iris borers, peonies intertwined in bishops weed, roses that had clumps of bindweed. If you let these things in they can spread everywhere and it ends up being more work than its worth.

If you plan on a community garden you have to be weary of these pit falls. A community garden is supposed to be for the community and if you over whelm yourself with the work of it you will probably end up abandoning it. Good luck!

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