This is part of a series. Click here to read Community Gardening: What We’ve Learned Part 1.
When we first began participating in the community garden I had no idea what I was doing. I had watched my grandmother garden for years but never actually had my own success. I certainly had no green thumb. The strawberry plants I tried to grow on our patio two years ago very nearly burst into flames from lack of adequate watering.
But I was optimistic and full of zeal. That counts for something, right?
Even with my passion and wide-eyed hopefulness, the first year was filled with problems, disappointments and unpleasant surprises. The harvest was plentiful but so were the difficulties.
Most of these problems are directly related to community gardening and not backyard gardening or container gardening. I share with you in the hopes that you can learn from our mistakes.
They do not sell many garden tools at the dollar store. Garden tools are expensive and a huge portion of the upfront cost of starting ANY garden. Community gardens might have community tools and they might not. We purchased our own digging spade, loop hoe, spray nozzle, work gloves, and hand tools. Our initial purchase of medium-quality tools came to around $75. Other tools that you might have to supply are hoses, tillers, wheelbarrows and rakes. Make sure to check with the coordinator so you can plan for any purchases. Check your neighbors to see if you can borrow tools that they might not be using anymore.
Plan your buying and storing of organic and heirloom seeds. The stores in my area seem to quickly sell out of the seeds I want to plant next. And these seeds aren’t cheap. The non-conventional seeds I get can cost twice as much as “regular” seeds for less volume per packet. I try to buy seeds out of season if I can so I can get a clearance price. Ordering online is a good option if you can get decent shipping rates to your location.
I’ve also learned that although seed packets are stamped with a “use by” date you can prolong the life of your seeds by storing them away from moisture and heat variations such as in a box in your refrigerator. Since almost no one uses all the seeds from every packet this is a real money saver to make the seeds last at least a few extra growing seasons.
Also, consider hosting a seed swap at your community garden. Make it a community-wide event and allow everyone to bring seeds to give and share. This is a great way to meet more gardeners and share tips on which seeds are most successful in your area.
Do you take part in a community garden? What are some challenges you have experienced or some wisdom you can share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Beth is a wife to Mike and mother to their five children who range in age from toddler to teen. She spends her days doing school and her nights doing laundry. Saving money in the meantime helps. Beth is learning how to live organically now in the hopes of one day being a successful homesteader.