This is a continuation of a series. Click here to read Community Gardening: What We’ve Learned Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Here are a few more things we’ve learned from gardening in a community. I hope it helps you consider your participation in a community garden.
Bugs are at the garden even when you are not. Pests can destroy your hard work and leave you nothing to show for all your money, time and sweat. It’s hard to control pests in any environment, but when the pests might be harbored in your neighbor’s plot that is 5 feet away the dangers can multiply.
Today I killed so many cucumber beetles that I lost count. They did not respond to my organic insect spray, so I gave them a deep tissue massage between my thumb and forefinger. If I hadn’t come to the garden just at the right time this afternoon there is no telling the damage that might have happened to my cucumber and canteloupe plants. I can say with near certainty that my problem came from my fellow gardeners not removing their diseased plants quickly and destroying the affected vines. I’ve seen several plants that have been allowed to remain in the garden after they have clearly been affected by bacterial wilt. This attracts more cucumber beetles and the cycle continues on another poor gardener’s plot.
I also lost a cucumber vine and several watermelon vines to insects last summer. Those vines dried up and died within a day of infestation with no obvious sign of a problem until it was too late. Just last week, I found a squash bug near a friend’s plot while watering for her. I killed that bug and checked the undersides of the leaves to find a small group of eggs on one leaf. The plant was very wilted and I thought it was too late. But after removing that infested leaf and giving a deep watering the plant recovered. That was a close call because those bugs don’t just eat the plants they carry diseases that can kill the plant that is left after the bugs are finished feasting. If you plant your cucumbers (or other plants in the same family), your plants could act as a “catch crop” to attract all the available insects in the area. Some gardeners have suggested that it is best to plant these types of crops (cucumbers, canteloupe, squash and pumpkins) later in the season in order to avoid being the appetizer to cucumber beetles.
Education is the key to keeping everyone in the garden informed about what pests to look for and how to properly dispose of infected plants.
Some pests are more likely to be found and eliminated early in the morning before the heat of the day. Backyard gardeners can pop in throughout the day to check on the health of their plants. But distance makes stopping the little devourers difficult when you don’t come to the garden location to water until the early evening (or on your alternating water buddy schedule). This is extremely disheartening when you see a healthy plant one day and a chomped up skeleton of what used to be the next day.
One great thing about our community garden is that the first thing we did (after several plots lost seedlings to Thumper) was build a rabbit fence around the perimeter. Many home gardeners have to spend a lot of money to keep out deer, moles, rabbits, raccoons and a host of other hungry critters.
I’ve found that if I do everything I can to deter pests with organic measures and prevent rabbits and moles with structural methods then the rest is really out of my “control” no matter how close I live or how frequently I visit. This still doesn’t make harvest annihilation any more comfortable to deal with.
Look for more challenges we have faced in the next part of this Community Gardening series.
Have you been part of a community garden? What are you doing differently now compared to when you first began? 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.