Gardening: Community gardens are a great alternative

Enjoy gardening but find the yard is, too shady, too small or non-existent? Then it is time to look into local Community Gardens. These gardens are ran by municipalities, individuals or boards who have developed rules to suit the needs of their community. Rules can differ between gardens so be sure to read then before signing up to make sure that you are a good fit for the community.

Some garden plots are organic, others are not. No that regardless how careful one is with pesticides or fertilizers, they can drift and leach into surrounding areas.

Is there a weed clause? If a garden becomes too weedy and is threatening to infest other gardens will they plow it under? Areas that are kept relatively weed free in the past are easier to maintain.

Is water on site or does each gardener bring their own? Do you have a method of transporting water? In a dry year bringing enough water can be a problem.

Are there some communal tools? Having to purchase basic tools such as a hoe, fork, rake and shovel can add to the cost of the garden.

What structures are allowed? This could include fences for vines to sheds.

What is the estimated time the garden will be ready to plant? Most garden plots are tilled with all plots measured and marked before they are open to the public. Is this completed in April or before May long?

What time in the fall does the crop have to be harvested?

Are their fruit bushes, perennial vegetables and herbs as well as fruit trees in the area for everyone to harvest?

Know the size and cost of the plot. It will vary. If new to gardening it is best to start small than be overwhelmed by too much work.

To find a community garden in the neighbourhood, check with the local government and gardening groups. If one is not available, there might be others that are interested in getting one going.

For those that like to eat fresh but only have time to garden occasionally or not at all, look into local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) gardens.

Members that join a CSA garden usually pay for a seasons vegetables when they sign up.in full when they sign up but other arrangements might be available.

In return, the farmer orders and plants seed. They tend the crops and harvest them when ready. Baskets of in season fresh produce will be made weekly.

SCA members take on the farmer’s risks and bonanzas. Often it depends on the year as to how much of each type of produce is available. An example being, a late hail storm might wipe out all the greens but the root crops will be edible.

Before signing up to be a CSA member, talk to returning customers. Find out the quality of the produce. Was it washed? Fresh or wilted? Was it plentiful? Was there variety or did you get lettuce and beans all season?

Could you order and pay for extra vegetables when needed? Could you cancel when on holidays?

Do members have to put in sweat equity? Can you help in the garden?

The amount paid to be a member of a SCA garden is dependent on the farmer, the size of package purchased which depends on how many people it is to feed.

For more information follow the government link for more information on CSA gardens.

https://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex14033

For those that wasn’t a steady supply for fresh veggies this summer, there are alternative ways to insure it happens.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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