Ideas on starting a neighborhood garden?

Beekissed

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Sometimes your local senior center is a good place to take free produce. A lot of those folks used to garden but can do so no longer. They can't eat much of it, but they seem to like a fresh grown tomato, cuke or squash now and again.
 

digitS'

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Senior Centers and Community Centers may be good places for you to donate produce, plants too.

I was once a community gardener. Initially, that was fun. The garden was on park department land with quite a number of people walking through every day. Surprisingly, there was not much theft.

That wasn't true with the resident rodents and since it was part of the park system, we weren't allowed to even "harass" those pests. It finally became too much of a challenge. The original gardeners began to drop out after several years and were not replaced. I was one of the last two and the camaraderie was gone with most ground going unused.

Back to the humans passing through -- one bad apple might spoil it for everyone but it surprised me how little exploitation happened. Still, some gardeners were upset with losses. I was there about every other day and only once in 6 years felt that I thwarted a potential thief. He told me that God was growing the plants ... he seemed very close to just stepping in and taking what he wanted. I wasn't disagreeing with his idea but the memory of all my own efforts came immediately to mind when he said that.

Steve
 

Ridgerunner

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Interesting question, Michelle. I'm not sure how committed you are to the idea of opening up your garden to the neighborhood or if you are more looking for a way to give back. I also would be reluctant to open up my garden to the neighborhood, even if that section was planted with that in mind. Others have given some of the reasons. My wife and I used to volunteer where eight local churches came together to help people that needed help. We dealt with a lot of people, mostly poor but just people that needed help. Some of the volunteers fell into that category. Most were a pleasure to be around but occasionally you got a wacko. It was really nice to be able to turn those over to a manager instead of having to deal with them ourselves.

Another issue to me is that not everyone knows how to harvest from a garden. They may not know when something is not ready or they may destroy the plants while harvesting. Not that they do it maliciously, they just don't know any better. And you have the risk of a vandal, someone that would destroy everything just for fun. I don't think opening it up to the neighborhood would be a pleasant experience though some of the people you net would be a pleasure.

As far as giving through your garden others have had some good ideas. You might want to talk to your priest, reverend, minister, parson whatever you call your clergy. People in need come to them all the time for help. They tend to have a good handle on what organizations are around to provide that help, volunteer or government. They probably know someone that would love to have your excess produce to give to someone that needs it. I gave my excess eggs and a lot of stuff from the garden to a food bank that would take it and was glad to have it.

Another thought is that @thistlebloom teaches gardening to local kids. You might consider doing something along those lines.

Not sure I have anything else to add so I'll quit. Good luck with it.
 

Beekissed

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Another issue to me is that not everyone knows how to harvest from a garden. They may not know when something is not ready or they may destroy the plants while harvesting. Not that they do it maliciously, they just don't know any better. And you have the risk of a vandal, someone that would destroy everything just for fun. I don't think opening it up to the neighborhood would be a pleasant experience though some of the people you net would be a pleasure.

Exactly this! That's why supervised visits are a great idea. Take my sister, for instance, who has been around gardening for years but never really undertook to educate herself on it. When she suckers tomatoes, she twists, yanks and otherwise tears any branch located in or near the juncture of another branch of the vine. Mother and I have watched in horror, as no matter how many times we show her what a sucker looks like, she just rips and tears.

We no longer invite her presence in the garden.

And my DIL, who claims she has gardened all her life, but ripped out all the perennials I had bought and planted in her garden, while leaving the weeds behind...and still doesn't know one plant from another, when to pick anything or if it's even ripe for picking, or just anything to do with gardening.

If you truly want to grow food for yourself and others, you can approach it one of two ways....the "oh, well" approach of just letting folks come and go, do as they please and hope for the best. Or, you can put a little more work into it by treating your garden like a food bank and educating others to do the same. I take the latter approach, as it's not just a hobby to me, but a way of providing my family and others with healthy foods, not only in season, but for the winter months as well.

If it's just a hobby or a nice gesture, let them roam at will, but if you truly want to provide food for others, it would be more efficacious to educate those participating and monitor the use of your garden.

Another alternative is to designate rows where you don't care if folks wander in and pick whatever and then reserve space in the garden for serious food production.
 

ninnymary

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There is a firefighter/gardener that I follow on Instagram in Sacramento. His garden is amazing and was featured in Sunset magazine. Anyway, he has a cute trolley looking produce stand where he puts out eggs and veggies. Produce is free but he also has a donation jar to cover his seed costs. It has worked out really well for him.

I did see him post on IG about the eggs and veggies but also that he had a few plants for sale. I don't think he makes social medial posts as a regular basis to get the word out. So not sure how people know when the trolley cart will be out.

It may be easier to pick a day when you will have a table out with produce. But then some produce doesn't wait for weekly harvesting.

It's a great idea and I think you will enjoy it.

Mary
 

Michelle MCNEILL

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Sorry guys, it's been so long since I posted on forums I forgot I did it!
I called around a bit...it's possible for me to get a non-profit license pretty cheap, I just gotta really layout my plans. I understand where you guys are coming from with not wanting people traipsing around your garden. I like the idea of possibly doing baskets with the excess set out for people, and maybe having the garden open for them to look/ walk around with supervision. I also live the workshop idea!
Does anyone know how I would present this as a concept for the licensing and/or to get a loan to expand? I'm sorry for so many questions but this is completely new to me
 

Zeedman

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Some urban areas have community development associations, as either NGO's with government ties, or city departments. Either may be able to assist with planning, funding, permits, water hookups, etc. I worked briefly with such an organization in San Diego many years ago, which was attempting to organize the community garden as outreach to the local minority community. They were instrumental in getting water & fencing for the garden, and the garden grew to encompass several acres.

There are often abandoned or neglected city properties, which the city would love to see better tended. Make some inquiries of the city government, you might be surprised. I would only suggest that you give close scrutiny to the security of any area you might consider. Theft can quickly destroy a community garden, when initially enthusiastic gardeners find they have worked for nothing.

The community garden in San Diego had such an issue. I came in one day to find a stranger in my neighbor's plot with her kids in tow, picking his vegetables. When I asked her what she was doing, her reply was "This is a community garden, we can pick what we want!" The neighbor on the other side lost most his tomatoes, and I lost all of my sweet corn the day before I planned to harvest. I hated leaving the acquaintances & fellow gardeners I had met there, many of whom were wonderful people who I had convinced to join... but I left at the end of that season.

I state that experience not as discouragement, but as a cautionary tale. There are two thriving community gardens in my area. One solved the security issue by locating next to a prison, where law enforcement keeps an eye on the property... a very creative solution. The inmates are responsible for turning over the soil at the beginning of each year, and the county provides water.

I can't over emphasize the importance of good planning, if starting a community garden. Here is a great resource:
https://communitygarden.org/
 

seedcorn

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People! This world would be so much better w/o some. The laziness of people never ceases to astound me. They have nothing because they won’t work or plan for future but no problem stealing as if it is their God given right-our politicians have taught them well.
 

canesisters

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I think this is a lovely idea. I started out wanting to do something similar.. but since I'm in a rural area - everyone nearby HAS a garden and the folks who need the help can't travel to the garden.

Another option you might consider is to stop by your local police dept and talk with them about your desire to share your produce. Maybe even take them some. They come in contact every day with folks who are obviously in need and often will be happy to deliver a bag or two of food.
 
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