This monthly feature was conceived by writer and Nation editorial board member Walter Mosley as a kind of do-it-yourself opinion and action device. Most often “Ten Things” will offer a brief list of recommendations for accomplishing a desired political or social end, sometimes bringing to light something generally unknown. The purpose of the feature is to go to the heart of issues in a stripped-down, active and informed way. After getting our visiting expert–or everyday citizen–to construct the list, we will interview that person and post a brief online version of “Ten Things,” with links to relevant websites, books or other information. Readers who wish to propose ideas for “Ten Things” should e-mail us at NationTenThings@gmail.com or use the e-form at the bottom of this page.
Spiraling food prices and concerns over where food comes from have consumers looking for alternatives to what’s in their supermarket produce bins. Community gardens help people band together to gain control of their own food. Rebecca Hart, an avid Nation reader and Portland, Oregon-area resident, has spent twenty years acquiring the expertise in horticulture to become a certified master gardener. Here are her suggestions for starting a community garden in your neighborhood.
Gather like-minded people and organize into a group. When the plot is located and you are ready to begin, apportion and delegate tasks. For tips on organizing a garden community, writing a compact for the group, formulating rules, allocating plots and so on, download the “Community Garden Start-Up Guide” from the University of California, Davis, website, which features advice and tips on creating flexible contracts. Go to Growfriend for more advice on starting up.
Locate suitable land with access to water and electricity. You’ll need fencing to keep out four-legged marauders. Vacant lots, schoolyards, retirement homes and churchyards are potential sites. Get permission from property owners.
Plan and design your garden carefully. It should have full sun for a minimum of six to eight hours a day. Consider how much land will be needed to give each family ample space for its own plot. Go to the American Community Garden Association to learn more. When laying out plots be sure to leave enough space for paths for walking and trundling wheelbarrows or carts. Remember: many gardens can be grown in less than six months; typically a garden calendar runs from May, after last frost when soil has dried out from spring rains, through October, or first killing frost. Click here to find out your climate by state.