Just because summer days are on their way out doesn’t mean the gardening has to end. In climates like mine on the Northern California coast, certain plants can be grown year-round. Through my experience growing organic veggies in a plot in my local community garden, I’m starting to learn the ins and outs of growing plants in my local climate. Even if your climate gets too cold for a year-round outdoor garden, you could try gardening in a greenhouse, hoophouse, under cold frames, or indoors during the colder months. I wanted to share an update on my community garden as well as a handful of things I’ve learned from my community gardening experience.
My local community garden, the Noyo Come-Unity Garden, is a very busy place in the summer. Each family plot is blooming with a variety of veggies and greens, and since each garden is different we are all able to trade with each other. Along the edge of our community garden are community beds, where we grow all kinds of veggies to feed the hungry in our area as well as flowers and beneficial herbs. We have donated pounds and pounds of fresh organic veggies to the local food bank and homeless shelter. Community gardens are a great way to help and grow your community!
We’re still developing the common areas of the garden. We designed and began digging berms and swales to help control rainwater runoff, which will eventually be planted with a layered perennial garden called a food forest that will include berry bushes and fruit trees. The shed is complete and compost piles are coming along nicely. The next big project will be installing the drip irrigation system in a couple of weeks. Eventually we’ll be setting up a rainwater catchment system on the shed roof and building a cob oven for community cookouts. It’s been a busy summer, and I’ve learned a lot about gardening!
As we harvest the last of our zucchini and plant fall and winter crops like kale, fava beans, greens, and garlic, I reflect on the changing seasons and all that I’ve learned from my experience in the garden. Here’s a list of some of my favorite lessons that gardeners may find useful:
- Grow crops in the right season so they can do their best. This may take a little research, so don’t forget that your best resources are local gardeners.
- Learn what types of plants grow the best in your area. But don’t be afraid to experiment. Again, your best resources are your fellow gardeners.
- Always plant more crops than you will use. You can always give food away, and it’s good to have extra plants in case insects or diseases strike.
- Healthy soil means healthy plants. When you start a garden, it’s a good idea to have the soil tested to see what nutrients you lack. Then the soil can be amended with organic materials and compost to make it rich and ready for planting. Healthier plants are more resistant to insects and disease, and they start with healthy soil.
- There is no such thing as waste in the organic garden. All the weeds you pull, plant parts you prune, roots from veggies you harvest, and dead foliage from the garden are added to the compost pile.
- Rotate your crops each season. This ensures a better balance of nutrients in the soil and reduces the likelihood of pest and disease outbreaks.
- Invest in a few good gardening books (check your local thrift store). One I learned a lot from is How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons.
- Plan ahead. This is difficult for the beginner to do, but by doing a little research you can successfully plan your garden. By paying attention to timing, starting seeds beforehand, preparing the garden beds, planning plant placement and spacing, and creating a crop rotation plan, you’ll grow more food and be more successful.
- Make the garden a place of positive energy. Plants respond to good energy just like we do. Let the garden be a happy place by keeping a positive attitude, singing to the plants, and enjoying your work and being outside.
We’ve had a great time getting dirty and eating as local as possible by growing our own organic veggies this summer. The seasons are changing, bringing more work and more bountiful harvests. Stay tuned for more adventures in the Noyo Come-Unity Garden.
Have you experienced community gardening? Feel free to share your story by commenting on this post. And gardening tips from your backyard are always welcome, too. Happy gardening!
Read More About Community and Organic Gardening
- Adventures in Organic Community Gardening on Eat.Drink.Better.
- Could Neighborhood Gardens Lead to More Sustainable Food? on Sustainablog
- Edible Activism: Changing the World Through What We Eat on Planetsave
- Planting Patriotism: Recreating The Victory Gardens For Modern Times on Eat.Drink.Better.
- Weekly DIY: Cold Frame on Green Building Elements
Photo: A blooming mammoth sunflower announces late summer in the Noyo Come-Unity Garden. My own photo.