Thursday, September 8, 2011

Being a Good Steward of the Land

As a member of Wellesley's Community Garden, I do my best to serve the other gardeners by being a contributor to the entire property as well as a good steward of my plot.

There are basic rules and regulations covering membership in the community garden, but there has not been a advisory group of gardeners to recommend ongoing policy development or resolve disputes.   Reflecting on the work of the HIT Standards Committee and other Federal Advisory Committees which help inform regulatory decision making, I believe a group of gardening stakeholders can make a real difference by crafting policy that balances the needs of the many with the needs of the few.

Here are my early thoughts about being a good steward of the land:

1.  At the beginning of the season, gardeners should clean their spaces, removing weeds and debris that may have accumulated during the winter and early spring.   The previous year's plantings should be removed, the soil raked/turned, and fences mended.

2.  The town provides new compost that can be used to top off raised beds and planters.   Gardeners should add compost as needed to keep their spaces productive.

3.  The town provides wood chips that can be used to cover paths, controlling weed growth and covering muddy walkways.    Gardeners should weed and clear the paths around their space so that all gardeners can easily traverse the paths and so that the spread of weeds is reduced.

4.  Although the garden is primarily intended for annual fruits and vegetables, perennials can be planted, realizing that spaces are not owned, but are lent to each gardener for a finite period of time.    Brambles such as raspberries/blackberries should not occupy more than 25% of the space, since planting a bramble patch does not constitute gardening.

5.  Gardening is an ongoing labor of love, not a plant once and forget type of activity.   Plantings should be tended throughout the season with trimming, thinning, and harvesting as needed to keep the garden productive.

6.  The garden will always have a waiting list and in the interest of accommodating as many people as possible, new plots should given to 2 families.   Existing plots should be voluntarily subdivided.  Experienced gardeners who would like physical assistance with the garden should consider subdividing and serving as mentor to a gardening partner.

7.  If the Community Garden Advisory Committee (CGAC)  notes that a gardener is not being a good steward of the land, the person should be contacted and advice offered.  If no improvement occurs over 1 month, the space should be considered abandoned and given to a new tenant

8.  Gardening can be an expensive proposition and community garden improvements may benefit from grants or donations.    The Community Garden Advisory Committee should raise funds that can be used to improve fences, the water supply, and conceivably fund tools/seeds/plants that could benefit the entire community.

9.   At the end of the season, all tools and non-natural materials should be removed from each plot to ensure that the garden area is attractive during the winter to neighbors and visitors.

10.  In general, use of the garden should be viewed as a privilege, not a right.   We are being given 500-1000 square feet of valuable Wellesley land for $40/year.   We should use it as good stewards, balancing our own needs, the garden's needs, and the town of Wellesley's needs.

Our Community Garden Advisory Committee will begin meetings this Fall and then formally report out to the Wellesley Natural Resources Council.   After all my time in Washington, I look forward to playing a role in governance and policymaking at the local level.   If any of my readers have experience with community gardens, I'd welcome your input!


Sean said...

My dog and I walk by local Streber-Gartens every day. I don't have one of these plots personally, but found a document regarding rules governing the Swiss version of community gardens here in Zurich. The Swiss are big on governance and following the rules so I thought this might be helpful input for your Wellesley gardening endeavors. Here's the link. Google translate does a reasonable job of putting it into English if needed.

John Fitzpatrick said...

Beautifully written, but what do you do about those who don't follow the rules? I'm a member of a community garden, and a small minority of the members do the large majority of the work. Most of the members tend their own plots and leave the work in the common areas to others. We have rules for work in the common areas, but they don't specify what happens when they're not followed.
In the end thatt's not much better than no policy at all.

Lauri S said...

I would strongly discourage the planting of brambles (e.g., raspberries) since they root laterally and will invade adjacent garden space without careful attention and root control.