Community gardens (also called pea patch gardens) are sprouting up all around, in cities and neighborhoods. These communal gardens offer members a sunny space to grow food and flowers while being part of a larger growing movement. And these days, knowing how to grow your own food is more important than ever.
Why do it?
If you have a shady yard (or no yard at all) or are using these plots as a teaching tool for your kids, getting your hands in the dirt provides a vital link to nature. And, when you experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from learning and seeing how things grow, you’ll find these gardens feed more than just your stomach!
While tending your plot, you also have the opportunity to exchange seeds and produce with your fellow growers.
There is a peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what went into the food on your plate, (we’re talking fertilizers and other chemicals here) – you’re the boss! In fact, most local community gardens have taken a strictly organic approach when it comes to the use of fertilizers and chemicals to control pests and weeds.
Before, During & Harvest Time!
Taking frequent walks around your community garden lets you peek at what others are doing and gives you ideas about what to try in your own plot. (Caution: this often leads to tomato-envy or can spark feelings of superiority – you’d be surprised at the competitive nature of pea patch gardening.)
– Cindy Tyler, Pea Patcher, Molbak’s Graphic Designer, CPH
What does it look like to be a Pea Patcher?
Plot rentals are seasonal or year-round. Typically, seasonal plots begin in April and continue through late September or early October. Plot sizes and rental fees vary. In some cases, volunteer hours are required in addition to plot rental fees.
This helps defray operating costs and can be essential in allowing the gardens to continue to function in the public interest, so be sure to check if this is a requirement.
You can plant and grow whatever veggies, herbs and flowers your heart desires, barring any restrictions outlined in the gardens’ regulations (usually invasives like mint, comfrey and lemon balm).
Kernels of Advice:
Depending on where you decide to put down roots, many community gardens have wait lists, so it’s good to get on multiple lists and jump on the one you want, once it’s available.
This is key, given that you will need to water on a regular basis (like every other day in the middle of summer). Will you be stuck in commuter traffic trying to get there before sundown?
Are water spigots conveniently located, or do you need extra hoses to reach your entire plot? Watering varies from garden to garden; some allow drip irrigation and timers to be installed, others do not.
Food for Thought.
Some pea patch gardens offer onsite composting, beekeeping and other educational opportunities, so be sure to check for these options.
Talk it out . . . or not.
If you’re into socializing while gardening, you’ll discover that most plot nerds LOVE to talk about their plot; a new tomato variety they’re testing, ways to keep rabbits away, how to trellis beans, etc.
But if you prefer the solitude of gardening, put some earbuds in and tune them out. You will find all sorts, from super green thumbs to the novice, all growing (or sometimes failing to grow) as a collective. It’s kind of a cool thing!
Check it out! Molbak’s on-site employee community garden. A community garden in the true sense of the word: at least one third of the entire harvest is being donated to our local foodbank and senior center. Another third must be given away to family or friends. One third is to keep!