If it is an accessible option, we strongly encourage urban gardeners to invest in a community garden plot. Community gardens help urban areas improve food security by increasing access to fresh foods, and maintaining a garden plot is an easy form of passive exercise that benefits both body and mind. In addition to the nutritional and wellness perks, community gardens also provide a safe, and green, space for socialising with neighbors.
Along with your garden plot, here are a few basic items and ideas to have ready for the growing season to maximize your crops!
- Gardening gloves
- plant markers
- hose (many community gardens have shared hoses, check with your fellow gardeners)
Compost and Mulch
- Compost adds vital nutrients to soil. You can use your own from home, or often compost is supplied by community gardens.
- Mulch helps your garden beds retain moisture and suppresses weeds. It also breaks down over time, adding additional nutrients to the soil. Many towns provide free leaf-mulch to residents.
- Straw/ woodchips are effective (and biodegradable) for creating and maintaining weed free paths throughout your garden. Many gardens require that paths around individual plots be maintained by the gardeners.
Make the Most of Your Plot!
Community gardens typically allow gardeners to rent multiple plots once they have established they are able to properly maintain the space.
For those beginner gardeners starting with a smaller space, maximizing your plot is easy to with some planning and the correct crops.
Vertical design uses trellises to grow climbing crops like cucumbers, peas, beans, and small melons to maximize all available space in a plot. Structures can be built up to use overhead space, or in an upside-down v-shape to provide shade for crops underneath.
Companion planting puts certain plants next to each other because they are mutually beneficial. The best known example of this is the “Three Sisters” (winter squash, corn, and beans) that are grown together to save space and help balance soil nutrients. The corn gives the beans a structure to climb, the squash spreads across the ground to help with weed suppression and moisture retention, while the beans provide nitrogen back into the soil.
Succession planting enables gardeners to use the same space for 2-3 crops throughout the growing season. When one crops reaches the end of its harvest, another crop takes its place. Early season spinach can be harvested and replaced with lettuce. Once the lettuce goes to seed during the heat of summer, beets can be planted for the Fall.
Cool season crops
Warm season crops