communal/single design or indiv. plots?

Shimrock(NYCity zone7)August 28, 2002

I am about to start a comm. garden in my local public park. Which is the better organization, communal or divided plots? One unified design would be esthetically better, but egos can be bruised by this, no? some people want to plant their favorite plants no matter what. On the other hand, how to go about allocating plots in a fair way? And is attrition then the only way to involve more people? Is it realistic to have a tier of people with plots and a tier of waterers and weeders, waiting for plots? True we could add more projects for them. Please give me the benefit of your experience. People in NYC are fussy sometimes, and I want the least amount of politics in our garden -- It's the only one I have.

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Carrie B(6B/7A)

Hi Shimrock,

I find that so many of my responses to questions about community gardens (and gardening in general) begin with "well, it all depends".

There is no universal best way to do it. It really does depend on your community and your volunteers. First, try to get a sense of what people's vision of their involvement is.

I am involved in two types of community gardening projects. The first is a community garden. It's been around for about 25 years on an abandoned school lot (the building's been demolished) in Philadelphia. It has about 60-70 individual plots, where people can do pretty much whatever they want (some grow veggies, flowers, herbs, and any combination thereof). Then we've got the "community" plots: the orchard (fig trees, apple, pear, plum, cherry); the raspberry brambles; several flower beds; a children's garden and a senior garden. The community plots are taken care of (and enjoyed) communaly, generally by a primary caretaker or a group of volunteers (who also have their own individual plot). For example, I'm primarily responsible for one of the flower beds, so if someone wants to plant something there, they will usually ask me if that's ok, but that's really a courtesy, not a rule. On garden clean up days or when someone has water duty (filling up the barrels from the fire hydrant), everyone chips in to water & weed the community areas.

The other project I'm involved in is my local park. It's a "square" that occupies one city block. While the park does not have individual garden "plots", several neighbors have taken "ownership" over corners near their homes. It's not a ritzy neighborhood, and the park is slowly being reclaimed from drug activity, so anyone who is willing to spend their own time and money caring for a chunk of it is pretty much welcome to plant whatever they want.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   August 29, 2002 at 2:39PM
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elsie_vancouver(Vancouver, BC)

I live in Vancouver, B.C. and have a community garden plot. I recently visited NYC. I was told that there are some community gardens already established there, somewhere on the island of Manhattan. Somewhere south of the UN site, I think. Do you know if that's correct? Have you checked out how they organize theirs? Good luck with it. Elsie

    Bookmark   September 1, 2002 at 7:14PM
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ctinajones(z7A NYC)


There are actually a lot of community gardens in the city - if you are ever in town again see if you can find a walking tour of the East Village (in lower Manhattan, on the East side)- there are many beautiful gardens there (although they really are in many neighborhoods, I just know the EV best as I am a resident).

I have seen them organized both ways. Although I am not involved in either I have lived around the corner from two of the differing organizations. On E. 6th at the corner of B is a large garden designed with plots and on E. 6th between Ave's A and B is one with a unified design. You may want to check both out and see what you can find out- there are always people in both that seem to be associated with the respective gardens.

Good luck- Hopefully you're already set in your org. theory and can tell us the outcome.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2002 at 1:42PM
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tylerH(6b NY)

I've gardened at the 6th st and Ave B garden in New York for a number of years. There we had both community areas and individual plots. A lot of hopes and dreams and hard work get put into a very little piece of the ground in community gardens, and a lot of conflicts arise over what should be done, who's interests should be served, etc. The big problem with this kind of garden is to figure out how to strike compromises that ultimately serve the community without frustrating individual dreams and enthusiasms. It's an ongoing process.

At 6th and B the community areas are around the main public spaces and path. (We have a stage, a children's area, a meadow, a water garden, etc.) Each of the community areas has an one or two caretakers assigned to it who coordinate the group that works there. We found that you need a lead person who sees that the watering and weeding happen. You also need the continuity of someone who knows the plot well enough to know what's there when it goes dormant, how big things get, etc.

The rest of the garden is divided into individual plots where people get to do whatever they like. My experience is that having individual areas allows gardeners to do their thing without having to compromise.

Good luck. Community Gardens are wonderful.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2002 at 2:05PM
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