KEEPING ‘COMMUNITY’ IN SHARED GARDENS

community gardenAfter 33 years, the Fair Haven Community Garden goes by tacit rules of etiquette. Others, though, have written rules.. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Hey, it’s a jungle in there. Or life in the community garden can be, judging by the some of the gripes one hears, and the rules set down to address them, about shared, small-plot farming.

For example, that “gnome, whirl-a-gig or sculpture” you think will look cute on your plot? Please leave it home, along with bug lures and unattended watering mechanisms, according to the Shrewsbury Community Garden‘s rules on garden conduct and etiquette.

Much of the interaction among gardeners, of course, is governed by common-sense courtesy. Though Fair Haven has kept a community garden since 1981, it has never put its rules in writing.

That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone gets the tacit message about dos and don’ts. A longtime gardener at the Fair Haven plots tells PieHole that “overshadowing” – the effect of tall plantings that block the sun to neighboring plots – is one of his biggest grievances. Another is neighbors who throw their weeds into his plot.

He and others talk about the importance of keeping the area surrounding one’s plot clear of weeds. Fellow gardeners need to walk through to their own spaces, and should not be expected to cut down the weeds in the walkways enroute.

For use of the Red Bank Community Garden, now in its second year on Marion Street, members are required to sign an agreement that says, in part:

I will NOT consume alcoholic beverages or smoke anywhere on the Red Bank Community Garden property.

I will not plant anything illegal or poisonous or toxic.
I will turn off all water spigots after use, and coil all hoses neatly on the post provided. I will NOT drag hoses through someone else’s garden plot.

Fair Haven, on the other hand, does not have a rule regulating gnomes, whirl-a-gigs or sculptures. The gates leading into the separated areas are often artfully decorated. There are flags flying to keep birds away, and scarecrows have been spotted in the gardens from year to year.

Other suggestions?

• Don’t plant creeping vines along the edges of the plot and let them grow outside your area.

• Consider what you will be planting. Potatoes, asparagus and mint will ruin the plot for the next gardener.

• If you want music in the garden, wear earbuds. Many gardeners find the experience of growing things to be a calming, zen change from the day-to-day grind. Try to make that time in the garden a relaxing one.

• Do not borrow a tool or hose left in the garden without permission, and return anything borrowed to the same place it was taken from.

• Do not take what others are growing. It is theft, plain and simple.

• Don’t use herbicides. What kills your weeds may also kill your fellow gardeners’ tender young plants. Bug sprays and other forms of pest killers should also be a consideration.

Not that killing is verboten. Shrewsbury’s rules require members to inspect their plants and others’ for unwanted bugs, and members are authorized “to manually destroy non-beneficial insects or their larve by squishing,” they state.

The key word “community.” Be a part of the group and get involved. Swapping seedlings, produce and recipes is what makes the experience valuable. If you get to know your neighbors better and find you have gardening in common, you have achieved the best part of community spirit.

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