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Growing a Green Thumb

May 10, 2010
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Barb Checket-Hanks

As more people look for ways to be ecologically responsible, and maybe save a few dollars, it’s no surprise that members of the business community are also doing things to make their businesses more ecologically attractive.

HVACR contractors are not only recycling metal, paper, and plastic; they are using less water, applying green technologies to their buildings, and encouraging employees to follow the example. Sometimes it includes landscaping, using plants that require less water.

We’ve also been hearing about community gardens, where a group of neighbors gets together to set up a vegetable garden on an otherwise empty lot (with city approval, of course). In fact, I’ve recently gotten involved in one - one of many in the Detroit area.

THE GREAT GARDEN

According to the American Community Gardening Association (AGCA), a community garden is “any piece of land gardened by a group of people … urban, suburban, or rural. It can grow flowers, vegetables, or community.”

As long as you have permission to use the land, you can create a community garden.

Among its benefits, a community garden:

• Stimulates social interaction.

• Beautifies neighborhoods.

• Produces nutritious food.

• Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education.

• Reduces crime.

• Preserves green space.

• Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots.

• Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections.

It occurred to me that some businesses might want to pitch in for community gardening, for instance offering assistance hauling top soil, mending rototiller motors, weeding, making donations, or generally helping out. It doesn’t need to entail a huge time commitment. Visit the association’s Website to find a garden near you.

Some businesses might even want to create their own gardens if they have a little land available for it, and someone to head it up. Land doesn’t need to be plowed in order to plant a garden; raised beds are fairly easy to construct.

The association offered the following tips for organizing a community garden:

Organize a meeting of interested people: Is anybody going to do this with you?

Form a planning committee: A group of people committed to the creation of the garden with some time to devote to it.

Identify resources: What skills and resources already exist that can aid in the garden’s creation?

Approach a sponsor: Some gardens “self-support,” but many need donations of tools, seeds, or money. Sponsorship might be a company’s total involvement.

Choose a site: How much daily sunshine does a site get? Most vegetables need at least six hours a day. What about water availability? Who owns the land?

Prepare and develop the site: Volunteer work crews are needed to clean it, gather materials, and decide on the design and plot arrangement. FYI, we cleaned our site and set up three seed beds in an afternoon.

Organize the garden: Decide how many plots are available and how they will be assigned. Plan for storing tools securely.

Plan for children: They love to garden.

Determine rules and put them in writing: The gardeners themselves should create ground rules, so they know what is expected of them.

Help members keep in touch with each other: Share phone and e-mail contact info.

These are very good ideas, but heaven knows, the neighbors I am gardening with aren’t nearly this well organized. We knew enough to get started, we worked with the city for permission to garden on the lot, and already had some seeds; some of us transplanted seedlings from our own yards. Those neighbors with gardening experience took the lead, organizing where specific plants would go.

Working in a community garden can grow more than veggies. It can grow goodwill among people who are ecologically minded.

If you do get involved in a community garden, let me know. I would love to see pictures.

Good luck with your green thumb, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

For more information on AGCA, visit http://communitygarden.org.

Publication date: 05/10/2010
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