Farmers markets are popping up all over and farms’ bounty, which is growing more diverse and plentiful as the summer weeks march forward, make the whole thing seem easy. Patrick Kelly, of the Eastern Connecticut Community Garden Association says growing your own food can be as easy as finding a couple friends and a place to plant the seeds.
Patch spoke with Kelley to find out how to get a community garden started. ECCGA is an educational non-profit that has a passion for helping communities and groups get their own gardens started.
What are the benefits of a community garden?
Kelley said that aside from being a fun thing to do, gardening provides exercise and is a good way to get fresh air and a good dose of sunshine but the benefits are more than physical.
“Building trust and communication and the satisfaction of knowing where your food is coming from,” he said are key components of gardening with neighbors. “There’s just the sense of community, he said. “Gardens often bring people who wouldn’t normally meet – together.”
Kelley said people will also find financial savings in growing their own herbs, fruits and vegetables.
What types of community gardens can people do?
Key idea here: anything you want. Kelley said he has seen vegetable gardens, potato gardens, butterfly gardens, sensory gardens, flower gardens, herb gardens, fruit gardens…you name it. He has seen gardens in raised beds, in the ground, in window boxes, in old laundry baskets.
Is it too late to start a garden now?
Absolutely not, according to Kelley who can help anyone begin a community garden now and make it a four-season garden.
So, what do I need to get started?
Kelley said the most important ingredient in any community garden is enthusiasm and passion. Next, people need a plot of land that gets sunlight and access to water.
He said find some friends or a group and a patch of land for the garden. Kelley said a lot of gardens start at churches and parks and people need to get permission from the property owners.
The next step he said is getting the soil tested, and ECCGA helps groups do that and interpret the results. Kelley has a background in soil science and in some cases he can do bio-remediation on the soil and other cases he’ll help find wood donations and help build raised beds.
Kelley said people have to show up on the first day of community gardening ready to break ground and get their hands dirty. Shovels and tillers are recommended. The second workday consists of garden design and by the third workday, Kelley said groups have a working viable community garden.
Kelley said there are more than 30 community gardens in the area and a bunch in development.