After closing their community garden and CSA, this couple shares the bounty of their experience with others.
Jean Ann Pollard and Peter Garrett ran a successful CSA for 10 years supporting about 15 families each year. Here they share more of their tips for starting and running a community garden of your own.
- Adhere to rotation planting to keep insects down and nutrition up in your community garden(be sure to keep track of this in succeeding years). Members of the nightshade family (such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), for instance, should not follow one another on the same patch of land, and heavy feeders (such as corn) should follow nitrogen-producing plants like beans.
- Compost maintains community garden health, so choose a site to heap lawn clippings, weeds and meatless kitchen waste close to the CSA.
- A source of water is necessary for spot irrigation when transplanting seedlings, as well as for rinsing harvested vegetables such as carrots, beets and potatoes for shareholders in the CSA. In a dry summer, irrigation of the entire garden may also be necessary.
- Invest in a shed for storing gloves, sun hats, spades, forks, rakes, hoes and other garden tools for the community garden.
- Weeds are an integral part of having an organic garden, so here’s how to deal with them. Fork out perennials such as witch grass and dandelions first thing in springtime before rototilling. Then plant your peas, carrots and other vegetables in straight rows. Ten days later, on a sunny morning, scrape the top surface of the soil between the rows with a collinear hoe. Repeat twice, and almost all your weeding will be done with little effort in the first month. You will, however, have to pull persistent weeds from the onion bed all season long!
- Have a shed or garage available to store and distribute vegetables to CSA shareholders. At Simply Grande, we divided up the harvest on a table made of two old screen doors set across saw horses. A big old sail on posts worked fine for sun protection. Shareholders brought two large coolers an empty one to leave behind and another to fill with vegetables. If they were late for pickup, their produce remained fresh in the cooler under the sail.
- Become certified organic. The certification makes both gardener and CSA shareholder feel good.
- Attract shareholders by handing out a few well-written pages describing what your CSA intends to do. Include an order form showing prices and, if work is exchanged for vegetables, a timetable showing what needs to be done when. Being clear is best for gardener and shareholder.
So many people have forgotten or lost touch with the farm. Organic vegetable gardens, and CSAs in particular, are superb teachers. They’re repositories of awareness, experimentation and caring. Like all team efforts, running Simply Grande Gardens was time–consuming and challenging, but always ultimately fulfilling. Peter wished our two visitors much joy as they headed off to begin their own CSA.
Click here to read part 1 of Jean and Peter’s CSA gardening tips.