If you’re able to read this page, you, as am I, are very lucky. We have access to food from shops, education and healthcare. If we had been born many years ago, that may not have been the case. Unless you belonged to a moneyed family, having somewhere to grow your own food was not easy to come by.
In Britain, following various movements and reforms to return some of the land to the laborers and other poverty stricken people, in order to try and reduce the taxes paid by the rich to subsidize the poor in the first efforts at a welfare system; the allotment system (in Britain, it is known as allotment garden or just allotment) was devised.
The first go occurred in 1793 didn’t quite go to plan as conditions improved and social unrest receded somewhat, however in 1830, it all fired up again with many farm workers on the edge of starvation.
The allotment movement then took off in earnest and during the next 40 years, over 58,966 acres were turned over to provide 242,542 allotment sites.
Your Own Community Garden
If you do decide to embark on community gardening, unless you’re very lucky with the plot you take on, the chances are you have a good deal of work to do in order to make your community garden fit for growing vegetables.
Many, many people take on a community garden with fantastic intentions of growing all sorts of organic vegetables, but either run out of ideas, momentum or enthusiasm.
The end result being that you may be left with a shed load of back-breaking work to do before you can get started on the actual vegetable growing!
Where to Start with Community Gardening
It’s important to know what kind of soil you’re going to be growing your fruit and vegetable in and on. You can ask your fellow community gardeners, but equally, and all in the name of teaching yourself and learning new things, have a look at the weeds that are growing there.
Many different plants prefer different types of soil and growing conditions, and weeds are no different.
Creeping Buttercups prefer wet, poorly drained acidic soil.
Ox Eye Daisy like a poorly drained or waterlogged land that is acidic with low fertility.
Dandelions like a heavy clay that is low in lime, or acidic soil.
Field Horsetail likes a light sandy soil that is low in lime or acidic.
If you’re unable to identify the weeds growing, you could always take a photograph of them and post them on a gardening forum. Someone will usually have come across it before and can help you identify it.
All is not lost if you do have a community garden full of lush, healthy weeds, it generally means that the soil has a good fertility, and that’s what you need for vegetable gardening!
Where Not To Start In Your Community Garden
Do not, and I repeat do not, when faced with a sea of weeds, go and hire yourself a rotavator and go over your whole plot.
Some of those weeds will be perennial varieties and when you chop them up into little pieces, each root fragment is just asking to come back and generate a new plant.
Within a few weeks, you will have even more weeds. How many people give up at this point I wonder?
Tackling the Weeds in Community Gardening
When it comes to growing vegetables, fruit, or flowers, most of us fall into either the chemical or non-chemical group. There’s no right answer here, the choice is yours.
If you don’t mind using chemicals on your community garden, then you need to get yourself some Roundup or similar weed killer and go over the whole plot, being careful to avoid overspray onto other people’s community gardens.
After the recommended time on the back of the bottle, and the weeds are well and truly dead, you can now go and hire your rotavator and go over the whole plot.
If you want to grow organic vegetables, or at least not use the chemical options, then good luck, because some hard work is coming right your way, but then you knew that already!
You’re going to need to pace yourself. If you try to tackle it all in one go, the lasting message that your back and your brain will be left with is, OMG this community gardening thing is torture; and whenever it’s time to go to your community garden, your brain will send a pain full message and try to stop you.
The best option is to section your community garden into manageable squares of, say, 6ft x 6ft, or 2M ish square?
Cover the rest with carpets, or tarpaulins etc. Hopefully, you’re in this community gardening thing as a long term project right?
So it won’t really matter if you don’t get round to clearing the whole lot in one go. If you leave the covers down for a year, most of the weeds will die off anyway.
Once you have your working area marked out, find your spade. You need to start by slicing off the top layer of ‘turf’. This will remove the surface grasses and short rooted weeds.
Stack these turfs upside down on top of each other. When they’ve broken down, they can provide a nice loam to add back in.
In this case, a loam is a lovely soil that is rich in organic matter, which drains well after watering and is resistant to compacting—fabulous for community gardens!
Any deep rooted weeds will need digging out individually. Docks are one of the deep rooted weeds and are a bit of a nightmare. Once dug up, either burn them or tie them in a polythene bag for several months.
Once you’ve cleared the area, you can then dig it over with a fork; this is to help with breaking up the soil so you can remove any weed roots left behind.
Get Out Your Gardening Book
Once you begin to make progress with clearing your community garden, it’s time to get out your gardening book and consult your plans for how you want your community gardening to progress.
You may well find that as you work your way along your plot, weeding as you go, that the weeds are coming up behind you quicker than you’re moving forwards.
Please don’t get disheartened. These weeds are probably annuals and are the results of being exposed to light and air, when you’ve been digging and they won’t be deep rooted. You can easily hoe them off before they take hold.
Take advantage of your local community garden association for gardening advice and tips on how to get the most from your plot, and make the time and effort to be friendly with your community garden neighbors.
Don’t forget that a lot of community gardeners do have restrictions on their time, as I’m sure you do, so don’t assume they’ve got all day to chat.
But being friendly and polite costs nothing, and can only help build good friendships where all the gardeners on their plots can benefit.