Bulletin #4311, Planning and Managing a Community “Giving” Garden in Maine

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John Jemison harvesting onions in a community garden

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By John Jemison, Extension Professor, Soil and Water Quality, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

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Community garden sign and hoop house in Orono, Maine
The Orono Community Garden.

Fifteen years ago, I taught an Environmental Sustainability course for University of Maine Cooperative Extension. It was a seven-evening session involving approximately 20 hours of education/training. I asked participants to return 20 hours of service to the community. I also suggested (having never really gardened in a group or community setting) that we might consider taking some unused town land and starting a garden where we could supply food to the Birch Street Senior Citizen Center in Orono, Maine. A low-cost lunch is offered at the center four days a week, which helps ensure that Orono seniors do not go hungry. I thought some fresh food would be nice. The original plan fell through, but we altered the plan to grow diverse fresh vegetables and bring a bag of vegetables with a recipe to people living in low-income senior housing near the garden. We have delivered many tons of food over the past 15 years and made great connections with seniors in the area. All of us have learned a great deal about the challenges and rewards of growing food and working together. This publication is an effort to capture what we have learned and give others a guide to do this type of a program in another area. The information provided here should be reasonably applicable across all New England.

Guide Organization

This guide is intended to help anyone who has an interest in community gardening to do that task with skill and capacity. Gardening isn’t difficult, but gardening well is not easy. This guide can be useful for anyone who gardens, but I have designed it intentionally to help people start community gardens and community giving gardens. This guide provides information on gardening methods; pest management; what, when, and how to plant specific vegetables with a focus on New England growing conditions; delivery program basics; and putting the garden to bed for the winter. I have also included some links to recipes that can be given to the food recipients so that they know what to do with the foods we provide.

Table of Contents

  1. Starting a Garden Program
  2. Volunteers and Volunteer Management
  3. Breaking Ground
  4. Why Raised Beds
  5. Double Digging
  6. Adding Fertility Using Organic Production Methods
  7. Proper Use of Compost
  8. Feeding Plants
  9. Controlling Insects and Other Pests Organically
  10. Controlling Fungal Pathogens in the Garden
  11. Controlling Weeds in the Garden
  12. Controlling Vertebrate Pests in the Garden
  13. How Finely Should the Soil Be Worked?
  14. Soil Organic Matter Management and Impact on Plants
  15. Ready to Plant: Stage 1—Earliest Sown and Transplanted Vegetables
    1. Sowing Leafy Greens: Spinach, Kale, and Arugula
    2. Turnips (Hakurei)
    3. Onions
    4. Leeks
    5. Cabbage
    6. Potatoes
    7. Peas
  16. Ready to Plant: Stage 2—Next Plants to Sow or Transplant
    1. Carrots
    2. Parsnips
    3. Swiss Chard
    4. Beets
    5. Celery
    6. Annual Herbs: Parsley, Dill, and Basil
  17. Ready to Plant: Stage 3—After the Last Frost
    1. Bush Green Beans
    2. Peppers
    3. Tomatoes
    4. Sweet Corn
    5. Squash: Zucchini, Summer Squash, and Winter Squash
    6. Cucumbers
  18. Planning to Start Your Deliveries
  19. Harvesting and Delivering
  20. How Long to Deliver
  21. Repeat Plantings
  22. Cover Cropping
  23. Ready to Plant: Stage 4—Late Planting
    1. Collard Greens
    2. Garlic
  24. Putting the Garden to Sleep
  25. Overwinter Storage
  26. Conclusions

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2019

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