January 30, 2012

A Military Family Community Garden? It's worth a try!

I was talking to my mom about this project, and she brought up a great idea:  see if we could have a community garden in our neighborhood.  That would increase the amount of growing space and lift the "decorative" requirement.  It's a great idea, but one I'm not sure will fly with our property manager, Balfour Beatty.  They're pretty great, and really positive about taking community suggestions, I just worry that this will be more than they want to deal with because it would require setting aside land that won't look very good at first, providing water, and mediating disputes down the road.

The community in which we live has a strong community gardening program with plot rentals and set rules that we can follow.  Unfortunately, it's not all that friendly for military families who PCS into the community at unusual times of year and who don't always pay taxes in the area (of course we pay rent to Balfour Beatty who pays taxes, but that doesn't seem to count).

The plot assignment system is difficult for gardening military families because of the deadlines.  Current renters have until Jan 31 to renew their plots.  New plot renters are assigned plots on Feb 1st, and any leftover plots can be rented by current gardeners after March 1st.  If all plots fill, there's a waiting list, but to be on the waiting list, you must be a resident of the city.  Thus, even though a military family may have orders that they're moving by the March deadline, they can't apply for a plot or even get on the waiting list because they are not residents of the city yet.  I tried to do this when we moved to the area, and was politely told that it was not an option--even if I sent our orders.

The system also heavily favors repeat plot renters, which is fine, but makes it almost impossible for military families, who are only around for 3 years or so, to get a plot.  I would like the community garden to accept orders as proof of residence and to set aside a few plots for military families that can be "willed" to new families when the old families leave.  I wonder if Balfour Beatty could do this--then they wouldn't have to provide us space on their property but families would benefit from a community garden.  They could have a lottery each spring for the plots or something similar.

But the best scenario would be for there to be a military family community garden--it would fit well in the tradition of victory gardens throughout history.

The policies for the city garden are as follows, and it would be cool for us to have similar rules, since these obviously work.

  • Plots are open from sunrise to sunset
  • They provide garden tools to borrow.
  • Plots must be weed free or you get a yellow flag warning and 10 days to fix the problem.  If it's not fixed, you get a red flag and 5 days to fix it.  After that the plot is given back to the community garden.
  • Only natural pest management and fertilizer can be used.
  • No invasive speecies
  • No gardening that will affect adjacent plots
  • You may not sell your produce
  • There's a compost bin provided
  • Pets are not allowed.

Ironically, of course, my $5 garden wouldn't meet the criteria since plots are rented for $25. . .and thus cost more than $5.

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