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Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

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Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  CiderSapling on 2/3/2012, 1:38 pm

I'm leading a crew that is converting a vacant city lot to a community garden. We're on a very small budget and the first wave of members are building their own boxes (to our defined specs). Our lot is very small for a community garden but is perfectly located. Because of very poor soil quality and the limited space, we're requiring all boxes to be filled with MM. We are not requiring that gardeners use the SFG plan inside the box but strongly encouraging it and working to educate gardeners on the benefits.

All that said, I'm looking for suggestions on this whole thing. No one on our garden team has led an organizational effort like this. There are some resources in town and we're using them; it's great for building guidelines, etc. but nothing regarding SFG. With the specs requiring MM we're looking for supplies of the ingredients (the vermiculite database was very helpful).

So, does anyone have any thoughts? The lot has no water access (using rain barrels until we can afford to install a tap). We're in St. Louis (city), MO. We're organic.

Thanks! Beth
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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  walshevak on 2/3/2012, 2:42 pm

The one suggestion I can think of is to get together and buy bulk for compost. Also see if you can get a discount on vermiculite and peat - think cash, senior citizen, community pride - anything that might get a discount for you. If anyone is retired or active duty military, Lowes and Home Depot offer 10% discount.

Kay

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walshevak

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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  Unmutual on 2/3/2012, 4:12 pm

Besides echoing buying in bulk, the only suggestions I can come up with is to start composting on-site immediately. Ask around for food scraps, old produce, coffee grounds, tea bags, newspaper, etc. You might get lucky and find some free pallets to make the compost bin.

Try local restaurants for used food grade barrels and convert them into either compost tumblers or more rain barrels(a dry month might become an issue without city water). While you're foraging around restaurants, ask them about waste veggies and eggshells for composting.

Once your operation is underway, you might be able to produce enough compost of your own to keep up with the single scoop after harvesting.

Unmutual

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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  Chopper on 2/3/2012, 4:18 pm

I would check with the SFG foundation. They do have some experience in this and may have some tips or guidelines that could be helpful.

Chopper

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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 2/3/2012, 7:22 pm

Welcome!

PM BackyardBirdGardener as I know he's in the St. Louis area and might have a line on some local resources for you...I believe he's in landscaping by trade...
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UnderTheBlackWalnut

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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  CiderSapling on 2/6/2012, 1:12 am

Thanks for the thoughts. We're working on starting the compost now... we've been limited because we didn't have legal access to the area and we all have very small yards - or no yards at all. I'm very excited to start using SFG, instead of just reading about it. Smile

Beth
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Please take pictures regularly

Post  tomperrin on 2/6/2012, 8:38 am

of your community garden and how it develops and share them here. We're all interested and your efforts will be an inspiration to others.

Tom
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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  CindiLou on 2/6/2012, 11:50 am

CiderSapling wrote: Because of very poor soil quality and the limited space, we're requiring all boxes to be filled with MM.

Trying not to be mean but I have a question.

Why are you requiring MM? I don't know that in a community garden this is such a great idea.

"Recommend" would be better. Sometimes you get people automatically backing off of a method because it was "required" to do it a specific way.

Yes, I love MM, but unless you are filling the boxes and charging rent for them. I just don't see where it is right to require it unless this is advertised as something like "a sfg community garden".

Just a thought.
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Why we're requiring MM

Post  CiderSapling on 2/6/2012, 12:26 pm

This came after a lot of reading, thought, and conversation. We're a small garden group in a small neighborhood which makes us a good fit for the small lot size. But our size restricts us from most of the developing garden grant money for city gardening. We're funding the development with money from our own pockets plus some donated service time. Improving the soil is impossible under these circumstances - the lot previously held a 3 story home that was destroyed by fire. The demolition crew bulldozed as much into the old basement as possible, hauled away the rest, then threw some dirt on top. Community gardens usually pay for maintence through membership fees; we're waiving those fees for each gardener building a box (so the gardener is paying to build the box and fill it). But the reality of community gardening is turnover and it's very important to us as garden leaders that whoever inherits the box gets a good growing medium. It's highly inefficient to empty and refill the boxes when they are reassigned - it's also costly. At that point, we'd rather be focusing our money on upgrading the garden. It seems like one of the easiest ways to manage the box soil quality is to use something simple like MM.

We're not using SFG in our name or anything, but the membership guidelines and rules for establishing and maintaining the garden all indicate the required soil composition, so gardeners are aware of their committment in advance. It's common to see community gardens dictate soil composition in rasied beds - as well as use of chemicals, materials added to compost, and growing season limits. We do think it would be asking too much to require growers to use SFG - but I suspect that as they see success in SFG beds they'll be converted. Much of it is education. We're all very accustomed to small outdoor spaces and are focused on maximizing what's available. Most of our gardeners have been limited to container gardening only, or have been commuting to garden spaces away from home.

So, basically, the short answer is that using MM appealed to the people who want to garden in the lot and seems like a simple answer to the garden leadership team. Smile
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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/6/2012, 1:30 pm

CiderSapling

What a great beginning.

Since all of your members have agreed up front to use only MM, they know what they are in for before they start. It is great to have a group with such commitment.

It may limit your field of membership in the future, but since the beds are already filled, new members won't have the same start up expenses.

Our community garden has rules regarding compost and additives. We make our own compost for future feeding of the beds and hopefully your group will be able to create sufficient compost for the future.
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Free Seeds

Post  shannon1 on 2/7/2012, 5:00 am

I'm am helping to start up a garden here in my neighborhood and ran across this thought you might find it interesting. America the Beautiful Fund offers free seeds to com. gardens. Here is the link http://america-the-beautiful.org/free_seeds/index.php Very Happy
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Re: Looking for suggestions on just about everything.

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