Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cohousing Community Garden

This post is finally finished thanks to the pressure from my friend Melissa. I've been promising her photos of my garden for far too long!

I have been meaning to blog about our cohousing community garden all summer, and this post has been half written for well over a month. (The photos are a bit old also, but it shows you what the garden looked like the end of July/beginning of August!) I have never been a part of any other community garden, so I am unsure how much it differs from others. I would love to hear any comparisons.
The entire community garden is fairly large. It is made up of individual plots that are roughly 3x5 ft (they all vary a bit - my main plot is funny shaped so it is 3ft on one end and about 5 on the other). Along the edges of the garden are some true community garden space where rhubarb, strawberries, and misc herbs are grown for use by anyone in the community. A native grass area around the garden serves as our orchard. Many of the trees are new this year, but we have several that were planted when the community was started and are bearing fruit. There are peach, apple, plum and cherry trees. And several varieties of each.

In late winter or early spring, a garden coordinator begins assigning plots to community members. First priority is given to gardeners from the previous year. They indicate which of their current plots is their first and second choices on plots. Your first choice is pretty much guaranteed. There are 30-something plots for 34 households, but not all community members garden. There is almost always the ability to have more than one plot. This year I have my plot, another plot that I was going to share with a friend (that didn't happen and I just took over the whole plot), plus half of another plot that yet another community member opted not to plant this year. Except for a few exceptions (like invasive mint), you can plant whatever you want in your plot. The plot plantings vary from a variety of vegetables to only pumpkins to annual flowers. By July, the garden is a mass jungle of crops. A beautiful mess!
My plots this summer contain beets, carrots, radishes, jalapeno peppers, green/yellow/red peppers, arugula, vine beans, bush beans, purple bush beans, broccoli, strawberries, butternut squash (almost ready to harvest!), mixed greens, romaine lettuce, speckled romaine lettuce, spinach, eggplant (still harvesting... hope to get another few weeks of eggplant!), yellow zucchini, green zucchini, yellow squash, marigolds, cut flowers, and multiple herbs. Most of my herbs are close to the house in a small rock garden and in pots. I also have tomatoes in self-watering containers against the house (remind me to blog about growing tomatoes in Colorado next spring!).

The garden is really slowing down. We have had unusually cool weather that started in mid-August. I imagine we'll get a frost within a few weeks. Then everyone will winterize their plots. Most of the cuttings will go in a large pile to compost over winter (anything that doesn't decompose in the pile will be added to the community compost next spring). Some people plant cover crops like rye grass. Others just let the ground sit.

I love, love, love having a garden, but I admit that by this time of the year, I am getting a bit weary of tending it. I start to look forward to the frost and a good reason to close shop. By January I'll be getting the itch to start all over again!
1 - Aerial view of the garden (from my neighbor's balcony)
2 - My corner of the garden
3 - Eggplant blooms (we've since eaten the eggplants from those blooms - we are going to have some more for dinner tonight!)
4 - Yellow peppers
5 - Purple string beans (the kids LOVED the purple beans that turn green when cooked!)
6 - Butternut squash (they are now turning a lovely apricot color and are almost ready to harvest - I can't wait!!)
7 - Orange cherry tomatoes (These little devils were like candy. None of them went into any dishes. We just picked and popped them into our mouths as we walked by. Tomatoes are definitely Matt's favorite garden item. He raves about being able to walk out the back door, pluck a tomato, and slice it for a sandwich)


Penny said...

I love pictures of people's gardens. I also love touring my friend's gardens!

Mine is just being planted up now we're having some spring weather. Rod's favourite garden thing is tomatoes too! But I must agree there is nothing like a fresh tomato still twitching from the vine in your salad. ;)

Angela Miller said...

I agree that a garden is a lot of work and I am usually ready to be done by the time fall arrives, but I am so ready for some decent produce by the time spring arrives. I can't believe how much you had in your garden! Did you do the sqauare foot gardening method?

ames said...

Oh, you give me such community envy. Do you know of any Web sites or community housing listings? I wonder if there are any in my area...

Anonymous said...

Did I really pressure you? lol I think you should use the word "encouraged." ;)

Thanks for all the photos and descriptions! I am having some garden envy but mostly garden inspiration for next year. Penny, how lovely you are just beginning your garden. Enjoy!!


Lori Ann said...

I don't have a garden myself (well, I do have herbs in 4 of my apartment windows!), but live in a rural area and am enjoying all the fresh produce right now, too: we currently have carrots, peppers, broccoli, squash, eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Yum!

Tiffany said...

I would love to live in community housing like you. I would also love a garden but I am still not sure what I can grow here or not.

mb said...

happy birthday!!! i remembered from a comment from last year you left on my blog. my daughter turned 5 today!


Raines said...

@ames, you can find more communities listed in the Cohousing Association of the U.S. directory

@GreenStyleMom, I think your post would make a great article in Cohousing magazine.

We have a small community garden here at my cohousing neighborhood, but nothing so beautiful or ambitious.

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
Planning for Sustainable Communities