Spring is here, which means it’s planting season! Imagine the crunch of fresh lettuce in your salad or deliciously ripe tomatoes in your pasta dish. Imagine a beautiful vase of flowers sitting on your dining room table. All of this is possible thanks to the little plot you have in your community garden.
Community gardens are an excellent way to help the environment, meet new friends, spend time outside the house, and enjoy healthy ingredients in your meals. Among the many resort-style amenities available at Brunswick Crossing is our very own community garden, which allows you to exercise your green thumb along with your neighbors. If you’re thinking about taking care of your own plot, we’ve pulled together a guide to get you started.
Why join a community garden
A community garden provides the perfect space to grow your own plants, and there are many benefits to taking care of your own plot. First, garden plots are eco-friendly. After all, plants improve air quality. Second, you’re reducing the “food miles” of your produce. Food miles refer to the distance between the farm and your table. If your peppers are grown overseas or across the country, you’re paying for the fuel, transportation, and environmental costs at the grocery store.
A third reason to join a community garden is to avoid pests in a natural way. You’re in control of gardening in such a way that avoids pesticides and weed killers that may have seeped into the produce you buy at the store. Fourth, a community garden supports the butterflies and bees that pollinate plants and drive food supplies. It’s estimated that 75% to 95% of plants need help from pollinators.
And finally, community gardens do exactly as the name suggests. They build great communities. It’s a safe and open place to meet neighbors and bond over a common interest. These gardens also offer a rewarding family activity to grow green minds with your kids.
Tips to get started
As you set up your garden plot, the last thing you want is to jump in without a strategy. If you want your plants to thrive, then you should approach your garden with a plan that utilizes the small space in the best way possible. Here are some tips to get you started:
Take it easy
There are plants that are easy to grow and fare well in community garden environments. Don’t jump in headfirst with a plant that will be difficult to care for. There are certain herbs, produce, and flowers that serve as a great place to start.
Tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers are prolific growers. They’re fun to harvest and rewarding to enjoy in any meal. Strawberries are great to grow because they can be planted in small spaces and require little maintenance. Basil is an excellent herb to raise since it’s easy to grow and harvest throughout the year.
Reach for the sky
Depending on the garden, you might not have much horizontal space in which to spread your plants out. However, there’s plenty of vertical space, so reach for the sky. Resourceful farmers will encourage their plants to grow upward. Trellises help in a variety of ways. They keep your produce and vines off the ground, which allows for greater air flow. It keeps leaves dry and decreases potential diseases. Trellises are particularly useful for tomatoes, cucumbers, and pole beans.
Focus on mulch
Mulch is a go-to strategy for maintaining the health of your garden plot. Mulch is simply a layer of material that covers the soil surface. By protecting the soil from the weather, mulch reduces weed growth, prevents water loss, maintains an optimal temperature, and protects against harsh conditions.
There’s no perfect answer when it comes to choosing what material to use as mulch. It’s a trial-and-error process to find what works best for you. Some options include compost, chipped bark, straw, grass clippings, newspaper, and coffee grounds.
However, many of these have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, compost is often readily available but needs to be replenished and can contain unwanted seeds. Bark breaks down slowly and is attractive, but can potentially grow fungi if not maintained properly. As you continue to care for your plot, test different materials for which mulch fits your needs best.
Mistakes to avoid
Now that we’ve gone over some of the do’s of gardening, let’s go over some of the don’ts. Here’s what to avoid while raising your plants:
Avoid plot hogs
There are some plants you should simply steer clear of. They can take over your plot, invade other plots, and require a large amount of maintenance. Mint is a prime example. It’s invasive and spreads like wildfire. Pumpkins and squash can grow quite large with stems, known as runners, that grow over into other plots. They require extra work to ensure they stay maintained in your garden.
You’ll also want to avoid anything that grows too tall. While you want to encourage your plants to reach for the sky, they shouldn’t be so tall that they block valuable sunlight from other plots. For example, sunflowers are very pretty but tend to be quite tall. Many community gardens have a list of discouraged and prohibited plants. Check with your community or organizer for garden rules.
Be less steal-worthy
One of the primary rules of community gardens is to not steal. However, that doesn’t always keep people from snagging your perfectly ripe tomatoes. If thieves are a concern in your community, consider growing alternative plants that are less tempting. Anything small and quick-growing, such as cherry tomatoes and okra, are great options compared to large peppers or squash.
Don’t forget flowers
If your goal is to grow produce then flowers may seem like a waste of space. However, they actually provide many benefits that might just make you think twice. Not only are flowers beautiful additions to any plot, but they also attract pollinators. As we mentioned earlier, pollination is extremely important to most plants. Big color flowers will attract the attention of bees or butterflies who might have missed the small blossoms of cucumber or melon.
Are you ready to put down roots in a new home? With a variety of models and resort-style amenities, Brunswick Crossing is the perfect place to grow at your own pace. Take a virtual tour today and explore the plethora of opportunities right at your doorstep.