In Akron, Colorado the picture to the left shows the beginning of a community garden. The community players were people who work for the county, Colorado Master Gardeners, Washington County Connections, the local greenhouse and other community residents all came together to start implementing an old vacant lot. A run down building was taken down on this lot and the city needed to place a frost-free faucet on the lot for water.
All these community players came together to build a dream. This dream was to create access to fresh food for the seniors and low-income families, the Washington County Connection which is the local resource center and teach young children how to grow their own food.
In the picture to the left, this is the children's garden. Regularly, under the direction of the owner of the local greenhouse and a local Colorado Master Gardener children were educated on growing plants throughout the season.
The sections in this garden were kept in small managable squares of 4' x 4'. By keeping the spaces smaller the participants were not overwhelmed with gardening. The squares embrace the raised bed concept as well.
We were in cooperation with Kansas State University with a Brownfields Grant. We were scheduled for having field plots in this garden to test for levels of contaminants in the crops grown here. After the testing, we could not participate in the funding because the contaminant levels were within a safe range or below normal. Being a vacant lot with an old structure recently removed, sometimes contaminants such as lead can be found a above normal levels.
When starting a community garden, this is one of the things to bear in mind. Test the soil. You have a starting point with all your nutrients: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus and the micro-nutrients. With a starting point, you know what needs to be added and how much needs to be added. Do soil testing every 5 years to keep a clear picture of understanding your soil composition.
Other than soil composition, what is the composition of the landscape within your community garden? What does it represent? The picture to the left demonstrates how participants bring their own creativity to the garden. This creativity builds a certain cultural dynamic within the community garden. In every garden having rules is necessary. A few rules to set parameters such as clean the tools before putting them back in the garden shed. Pick only what you can use for your family at one harvest. Rules for safety and consideration for others are important. You do not want your rules to stifle a creative and fun garden space.
The Akron community garden was started in 2010 and was filled with participants immediately. It is now a source of great pride for the town of Akron.