Community gardens growing
The problems and pitfalls of community gardening were aired Tuesday, while resources to help make efforts successful were also presented.
A forum hosted by the Purdue Extension Service of Elkhart County featured a presentation of community garden plans and a review of some common concerns.
Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, Extension educator-consumer family science, noted some of the issues that community gardeners must resolve.
Community gardens are “management intensive,” she said, and feels a coordinator is necessary.
First-time gardeners “have no idea of the work it takes to grow bushels of produce,” Lienhart-Cross added, noting that “somebody has to be in charge.”
Pest control is also an important issue, and Lienhart-Cross advised that experimentation is needed regarding the control of weeds and insects. She noted some organic material might attract varmints, which is a factor to be weighed.
Additionally, the timing, source and quantity of water must be considered, she said, noting, for instance, that too much water — several inches in several days — limited the number of sweet potatoes last year.
Other issues Lienhart-Cross cited included storage of tools, security to prevent vandalism or theft and gardening philosophy, whether gardeners choose the organic or conventional route.
She warned there may also be falling levels of interest that must be dealt with as well as concerns including disease, fall cleanup and whether the garden is a permanent site.
Another “huge” issue is location, according to Lienhart-Cross.
“If gardens are too far away, people may not want to take care of them,” she said, noting that gardens in the backyard “are a whole lot easier.”
Resources offered by Extension officials include online garden publications through Purdue Extension, a master gardener hotline from April 1 to Oct. 1 and a community garden e-mail list, according to Ericka Soumare, Extension educator-agriculture and natural resources.
The e-mail list provides a method of sharing ideas and information, Soumare said, although she noted the list is to be used only for gardening-related activities.
Gardeners and others attending the session also announced some activities.
For instance, Middlebury Church of the Brethren officials are planning on giving beginning gardening classes some time in April.
Elkhart County Works Together is offering free seeds to gardeners supplied by LeSEA Ministries and the America the Beautiful Fund, according to David Schrock-Shenk, founder.
An online skills bank at ecwt.org also provides a searchable database of unemployed community workers willing to till the ground or provide other gardening work.
Dwight Fish is planning a cold-frame workshop at 9 a.m. April 3 at Jubilee House, 1320 Prairie St., Elkhart.
Kurt Bullard, who again is planning a community garden along C.R. 17, proposed that followup meetings are needed, including sessions on planting, weeding and harvesting.
Lienhart-Cross then suggested that additional sessions will be planned at critical times in the gardening season in order to anticipate issues and answer questions.
Free seeds from Elkhart County Works Together: firstname.lastname@example.org or (574) 534-0903.
Garden publications: http://www. hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html
Master gardeners: Call the Elkhart County Extension office at (574) 533-0554 to request garden consulting or a demonstration.
Master gardener hotline: (574) 533-0554 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 1 through Oct. 1.
Community garden e-mail list: To send a message to the group, address e-mail to elkcommunity email@example.com
Workers available for gardening: www.ecwt.org and click on Skills Bank tab.
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