Cedarbrae Community Garden July 2015

I’ve gone and done it again – I’ve completely neglected my community garden plot. I pretty much predicted I would do this, but there was some small bit of hope that maybe things would be different this year. With the neglect aside, the garden has been doing really well.

Cedarbrae Community Garden

The good thing is that this year has been fairly good in terms of weather. It has been mostly warm and rainfalls have been pretty frequent. So the gardens have been generally happy. I actually hadn’t realized how well the community garden was doing because it had been a couple of weeks since I’d seen it. I walked over one evening and discovered that I already had a few zucchini that were on the verge of being too large for my liking, the kale and swiss chard were exploding, and the bush beans had a million flowers (some plants even had tiny beans!).

Cedarbrae Community Garden

I really need to keep on top of this garden now. Luckily it is virtually weedless, so I don’t need to do much to it in the way of weeding. But I do need to water it occasionally, and most importantly, I need to be harvesting from it frequently.

Cedarbrae Community Garden

I’ve been thinking a lot about that gardening space lately and whether or not I want to continue growing there after this season. On the one hand, it is very convenient because it is pretty much within seeing distance from my front door. And it also gives me extra growing space that I don’t have in my own back yard. But on the other hand, I do have to pay a fee to use it (and unfortunately the fees went up quite a bit this year), and I’m not convinced that my yields are offsetting the cost of the plot, also factoring in the cost I put in initially for the seeds (although fairly minimal, I do need to take it in to consideration). The other thing I’ve been waffling with is whether or not it is fair for me to have a plot at a community garden when I have the space in my own yard to grow vegetables. There is a wait list every year for the community garden, and I get priority since I’ve rented in past years, but it might be time for me to let someone else, who may not have access to another growing space, to garden there. Alternatively, I have been wanting to convert some of the space in my front yard to food gardens, so if I do that I would have the equivalent to or more space than the community plot. As well, I’ve recently been considering something like a yard-share which would give me access to growing space in a residential backyard in exchange for some of the crops. I can’t believe I’m already planning for the next growing season!

Do you grow in a community garden? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Is it your only growing space? I’d also love to know if you find it to be cheaper than buying fresh produce, factoring in the cost of the plot fees.

Cedarbrae Community Garden, 2015

For another year, I’ve decided to rent a plot at our local community garden. I wrote about growing there last year, but I didn’t mention it too much after that until the Fall. I like having a garden there, it gives me a lot more growing space for vegetables, and it is also nice to get out in to the neighborhood. My hope is that I’ll be a bit more diligent about documenting the progress with this garden, but then again, I’m famous for neglecting my community garden plot, so who knows. I do have the best intentions though!

Cedarbrae Community Garden

There are a few things I need to keep in mind when planning this garden. The first is that whatever I’m growing needs to be somewhat low maintenance, so if I’m being neglectful (out of sight, out of mind) or if we end up going out of town for a few days, this garden will be pretty self-sufficient. The other thing that I need to keep in mind is that it is a garden out in the open, with no signage, and pretty minimal monitoring, and things could get stolen or damaged. I’ve been pretty lucky with my plot as it is kind of plunked in the middle of the garden and the worst thing that has happened has been a few pulled out and abandoned carrots, but I have witnessed other nearby plots almost completely wiped out (darn hooligans!), so I always keep this thought tucked away when I plan this garden.

Beans

Clearly I need to do a little bit of weeding, but I prefer to wait until everything has come up – some beans are still breaking through the soil right now, so the weeding will have to wait another week.

I decided to continue with the tradition of keeping it simple, and planted kale, bush beans, cow peas, fava beans, and a couple of zucchini plants that wouldn’t fit in at home. But, I also decided to throw in a few marigolds and zinnias that I started from seed indoors. Most of the gardeners here grow flowers alongside their vegetables, and I’m always admiring it – plus, I do this is my garden at home, so I went ahead and did the same thing here.

Baby Kale

Baby kales. And yes, I was overcrowd my plants, but they don’t seem to mind in my climate.

I also want to mention that everything I grow in this space I’ve started by seed – most (with the exception of the flowers and squash), were sown directly in to the plot about the last week of May. Mainly, I do this because I don’t want to spend a lot of additional money on this garden. With having to pay plot fees, and with the chance of things getting stolen or vandalized, the thought of spending more money on this garden is just not very practical for me. My garden at home is an entirely different story though!

That’s about all that’s going on in the community garden right now. I’m hoping the next update will be in a month or so when everything has had a bit more time to flourish.

Fall 2014 Community Garden

The scene over at the Cedarbrae Community Garden is a bit different from last time I wrote about it. At that time, every plot was exploding with color and fresh produce. Now there isn’t a lot left except a few strawberry plants. Let me back up a bit and talk about what a horrible community gardener I am (which will also be a recurring theme throughout this post). I think I could count the number of times I visited my plot this year on both hands. I didn’t water it, I weeded it maybe twice, and I didn’t volunteer to do anything. Except keep a blog specifically about the community garden, but proof of my delinquency can be found on this blog (I posted once back in July and now I am posting again in the middle of October). And what excuse do I have? None. I live a two minute walk away from this garden. Also, probably the worst thing was that I was actually supposed to have my plot cleaned out nearly a month ago and I did not actually finish cleaning it until about an hour ago. And as you can see in the photo below, I was the last person to clean their plot out. Yes, I am sometimes a terrible, neglectful gardener. Oh well.

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Yes that one plot that is full of kale – that was mine.

I learned awhile ago that I should not plant anything in the community garden that is high maintenance or desirable to vegetable thieves and vandals. In September I received notification from our coordinator that there was an incident at the community garden and we should probably start cleaning up what was left of our plots. At this point, the only things I had remaining in my plot were some pathetic beets (so small), the old bean plants that had stopped producing (and that were slightly frost-bitten) and a whole lot of kale. No one wants to steal kale (I keep saying that, but some of my kale actually did disappear – not heart broken, because kale). The incident left our plot mostly untouched while other plots suffered some loss to vandalism – apparently throwing squash and tomatoes at the community centre is really fun. Actually, it does sound kind of fun. Anyway, at that time I pulled out the beets and bean plants and decided the kale could stay for a bit longer. And then it snowed and then I forgot about the garden and neglected to visit it for several weeks.

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Skip to when I remembered a few days ago that I had kale left in the garden and that I was supposed to clean my garden weeks ago. We walked over this morning to see what was left and to clean up our plot. As you can see above, the purple kale was well enjoyed by dirty little cabbage loopers. We salvaged what we could and then threw the rest in the garbage bin. Our community garden currently does not have composting. It used to but it was an unmaintained mess – partly due to not being able to handle the capacity of 30+ plots but also because we volunteered one year to maintain it and did a really awful job at that and no one touched it again until it was dismantled this spring. Why do they keep renting to us?

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But the curly blue kale did really well so we came home with a whole bunch of that to make into salads and delicious kale chips. You can find the best kale chips recipe ever here.

I’m already starting to think about next year’s community garden. I need to add some good compost first thing in the spring because the soil in this garden is not as good as the soil I have at home – I haven’t had great luck with root vegetables there for a few years so I don’t think those are meant to be – it doesn’t bother me too much since those things are readily available and cheap at our local farmer’s market. I will definitely continue to grow bush beans at this garden, as well as kale, because both do extremely well there with minimal care. I may also try some new things like fava beans and cowpeas which are supposed to be easy to grow.

This is all of course on the assumption that I will be rented a plot again.

Cedarbrae Community Garden

The Cedarbrae Community Garden was constructed in 2009 around the time a lot of other community gardens in Calgary were springing up. We started renting a plot in the garden in the spring of 2011 and have been renting the same plot since.

IMG_3045The empty garden back in late April 

The community garden originally had its own blog but it only lasted for a few years – it is often difficult to find dedicated volunteers during the busiest time for gardeners. So this year I mentioned that I wouldn’t mind taking on this role. And of course, I got busy with my own garden here and my plot at the community garden (sort of, it is mostly neglected) and didn’t really follow up. So I figured the best way for me to do this is to write about my plot and the garden here. 

The garden is operated by volunteers and gardeners who have rented plots (most volunteers are gardeners there). Spring and fall are the busiest times at the garden with set up and tear down. The garden runs from the mid/end of May up until October and then closes for the winter months. 

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Booming garden August 2014

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On to our plot. We have a 3’x15′ plot (all of the plots are that size but some people rent multiple plots). Due to some serious issues with vandalism in the garden in the past, we are pretty careful about what we plant there – our plot specifically has just had some minor instances, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of heartbreak in other plots. Our garden is not fenced in and is located behind the community centre and beside a natural wooded area that is a bit secluded. So we try to choose the less tempting plants for this garden – beets, carrots, potatoes, etc. I’ve always had amazing luck with bush beans in my plot, so about half of the plot are these. The rest of the plot this year consists of beets, kale, leeks and a single kohlrabi (the only survivor). My plot neighbor has mostly summer squash and I’m a bit jealous, they look really good!

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Our plot bursting with beans, kale, beets, leeks and a kohlrabi – it is hard to even see the dividing boards between the plots!

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I should make mention of my horrible neglect for this garden. I mean, it’s really bad. The garden used to be set up on a drip watering system, so I really never went over there except for the occasional weeding. Then last year they decided to try out manual watering, so with a hose on a reel and watering cans. And I was much more diligent about going over there. Then this year something happened – I guess I was busy with other things or “out of sight, out of mind” – excuses. I think I’ve gone over to the garden a total of like 5 times this year. I’ve sent my husband over a few times to water and he always reported back that everything was doing well. So I finally went over this morning, after about a month, to see how things were progressing. I was happy to see that everything was alive and was doing very well! I pulled a few weeds (I think one of my plot neighbors has been pulling out a few unruly weeds because it really should have been much worse than it was – thank you!), watered and snapped a few photos. And I also noticed I have a million bush beans ready to be picked and one giant kohlrabi i’ll be bringing home soon. 

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We’re really lucky because the garden is literally just a hop, skip and a jump away from our front door (why do I neglect it?!). We’ve also met a lot of neighbors through the garden – and it gives strangers something to talk about other than the weather – and as any gardener knows; given the opportunity to talk about gardening, we will do it.

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