Growing Involvement: Start a Community Garden

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Growing Involvement: Start a Community Garden
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Community gardens are places to grow food and flowers for all who contribute time and money. But that's not the only sustenance they provide. Community gardens, also known as communal gardens -- especially in the United Kingdom -- encourage the good feelings that come from being part of a team and nurture bonds between people, which feed the soul as well as the body. Americans celebrate the idea of working together for a common end and celebrating the harvest every year on Thanksgiving. Being part of a community garden effort can further bring that bounty home.

Get Organized
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Get Organized

Whether you are planning a community garden in a neighborhood where no one has private space to plant, or a garden where it is a shared experience, you need an organized approach. Pick one or two people to be in charge of dealing with government or private entities to secure the site, making sure it has a source of water, arranging meetings to plot out the garden itself and collecting any money for garden expenditures shared by all.

Decide on a Site
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Decide on a Site

Choose several participants to scout out possible locations for your garden. Check into the process of renting the land, whether it be from a local government or a private individual. Find out if water is accessible at the site; if not, determine how to access water, and how much that would cost. Have a meeting and take a vote on which site to turn into a beautiful green oasis.

Prepare the Soil
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Prepare the Soil

Discuss when to get the garden plot ready for planting. Whether each individual or family takes care of one plot, or all work together on one big plot with no boundaries, the soil must be prepared before you plant. Enlist everyone to help with this labor-intensive task, which involves turning over the soil and adding nutrients so your plants with thrive.

Decide What to Plant
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Decide What to Plant

If your garden has individual plots, each participant can decide what he or she wants to plant. A community garden takes coordination. If you are planting flowers, choose plants that will thrive in the garden location, bloom continuously throughout the growing season and provide various heights, colors and textures. If you are planting veggies and herbs, let each member choose a different variety. Pick plants and varieties that will grow best in the light and soil your location provides.

Assign Tasks
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Assign Tasks

Every person should take care of his or her own plot, unless tasks are shared. But before anything is planted, nail down who's responsible for what -- planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing, deadheading -- throughout the summer. As for cutting those glorious blooms or harvesting tasty veggies, everyone will want to get in on the act.

Plant the Garden
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Plant the Garden

Now comes the fun: planting your seeds or seedlings. If you are planting seeds, prepare the area and follow the directions on the seed packets. If you are planting seedlings, dig holes a few inches apart that are deep enough so the crown of the plant is at the soil line, then fill the hole back in and water thoroughly. Put down mulch to keep down weeds, retain moisture and make the bed look neat.

Maintain the Garden
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Maintain the Garden

Flowers, herbs and vegetables need a little or a lot of tender loving care, depending on the plant. Gardening is mostly about maintenance, with the goal of spectacular cutting flowers or food for the table. Whether you are responsible for your individual plot or sharing responsibilities for a communal garden, plan out watering and fertilizer intervals. Deadhead regularly if you're growing flowers. Some weeds usually intrude into every garden, so plan on regular times to patrol for these pests and eradicate them.

Harvest Time
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Harvest Time

Now for the reward. All that watering, fertilizing and weeding will pay off when it's time to reap what you've sown. If your garden is full of cutting flowers, you get to "harvest" them throughout the growing season for bouquets that add fragrance and beauty to your home. If you are growing veggies and herbs, the wait is longer, but the payoff is utterly satisfying.

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