Why I would be kicked out of a community garden

Why I would be kicked out of a community garden

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Community garden image courtesy of Shutterstock

As a fellow online writer—who happens to be called Elizabeth Licata—says, “There’s no drama like community garden drama.”

We’ve written a lot about community gardens here, including stories on gardens under threat by utility companies, gardens embroiled in internal politics (fueled by alcohol), and community gardens that have been shut down or abandoned.

And now here’s a garden that has arrived at a place where its former manager has threatened to set himself on fire unless he regains control of the space. This happened in Queens, NY., and I first heard of it through a story in the Daily Meal (it was originally in the Wall Street Journal). In brief, officials in Queens suspect the Evergreen Community Garden, run largely by Korean immigrants, of selling its produce illegally, and of shutting out other community members; the city has taken the garden (which is on city property), and turned it over to an official community garden network.

Stories like this make me happy that I have never entered the community gardening realm. I considered it at one time, but I could see the pitfalls. In fact, I can envision the short list of reasons I would never make it in any kind of communal gardening operation:

  1. Weeds. I have a very lackadaisical attitude toward weeding. I like to wait until they’re big enough to pull easily, and so I can be sure they are a weed, and not the thing I planted there on purpose. I actually like some weeds, like phytolacca (pokeweed). This causes problems with neighboring gardeners, who (rightly) point out that this increases the likelihood of the weeds spreading.
  2. Incompetence. This enterprise would probably require being able to plant successfully from seed.
  3. Aesthetics. I have never seen a community garden I felt was nearly as attractive as a private ornamental garden. This would bother me.
  4. Attitude. I’m a friendly person, but I have noticed that ornamental and food growers often have much less in common than you might think.
  5. Everything else mentioned in this post. The threats from higher authorities! The fights between gardeners! The drama!

I try not to do drama.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on August 5, 2013 at 9:36 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.

14 Comments
    • Laura Bell
    • 3rd August 2017

    1 – Don’t know what community gardens you visit, but those I’ve gone to (as I am not a CG member) are generally weedy, particularly this time of year. Sure, attempts are made tamp down the most obnoxious weeds, but in the heat of August things like crabgrass & spotted spurge get overlooked in favor of wagons full of tomatoes & beans & squash & corn.

    • ProfessorRoush
    • 3rd August 2017

    1. Yes, 2, Yes, 3, Who cares?, 4, Yes, and 5, Oh God Yes! I’m with you, Sister!

    • Jennifer
    • 4th September 2017

    Funny to read this…. I just received notice, while on vacation, that my CG plot is now considered abandoned and available to new members.

    • Laura Bell
    • 9th September 2017

    I didn’t realize you could grow artichokes without ants … at least not any you’d want to actually consume.

    • KathyG
    • 10th September 2017

    Ants? My artichokes have always fallen prey to huge, disgusting black aphids.

    • admin
    • 10th September 2017

    Though I’m primarily a flower gardener at heart, I’ve been edible gardening at a community garden plot for the last 2+ years and have to say that the “community” in the name is very often overlooked. When you sign up for a CG, you are basically agreeing to garden within very tight quarters and what you do has an exponential impact on your garden plot neighbors.

    • Laura Bell
    • 10th September 2017

    Based on what I hear from my friends who do the CG thing, it seems to be more about the Garden than the Community for them. They only deal with the community as is necessary to keep the ability to garden.

    • Sandra Knauf
    • 11th September 2017

    I like the community garden I’m in a lot. It’s in its third year. It’s not perfect. We all have weeds. We do what we can but we don’t get crazy about it or too judgmental of others. Many don’t participate in the decision-making (which is a problem, but not a big one). Everyone is easy-going and does their own thing, and most are willing/able to help out when needed.

    • Margit Van Schaick
    • 11th September 2017

    A Community Garden can actually be a very lonely place– some years ago, I was a member in a beautiful site, and while being there often filled me with wonder and pleasure from the growing plants, fresh air, and birdsong, I was usually the only person there. When others did come, they very rarely acknowledged my presence with even a look, so saying “Hello” was not something that would naturally occur. What I would recommend is that Community Gardens have a large table, with chairs, where people could trim their harvest, maybe take a break from gardening to drink some water and perhaps eat a snack. This would also give people an opportunity to share gardening tips and extra seedlings or the harvest. And, maybe the magic of “Community” would grow and flower along with the plants!

    • admin
    • 11th September 2017

    Interesting post. I’ve never been part of a community garden, but have often thought that when/if I live in a place that I can’t have my own garden, I would seek one out. These comments make me think community gardens are the Home Owners Associations or book groups of the gardening world–some careful investigation of the gardens (and self-reflection about what I want out of it) would clearly help before commiting.

    • gemma
    • 11th September 2017

    I’ve been a member of community gardens for a decade, and this summer I’m trying to keep plants alive at 3 different ones (all organic gardens). None of them have HOA-type rules!

    • Jan Clark
    • 11th September 2017

    100% agree — right there with you!! ;>)

    • skr
    • 11th September 2017

    The CG I was in is no more because the the person running the garden was a conartist that embezzeled thousands of dollars, didn’t pay the rent, and disappeared into the ether. On top of that, the property owner wanted to develop he land after the city injunction was lifted (property was originally a crackhouse which was razed and the land dedicated for community use for a period of 5 years) so he jumped on the lack of rent payments as a means to lock everyone out. Of course the land has laid fallow for a decade now with no development because the property owner’s plan was unworkable. Now that was some drama.

    • greg draiss
    • 11th September 2017

    Too bad…………………many community gardens have boards that long for the old days of a communist/commune on the farm. There is another community garden in Queens where the president of the board has been accused of gentrification, kicking out little old ladies in favor of hip fashionistas, and having an affair with another members spouse.

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