Top | Cookin' with Mari

The Birth of a Community Garden

(post, Marilyn Noble)

I live in a thirty-something-year-old neighborhood in a close-in suburb of Denver.  The developer didn't give us big yards, but we have plenty of shared green space.  The largest of the green areas is known as Tract M, a boring name for a boring three-acre patch of grass that serves as a buffer between the single family homes and the townhouses across the street. Tract M is owned jointly by our HOA and the townhouse HOA. It gets used mostly by people who play Frisbee with their dogs and soccer-playing kids.  I've always thought it would be a great place for a small community garden.  I hate seeing the waste of resources that it takes to keep the entirety of Tract M a green oasis in our arid climate -- a garden would alleviate some of that, yet still offer a place for recreation for the kids and the dogs.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a notice in our HOA newsletter inviting people interested in building a community garden on Tract M to make themselves known. We had a meeting last week, and out of our neighborhood of 400 homes, seven committed gardeners showed up.  Not a rousing turnout, but it's a start.

We talked about some of the issues facing us, and each of us left with a set of tasks to accomplish to get us on the path.

My job was to make a presentation to the townhome HOA board, which I did last week.  They asked good questions about things like who would irrigate and how, who would be responsible for keeping the weeds under control, and how we would keep the bunnies and other potential mischief makers out. I recruited another ten or so people interested in getting involved.  To use Tract M for the garden, we have to have the approval of both boards.

My significant other was charged with calling the city to see if we face any zoning challenges.  It turns out that we don't, and the city is also willing to share resources with us.  The water department has a grant to encourage communities and individual homeowners to replace their lawns with xeriscaping, and they may be able to help us with converting the lawn sprinklers on the garden site into an irrigation system.  They also suggested we visit the city's Delaney Farm, one of the few close-in, community-run CSAs in Colorado.

Another of our committee members paid a visit to a close-by neighborhood that has had a garden for several years.  They generously shared their by-laws and other information about how they do things.

We have another meeting this week, and I'm excited.  I'll still plant my heirloom tomatoes and peppers in my little patch of garden in the yard, but I have visions of squash and beans and carrots and spinach dancing in my head.