It will be about defining things like the space, the garden models, the type of irrigation, the organization of the equipment and the forms of fertilization.
One of the actions that organizations can take to contribute to sustainability when they work and put into action values such as cooperation or conscious consumption is the installation of a community garden. This can be exclusive to associated and structural people or open to the collaboration of people in the neighborhood, and they can be installed in the same entity or look for spaces that can be recovered to make them a collective use.
Below are the keys to the process of setting up a community garden . For the development of this resource, information has been used from the Barcelona City Council's ' Community Garden Manual '; and the guide ' Do we have a garden? Practical guide to the ecological and educational garden , by Fundesplai.
Features and benefits
Community gardens are cooperative gardens , more or less large, installed in cities, towns or entities to be managed cooperatively. They are set up as participation spaces with their own management systems , so they enhance relationships between people of all ages and backgrounds. They are usually developed under the principles of organic agriculture , and allow to promote sustainable habits and diverse learning about subsistence and food.
In all cases, the community garden and its operation , design and organization arise from the consensus of all the participants, and always with respect for the conditions, interests and availability of each one. The available resources must also be taken into account.
The land and garden models
The first step to setting up a community garden is to get land on which to plant the plants. If the entity already has a piece of land , this will not be a problem, but if it is, for example, an urban association , it will be necessary to ask about the dimensions and typology of the garden and assess whether to install on your terrace and balcony or find a separate space . To do the latter, there are three ways : obtain the transfer of an unused plot of land (negotiating with the property and presenting a written project), choosing one of the empty spaces in the district, and renting or buying the land.
Once the space has been chosen, some issues will need to be defined. One of them is the format that the garden will take . For an installation of these characteristics, there are five modalities that must be chosen according to the space available and the type of crops to be planted.
For entities of a more urban type , the first option is the cultivation tables , which are elevated tables of different sizes ideal for small or paved spaces. For these needs you can also opt for a vertical garden , which is installed on walls or structures and which at the same time work as decorative elements. They are suitable for terraces and balconies, but they are not suitable for plants of large volume or deep roots.
If the entity has more space , it can opt for ground plantings, which, however, require more extensive knowledge to be installed. Of this typology, the modality for the smallest space is the elevated shelves , drawers of one meter in width and variable length that are placed on the floor. A second option is ridge stands , where four stands or terraces delimited by ridges and stakes are installed, in a four-year rotational cropping system. Finally, there is the traditional way, which is the garden in furrows , cultivating the land directly. It is suitable for open spaces, but the land will need to be prepared beforehand.
Once the type of garden has been chosen, it will be necessary to take into account questions about its maintenance , such as the type of irrigation, fertilization and padding.
Water and the type of irrigation
A main aspect of the operation of any garden, which will help determine its modality, is access to water . If you want free water, it is best to collect rainwater or take it from the neighborhood always with the support and approval of the people in the neighborhood. However, the safest thing is that you have to pay for the water , so you can choose to do activities to collect money (ideally, related to the garden) or seek financial support from the City Council.
In all cases, it is advisable to have an important reserve of water , either through a well or drums . Due to the water to which you have access, it will be necessary to time and establish the irrigation schedules.
Regarding the irrigation system, the most efficient and environmentally friendly water use formats are localized irrigation systems : drip and exuding tapes , which can be connected to a programmer, or the most traditional form, the watering can . It will also be essential to make a good padding to maintain the humidity of the earth, as indicated in the next section.
Fertilization and padding
Fertilization is essential for the garden to be successful, and is a guarantee of the cyclical nature of the project and an impetus to the sustainability of the entity. This is due to the fact that, if you come, you can choose to go look for manure at a farm or buy fertilizer from companies or recycling plants, the most advisable thing is to generate fertilizer from the organic rubbish of the entity and the neighborhood and from pruning and harvest remains.
Another action of this type that is necessary for the garden to work is padding , which is a protective layer of up to five centimeters , made of straw, branches, cork, shavings of bark or cardboard, and that must be renewed every 6 – 12 months. This technique protects the land, conserves moisture, softens temperature contrasts, reduces the drying of the land by wind and insolation, prevents soil compaction and reduces the growth of undesirable grasses.
Organization and spaces
Every garden, whether communal or not, has two basic spaces . The garden itself , and a space to store the tools , which can be enabled in the same building of the entity or by installing a small shed or shed.
With regard to the space of the garden, it will be necessary to decide how to work the land, whether completely together (especially for small gardens) or by dividing it into plots (so that each person or group is in charge of a part of the crop).
Another point that will need to be defined is how the work will be organized. If everyone comes, they can be involved in some way in the different tasks, the most advisable thing is to create commissions , so that one or several people are always in charge of some tasks that go beyond working the land, such as the maintenance of the tools and the space, the distribution of the harvest.
Within this matter of organization, it is advisable to implement meeting times to bring the group together and coordinate the work and the different areas. It is also important to incorporate leisure spaces around the garden, such as lunches, parties and days.
To work a garden you need tools. These can be obtained by asking for them from farms and farmers or by buying them with funds collected from other activities. Some of these materials are: the pitchfork, the hatchet, the rake, the cultivator, the transplant shovel, the planter, the metal broom and the pruning shears.
Apart from the tools, you will need to have other resources that will greatly facilitate the work of planting, maintenance and harvesting: buckets, nets, wheelbarrows...
Plant: what and when?
Once all the issues indicated in the previous sections have been defined, the garden has been installed and the necessary materials have been acquired, you can now proceed with planting . To decide on the species , the type of garden, the season, the region in which the space is located, the rotation of crops and the compatibility of the different species will have to be taken into account.
- What to plant and when according to the area
Entities are encouraged to install community gardens that take advantage of the space to recover local and traditional varieties , which, at the same time, will be more suitable and, therefore, more sustainable and promoters of biodiversity for the climate and the land in which the garden is located.
- The associations
Apart from the area and the time of year, when planting it is necessary to take into account which plants are favored and which are harmed . This means respecting the crop association.
- Crop rotation
Finally, if vegetables are being planted, it will be convenient to implement crop rotation, which is essential to guarantee the maintenance of soil fertility and nutrients . It is about alternating between the different families that are sown, and never repeating the same species in the same space until after four rotations.
It will therefore be necessary to divide the space into four plots. A proposal could be:
- Plot 1: Legumes (beans, broad beans, peas) and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Plot 2: Composts (endives and lettuces), cucurbits (cucumbers and courgettes) and chenopodiaceae (spinach and Swiss chard).
- Plot 3: Liliaceae (leeks, garlic and onions) and umbelliferae (celery, parsley and carrots).
- Plot 4: Solanaceae (peppers, aubergines and tomatoes).