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Join a Community Garden

By Elizabeth Takakjian

Most vegetable plants need a good eight hours of sunshine to flourish. If the trees in your yard block the sun or you’ve outgrown your apartment windowsill garden, then join a community garden and get growing! Community gardens typically provide you with a designated gardening area drenched in sunshine, water access, and sometimes even shared tools and/or supplies, all for a reasonable fee.   The most important feature to consider when joining a community garden is its accessibility. Joining a garden that is near your place of work or in your community will increase the likelihood that you will visit the garden often.  How often is necessary?  Twice a week should do it for most of the season, and then when tomatoes and zucchini start producing, you’ll naturally want to stop by more often.   That’s why it’s important to select a community garden that is situated nearby your home or along your daily route.  There’s nothing like fresh picked veggies for dinner!

General guidelines for getting the most out of your garden visits:

  • Keep a garden tote in your car so you’ll always have some hand tools, gloves, and something to carry home that delicious produce for your meals. Keep in mind that the more you harvest, the more your plants will produce.
  • Plan to stop by the garden at least twice a week for 15minutes to a half hour for general care.In the spring when opening the garden, and in the fall when preparing the garden for winter, you’ll need an hour or two. In a community garden the time will be both productive and enjoyable as you get to know your fellow gardeners.    These are typical garden tasks by season:
  • For example, in a 15 minute visit you can check the soil’s moisture level, pluck a few weeds, and harvest. In a 30 minute visit you can do all of the above plus a bit more weeding and harvesting, as well as have time to enjoy the garden’s beauty and visit with your fellow gardeners. Okay, you might need to add a few more minutes for socializing!
  • Spring: garden start up, planting, seeding, plucking out a few weeds
  • Summer: HARVEST, Harvest, HARVEST!!! And trellis plants as needed, mulch to keep down weeds and retain soil moisture, re-seed for quick growing veggies like radishes, and plant your fall veggies
  • Fall: harvesting and closing down your bed for the winter months

It’s never too late to start a garden. You can plant as late as August to enjoy fresh produce through the fall.  Since 2010 more than 20 new community gardens have taken root on Long Island, so you may be able to find one that fits your needs and has a spot waiting for you. Check out these three sites to find community gardens in your area, gardening events, and useful garden tips:

http://ccesuffolk.org/gardening/community-gardens-in-suffolk-county

www.longislandcommunitygardens.org/

https://communitygarden.org/

Elizabeth Takakjian is a Program Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program, as well as a Master Gardener.

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