Toolshed Tips: Mid-summer Garden Coordination

Your July tip: Mid-summer can be at the most rewarding and the most challenging time for community gardening.  It’s when the reason for the season really kicks in…plants are more robust and filling up your garden with green, your harvests are beginning to be more substantial, and your early season work is really beginning to pay off.  This is also the time for vacations, summer camp, and the general summer play that pulls many away from the gardens for periods of time.  In these gaps, as you well know, there is the greatest likelihood for gardens to become over-grown and favorite places for pests and diseases that can mean a swift end to this happy time of healthy gardens.  Faced with these facts of gardening life, here are few things you can do to keep your garden on the up-and-up this busy month:

  • July ToolshedHave compassion (for others and yourself).  If you run into the sorts of problems described above, this can be a frustrating time for garden leaders…people not showing up for work parties, gardeners frustrated with their neighbors.  Recognize the busy nature of this time and that all gardeners get involved for different reasons.  Ultimately gardens are meant to enrich people’s lives, not burden them.  Set your summer work party schedule and other summer events with input from your gardeners to avoid extraneous work days and encourage their investment.
  • Be available or find someone who can be.  With so many people away and preoccupied this time of year, it’s especially important to have someone dedicated to overseeing upkeep and answering gardener questions.  But not just you (you need a vacation too)!  Set a schedule early in the season with a core team of volunteers/gardeners to rotate who’s in charge.  (And let your gardeners know!)  Also, having a buddy system so that gardeners cover for each other while away is a great way to take the burden off of a single person.
  • Lay down the law when needed.  Many community gardens lay out consequences in official guidelines, so that gardeners understand what maintenance standard is expected of them and the outcome of a neglected plot.  Fully abandoned plots (if it should come to that) can be donated to a local food shelf or community group for the remainder of the season—a way to turn a negative into a positive.
  • Enjoy it!  Despite the challenges, this is an exciting time for enjoying the fruits of your labor.  Find ways to celebrate.  Perhaps rather than putting tons of energy into your own garden events this time of the season, tag onto other great happenings in your community, such as community dinners, summer programs, educational events through your community center, or town parades.Have fun and have a great July!

The Toolshed is a monthly set of tips for garden leaders by VCGN Program Manager Libby Weiland

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