Well that’s a great question and most communardeners(my own special blend of community and gardener…you’re welcome) usually ask themselves that. In our case, the community garden plots are all raised beds and that is what we need bare in mind when thinking about preparing to plant. We are sharing 3-4×8’ beds and they are fairly overgrown from winter and possibly from not being planted or cared for the season before. Our neighbor went about the laborious work of removing weeds and killing ant colonies, which had invaded the beds pretty heavily. We utilized a Bonide ant killer, which requires waiting a certain amount of weeks before planting or harvesting. We have done just that. Now we have started the process of amending the soil before planting. We have decided to amend the soil with Humboldt Nutrients Myco Madness(a diverse blend of beneficial bacterias, mycorrhizal fungi, and trichoderma), a local mushroom compost, lime, and topsoil. Myco Madness may be watered in if you prefer, and Myco Maximum is a good granular substitute as well, but I like the Madness for a microbe addition. We used mushroom compost, but you could substitute any compost you would like. Some communardeners might even want to use a manure of some sort like chicken, cow, or any other of your favorite animal. My father in law swears by some Zoo Poo that he gets from a buddy. I just like saying Zoo Poo…….. Zoo Poo(hehe). Once you have your garden beds amended and turned to make sure all inputs are thoroughly mixed throughout the bed with no major concentrations of any one item, then pick your varieties and plant. Bare in mind this is a very remedial type of supplementation and there are many other possible needs that might need to be addressed in other beds, or other gardens, but we kept it simple. Other supplementation to consider might be aeration of soil(perlite, rice hull, or wood chips), or other non plant food ingredients. Again, we wanted to keep it simple, and we will be supplementing nutrients in the soil with Humboldt Nutrients Natural Grow, Bloom, Deuce Deuce, and others. We will be top feeding with a good old fashion 1-gallon watering pail to explain rudimentary mixing of liquid nutrients. When picking varieties to grow you should take into consideration what your gardening zone is and what best grows in your area given temperature and climate conditions. Here is a quick website to check your zip code: http://garden.org/nga/zipzone/
The next thing you want to consider is what you and your family like to eat or grow for medicinal purposes. For our garden beds we have gone with some staples like tomatoes, peppers, kale, broccoli, and a few herbs. I must say that we are definitely not using this community garden as our sole source of vegetables and it is more of a fun supplement to our normal vegetable purchasing, including local farms, and farmers markets that we utilize. It is also very much an educational pursuit for our kids and ourselves, as well as being socially engaged with our community. Once you have made a decision on what to plant, then you do just that….plant your starts. I’m not going to coach you on how to plant a start, because we have the world wide web for that, so check it if you need to. We did not start from seed because of the late frost around here in Michigan, but rather bought starts from a local CSA plant sale. There are many other places that you can find quality starter plants including farmers markets and local garden centers. Some communardeners get very serious about how they space plantings and where they put what. There are many methods for maximizing space like Square Foot Gardening(I have included a picture of one of my communardener neighbors who is doing such a method) developed by the recently passed master gardener Mel Bartholomew, or Companion Gardening, which I’m not sure who came up with, but we just decided to space things out nicely and not get too bogged down with maximizing space and yield, as this is more of a fun pursuit then food production. Obviously, some communardeners might take it a little bit more seriously and you really can get a lot of food out of a very small space. I will do my best to highlight some of the other garden plots that might be better inclined towards yield. I’m not sure if I said so, but you need to water after you plant…..yeah….definitely water them. Water is a delicate balance with outdoor garden beds, as you have 2 spouts to deal with. You have to deal with Mother Nature’s water, as well as your own supplementation. It’s been a pretty dry June in Michigan and we are having to make sure we supplement Mother Gaia with regular trips down to the garden to water. When watering, you should always take into consideration source water and what the composition of said source water might be. We like to leave full watering pails out overnight to make sure any chlorine from the city water source evaporates before applying to our garden beds. This way we are not harming important Humboldt Nutrients Myco Madness and mushroom compost microbes within the soil that do the work of mineralizing nutrients to make available to our baby veggie and herb starts. Well, that’s it for now. Let the summer sun do it’s work and stay tuned for more community garden craziness to come. Thanks for reading!