10 Commandments of Community Gardening

Gardening styles and philosophies can collide in any neighborhood where manicured lawns collide with patches of wildflowers. So you would think that community gardeners who tend plots shoulder to shoulder would have problems. But community gardeners seem to put as much emphasis on the community as they do on the gardening.

Ingrid Phillips, a gardener at Sabathani Community Center, said all of the gardeners at the sprawling Minneapolis site respect each other, often lending a hand or offering advice to newbies.

From the suburbs to the city, most community gardens usually post a few basic rules governing behavior in these popular centers of horticulture. But here are 10 rules for keeping peas — I mean, peace — in any shared garden.

BE CAREFUL OF YOUR LAND

The plots must be planted on a certain date and regularly maintained. One of the biggest complaints community gardeners have is untended plots and weeds. If you, or a fellow gardener, are falling behind, consider asking the community for help.

KEEP PATHS CLEAR

Gardeners must be able to negotiate between plots with watering cans and wheelbarrows. Keep the area around your plot clean and consider using woodchips or mesh fabric on walkways.

RESPECT BORDERS

Good fences certainly make good neighbours. Temporary fences made of mesh, wire, or wood help define boundaries and keep clumsy feet from crushing tender new seedlings. They also help deter deer and rabbits.

THINK SHADE

If you are planting tall plants, consider the shade they will cast. Some plants, such as corn, can shade plants in the next plot. And remember that large permanent plantings such as raspberries, blackberries and asparagus may be prohibited by garden rules.

CONSERVES WATER

Not all community gardens provided water. If so, be sure to save it. Water early to avoid evaporation. Repair leaky pipes. And do not carry pipes across another plot.

LIMIT CHEMICALS

Most community gardens prohibit or strongly discourage the use of synthetic chemicals for pest and weed control, or even fertilization. Instead of turning to chemicals, ask another gardener for strategies to control insects and disease.

KEEP IT CLEAN

If there is no composter on site, take the clippings and dead plants home and compost them at home. Diseased and pest-infested plants should be removed.

KEEP A COVER OVER THE NOISE

Community gardens are usually bustling, but unwanted noise from radios and cell phones is frowned upon. Turn off the gadgets and commune with nature.

ENCOURAGE CHILDREN

Children are welcome in most community gardens, in part because early exposure to the joys of gardening can spark a lifelong passion for planting. Unruly children, however, spoil it for everyone. Keep children under control and leave pets at home.

DO NOT STEAL

Theft can be a problem in community gardens that are far from the watchful eyes of nearby owners. Harvesting your produce quickly helps reduce theft.

Rhonda Fleming Hayes is a Minneapolis-based garden writer. She blogs at www.thegardenbuzz.com.