22 May 2016

A tour of Badger Prairie Community Garden

Some readers of this blog may be unfamiliar with community gardening.  So I thought today I'd walk everyone around the Badger Prairie Community Garden where I'm working a plot.

The top image is the best I can do for now as an "overview" (there's no high ground from which to take a photograph).  The garden covers about 1.5 acres, carved out of what was apparently a fallow farm field, and divided into about ninety 20'x20' plots, arranged in groups of six surrounded by communal pathways, with water standpipes spaced at nine locations.

Anyone can apply for one of the plots, which are allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis.  The fee is based on household income and runs from a nominal $20 up to $75 for higher-income families.  Users can plant whatever they like, but it must be for personal use, not for commercial resale.  Only organic methods can be used (no herbicides/pesticides).   Participants contribute volunteer hours towards the maintenance of the common areas.  Here's the mission statement:
The mission of the Badger Prairie Community Garden is to cultivate the spirit of community and enhance quality of life by creating and sustaining organic gardens of vegetables, flowers, plants, and herbs. The gardens will foster environmental sustainability and stewardship, advance horticultural and nutritional education, provide a beautiful and natural retreat, and produce a healthy supplemental food source for its gardeners and the hungry. Local groups, schools, families, and individuals will be able to reserve plots for a sliding scale fee at the garden allowing people of all ages and abilities a part in the farm to table movement. Whether involvement is educational, economical, or just for the enjoyment of getting your hands dirty and growing your own food, this offers a great venue for bringing the Verona area community together.
Now let's walk around. 

First, a fairly conventional plot - rows of presumably veggies, straw on the walking paths, and in this case a rather high plastic fence aiming to deter local deer.

This gardener must love tomatoes:

This lattice I presume will be covered with climbing beans or other legumes:

These wide wood-chip paths and rectangular plots remind me of colonial American herb gardening.  Not sure what he/she has is growing.

It wasn't until after I'd already drawn up my own garden plan that I saw this person's maximally-efficient use of space in terms of the growing/walking areas ratio:

There are quite a few garden plots set up with raised beds of varying size and complexity.  Some of them seem to require a substantial amount of time and effort to construct.

Straw-bale gardening is becoming increasingly popular.  

One of my neighbors has set up structures for climbing veggies...

Another neighbor is apparently channeling Oscar Madison:

And here I am.  This week's photo was taken a couple weeks after my previous report when I tilled in the six wheelbarrowloads of compost worked into the plot.  Since then I've added walking paths (woodchips rather than straw) and put up a rabbit-deterring fence.  The flagging tape is not to warn the rabbits but for the children who play around the gardens while their parents work; I wouldn't want the little angels to run into the fence and hurt... the fence. 

The far row follows the native American tradition of having corn interplanted with squash.  The next row is half dill and half Florence fennel.  Then a row of carrots.  Proximal to that is half parsley and half cosmos.  Along the back left are some potatoes, basil, and blue wild indigo.  The most proximal row is still unplanted - still haven't figured out what to put there.

One of advantages of having a community garden is the availability of community resources.  Here is the shed wherein one can find equipment for garden maintenance, including mowers for the grass but also rakes, spades, pitchforks and other useful tools.  Everyone who has a plot knows the combination to the lock - so just take stuff out, use it, clean it, put it back.  (The crime scene tape is just to protect a reseeding).

On the other side of the parking lot is one of several composting sites.  My volunteer hours involve helping to get this material layered and turned.  Last week it was already cooking.  Behind it you can see the finished compost...

Here.  The autoexposure washed out the sign reading "compost ready to use."  This is one of five truckloads of finished material generated not from our own garden's waste, but from the local government's leaf-recycling.  Any gardener can help himself/herself to up to eight wheelbarrowloads.  Behind the finished compost pile you can see a now-almost-depleted pile of woodchips for pathways and walkways.  And to the left of these is...

... the pile of composted manure (ready to use)

And finally, a nice touch.  Installed at the entrance to the garden is a wash-up station with non-potable water for washing veggies.  Also a rudimentary first aid kit.

Not shown in this photoessay is the other strength of a community garden: the participants.  You start with a baseline of nice Midwesterners, and then select the subset of People Who Like To Garden, and you have very nice companions.  All that's necessary to start a conversation is to walk past someone's plot and ask "Whatcha growin?"  Friendships are easy and uncomplicated and you don't even have to wear your good going-shopping-at-Target blue jeans; you can wear your dirty-but-not-washed-because-you're-going-to-sit-in-the-dirt-again-to-weed jeans.

I'll post some followup photos as the season progresses.


  1. Very cool. When we lived by Lake Kegonsa, we had a big garden with just about anything you could grow there. There was also a big raspberry patch, already in place. Fond memories!

  2. What a wonderful community garden!! Please DO keep us updated, on not only your bed, but all of them.
    Hat's off to you!

  3. Restores my faith in humanity. We need more community gardens and fewer fences.

  4. Very nice! I love the community garden concept and wish I'd had one locally when I lived in the city. I might have been less desperate to move out. As it is I now live on just short of 2 acres and have all the space to garden in that I could want. Gardening is addictive I think. Every year I have expanded my little garden by at least one more row, and am growing more and more varieties of fruits and vegis.

  5. Is there a portapotty or privy?

    1. There is a trail curving behind the trees, and the vegetation is lush along the trail.

  6. I think it was the Fenway Victory Gardens that got me thinking about wanting a garden. If we'd stayed in Boston, I was going to apply for a plot.

  7. if you wash your veggies in non-potable water, don't you then have to wash them in potable water, to wash off any non-potable vestiges off the veggies?


  8. Congrats! The garden is sure to give lots of pleasure, and you are bound to see some interesting insects. Do please keep us posted from time to time!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...