Key Etiquette Tips for Community Garden Novices 

Imagine the scenario. You have just moved into a modern condo or luxury apartment community, and discover that it has a community garden. For the first time, you have the opportunity to grow and eat fresh fruits and veggies, all while enjoying the experience of gardening on your own. Yet before you head to the community garden to start trying out your green thumb, you need to know that there are specific etiquette rules that you should follow. A community garden is a shared space, and it is much better enjoyed if everyone adheres to a few simple standards.

Know Where Your Spot Is

Most community gardens will provide gardeners with a set plot. Make sure you know the confines of your plot and don’t let your plants grow into another area unless you ask your neighboring gardener first. Even if it appears that the space is not being correctly used or tended, you do not have permission to grow things in it. Someone may have plans that they just haven’t put into motion. Also, only harvest from the plants in your plot. If those tomatoes your neighbor is growing look delicious, make a note to plant some in your area next year.

Clean-Up When You’re Done

After you spend your time in the garden, clean up. If you pull weeds, dispose of them properly so seeds can’t get loose and take root in your neighbor’s plot. If you bring tools or fertilizer to the area, take it home when you’re done. Clean up any loose dirt off of the non-garden areas, so the area looks lovely and inviting. Keeping the area free of clutter helps it remain an asset to the entire community, even those who don’t choose to use it.

Weed, Weed, and Weed Again

Weeds will destroy all of your hard work, but in a community or patio garden, weeding becomes even more critical. If you don’t take care of weeds, they not only hurt your plants, but they also spread to your neighbor’s plot and hurt their hard work. Weeding needs to be a top priority for your plot. If you cannot keep up with the weeds, be willing to give up your plot to someone who has the time. Weeds hurt all of the gardeners, so they need proper tending.

Use Caution with Chemicals

If you choose to use chemicals to control pests or feed your plants, be careful. Your neighboring gardeners may not want those same chemicals on their plants. Perhaps they are striving to garden organically, or maybe they have a sensitivity to a particular chemical. To protect them, keep your chemicals confined to your plot. Also, before using any non-organic chemicals, check the rules for your garden. If it’s an organic-only community garden, stick with allowed substances.

Walk the Paths

When walking around in the garden, keep to the designated paths. If you have to step in the garden itself, make sure you step between the plots, not directly on a plot. Even an area that looks like it is not planted may have seeds or bulbs underneath the soil, and the weight of your foot could damage these in this delicate growing stage. If a vine plant grows into the walking path, try not to step on it.

Keep the Noise Down

If you’re going to enjoy some music while you garden, use earbuds or headphones to keep the volume under control, remember this is a shared space, and your choice in tunes may not be the same as someone else. Others who are gardening may want to have a conversation with someone or enjoy some quiet and solitude. Similarly, if you are having a conversation, keep it more subdued. Respect those around you who are sharing the space.

Keep Shadows in Mind

All fruit and vegetable plants need sunlight to thrive. In a shared garden space, where each gardener is trying to plant as much as possible in their plot, this can become problematic. If you choose to plant tall plants, like corn, for example, be considerate of the shadow it will cast. Consider a pattern or planting location that will allow the shadow to fall in a non-planted area, like a walking path. This may not be possible at all times, but it’s best to be considerate of others when you can.

Consider Sharing

If you have a plant that produces more than you can eat, consider sharing! You can build friendships with fellow community garden members, and you might get a share of their bounty too. There is no reason to let your hard work go to waste if you can’t use all of the harvest. If you plant different items than your neighbors each year, you can share and share alike so that everyone can enjoy the fruits of each other’s labors.

Mind Pets and Children

If you have pets or ever bring children with you to the garden, make sure they are under control. Animals and young children tend to lack control over where they go when they are playing outdoors, and they can quickly damage young plants. If you can, avoid bringing them with you to your gardening times.

Communicate with Others

Most community gardens have a garden committee or similar group that oversees the garden. Communicate regularly with this group, or become an active participant in it if they need more help. This will help you ensure you follow all of the group’s rules, and it also helps you make connections within the community.

A community garden is an excellent resource for your community, and it is something you should consider taking advantage of if you love fresh produce and spending time outdoors. Like most community amenities, a community garden works best when everyone who uses it follows specific rules and guidelines. By paying attention to these things and treating other gardeners the way you want others to treat you, you can all enjoy this community asset to the fullest.