22 Aug 2014
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Gardening for the Neighborhood

Thinking outside the garden patch; new ideas for close community gardening.

Gardening for the Neighborhood Gardening for the Neighborhood Gardening for the Neighborhood

The uncertainty facing our world is enough to make anyone nervous. We don’t have any control over so many things that stand to change our day-to-day lives, but there are some things we can do to help ourselves and our neighbors and save money while we do it. Gardening is a step in the right direction for assuming some control for our food supply, with the nice side effect of exercise and the release of calming endorphins.

One of my favorite money-saving strategies is to grow as much of our own produce as we can. We are blessed with a large backyard (my husband and I) and have been able to have an organic vegetable garden for over 15 years. Our family has shrunk in size so we don’t need to grow as much anymore, but that’s OK with us because as middle age thrust itself upon us, along with the attendant aches and pains, less garden work suited us just fine. That said, I do think we’ll rethink things this year and try to do a little more again. It would be nice to have some extra to share with neighbors and with the Danvers People to People Food Pantry.

If you don’t have a yard, you could try to grow some container plants such as tomatoes and peppers in a sunny spot on a balcony or patio, or even very sunny windows. There are other alternatives, too.

Danvers residents have for years had garden plots at , but my understanding is that of the nearly 200 plots, there are seldom vacancies and that there is usually a waiting list. The community plots are coveted for their low cost — $25 a year — and for the well water on site. If this peaks your interest, you should contact the Park Office at 978-774-6518 for details and further information.

I have a couple of other ideas: I’m thinking that there are many older people in town who still live in their homes, but find tackling a garden to be a bit much physically. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for some younger people to connect with these folks and plant and tend gardens for them and share the bounty?

I wonder if some enterprising person who reads this might talk this over with others around town or perhaps present the idea to the Danvers Senior Center. Maybe there would be a way to match like minded people up. If anyone is game, I’d love to hear the outcome and cover the story for you.

Another thought that sprang to mind is a twist on the above. Say you have a good size yard and enough sun to grow some nice crops, and so does your neighbor. Wouldn’t it be interesting to grow tomatoes and peppers in one yard and squash, cukes, beans and lettuce in the other? Get together and decide what your families like to eat and what you’d like to grow.

There are so many varieties to choose from and kids do seem to like to eat what they’ve helped nurture too. You could likely harvest more than enough to share and it would provide an excellent way to practice crop rotation if you trade off the next year. After all, as we New England gardeners know, one of the best things you can do for your soil is to rotate crops.

It also seems to me that growing more of a few types of vegetable plants would be less time consuming than growing a wide variety. That would make this a time saver for both families involved. Another benefit would be to harvest those crops and share some neighborhood meals together, once again with many hands making light work.

As the prices of everything sky rockets following along the path of oil and gas, I’ve seen reports that food could nearly double in cost over the next two years. Growing your own not only saves money, you know where it came from and that it hasn’t been treated with all sorts of unnecessary chemicals. That will help protect your health too. Having a plan to help a senior citizen or to share work with your neighbor forges bonds of friendship – also known to provide health benefits.

Now is the time to start planning your 2011 garden. I hope that I’ve planted the seeds of some ideas for you. In fact, I’ve already sown some seeds in our own garden. Peas were planted on St. Patrick’s Day, along with Danvers half-long carrots and a few days later I sowed some radishes. A few sprouts are poking up already!

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