Gardening in a Group: 6 Tips
The new White House garden is definitely a joint effort: it's 1,100 square feet that will be tended not only by members of the White House grounds staff but will involve students from nearby Bancroft Elementary School. Even the Obamas have announced intentions of getting their hands dirty while working in the new garden.
That sort of combined effort can be exactly what it takes to create a gardening success. Last year, I started a small balcony garden with some success. This year, I've teamed up with a friend in my neighborhood to plant a bigger and better garden: we're taking a joint approach to the effort just like the White House. If you've been thinking of starting your own little co-operative gardening effort, I've got a few tips from my own experiences that might yours go a little smoother.
- Plan out just what you each want to grow — and don't make assumptions. We've already got a great set of eggplant seedlings, but we didn't realize that neither one of us actually like eggplant until the seedlings started popping up.
- Decide early on where the garden will actually be, along with the materials you need. Our decision was pretty easy: although we both live in apartments, my friend has a yard that she's allowed to use. We'll still need to bring in planters to keep her landlord happy, though.
- Share costs and work as best you can. The fact of the matter is that the member of your joint gardening effort who actually lives with your garden will wind up doing more work. If that person winds up bearing the brunt of any expenses, as well, your garden probably won't make it past the first year.
- Take advantage of having more people involved. You can often get at least a few seeds from friends and relatives — if you and your partner both ask around, you may be able to get all of your seeds for free. The same goes for looking for boards you can reuse to build your planters or soil you can use for planting.
- Plan at least one shared meal from the results of your garden. While a shared meal isn't a necessity for a shared garden, it can be an enjoyable way to see how well your garden worked out and decide how you might want to adjust your plans for next year. It also lets you avoid at least some of the discussion on how you want to split up your produce.
- Square Foot Gardening can offer a lot of shortcuts for gardening as a team. Not only can you set aside specific squares for individual growers, but it can also simplify dividing the workload.
Have you teamed up with someone to grow a garden? If you have any tips to add, I hope you share them in the comments!