For easy, accessible gardening, consider a community plot

2011-11-13T00:00:00Z For easy, accessible gardening, consider a community plotElena Acoba Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

What keeps you from growing vegetables? No space? Caliche? Water costs? No equipment?

For these and other reasons, consider working in a community garden.

That's what Lauve Metcalfe and Laura Walton did. The friends share a 60-square-foot plot at Sunrise Elementary School.

Metcalfe's Foothills town home has no backyard. "The back patio area is not conducive to any gardening to any extent," says Metcalfe, a health-and-wellness coach.

She's tried herbs in pots, but her microclimate and long periods away have not nurtured a healthy crop.

Caliche and critters have made gardening at Walton's Foothills home "off-putting," the financial counselor says.

"The alternative is to do some sort of raised bed," Walton says, "then you have to start to think about construction."

For her and many others, it's much easier to tend a community garden.

"Probably the most typical reason people join a community garden is they just don't have the space or their space is not quality space," says Gene Zonge, Community Gardens of Tucson administrator.

Zonge uses a community garden because his own yards are crowded with other landscape and he can't afford a higher water bill that a veggie garden requires.

The organization regularly waters its gardens. It also provides most gardening tools and equipment, as well as access to the community compost bin if there is one.

Gardeners bring their own gloves, soil amendments, seeds and seedlings.

"We ask them to bring their own labor and enthusiasm," adds Zonge, who emphasizes that community gardens foster cooperative efforts. People teach each other about gardening, tend to crops if someone is away and maintain the common areas.

Folks can work a 60-square-foot garden plot for $15 a month. Often several families or individuals work on a plot together. Gardeners are limited to two plots.

Gardeners sign an agreement to fully plant and harvest plants year-round, maintain their plots, garden organically, attend monthly meetings and meet other provisions.

To find a plot- some gardens have a waiting list - go to the group's website, www.communitygardensoftucson.org, pick a convenient garden and contact the person listed. Zonge recommends finding a place close to where you work, live, go to school or otherwise hang out. "It's really about forming a community. Our main work is supposed to be forming a relationship with friends and neighbors."

Plots available

An estimated 300 plots in 16 new gardens will become available by March, thanks to $175,000 in federal funds to the Community Gardens of Tucson.

Pima County awarded the organization a portion of its $15.8 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant.

Most of the new gardens are slated for the central and southside areas of the city, which currently don't have many community gardens.

Two opened in October and four more will be ready this month.

Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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