Join a Community Garden: Dos and Don’ts

Community gardens: When to hoe your row and when to slow your roll!

If you’re a green-thumbed apartment renter, you probably don’t have a patch of yard to call your own. That can be frustrating for people who want to grow their own plants outside, but don’t worry! There’s an easy solution that’s probably not too far away: Join a community garden.

A community garden is a communal piece of land on which many people plant vegetables or flowers in divided plots. It’s a way to beautify a community, improve your diet, get some exercise, connect to the environment and save money on grocery bills, all at the same time.

If there’s a community garden near you that you’re interested in joining, go for it! But there are a few things you should know before you get your hands dirty. Read on for our dos and don’ts of community gardening.

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Plant a Windowsill Herb Garden and Let the Sun Shine In

Make sure you put something under the pots to protect your windowsill.

Make sure you put something under the pots to protect your windowsill.

Nothing brightens up your apartment like a few houseplants – not only for pretty décor, but for cleaning your indoor air as well. But you need an outdoor garden if you want to grow anything edible, right?

Think again! Even if you don’t have outdoor soil to plant in, you can still grow your own edible plants with a windowsill herb garden. Small herbs grow well in individual pots or long, narrow troughs that you can place right on your windowsill, where they’ll get plenty of sunshine.

Best of all, when you’re cooking a delicious dish that calls for a dash of rosemary, you can just reach right over and snip off a sprig. It’s good for your health, the planet and your dinner.

Ready to get planting? Here’s how to do it.

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Best Fall Vegetables to Grow on Your Apartment Balcony

Lettuce and spinach both grow well in containers, making them perfect for your apartment balcony.

Lettuce and spinach both grow well in containers, making them perfect for your apartment balcony.

August falls firmly in the summer season, but believe it or not, it’s the time to plant if you want to harvest crisp vegetables this fall.

If your apartment balcony gets enough sun, you can plant a container garden and grow your own food this fall, which saves you money in addition to brightening up your balcony.

You’ll want to invest in large containers, each one at least 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep, so your vegetables will have enough room to thrive.

Here are a few fall vegetables to consider planting this year:

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5 Tips to Prepare Your Garden for Spring

Domaine at Villebois Apartments in Wilsonville, OR

Early spring can be a time of excitement and release, when the temperatures finally warm up after a long and grueling winter. But if you have a green thumb, early spring might fill you with a sense of dread if you haven’t quite prepared your garden for spring planting. Don’t succumb to garden guilt. Here are five easy tips to get your container or community garden in tip-top shape for the spring planting season.

In the Weeds
If you’ve found that patches of weeds are beginning to grow in your garden, remove them and dispose of them carefully. Pulling or tearing at certain weeds like couch grass causes the roots to spread, so dig them out with a turning fork or trowel. Do not place the weeds in a compost pile, as you won’t want to accidentally spread the seeds around your garden. Once the weeds are clear, do a thorough clean up by removing leaves and other debris from the beds and borders.

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Unearth the Best Garden Stores in Indianapolis

If you want to make your apartment or yard more beautiful with plants, garden stores in Indianapolis can help.

Just because the summer is almost over doesn’t mean you have to hang up the garden tools just yet. Late summer provides the perfect backdrop for planting fall-harvest vegetables, such as butternut squash, snap beans, cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower, as well as late-harvest tomatoes and bell peppers. And don’t forget about planting late-summer flowers to replace those dried-up spring plantings; look for asters, salvia, goldenrod and certain varietals of daisies. Whether you never got around to planting in the spring or it’s just time to swap out for the fall, dig in and discover the best garden stores in Indianapolis below to get your yard or garden in shape in no time.

Fusek’s True Value
What: Even though True Value is a chain, stores are independently owned and operated. The 10,000 square foot Fusek’s True Value has been around since 2004, when downtown Indianapolis went through a revitalization. The sturdy brick building feels like the sort of place you’d look for shovels, rakes and fertilizer, but the service inside is what makes the business rock-solid. Plus, the store’s smaller size and great selection mean you can easily find what you’re looking for.
Where: 350 E. New York St., Suite 100, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Sullivan Hardware & Garden
What: It’s the little things at Sullivan Hardware & Garden that keep customers coming back for more, from the flower selection to the seasonal open houses to the free popcorn, the smell of which wafts temptingly throughout the store as you shop. Sales are frequent, and you can find out more about them, as well as the open houses (with free beer!) ahead of time by signing up for Sullivan’s email list.
Where: 6955 N. Keystone Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220

Paradise Landscape & Nursery
What: Big-name nurseries and home improvement stores may have large quantities of the same types of plants, but Paradise has a more extensive selection of plant varieties. Its offerings also include residential and commercial landscaping services, for those who aren’t sure where to begin, and a “like” for Paradise’s Facebook page ensures you’re receiving top-notch seasonal plant information with a side of humor.
Where: 11348 Pendleton Pike, Indianapolis, IN 46236

The Garden Center
What: The Garden Center grows nearly half of the non-nursery stock plants they sell, so if you’re not sure how to care for a plant you purchased, they likely have hands-on experience with making sure a plant reaches its full potential. With more than 1,000 varieties of seed and a gift shop, as well as a wide selection of bulbs, foliage, annuals, vegetables, hanging  baskets, perennials, bird supplies, herbs, tools and garden accessories, The Garden Center is a one-stop gardening shop for those times when you do need a big garden store.
Where: 3205 W. 71st St., Indianapolis, IN 46268

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/kali9

Break a Sweat with These Gardening Exercises

gardening exercises

Digging and shoveling can burn as much as 250 to 350 calories per half-hour.

With the first official day of summer fast approaching, you might be longing to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures. One of the best ways to do so is by gardening, an activity that can be good for the mind, body and soul.

Dan Hickey, the former editor of National Gardening magazine, claims that 45 minutes of gardening can burn as many calories as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.

Even if you don’t have a garden in your apartment community, there are many ways to get involved in a local community garden. In honor of National Gardening Exercise Day on June 6, get out in your garden and burn off some calories. Here, we’ve created a guide to help you get started, complete with various activities and tasks associated with gardening and what kind of health benefits you’ll gain from doing them.

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Five Easy Flowers to Grow in Small Spaces

Peace lilies are low-maintenance plants; they grow well even in low light.

Peace lilies are low-maintenance plants; they grow well even in low light.

Living in an apartment or a small space can make it interesting for those who want to do some gardening with indoor flowering plants. Chances are you don’t have a lot of space to work with, so larger plants are out, and a limited amount of natural light isn’t the most favorable of environments for growing plants.

Fortunately, you can still reap the benefits of gardening by choosing flowers that are perfect for small spaces. When looking for flowers to grow in your apartment, it’s important to keep in mind plants that are somewhat hardy, don’t require much sunlight and are relatively easy to take care of. Here’s our list of the easiest flowers to grow in your apartment.

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Creating a Window Box for Your Apartment

Adding a window box with flowers is an easy way to add character to your apartment

Driving around during the spring means you’ll spot lots of gorgeous and colorful flowers that create beautiful curb appeal for homes. Don’t let living in an apartment discourage you if you’re feeling inspired to plant your own flowers.

Grow an indoor garden using mason jars or use hanging pots to show off your pretty flowers on your porch. Another idea is to use a window box to add character to your apartment. Get started with these pointers and tips.

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Best Community Gardens on the West Coast

Community gardens are a great way to get outside, socialize and preserve the environment.

With the cold days and dreary nights of winter behind us, the long-awaited higher temperatures of spring might have you itching to get outside. And if you have even the slightest green thumb, you know that tending to a garden can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences during the warmer weather months. But if you’re living in an apartment, chances are you don’t have a yard of your own for planting flowers or vegetables. Luckily, cities across the nation are becoming hip to the idea of creating communal garden spaces for residents unable to garden on their own. Community gardening offers both physical and social benefits as well as enacting a positive change on the environment. If you’re on the West Coast, check out these great gardens where you can get down and dirty, as well as tips on how to start your own.

Stanford Avalon Community Garden

You might not believe that there are community gardens located within the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, but this city takes gardening very seriously. Emerging from the ashes of the beloved South Central Farm in Los Angeles, which was demolished in 2006 and was widely considered as the largest community garden in the nation, the Stanford Avalon Community Garden was founded by many of those displaced farmers and has grown to over 180 plots in its six short years of existence, running for 11 blocks in the Green Meadows neighborhood of the city. The garden has become so popular that there are nearly 100 families on the waiting list.

Location: 658 E. 11th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90059

Brentwood Community Garden

Portland is widely known as one of the greenest, environmentally-focused cities in the United States, so it comes as no surprise that there are over 40 community gardens in the city, with new plots being added regularly, providing fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to area restaurants and the chance to get outside and get back to nature. As the second largest community garden in the city, the Brentwood Community Garden was constructed in 1996 and features 78 garden plots, a fruit demonstration area, shed, gazebo with an 800 gallon water tank and five raised accessible garden beds.

Location: SE 57th Ave. and Cooper St., Portland, OR 97206

Fort Vancouver Garden

One of the more unique community gardens in Vancouver, the Fort Vancouver Garden is a volunteer-run, organic interpretive garden modeled after the type of garden that would have existed at the original Fort Vancouver in the 1840s. Many of the vegetables and flowers in the garden are varieties from that era, including beds of carrots, turnips, parsnips, roses and dahlias.

Location: 1001 E. Fifth St., Vancouver, WA 98661

Stone Soup Community Garden Project

Located in the ethnically diverse, lower-income Sacramento neighborhood of Del Paso Heights, the Stone Soup Community Garden Project was founded in 2003 to combat the rising rates of childhood obesity as well as provide a reliable source for fresh fruits and vegetables in the area. Named after the children’s book, Stone Soup, which is about two travelers who teach a village about the value of sharing ingredients and cooking food together, the garden is a community favorite.

Location: 3611 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento, CA 05838

Hayes Valley Farm

Founded in January 2010, the 2.2-acre Hayes Valley Farm was founded by a group of San Francisco urban farmers, landscapers and gardeners after the area it’s located on fell into disuse after the Loma Prieta earthquake. In addition to the garden space, Hayes Valley Farm also hosts workshops such as bee keeping, garden design and composting. In the summer, the farm screens a farm film series and offers yoga classes.

Location: 450 Laguna St. & Fell St., San Francisco, CA 94102

Are you interested in starting up a community garden in your neighborhood? Here are some ideas to help you turn a local plot of land into something you can really dig.

  • Organize a “town hall” style meeting of people interested in starting a community garden and determine your needs, such as what kind of garden it should be, who will be involved and who will benefit.
  • Form a planning committee to tackle specific tasks like funding, construction, communication and youth activities.
  • Identify existing resources that can help you plan out the garden, and then approach a sponsor to aid in the donation of seeds, tools or money. Churches, schools and private businesses are good places to start.
  • Choose a site based on the amount of daily sunshine, availability of water and whether or not the site passes a soil test for potential pollutants. Determine who owns the land, and see if gardeners can be granted a lease agreement.
  • Organize volunteer crews to prepare and develop the land, and then decide how you are going to lay out the site, factoring in number of plots and pathways between them.
  • Set some ground rules, and put them in writing. Common issues that may arise are how the money will be used, how plots are assigned, who will handle maintenance and whether or not gardeners will share tools.
  • Develop a strong communication network to keep all participants abreast of any news. Create an email list, form a telephone tree or install a rainproof bulletin board in the garden to inform members of relevant information.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/youngvet