A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

How we grow...Veganic Community-based gardening

The Sharing Gardens is based on the concept of mutual generosity; building relationships through the sharing of time and resources. One of the ways we demonstrate this is through our process of building fertility in our soils.

Since 2020 we have grown all our food "veganically" and without the use of commercial fertilizers. This means we use no livestock manures (cow, chicken, sheep etc) and no animal by-products (blood or bone meal etc) or any products mined or shipped from distant lands (gypsum, bat guano etc.). Being vegetarian, and committed to deriving our food from local sources whenever possible, this way of growing food just makes sense to us!

Most of our garden's fertility comes from leaves...
Our system is simple: the majority of our soil's fertility comes from leaves and grass which we compost in large wooden bins or in the paths of our greenhouses

...and grass clippings.

The challenge is in gathering enough materials. Here's where the mutual generosity comes in! We provide a drop-off site for our neighbors and yard-maintenance companies to bring their leaves and grass. This means they don't have to pay to have these valuable materials hauled away in trash cans, or deposited at the closest municipal-scale composting site (25 miles away). We receive these materials in abundance and are able to extensively mulch and compost our garden beds, create our own potting mix and have enough compost to share with the volunteers in our gardens who have small gardens of their own.
Besides composting yard waste in large wooden bins, we spread it in layers in the paths of our greenhouses which turns to compost beneath our feet. Donn: spreading grass clippings in the SunShip greenhouse.

Compost is scooped up from the paths in the autumn, sifted and bagged for use throughout the coming season.
Craig, sifting compost.
When people drop off their yard waste in plastic lawn/leaf bags
, we hang them to dry on clotheslines in our greenhouses. Once dry, we roll them into bunches of 5-6 bags, twist-tie them together and put them in a covered barrel at the drop-off site for our neighbors to take for free and use for future loads. This helps reduce our community's use of plastic.

Llyn, folding leaf bags for re-use.

We place a sandwich-board sign out on the street, inviting neighbors to bring us their  leaves and grass. Touching up the paint is a winter task...

Barrel on the left holds free bags that have been dried and rolled in bundles for people to re-use. We ask people to leave the bags untied and to turn them upside-down to prevent rain from getting in.

To read a detailed post about our veganic soil-making methods, CLICK HERE.

A small percentage of our soil  fertility also comes from coffee grounds collected from coffee shops by friends of the Gardens and wood ash (left), a by-product of how we heat our home. Here is a LINK explaining the benefits of these free resources.

We're so very grateful to all our neighbors who have participated in this program this year.


Free woodchips for our town!

Though our initial purpose for forming the Sharing Gardens was to provide free fruits and vegetables to food charities, we've always wanted our project to be helpful and relevant to other folks in our community who don't shop at the Food Pantry. This year we found a way.

A free wood-chip pick-up and drop-off site!

We share a large parking lot with the S. Benton Food Pantry which provides easy access both for the chip-trucks and neighbors with trailers to turn around in.

The Sharing Gardens shares a large parking lot with the Community Center/Food Pantry next door.

This program has benefits for everyone involved:
it saves the tree companies the time to drive an extra 25 miles to the closest municipal-scale composting facility, and the money they charge for yard-waste deposits ($70/load!). And our neighbors have a reliable source of free wood-chips at an easily accessible site.

Tree companies are able to easily drop off a load of wood chips and our neighbors also can get close for loading.

Sandra and Jenny help Jim load wood chips onto his trailer.
We hope the program can continue indefinitely!