As I recently mentioned here, the community gardeners in my town are fighting – with the treehuggers who don’t want the shade-producing trees nearby removed, and with each other over rules outlawing the use of synthetic gardening products. And people wonder what’s there to rant about over gardening? Ha!
So one sensible solution being proposed is to create MORE community gardens, especially ones with a water supply, which the existing gardens curiously don’t have, and I agreed to sign the petition to urging our city councilmembers to make that happen. But when I saw the item in the petition that all new gardens be organic-only, I wondered if that’s the right way to go. What about letting each garden make their own rules, rather than having them handed down from the guvment? And what about organic products that are nonetheless pretty darn toxic, like high-test vinegar?
Surely the Internet has the answers. Unfortunately, the American Community Gardening Association’s sample rules are only available to (dues-paying) members. So if you’re a member, could you tell us what their rules say?
Moving on, a nonprofit for community gardens in the Twin Cities requires this pledge from its members: “I commit to using organic gardening methods and will not use chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) in or near the gardens” and goes on to specifically prohibit the use of “synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers like Miracle-Gro,” et cetera.
Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture has rules, too: “Using herbicides and black plastic mulches is prohibited.” In Boston the rules state “Avoid chemical pesticides” and “No herbicides,” meaning all herbicides. So, no vinegar. Community gardeners in San Diego must follow this all-encompassing rule: “I will not apply any pesticides in the garden.” Any!
Closer to home, in Richmond, VA “Gardeners shall use only organic fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, and use them in such a way as not to affect other plots. No genetically modified seed allowed.”
And closest of all, the adjoining Maryland county’s rules say that
Organic practices are required in all parts of the community garden. Garden pests and plant diseases can be especially serious in the community garden. Only organic methods such as handpicking bugs, using row covers, and applying pesticides labeled as OMRI-approved or organic can be used in the community garden. The garden liaison volunteer(s) in each garden, or the Community Garden Coordinator can help you locate information about controlling pests, and treating and/or removing diseased plants.
I could go on but the bottom line is that I couldn’t find a single set of community-garden rules on the Internet that permit Integrated Pest Management.
For one last opinion I turned to a former community-garden organizer who’d learned over the years that it’s “a challenge to specify what can/can’t be used, since gardeners might not have enough knowledge, and the garden might not organize sufficient supportive education, demonstration and product sourcing. But I do think it’s great for community gardens to be minimally IPM-limited and better, organic. The key is the supportive education, demonstration and assistance with product sourcing. Lots of gardeners just don’t know what these terms mean or how to do it easily.”
Now I get it. Community gardeners don’t necessarily have detailed knowledge of toxicity levels for every product on the market, or best practices for their application.
So having been educated on the subject, I’m happy to support community-garden rules that prohibit certain products, but I’d go farther than “organic-only” because as GardenRant readers know, organic isn’t synonymous with safe, and rules that get more specific make the most sense to me.
So, what do YOU think? And if you’ve gardened in community plots, what’s been your experience?