It’s February and we’re having a “normal” winter here in Indy. Cold, (warm!), snow, ice, crunchy grass, gray skies. If we close our eyes, we might dream of blue sky, fluffy clouds … and dirty hands… sowing seeds and planting starters in warm soil. Can you smell it?
If you’re dreaming of that first dig of dirt, satisfy some of that wishing now! It’s time to start thinking about what you want to grow this season. You can flip through seed catalogs (order them in print or shop them online) and start thinking about what’s going to taste and look great this summer.
To help enable your craving for the gardening life, we’ve collected some resources for you to visit. Seed catalog companies, garden planting timetables for Indy, and some information about making sure your soil is nutritious so your green “babies” can grow to be healthy and productive.
For you KMCG Gardeners!! Don’t forget that our Arsenal Park plots are ORGANIC! So seeds and starts should be chosen with that in mind!
Get your gardening dreams started here…..
The Keystone-Monon Community Garden launched as an idea in early 2015, and it took an entire year of planning, building our garden community, drafting proposals, securing land, and raising funds before the first garden bed was planted. As we enter our fourth growing season, we’ve found that the most important thing to fully embrace throughout the lifespan of any community garden is this: without community, it’s just a garden (and probably not a very successful one at that).
At our core, we strive to be a community organization rooted in gardening. We welcome all in our neighborhood and recognize that every person brings something of value to the table. Even as you work to build a garden, cultivate your plot, and harvest your gorgeous produce, the more important thing to cultivate continually is community.
So what’s your action plan?
- GATHER your community and establish whether there is a critical mass committed to both gardening AND community. Discuss community organizing topics, such as Asset Based Community Development and Assume Positive Intentions, and ask people why they are there and what they hope to get out of creating a garden.
- ESTABLISH your organization’s mission and vision. Don’t rush through this part, and make sure your mission and vision are developed collaboratively by all.
- EXPLORE land options. Some options include vacant lots, parks, churches, private land – any unused or underused space. Be creative, and be sure to consider access, parking, and, most importantly, water. The Indy Urban Garden Program is an example of our city supporting turning vacant lots into urban garden production. The Keystone-Monon Community Garden identified Arsenal Park as our desired space due to its central location and its popularity as a gathering space for all in our community.
- DESIGN your space, considering light, access to water, placement within your neighborhood, and any site-specific considerations, such as busy roads. Our design team developed two phases, allowing us to grow slowly, building off successes and giving us the chance to rethink any missteps.
- DEVELOP your proposal. Because we work closely with Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation, we developed an extensive proposal, including our mission and vision, goals, design plans, annual schedule, maintenance plans, and risk management tactics. While many locations might not require such an extensive proposal, this guidance document has been extremely useful as we have built the garden, established partnerships, and applied for funding.
- BUILD partnerships. Truly, you cannot talk to enough people, organizations, or businesses. Look to everyone in your community, and listen to their needs and services. Schools, businesses, non-profits, hardware stores, churches, restaurants, neighborhood development corporations and associations, other community gardens: all could potentially serve as partners or provide guidance and support.
- RAISE funds. In addition to a nominal per-bed fee (waived for anyone who is unable to pay), we have raised funds through grants, individual donations, donations from churches and businesses in our neighborhood, neighborhood garden tours, and seedling sales. We have also received in-kind donations of wood and supplies, free mulch from tree service companies, and the donation of a Bobcat from a neighborhood tool rental business to move soil.
- FINALIZE land agreements and ACQUIRE insurance. Each year, we submit reports and renew our agreement with the city. The American Community Gardening Association also recommends community gardens acquire general public liability insurance, which we established through Farm Bureau Insurance.
- BUILD! This is when you get to really activate your community in a very tangible way! During the spring of 2016, we hosted multiple volunteer days, moving mountains of mulch, building 20 garden beds, and putting together our storage shed. These are also some of the most fun, rewarding projects for volunteers who can walk away seeing what a huge difference they have made.
- MANAGE the garden. Applications, participant waivers, regular gardener communications: your group will need to decide how to manage everything.
- EDUCATE and CELEBRATE early and often. Offering educational and social opportunities rooted in gardening and celebrating your community help continue your positive momentum and involve all in the neighborhood, even if they aren’t gardeners.
If you read the steps above and felt like you could never accomplish it all on your own, you are probably right! But when you have a strong community of people who are willing and encouraged to speak up; share their skills, ideas, and connections; and empowered to take action, you can accomplish anything. And each person involved will make everything you do that much stronger, better, and easier to accomplish.
What an amazing year 2018 was at the Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park! We want to thank all in our community who made it such a success: our gardeners, our generous sponsors, and our community supporters. We are so grateful for you!
What was new in 2018?
- In August, our second Neighborhood Garden Tour raised over $430 for the garden. Close to 20 participants visited six gardens, and we welcomed the support of 13 local business sponsors!
- We hosted a weekly by-donation yoga series, Yoga in the Garden, all summer. Huge thanks to instructor John-Payton Rowley, SoBeFit. We welcomed almost 300 yogis-in-training of all ages and raised nearly $1,000 in donations for our instructor and the garden.
- We built a new welcome and communications area: a planting table, outdoor message board, and arbor to create more growing space and shade. Huge thanks to our construction guru Liz Laughlin, owner of Limelight Coffee, and the Marion County Master Gardeners Association, whose generous grant helped support these exciting infrastructure additions.
- We partnered with the IBG Youth Outreach Program during its pilot summer, hosting a weekly gardening and nutrition class for youth from our neighborhood.
- We hosted a seed giveaway, cover crop workshop, essential oils workshop, and seedling sale, open to all in our community, raising over $560.
- We hosted two big work days and expanded our perennial wildflower plantings. The monarch butterfly caterpillars found us this summer! Not only do flowers add beauty, but they greatly increase the biodiversity of pollinators in Arsenal Park.
- We partnered with so many in our community! We would be nothing without our community partners and supporters. Please support them year-round and during this holiday season. And the biggest thanks go to Indy Parks and Recreation for their continued support of the garden.
- We gardened – and our gardeners’ beds were simply gorgeous this year! 20 gardeners grew fresh, organic produce all summer long.
What do we have planned for 2019?
- Updated garden signage to tell our story and help community members connect with the garden and each other when they visit.
- Website updates, including a recipe corner, virtual garden tour, gardener biographies, and other activities.
- Expanded efforts to make a deeper impact in our neighborhood. And more yoga!
We have had a truly amazing third growing season at Arsenal Park. From the 21 garden beds bursting with life to our second annual neighborhood garden tour to our weekly by-donation yoga in the garden classes to our amazing spring seedling sale to the monarch caterpillars who found a home in our milkweed plants this summer, it has really been a great year.
And now we are reaching out for your help: join us for our fall garden cleanup! Just two hours of your time will make a HUGE difference at the garden so we’re ready to plant again next spring. We’ll have coffee, donuts, and a lot of fun.
WHAT: Fall Garden Cleanup
WHEN: Sat., October 6, 10am-noon
WHERE: Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park, 1400 E. 46th St.
WHO: YOU! All are welcome – we will have different projects for all age ranges.
WHAT TO BRING: Yourself, your friends, a water bottle, and some garden gloves and digging/weeding tools if you have them
We’ll see you there!
6 gardens, 1 great cause, and free admission to the last evening of the IN State Fair! Oh, and one last promo deal – $2 off per ticket before midnight on Tues., 8/14 for the 2nd annual NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN TOUR!
- WHEN: Sun., 8/19 from 2-5pm
- PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS TODAY ($2 off!!! Adults 16+: $10; kids 8-15: $6; kids 7 and under, FREE)
- WHAT IS IT? A bike tour (cars also allowed) of six different gardens, including the Demonstration Gardens and Greenhouse at the IN State Fairgrounds. Learn from home gardeners right in our neighborhood; meet your neighbors; AND get free admission to explore the last evening of the IN State Fair!
SPONSOR RECOGNITION: Our gardeners are not only prolific veggie growers, they are also local makers, producers, and businesswomen! Check out these wonderful supporters of the garden and our community (and show them some love!).
Thank you, Azure’s Secret Handmade Soaps, maker of beautiful handmade soaps, bath bombs, shower steamers, and so much more.
Thank you, Limelight Coffee Roasters (for the support AND the delicious, lightly roasted coffee that keeps us going)!