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.
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!
So many times, we fall into the trap of making an herb “section” of our garden and putting all the herbs together. We love this article we just stumbled across on companion planting herbs – or planting them alongside certain vegetable plants to yield a stronger, more productive garden.
When you companion plant with herbs, you can:
- increase yields
- repel pests
- encourage pollination
- provide shelter for beneficial insects
Learn how to use dill, marigolds, chives, basil, parsley, lavender, and rosemary for a stronger – and tastier – garden this summer: “Companion Planting with Herbs for a More Robust Garden” by Chris Dalziel on Attainable Sustainable.
The countdown to our Seedling Sale and Mother’s Day Pop-Up begins! This Saturday, April 28, we will have over 300 beautiful seedlings for your garden. All proceeds benefit the Keystone-Monon Community Garden, which is a completely volunteer-, donation-, and community-driven endeavor.
This year, we’re also featuring two of our garden friends’ amazing businesses to make this a one-stop shop for the mom or mom figure in your life. You’ll find beautiful seedlings, gardeners soap from Azure’s Secret Handmade Soap, locally roasted coffee from Limelight Coffee Roasters, crafts and gifts for the kids to put together for mom, and we’ll even have extra seeds on hand to give away.
DATE: Sat., 4/28 from 10am-noon
LOCATION: St. Paul’s On the Way, 803 Broad Ripple Ave. (Sale is on the second floor, and there is ample lot parking across the street from the Broad Ripple post office – and street parking, too).
Come say hi, and tell your friends! Thanks to St. Paul’s On The Way for hosting us in their beautiful Broad Ripple space and Whole Foods Market (Indianapolis – 86th St.) for their generous seed donation.
2018 marks our third growing season at the Keystone-Monon Community Garden at Arsenal Park, and we invite you to grow with us!
Please visit our “Garden With Us” page for full details about the application process. You can also contact Christie and MaryAnna at KMCommunityGarden@gmail.com with questions.
What’s so special about the Keystone-Monon Community Garden? While growing our own fresh, organic produce brought us together, even more than that we are a community organization. We believe community gardens:
- Grow community strength and cohesiveness
- Normalize urban agriculture
- Provide a place to grow food and learn together
- Celebrate the power of people as we work to build knowledge, empower, and engage the full diversity of our community
- Increase neighborhood pride and beauty; decrease crime
- Build new connections among community members, increasing care and concern for others
If you are interested in growing your own food and getting involved in your community, join us in 2018!