Friday, February 24, 2012

Trouble At The Ranch

When I arrived at the beach farm the other day, the sun was shining, the wind not too blustery, and the garlic growing, ever so slightly. Not long after another gardener arrived, Wolf, and he was upset because of a letter he had received from the NPS. He said they were finally going to till the whole thing under. I had heard these words before from NPS staff, but they had always been more a registration of dissatisfaction than a real threat. He said that we would have to remove everything or see it put into a dumpster. We could hardly argue with some of the points about the nature of Ft. Tilden's community garden, but to till everything in March shows how little they know about the garden, including the thousand or so slowly growing bulbs of garlic between me and Wolf.

Coffee Grounds
After a large apple and a tear of fresh bread from Wolf's trunk, we got on with the work at hand. I was at the garden to dispose of 6 months worth of studio coffee grounds. I also needed to do some winter chick-weeding, the most pervasive at the beach farm mid-winter.

The next day I received my letter from the NPS. I understand their complaint -Ft. Tilden is a mess, the people have no idea how to compost as a group, several plots are completely weed-filled, the boundaries are sloppy, the water system is galvanized and rusting, the fence falling over, and I could go on. But, on the other hand, my plot looks good, and so does Wolf's, and a number of others. If they till, they are going to till in all those weed seeds that Betsy and I worked so hard to eliminate from our plot. Don't even mention the little pieces of mugwort that will make their way to us. They plan on putting in PVC irrigation pipes, and that is smart, because the old galvanized system is rotting and leaking and generally wasteful of water. That said, I have an irrigation system in place and I would hate to see them set things up in a way that limits my ability to water automatically.

But all that, all that, is nothing compared to this: they want us to organize. Yep, but I think they will get the most push back on this because its our lack of organization that makes Ft. Tilden the place it is -at least for this crowd. Its casual. Yeah, you have to deal with weedmeiser next door, and the people with four plots to themselves, and the trash, and the plant in May and never return, but on the other hand, if you have some initiative you can pop open the pipes, install your own automated drip system, grow outside of their coordinated "garden season," and generally come and go as you please. But the NPS wants to put the community back into the community garden - they want us to do whole garden time, they want organized composting, they want signs on every plot, they want a leader (I'm hiding in the tomatoes), they want meetings.

I am happy to say that they are not planning on tilling now, which is a great relief and shows some insight into gardening. They are planning for October one, a month I am still growing, but I can plan around it. As for the rest of the changes, we can only wait and see. Organization means more rules, or at least, more following them. No organization means suffering the lameness of others but also increasing your awesomeness as you see fit.


  1. Thank goodness they aren't going to till.

    There will always be people who want to put organization into anything community based. Hopefully it won't mean too many insane rules to follow.

  2. Damn.



    Wish I had one of those weed filled plots! Guess I should have put my name down.

  3. Still can. Especially if heads are gonna roll.

  4. Good luck whatever comes of it. I'm gonna wager that most New York City community gardens have some degree of organization and that most of the rules aren't too onerous for members, but that's just a guess. Perhaps Greenbridge at BBG or another community garden in the city might be helpful resources if it turns out you must go that way.


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...