Since early 2007, a small group of area residents have pursued the idea of a community garden in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. In May of 2008, we finally secured land (pictured at right) at Broad Rock Middle School. We attempt to chronicle the progress below, working backwards. Scroll to the bottom for postings related to the very beginnings of the garden.
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This was our second year at Broad Rock, and significant progress was made. In the fall of 2009, SKHS Social Studies teacher, avid gardener, and builder John O’Malley built a sturdy tool shed on the center north side of the garden.This year, we increased the number of individual plots to 40, using the area at the east end of the garden. Also this year, through the cooperation of the Town of South Kingstown and Broad Rock Middle School, we ran water for our irrigation system from the school building itself.
Our food donation program continues, and more than 500 pounds of produce was donated by members to The Jonnycake Center’s emergency food pantry. Local builder/craftsman Chris DePaola built us an information kiosk, and builder/craftsman Bruce Decker built us a cedar gate. These were important steps in improving the communication to members, the “curb appeal” and the main pedestrian access to the garden.
Currently all 32 plots are leased, we have drip irrigation to almost all individual plots and are beginning to do irrigation for the common areas. We have perennial flower beds flanking the center area, and all but a few plots have abundant, healthy plants. We have established a system whereby 3 days a week a cooler is left at the site, for members to use for donating fresh produce to The Jonnycake Center. So far more than 300 pounds of produce has been donated in this way. Thanks to the Wakefield Rotary Club, we received a grant for nearly $3800, to go towards our irrigation system, a tool shed, and composting systems. In addition to conventional composting using a three bay pallet system, we have built a 4×8 worm composting system in the shade outside the fence, with more than 60 pounds of red wriggler composting worms. A tool shed is now being built. Arline Fleming just did a nice article about the garden in the South County Independent.
Late April 2009
The first applications came into Jonnycake Center for plots, and we began to see our new members out at the site. Then began the laborious task of digging out paths and preparing garden beds. As each new member assumed control of their space, they would dig out paths around their garden bed, and create raised beds in whatever configuration they chose. Once the paths were dug out, donated newspapers and woodchips from a local tree service were used to mulch the pathways.We had ordered berry bushes and fruit trees from various nurseries, and these were starting to arrive. We created an orchard area on the west end of the garden, and began planting apple trees, an Italian plum, a Stella cherry, raspberries, blackberries, and berries such as aronia, Cornelian cherries, Nanking cherries, blueberries, currants, and sea buckthorn.
Members began planting once their beds were ready, and so the pressure was on to erect the deer fence to protect tender young vegetables. Brian’s system proved itself, as the raising of the fencing was completed in one afternoon. Hardware cloth was obtained to line the foot-deep trench along the entire fence line, for supplemental fencing to keep out the rabbits and woodchucks.Many members began distinguishing themselves by working many hours on common tasks at the garden, even as they prepped and planted their own beds. A mountain of woodchips was used up as members mulched pathways, providing a finished look to the place.
Planting began, and plots continued to be claimed throughout May and by June, all 32 individual plots were spoken for. Brian completed the main and lateral hoses for the irrigation system, and sublaterals to most individual plots to facilitate watering before the drip hoses were placed (a gradual process).
The oats we sowed in the fall never did much, though they probably made the deer very happy. We waited patiently for the weather to clear, and for a decent thaw. Our friend Bob Knowles came out the first day that the field was dry enough to plow. In early April, David Gregg brought his Kubota front-loading tractor with tiller, and worked for about 3 hours, clearing very large rocks and tilling the field.
The soil was a rich brown, with good structure. We were waiting on results of soil testing at UMASS, but things looked extremely promising.We enjoyed the luxury of the freshly tilled dry soil for a few days, then severe storms turned the field into a packed near-hardpan again. A group of us met to work out the design and layout of the half-acre space. Once we had a plan, we began the process of measuring and demarcating the individual plots and paths, and advertising the availability of the plots for annual lease.
We were now faced with multiple tasks to complete to prepare for the garden’s opening in early May. The garden was measured and staked, with string used to mark off paths and plots, and common areas such as the school garden area and the orchard. Brian Maynard worked on the design for the garden’s drip irrigation system, and ordered the tubing and components. Garden by-laws were finalized by Lisa, Marisa and Betsy. Our governing board was chosen in March. The eyebolts and cables were attached to the fenceposts in preparation for the installation of deer fencing.
Using Liberty Rentals’ donated power auger, we dug 27 post holes and placed 12′ tall ACQ 4×4 posts. John R. used his truck to bring the auger to the site.Thanks to Dave, Marjie, Harry, Lisa, Don and Brian, we managed to install the posts in one day. This was a real milestone, and a great accomplishment, given that below freezing temperatures persisted for several days the following week. We are still on schedule. Thanks to everyone who helped out.
Early November 2008
Oats are growing at the site now for more green manure/organic matter benefit. We will be seeding winter rye this week. Tuesday of next week, thanks to a donation of a power auger from Liberty Rental in Peacedale, we will be drilling post holes around the perimeter of the site.
Our design team met for a very successful meeting on Aug. 27. Sharon D. hosted the meeting at her home. Brian, Kurt, John, Lisa, Marjie and Dave were in attendance, and Marjie facilitated. There was productive discussion of design priorities, then each member sketched out his/her own layout. There was a surprising amount of agreement on general layout and design elements, and we left feeling good about moving forward. Buckwheat will be plowed in over the next week, with the hope of putting in a second cover crop for the fall. We are also actively involved in grantwriting for the funding of basic needs such as fencing and an irrigation system.
Buckwheat is coming in nicely. Our next planning meeting is August 27.
Last week John O. sowed buckwheat at the site, to grow a green manure cover crop to add organic matter and limit the weed growth. It’s been raining a bit since, but we need more rain for all of the seeds to sprout. Wish us luck.
The meeting on the 12th was productive. Some of the regulars, and some newcomers, including Mary, who lives in the neighborhood of the garden. Interestingly, two new guys, Steve and Darren, came to us by way of contacting California-based Peak Moment, and Peak Moment directed them to David’s web project, PostCarbon Rhode Island. Maybe this internet networking stuff really works. We had Rudy, a Master Gardener from URI, who talked about Master Gardener projects around the state. We discussed a collaborative, multi-generational program involving the Master Gardeners, utilizing a portion of the garden site.
Our next step with the development of the site involved plowing and then harrowing, to prepare the grounds for the planting of a green manure cover crop. It is good to report that a local farmer, Bob Knowles, has now completed both the plowing and harrowing, as of yesterday.
Time for a field trip! John O., Don H. and Dave met up with Steve S. at the Southside Community Land Trust’s Somerset Garden, and City Farm. Leo from Southside showed us around the community garden (Somerset) and the market farm (City Farm). Very inspirational. Laotian women harvested greens and bitter melon from pervasive vines on the fence surrounding the entire site at Somerset, and hot peppers and other favorites proliferated.
At City Farm, manager and Rich Peterson was not to be found, but the evidence of his mastery and craft was everywhere, with beds of mesclun, beautiful chard, dinosaur kale, beans, tomatoes, and much more, growing in abundance. Out in back of the greenhouse, an apprentice worked with a beekeeper examining a recently acquired hive. We stood under a pear tree covered with fruit, surrounded by rows and beds of vegetables, and it was easy to forget that we were in the heart of South Providence.
Our next planning meeting is scheduled for August 13 at 6 pm at Peacedale Library.
Thanks to Marisa and Lisa, we now have a draft of by-laws for governance of the project that we have submitted to the town and to the school committee. Lisa also drafted a letter to go out to neighbors informing them of the project, and inviting them to participate.
Our first day out working at the site. We determined that we needed to kill the grass at the site prior to tilling, to make for easier tilling, and to control weed growth. Bob from Morningstar Nurseries provided us with large sheets of plastic, which he kindly delivered to the site. John R. and I met the truck that morning. In about an hour and a half, the two of us spread and stapled much of the plastic. John then left, and a bit later, Lisa, Susan, and Dianne, all from Jonnycake Center, came and helped for a bit. We stapled the plastic down, and later, throughout the day, we anchored the sheets down with several hundred bricks that Marjie and I carted from home. At day’s end, the stuff was still on the ground and holding in spite of the wind. It was a hot day, and you could already see the grass under the plastic had turned brown. The plastic sheets will remain in place for three weeks or so.
June 14, 2008
Our first post-approval planning meeting. It was a potluck at David’s house, attended by Don and Darlene, John and Marisa, Lisa, Laurie, David and Marjie. We discussed the recent favorable newspaper coverage, the forming of a governing board, recent communications between the group and the town, the superintendent of schools, and the head of buildings and maintenance for the school department, and then got into the logistics of developing the site. John O., Nancy and Brian arrived, which was timely, since they all had great suggestions, contacts, and areas of expertise to bring to the program. We formed subcommittees to focus on specific projects, such as design, field trips to other gardens, governance and research, fundraising and public relations…. Don agreed to contact the URI Master Gardeners, to inquire whether they would like to be involved with the project. The meeting overall was efficient, encouraging, enthusiastic, and the food and drink were excellent. We all parted company with good feelings about moving forward, and agreed to meet again on July 12.
May 27, 2008
Update: Our proposal was approved for the development of a beautiful 19,000 square foot site near the school. Check this page for future updates on our progress.Many thanks to the Town of South Kingstown, the School Committee, Superintendent Robert Hicks and school Principal Sheila Sullivan for their vote of confidence in this project. Our next planning meeting is June 14. Site development will be beginning this month, along with the formation of a board of directors.
I had been talking with our Town Planner about a community garden for South Kingstown, and today was a real high point. We have been working on securing an area on the grounds of Broad Rock Middle School. Last week, we met with him (Ray Nickerson) at the potential garden site. Today, Lisa, Susan and Nancy met with Superintendent Hicks and principal Sheila Sullivan at the school, and we basically got the go-ahead from them. The last group to approve the project is the School Committee, who we will meet at their meeting on May 27.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
We had the honor of participating in the Community Conversations on Hunger, sponsored by the Jonnycake Center in Peacedale. All of us there were really fortunate to hear from Abby Stark, a six year old who has collected more than $150,000 worth of grocery receipts since last year’s Community Conversation, to raise more than $1500 for the Jonnycake Center. Read the Providence Journal article.
(Check back at the top of this page for updates for 2011 and beyond)