If you had hoped to start a vegetable garden this year, but fear you’ve procrastinated yourself out of luck, there’s still hope — and help.
Hope, because Middle Tennessee is either in the midst of or nearing the recommended fall planting dates for a variety of crops from beans and kale to squash and tomatoes. Help, because Nashville has benefitted from the establishment of more than a dozen community gardens in recent years. It’s a golden opportunity for anyone who wants to eat healthier, more sustainable foods and exercise one of our manliest traits: self-reliance.
At the Chestnut Hill Community Garden at First Avenue South and Chestnut Street, $10 buys you a raised-bed garden of your own for an entire season. “That allows you to plant and work in there, and we just take that money and put it back into the garden,” said garden founder John Munn. “We offer it to anyone who wants to come. The idea is to have a place for the community to come together.”
The garden has proven popular since it opened in 2009 with no budget, and has grown to 44 boxes. And the food, John said, has proven delicious. “I must say, it’s excellent. Especially when you work it, pull it out and put it on the table yourself.”
John and other experienced gardeners also are more than happy to lend a hand to newcomers and offer tips on when, how deep and how far apart to plant their crops. It’s all part of the neighborly mindset that has grown not just food, but community. Surplus crops, for example, are distributed to needy residents in the neighborhood and a local soup kitchen.
“We draw people to the community garden to come together and start taking ownership of their own neighborhood,” John said. “We want to do a good thing. We want to bring sustainability to everybody’s lifestyle.”
The organization NashVitality published this list of community gardens in Nashville, but keep in mind that not all community gardens are the same. Each organization has its own mission. Some, like the Chestnut Hill garden, allow anyone to purchase a plot of their own. Others, such as those run by The Nashville Food Project, are charities that seek volunteers to help raise food that ultimately will be given to the needy.
If you’re interested in starting a new community garden in your own neighborhood, the American Community Garden Association has a primer.
If you don’t have the time to garden yourself, but like the idea of eating and supporting local food and food growers, community-supported agriculture (CSA) may be for you. Under the model, farmers sell “shares” to consumers. In return, you get a box of fresh, seasonal produce straight from the farm every week.
Recommended fall planting dates:
Lima beans: through Aug. 1
Tomatoes: through Aug. 10
Broccoli: Aug. 1 – Sept. 1
Kale: Aug. 10 – 30
Carrot: Aug. 20 – Sept. 15
Spinach: Sept. 1 – Oct. 15