Weekly Garden Inspection at Mansion Greens Community Garden

Weekly Garden Inspection at Mansion Greens Community Garden (By Babara Hankins) 


Community Garden Council meeting in November 2016, there was a discussion about the problem of gardeners losing enthusiasm and neglecting their plots. Most Community Gardens have this issue from time to time. 

In early 2016, the MGCG Garden Committee met to try to come up with some ideas to keep the garden well cared for during the growing season. We looked up bylaws from a number of community gardens and saw ways to deal with negligence through fines and other punishments. We decided we didn't want to become the Garden Police, so we came up with a plan to use peer review as our main “enforcer”, with a back-up of banishment or the cashing of a $50 “lapse of responsibility”cheque, should the peer review not work. This means there would be a consequence for not carrying out duties or keeping the plot looked after.

I'm happy to report that no cheques were cashed and no one was banished, and we had the best-looking garden yet. An added bonus was that we became a stronger community.

Here's how it worked:

The Garden Committee recreated an Inspection Sheet that included the 20 individual plots, the 4 communal plots and a list of duties (ie compost, shed). At registration, we requested that gardeners include a $50 cheque which would only be cashed in the case of 3 unsatisfactory (Needs Upkeep!) reports. Those who did not want to leave a cheque would be asked to leave the garden after 3 unsatisfactory reports.

Every week beginning June 1, one member would do a walk through and fill out a report on the garden which was forwarded to all members. This peer review would rate the plots (Looking fabulous!, OK, Needs Upkeep!) and other areas. The inspector awarded a “Plot of the Week” using a metal sun ornament.

The gardeners took their inspection duty very seriously and wrote detailed and enthusiastic reports. Some were funny, some uplifting, and all of them helped us get to know each other and work together better for our garden and community. Just the idea that someone would be walking around the garden taking notes was enough to make us want to work a bit harder on our plots and duties. We also helped each other more: if someone was away on a trip, others would keep an eye on their plot and help with watering and weeding. The inspection system worked so well that we no longer need the back-up enforcers.

Here are some excerpts from 2016 inspection reports that show different styles: some are very specific, others took a more general approach.

July 2:

Looking fabulous: #1,4,5,7,9,11,13,14,17,18,19,20. OK: 3,6,8,10,12,15,16.

#1 Things look a bit too close - suggest harvesting lettuce

#2 Needs upkeep, but we know you got a late start.

#3 Lots of weeds to pull.

#4 one weed -ha ha!

#5 good spacing

#6 needs TLC

#7 Don't forget to harvest.

#8 More dirt needed where weeds were.

#9 can't complain

#10 Keep at it. Herbs look good.

#11 Do harvest lettuce

#12 Be sure to keep plants off the pathway.

#13 good spacing

#17 harvest radish

#18 bunnies ate peas again :(

#19 good job

#20 too many sunflowers


July 10:

First and foremost, thank the Lord for the rain. It has been wonderful!

This year, all garden plots show tender loving care. Thanks everyone for their efforts. It appears we are a collective groups of greenies - those who enjoy gardening rain or shine. Common words I find myself using are lovely, nice, wonderful...

Karine's plot#5 has been granted the sunshine award. Her garden is a nice combo of beauty and greens. She also seems to have a nice mix and variety of stuff. Some of which I am not sure of :)

One of the keys to gardening in addition to continual care and monitoring is to know when to plant and when to harvest. I am not quite there, but do aspire to reach it some day :) So, due to the warm weather, many with lettuce, needs harvesting before it bolts! (I am in this number). If you find your plants such as zucchini or tomatoes leaning into the shared isles, remember to trim them back.

Comments applicable to all gardens and shared gardens and Flower Beds, we all need to continue weeding - so watch for these and pull them out (unless you are growing them for smoothies or salads such and dandelions!). The communal path looks good, but most everyone needs to pull the crab grass between garden plots. My garden (#4) is next to the grassy field so early this year, I pulled away the wood chips - pulled out all the grass, added a few layers of newspaper and then compost and then put back the wood chips. It seems to have helped in the battle against the encroaching.

I need the help of gardens #1, #2, and #5, can you pull the crab grass next to the edge of your gardens next to the forest gardens to prevent it from getting hold. Last year we sheet mulched a hillside and added a few loads of woods chips. We really need a few more loads of wood chips (from chipped trees) to spread over the forest garden to help manage the weeds.

Also a thanks to everyone who has helped out the forest garden (I am on that team) with what ever needed to be done... watering or weeding or planting :) Keep your eye out for weeds or seedlings, I must have pulled out a few hundred seedlings from the hillside. I basically just pull and drop.

Goal for the upcoming week - lets all target to eliminate the crab grass and of course the weeding.

Have a blessed Sunday and great upcoming week!

Happy gardening (and yes weed pulling).


July 24:

As a newbie I really have to say how much I enjoy this little bit of garden in the city. Compared to previous years, looking in from the outside anyway, the plots and surrounding beds and areas are being cared for with a lot of effort and it shows.

I don't feel I can really say anything other than the place is "looking fabulous". Some plots have some bare spots after some harvesting but also now that plants are maturing plots 1-4,8,9,12,14,17 need to mind the tomatoes/cucumbers etc from reaching out in the paths. I saw the bunny in plots 15 & 17 today but looks like he's been to 2 and 18 at least as well. 4 & 11 have lettuce ready and 7,11,14 it's pesto time! 1,2,8,15 have a few weeds in plots or paths as do beds C & D; that crab grass is relentless.

Some nice broccoli ready I think at 13! Great job with the duties. The lock on the shed is tricky to open and keep closed sometimes, for me anyway.

Plot 11 was picked for the week. I like the layout and have always liked the trellis structures around the tomatoes.


Sept 4:

Odd numbered plots look awful! Even numbered plots... reasonable.

But seriously, things look just fine. Maybe a lot of rotten cherry tomatoes on the ground that if not (much easier) cleaned up now will come back to haunt you next spring.

Now is definitely not the time to neglect your garden, if you don't harvest the gems you've been waiting all season for, someone else might.

One of the aspects to our garden is the lack of fencing around, looks nice and people can stroll freely to admire, and possibly steal your produce. Of particular frustration would be those prize singular produce items like squash... I feel for you plot X.

I noticed a few gaps in my onion field last visit and decided to just take 1/2 of them home a touch early and good thing because this time around another 25% were AWOL. Moral? Harvest.

Try the grapes, I'm not sure why the local wildlife haven't ravaged them but they're sure snotty and sour.

Forest garden looking a little wild with those tall things, maybe need thinning?

Plot of the week to #5, good visual mix of plants from just interesting to good producers, things generally under control and nice height on the tomatoes. Bravo!