I am one of many volunteers in the grass roots, non-profit organization, Earth's Promise. This past year we created an organic community garden with the Ethiopian community of Beer Sheva, Israel. Our garden is called the "Building Strong Roots" community garden, located in the Gimmel Neighborhood of Beer Sheva.
We chose a neglected piece of land originally intended to be a park as the site for the garden. This instructable will showcase the steps we took to construct the garden. We hope this instructable will help anyone considering building a garden in your community. Please visit our website for more information.Earth's Promise
Step 1: Planning
A lot of time went into planning the garden. The biggest issue was location, location, location. We spent over 5 months searching out communities who would be interested in working with us. In the end we chose an absorption center who house new Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. It worked out well for us because most Ethiopians have agriculture experience, especially in the coffee fields. We actually ended up learning more about gardening from them.
Step 2: Acquire the Land
This can be one of the most frustrating parts to building the community garden. The land we intended to use was neglected and full of garbage. The problem was that it was intended for public use. We approached the city many times and got the support of the deputy mayor and city engineer. In the end, we got permission to use the land for the garden. This was a big victory. We do know that there is more work to do. Having permission and owning the rights to the land are very different things.
Step 3: Initial Land Cleanup
Before the land could be used, it needed a good cleanup. We organized a "Cleanup Day." This was a huge success. We had so much help picking up trash and moving rocks. We added a little music and brought in volunteers from the local high school and university to help.
Step 4: Ribbon Cutting Ceromony
We found that one of the keys to a successful garden is to get as many people involved as possible. You never know who will come forward and donate equipment or seeds. We held an opening ceremony to announce the garden to the general public. It was a huge success. We had local newspapers come and do a story, along with government officials. The local Ethiopian children performed a dance to entertain the crowd.
Step 5: Fence and Marking the Plots
We did not want to put a fence up, but vandalism was a big concern. We worked with the city engineer and local residents to make sure the fence fit well into the neighborhood. We also decided to set hours the garden would be open, so people could work and enjoy the area.
We also worked with the community to decide whether to have one large garden or individual family plots. This community wanted individual family plots and would then work together on the upkeep of the rest of the garden. It was also decided to dedicate a separate area for a children's garden and teenager garden.
Step 6: Compost Delivery
One of our first biggest mistakes that turned out to be a lot of fun was the compost. We had a truckload of compost delivered after we put up the fence. It probably would have been smarter to drop the compost in the middle of the garden and then put the fence up. We ended up having to transport to the compost by buckets and wheelbarrows. We created a "Work Day" and invited the community to help. This generated a lot of enthusiasm from the community and the volunteers.
Step 7: Irrigation Pipes
We hired a local company to help us lay down irrigation pipes. We designed the garden so each individual family plot has their own faucet to control the amount of water. Later we brought drip irrigation equipment to conserve water.
Step 8: Garden Plot Lottery
In order to distribute the garden plots fairly we held a lottery. We turned this event into a party as well. It was a lot of fun and really got everyone excited to start gardening.
Step 9: Bed Building
We held a work day in order to construct the garden beds. The Ethiopians pretty much knew what to do. They were actually teaching us volunteers. We first broke up the soil and then added the compost. The soil in this part of Israel is pretty much like clay so we needed to add the nutrients. We found that the older kids were really excited to work and use the tools. They turned out to be a big help after school was out.
Step 10: Invite Guests to the Garden
Right away, we started advertising and inviting guests to work in the garden. We had special visit from member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament) who is the Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galil, Yaakov Edri. We also enjoyed visits from IDF solders who brought smiles to everyone.
Step 11: Water Conservation Workshop
Israel, along with the rest of the Middle East, is a land plagued with a water crisis. One of the primary goals was to create a garden that required as little water as possible. After the beds were constructed we installed drip irrigation lines. These drip lines are engineered to deliver a set amount of water directly to the roots of the plant. We are really excited because the manufacturer, Netafim, has invited everyone to visit the factory. For more information about the technology you can visit their website:www.netafim.com
Step 12: Planting
Finally, after months of hard work, we planted. We searched out donations from a local organic seed manufacturer. We also had some friends at the university who donated seeds and seedlings from their research in desert agriculture.
This was a lot of fun but it did get a little hectic. The key was being organized and not over planting because it would have been a big waste. We had about 15 different species of crops like lettuce, hot peppers, green onions etc.. We kept a list of who received seeds to make sure there was enough for everyone. This was a little tedious but the extra seeds were saved for a second planting a few months later.
Step 13: Sign Building
We had to identify each individual plot and thought numbering them would be kind of boring. One volunteer had the idea that each plot should represent cities in Israel and Ethiopia. We got all the kids together to brainstorm different cities and paint the signs. We chose 3 primary colors for the signs, red, yellow and green; the colors of the Ethiopian Flag.
Step 14: Harvest
A few short few months after planting, we started to see the "veggies" of our labor.
Step 15: Ouside the Fence
The enthusiasm for the garden could not be tamed. Volunteers along with the community took extra plants (cacti and succulents) and planted them outside the garden fence. This seemed to bridge a nice relationship with the community in the area. We also find that kids like to compete to see who can pick up the most garbage.
Step 16: Future Work
Well, this is just the beginning for "Building Strong Roots" Community Garden. We have been inundated with requests for garden plots. We just received permission to expand the boundaries of the garden to include more plots. We are also working on new activities for the kids and teens.
For more information or if you would like to help, please visit our website at:www.earthspromise.org