Starting a garden from seed the fort riley community victory gardens
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Starting a Garden from Seed: The Fort Riley Community Victory Gardens. Susan Schoneweis, MS, RD/LD Extension Agent – Nutrition & Health KSRE - Fort Riley. In this workshop we’ll discuss ideas on how to initiate and develop a community garden. 

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Starting a garden from seed the fort riley community victory gardens

Starting a Garden from Seed: The Fort Riley Community Victory Gardens

Susan Schoneweis, MS, RD/LD

Extension Agent – Nutrition & Health

KSRE - Fort Riley

Starting a garden from seed the fort riley community victory gardens

In this workshop we’ll discuss ideas on how to initiate and develop a community garden. 

The Fort Riley Community Victory Garden was built in 2010 to promote community, resiliency, and sustainability. 

The gardens provide Soldiers & Families space to grow food to improve their nutrition & finances and space to restore body, mind & spirit.

In 2011, a demonstration plot managed by KSRE will supply fresh vegetables for nutrition and cooking classes. If an on-post food bank is established in the future, we hope to provide fresh produce for it.

Colonel brown said

Colonel Brown said……

“Build a garden plot in Forsyth to promote community, resiliency, and sustainability and we'll invite Mrs. Obama to it in the spring.”

so we did….

A garden can be created but it takes people to make it a community

A garden can be created, but it takes people to make it a community…

  • Interest in a garden usually starts with word of mouth, people saying they want a place to garden.

  • Are the residents willing to help build the community?

    • Building the garden was the easy part

    • Keeping it going is the challenge that only the gardeners can accomplish

Getting started

Getting Started

  • Word of mouth, surveys, informational meetings

    • Determine if there is sufficient interest

    • Publicize the Possibilities… newspaper, radio, social networking

  • Brainstorm for ideas with potential gardeners

  • Find interested parties & enlist their help!

    • State or county Cooperative Extension

    • On an installation – talk to the installation management and/or housing management



  • American Community Garden Association

    • Collected resources for ideas, rules, managing, etc.

  • Visit &/or contact other community gardens for ideas

    • Obtain copies of rules & regulations to adapt to local needs & conditions

  • Make contacts with state university extension specialists & county educators

  • Local horticulture businesses may want to help

Cooperative extension serving you

Cooperative Extension… Serving You!

Dr. Charles Marr, retired KSU Extension Vegetable Specialist

  • Provided background info on the development of the Manhattan Community Garden

  • Provided insight on how to set up plot design, start-up rules, etc.

  • Shares weekly newsletters with garden tips & info

General Petersen presents his Helping Hand Award to Dr. Chuck Marr, KSU Prof. Emeritus – Vegetable Crops Specialist

Start a garden working group

Start a Garden Working Group

  • Interested potential gardeners

  • Local university Cooperative Extension personnel and other professional horticulturists

  • Installation management or community leaders

Our working group included

Our Working Group Included:

  • Fort Riley Garrison Command

  • Kansas State University Research & Extension

  • Picerne Military Housing

  • Fort Riley Public Works

    • Conservation & Environmental Branch

    • Planning Division

Listening sharing sessions

Listening / Sharing Sessions

  • Picerne Military Housing shared information about the garden location

  • Dr. Chuck Marr & I shared info about the background of the Manhattan Community Garden

    • How it was started; committees, rules, challenges, benefits

  • At the third community meeting, volunteers for leader positions were accepted

There is interest now what

There is interest…. Now what?

  • Start-up funds$$$$$

  • Location

  • Management

  • Maintenance & upkeep

  • Celebrating, Socializing & other benefits

    • Resiliency

    • Improved nutrition & finances

  • Education

Finances funding

Finances & Funding

  • Picerne Military Housing – privatized on Fort Riley

    • Funding came from portion of BAH money set aside for development

    • PMH expects the gardeners to provide the leadership and most maintenance

    • Some continuing support is provided

Finances funding cont d

Finances & Funding cont’d.

  • Searching for donations & grants for ongoing support

    • Replacement & additional equipment –PMH+

    • Heavy-duty tomato cage workshop- OCSC

    • Seeds and plants to share

  • K-State Research & Extension

    • Can manage $$ donations since the garden doesn’t have non-profit status

    • Donations of materials when connected to extension classes

Financing your garden

Financing Your Garden

  • On post – privatized housing may help

  • Off post - city government may help, private donations, church ministries, grants

  • Local government may provide land, water hook-ups

Garden finances cont d

Garden finances cont’d….

  • Plot rental fees & deposits

    • Money buys ownership, stewardship & responsibility

    • People who have invested in the organization are more likely to care for the equipment

  • Plot clean-up deposit??

    • Refundable when the garden is cleaned up

    • Should the cleaner-uppers get paid???

  • Rototilling fee (MCG)

    • Tilled by volunteers

A few grantors to explore

A few grantors to explore…

  • National Gardening Association – 400 schools & youth groups are awarded/year; also has an online search tool for other grants

  • National 4-H Council – awards to 4-H & extension groups

  • Fiskars Project Orange Thumb

  • America the Beautiful Fund – seed for the cost of shipping & handling

  • Captain Planet Foundation

  • Environmental Grantmakers Association

    …and several more

Searching for grants

Searching for Grants…

  • Google is our friend…. So are grant writers…. Some search terms to try…

    • Community garden grants

    • Grant sources for urban agriculture projects

    • Grants for community gardens

    • Any other search terms you can think of 

Choosing a location

Choosing a Location

  • Land - Long-term leases from the government or private donors

  • Empty lots, Private land

  • Abandoned flood zones

  • How much is available?

    • Number of plots

    • Size of plots

    • Space for expansion?

  • Starting a garden from seed the fort riley community victory gardens

    Area identified by Picerne as River Road Park Phase 1, including Community Garden with 12 plots

    Other potential areas within Picerne footprint to consider as location of community garden


    The FRCVG currently has 72 20’ x 20’ plots

    Location soil quality

    Location …. Soil Quality

    • Good Soil –

      • Texture & Nutrients – loam is ideal, but any soil can be improved with organic matter

      • Heavy Metals & Toxic Chemicals – test for toxicities if the site history is questionable

        • Landfills, old manufacturing sites, etc.

    Location let there be light

    Location…let there be light

    • Sunshine

      • Most fruiting vegetables need full sunlight

      • 6-8 hours daily for most crops

      • Too much shade will reduce yields and success

    • Street lights for security & safety

      • Reduce vandalism

      • Reduce trips & falls when one works too late



    • Water – easy access to quality water

      • Can you tap into city water?

      • Who will pay for linking with the water supply?

    • Water bills – who will pay?

    Needed volunteers from the community to build the community

    Needed: Volunteers from the Community to Build the Community

    • Committees & Management

      • Records – applications, plot assignments

      • Equipment – purchase & maintenance

      • Education – newsletters, hands-on, classes

      • Maintenance – work days for entire community

      • Rules/inspection – weed patrol and keeping an eye on things

      • Social – for fun, food, meeting garden neighbors

    Rules regulations

    Rules & Regulations

    • Collect rules from any existing gardens in your community & any others you know of

    • American Community Gardening Association

    • Adapt rules & regulations to the needs of your garden

    • Keep them minimal and flexible

      • Rules can be added & changed as needed

    Some people thought the produce was for the entire community

    Some people thought the produce was for the entire community!

    Some thieves were caught; the lady said she and all her neighbors came to pick vegetables because “it’s a community garden.”

    She also said she didn’t see the sign…. Which is on the gate!

    Maintenance upkeep

    Maintenance & Upkeep

    • Gardeners – responsible for own plots

    • Summer tilling – donated by Blueville Nursery

    • Fall tilling – Munie Greencare

    • PMH – provides trash pick up, water

    • Public works – provides compost, woodchips

    • Local tree services

      - woodchips

    Power to the people

    Power to the People??

    • Power equipment

      • Safety issues… who is at risk?

        • Individual safety

        • PMH’s financial safety…. Big pockets should someone be hurt, therefore, no power equipment at this time

    • Will people follow the rules?

      • Conduct yearly orientation if equipment is provided

      • MCG combination to the shed isn’t received until one has received training

    Nice to haves

    Nice to haves….

    Fences, hoses, hose guards, compost tumblers, picnic tables, tool shed, trash service

    For those desperate times…..

    Celebrating socializing other benefits

    Celebrating, Socializing & Other Benefits

    Colonel Brown and the Honor Family Ribbon Cutters do the deed….

    Ribbon cutting ceremony earth day 2010

    Ribbon Cutting Ceremony – Earth Day 2010

    Socializing growing community

    Socializing…growing community

    • Encourage gardeners to meet & recognize each other

    • Care for each other’s gardens when out of town

    • Keep watch for vandals & those who don’t understand the private plot concept

    • Support each other in times of need

    • Share produce to prevent waste

    Garden association

    Garden Association?

    • An association gives volunteers support

    • Will evolve over time

    • Opportunity to grow leadership skills

    • Periodic meetings for business and socializing

      • Potluck dinners at the gardens

    Gardener education

    Gardener Education

    • Gardening classes for beginners or gardeners new to an area

    • Food preservation classes

    • Cooking classes – what do you do with what you grow?

    • Classes can be taught by

      • Other gardeners

      • Extension staff

      • Community horticulturists

    Gardening classes

    Gardening Classes…

    • Gardening & Nutrition classes were provided

    • After seeing gardening styles, educational needs for gardening in Kansas were better understood

    • Food preservation classes were provided so participants were able to preserve

    Education opportunities

    Education Opportunities…

    • Newsletters- email & snail mail

    • Hands-on classes & tours in the gardens

    • Off-season classes & workshops

    • Garden mentors & mentees

      • Pair experienced & beginning gardeners

      • Pair gardeners with different cultures & gardening methods to share ideas

    Building resiliency

    Building Resiliency…

    • Gardening is physically & emotionally therapeutic…

    • The gardens provide a place to unwind, think, let go…

    • “Working in the garden helped quiet the racing thoughts and made me tired so I could sleep.”

      • Major Jeff Hall

    Irrigation therapy….

    Resiliency other benefits

    Resiliency & Other Benefits…

    • “We didn’t have to buy any fresh vegies all summer.”

    • Mom with 5 children – Being able to eat out of the garden really helped her with her budget as they were having financial issues

    • “Gardening brought my wife and I together in a common goal of growing the best garden they possibly could and we were there daily except when on TDY.”

    Resiliency deployments

    Resiliency & Deployments..

    Surprise poem & plant left by a recently deployed romantic & sneaky Soldier. Spring 2011.

    Autumn 2010… (Soldier holding an armful of vegetables) “you don’t realize how much the garden helped my wife keep her sanity while I was deployed and I got to come home to this.”

    Fort riley garden challenges

    Fort Riley Garden Challenges……

    Kansas weather

    Kansas weather…..

    Earth Day 2010…. Indoor ribbon cutting due to rain… …………….Earth Day 2011 looked similar!

    Followed by a couple more months of flooding

    Soil compaction rain

    Soil compaction & rain

    Beginning gardeners

    Beginning Gardeners

    • What do they not know????

      • Very first broccoli crop… when will it be ready?

      • Spacing??

    Are you tough enough to garden in kansas yes

    Are you tough enough to garden in Kansas? Yes!!

    Fort Riley Community Victory Gardens…

    ….growing resiliency & Families… one plant at a time

    Contacts resources

    Contacts & Resources

    • Susan Schoneweis, MS, RD/LD, Extension Agent- Nutrition & Health – Fort Riley, Kansas [email protected] or [email protected]

    • American Community Garden Association,

    • Your state’s Cooperative Extension Service

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