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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


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?

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….

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.”

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

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