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Community garden image courtesy of Shutterstock

As a fellow online writer—who happens to be called Elizabeth Licata—says, “There’s no drama like community garden drama.”

We’ve written a lot about community gardens here, including stories on gardens under threat by utility companies, gardens embroiled in internal politics (fueled by alcohol), and community gardens that have been shut down or abandoned.

And now here’s a garden that has arrived at a place where its former manager has threatened to set himself on fire unless he regains control of the space. This happened in Queens, NY., and I first heard of it through a story in the Daily Meal (it was originally in the Wall Street Journal). In brief, officials in Queens suspect the Evergreen Community Garden, run largely by Korean immigrants, of selling its produce illegally, and of shutting out other community members; the city has taken the garden (which is on city property), and turned it over to an official community garden network.

Stories like this make me happy that I have never entered the community gardening realm. I considered it at one time, but I could see the pitfalls. In fact, I can envision the short list of reasons I would never make it in any kind of communal gardening operation:

  1. Weeds. I have a very lackadaisical attitude toward weeding. I like to wait until they’re big enough to pull easily, and so I can be sure they are a weed, and not the thing I planted there on purpose. I actually like some weeds, like phytolacca (pokeweed). This causes problems with neighboring gardeners, who (rightly) point out that this increases the likelihood of the weeds spreading.
  2. Incompetence. This enterprise would probably require being able to plant successfully from seed.
  3. Aesthetics. I have never seen a community garden I felt was nearly as attractive as a private ornamental garden. This would bother me.
  4. Attitude. I’m a friendly person, but I have noticed that ornamental and food growers often have much less in common than you might think.
  5. Everything else mentioned in this post. The threats from higher authorities! The fights between gardeners! The drama!

I try not to do drama.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on August 5, 2013 at 9:36 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.


  1. Though I’m primarily a flower gardener at heart, I’ve been edible gardening at a community garden plot for the last 2+ years and have to say that the “community” in the name is very often overlooked. When you sign up for a CG, you are basically agreeing to garden within very tight quarters and what you do has an exponential impact on your garden plot neighbors.

  2. I like the community garden I’m in a lot. It’s in its third year. It’s not perfect. We all have weeds. We do what we can but we don’t get crazy about it or too judgmental of others. Many don’t participate in the decision-making (which is a problem, but not a big one). Everyone is easy-going and does their own thing, and most are willing/able to help out when needed.

  3. A Community Garden can actually be a very lonely place– some years ago, I was a member in a beautiful site, and while being there often filled me with wonder and pleasure from the growing plants, fresh air, and birdsong, I was usually the only person there. When others did come, they very rarely acknowledged my presence with even a look, so saying “Hello” was not something that would naturally occur. What I would recommend is that Community Gardens have a large table, with chairs, where people could trim their harvest, maybe take a break from gardening to drink some water and perhaps eat a snack. This would also give people an opportunity to share gardening tips and extra seedlings or the harvest. And, maybe the magic of “Community” would grow and flower along with the plants!

  4. The CG I was in is no more because the the person running the garden was a conartist that embezzeled thousands of dollars, didn’t pay the rent, and disappeared into the ether. On top of that, the property owner wanted to develop he land after the city injunction was lifted (property was originally a crackhouse which was razed and the land dedicated for community use for a period of 5 years) so he jumped on the lack of rent payments as a means to lock everyone out. Of course the land has laid fallow for a decade now with no development because the property owner’s plan was unworkable. Now that was some drama.

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