Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the McFarland Community Garden?

The Garden is located at 5710 Anthony Street in McFarland, Wisconsin, between the McFarland United Church of Christ and The Homestead apartment complex.  The garden is kitty-corner from the Village of McFarland Municipal Center.

Who Manages the McFarland Community Garden?

The McFarland Community Garden was established in 2012 as a collaboration between three parties.  The land is owned by the McFarland United Church of Christ, and is being leased by the Village of McFarland, and zoned as a “temporary park.”  Currently, we are in the second year of a renewable 5 year lease.  The Friends of McFarland Parks, 501c3 is the non-profit organization that manages the garden via an established Land Use Agreement with the Village.  All of the individuals who coordinate and manage everything at the McFarland Community Garden are volunteers.  There is no paid staff.  We rely on dedicated volunteers to keep the garden successful!

What size plots are available?
Plots are either 20’x20’for a Full Plot or 10’x20′ for a Half Plot. At this time, gardeners are limited to one Full Plot (or two separate half plots) for rent.  Existing gardeners are given first opportunity to renew or expand their plots for the next growing season.  The remaining available plots are opened for new gardeners on a first come, first served basis.

What about Accessibility for Gardeners with Limited Mobility?
We also offer 7 Raised Bed Gardens at the front of the McFarland Community Garden. These are 4’x 8’Length and 2’High, and include a bench top, to make gardening more accessible. Raised Bed Garden plots are positioned on packed gravel, with a short pathway to the sidewalk, making them an ideal choice for gardeners with limited mobility or requiring wheelchairs. Each Raised Bed Garden has a small mailbox affixed to the front for storage of garden hand tools, seed packets, etc. A water spigot and compact composter are accessible for Raised Bed gardeners.

What does plot rental include?
Plot rental is for the growing season from April 1st through November 1st. The cost includes:

  • Unlimited access to water (spigots and hoses are located at regular intervals throughout the garden)
  • Compost for soil amendment (aged horse manure and compost made on-site with garden waste)
  • Usage of community garden tools (shovels, rakes, hoes, etc) and small engines (rototillers, weed whips, mowers)
  • Organic pellet fertilizer
  • Organic cover crop seed (Oat/Pea Mix and Buckwheat)
  • Variety of vegetable seed packets
  • Discounts on vegetable seedlings
  • Discounts on organic straw for mulch

This is an Organic Garden. What does that mean?

At the McFarland Community Garden we follow Organic Practices.  It is a way of growing food without harmful chemicals…like our grandparents and great-grandparents gardened! It is quite common for community gardens to implement organic standards, because it is incredibly challenging, and almost impossible to have a conventionally-gardened plot next to an organically-gardened plot without significant contamination or drift of materials.  Additionally, since the garden is technically Village of McFarland park land, certain volatile chemicals cannot be applied, except by a parks employee (liability, etc.).  So, here is a list of materials that are NOT allowed in an Organic system:

  • NO conventional pesticide
  • NO conventional herbicide (example:  Round Up)
  • NO conventional fertilizer (example: Miracle Gro)
  • NO conventional fungicide
  • NO treated lumber (including “Green Treated” lumber)

If you need to use some sort of product in your garden plot, and you want to purchase something from a garden store, just verify that it has the OMRI  (Organic Materials Review Institute) logo on it, which looks like this:

How Do I Build Fertility in my Garden Soil (since I can’t use conventional fertilizer)…?

  • Compost!  We provide FREE compost at the back of the garden for all gardeners to use. We have aged horse manure and our own composted garden waste.  Dig a few wheelbarrows of compost into the areas where you plan to plant garden beds.  You want your soil to be nice and loose, with lots of organic matter.
  • Mulch can be used in garden beds to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture, and it serves as a great soil amendment as it slowly breaks down.
  • Cover Crop.  We offer Oat/Pea Mix and Buckwheat Cover Crop seed.  There are many benefits to cover cropping, such as: preventing erosion, improving soil texture and fertility, and preventing weed growth.  See below for Cover Crop instructions.
  • Pellet Fertilizer:  We offer a limited supply of free, organic fertilizer pellets.  These can be applied (read instructions on container) to give your vegetable plants a boost.

What if I have an Insect Problem?  What do I do? (since I can’t use conventional pesticide)…?

First of all, get a photo of either the actual bug, or the damage that is being done.  Then, share it with the community gardeners via a google group message by emailing mcfarland-community-garden@googlegroups.com.  Oftentimes, other gardeners will be dealing with the same problem, and we can brainstorm solutions together.  With many gardens in close proximity, treatments for insects will be more effective if more gardeners are aware of the problem and educated about proper measures to abate any damage.  A multi-front approach is most effective!  The Dane County UW Extension Horticulture program and the UW Insect Diagnostics Lab are both great resources for questions related to garden pests.  They can help with identification of insects and effective treatments to resolve the problem.  Also, there are some OMRI certified products to use for different pest problems, that you can purchase at local garden stores.

How do I keep critters out?  (FYI, there is a significant population of rabbits)

  • BUILD A FENCE.  Yes, we encourage our gardeners to install fencing to protect plants from pests (we have an unfortunate, thriving rabbit population).  Fences can be constructed with untreated wood, metal, and dark plastic.  We do not allow bright orange construction fencing.  Fencing is most effective if it is approximately 4′ tall, fine-gauged, and buried 8″–12″ deep.  We have a collection of donated materials that can be used to construct fencing.  These are first come, first served, and located behind the garden shed.

What is “Treated Wood” and why is not allowed?  What can I use instead to construct garden structures?

The majority of wood that is available for construction projects at lumber yards and big box hardware stores are treated with chemicals to keep the wood from breaking down.  That is a good thing if you are building a porch or a garage, since you don’t want the wood to fall apart after ten years.  The problem with using it in a vegetable garden is that the chemicals used to preserve the wood are quite toxic, and have been found to leach into the surrounding soil and contaminate the plants.  Yuck.  FYI, the absolute WORST offenders are old railroad ties and power line poles–NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use those.  In recent years, the lumber industry has developed what they term “Green Lumber” that is supposed to have “safe” levels of preservatives in them.  However, watchdog groups are not convinced, and folks who monitor organic standards continue to prohibit these products for areas in which edible plants are growing.  Even if you aren’t concerned about the chemicals in your soil, remember that they will stick around for a long time, and the next gardener to grow food in your plot may be very concerned about residual chemicals.  If you are buying pre-made trellises or raised beds, make sure you confirm with the seller what materials were used in construction.

If you plan to construct raised beds/trellises/fencing yourself, here are best options for wood for use in a vegetable garden:

  • Redwood or Black Locust – Definitely the best option in terms of longevity because they are naturally rot-resistant and have been known to last up to 20 years. The con though is what you’d imagine — they are expensive! One of these types of wood will run you 3-4 times the cost of a cheaper wood.
  • Cedar – Another rot-resistant wood, cedar can last 10-15 years and looks gorgeous. The con is that it’s also expensive, around 2-3 times the cost of cheaper wood.
  • Douglas Fir – Douglas Fir can last 5-7 years, and is the cheapest of the types of wood for gardens. It’s also the most affordable option!
  • Downed Trees in your Neighborhood–If you have had some trees come down in your neighborhood, ask if you can take some of the longer pieces of trunk.  You can cut to size and have a friend help you transport.  These are usually FREE and just require some elbow grease…and a truck.  Good choices are Birch, Arbor Vitea, Pine, or anything with a trunk less than 12″ diameter.  Do NOT use any “nut” trees, such as Black Walnut or Hickory around vegetables, as they have a natural toxin that retards growth of plants.  Make sure you verify the kind of tree before you go this route!

 

How to I deal with WEEDS (since I can’t use conventional weed killer?)…

All garden plots must remain 85% weed free at all times, and there may NEVER be weeds present that have gone to seed.  This is a point that we must be particularly strict about, especially since we have so many garden plots in close proximity and a weed problem that gets out of control in one plot can quickly cause problems in neighboring plots.  Also, our community garden is nestled into a bustling neighborhood, and we strive to make our garden plots aesthetically pleasing.  If you get out on the right foot, you can save yourself hours of trouble.  Here are strategies:

  • Designate Walkways.  Before you plant your garden, devise a plan for your garden beds and walkways.  Walkways can be covered with a denser material, such as woodchips.  Woodchips are available at the rear of the community garden.  Avoid placing woodchips in garden beds (directly where you are planting vegetables), as they are very high in carbon and can impact the available nutrients for your plants.  Other options for walkways include: planks of untreated wood, stepping stones, and bricks.
  • Mulch!  We encourage our gardeners to use thick layers of mulch in their garden beds.  This has many benefits, including: weed suppression–less weeding; conserving soil moisture–less watering; and improved soil fertility and tilth–less need for soil amending.  We offer discounted organic straw bales for sale at $3.50 per bale.  For a Full Plot we recommend 4 bales; and 2 bales for a Half Plot.  For the most benefit, put down a layer of cardboard (non glossy or colored) directly onto the soil before spreading straw.  Leave a 6″ circumference around newly planted seeds and seedlings. If you would prefer an alternative to straw, you can use shredded autumn leaves (make sure that they come from yards without chemical treatments).
  • Hand Weed Regularly.  At the height of the growing season, weeds thrive and spread very quickly.  Regular hand weeding–just 10 minutes per week–can prevent bigger weed problem.
  • Know Your Enemy.  Try to identify what weeds are growing in your garden, so you can more effectively remove it and prevent it from re-growing.  University of Wisconsin Weed Identification and Management website is helpful.
  • Cover Crop Unused Areas.  Never leave bare soil showing.  Seriously, it should either be planted with vegetables, mulched, or seeded with cover crop. Information about Cover Crop techniques below.
  • Ask for Help!  If it gets out of control, don’t give up, ask for help!  You can post a “Help Needed” request on the bulletin board in the Garden Shed, or by posting a request for helpers to our google group by emailing to: mcfarland-community-garden@googlegroups.com

 

What is Cover Crop and How and Why Would I Grow it?

Cover crop, sometimes referred to as “Green Manure” has multiple benefits, and is regularly used in organic growing.  It is the process of intensively sowing a crop in an area of the garden, allowing it to blossom, and then cutting it down before it goes to seed, and reincorporating the green matter back into the soil.  Cover crops help to prevent weed growth, prevent soil erosion, improve soil texture, and contribute essential nutrients for fertile soil. Keep in mind though that where you choose to plant cover crop, that area will not be available to grow other vegetables for the majority of your growing season.  You will need to allow enough time for the cover crop to grow and blossom, be harvested, then breakdown into the soil after you incorporate it.  Cover crop is a great addition into succession planting–planting multiple crops successively, in the same area as the season unfolds.

  • Cover crop seed and instructions can be found in the metal trash can in the central garden shed.  Make sure the lid is secured on the trash can at all times.  We offer two different types of cover crop:  Oat/Pea mix for early spring and late fall or Buckwheat for mid-season.   Here is an example of how this can work:
    • Oat/Pea Cover Crop:  One of the advantages of Oat/Pea mix is that, since the peas are in the legume family, the plants will naturally deposit Nitrogen into the soil, which is a macronutrient that most vegetables need in significant amounts to grow well.  Therefore, this is a fertility booster.  In April, seed Oat/Pea mix in an area of the garden.  Let it grow until late July.  Cut down and dig in the plants to break down in the soil.  Starting in mid to late August, sow some lettuce, spinach or radish seeds to harvest into the fall.
    • Buckwheat:  Buckwheat is a great fix for compacted soil.  The roots grown quite deep and naturally break up soil and then leave behind green matter to break down and add fertility.  Plant early spring crops (lettuce, spinach, radish, peas) and harvest by early July.  Sow Buckwheat cover crop in the bed that has been harvested.  Allow to grow for the remainder of season and winter kill.  The following spring, the bed will be ready to plant directly into, with a layer of mulch already resting on top.

Where Can I Park?

Parking is available on Anthony Street.  Overflow parking (rarely an issue) is available at the McFarland Municipal Center (5915 Milwaukee Street), which is kitty-corner from the garden.  DO NOT park in The Homestead parking lot or the McFarland United Church of Christ parking lot!  NEVER DRIVE VEHICLES ON GARDEN PROPERTY.  If you have heavy things to transport to/from your plot, we have hand carts and dollies available in the garden shed for you to use.  If you need further assistance, post a request for help on our google group by emailing to:  mcfarland-community-garden@googlegroups.com.

We also have a bike rack available at the front of the garden.

Where Can I Find Restrooms & Drinking Fountains?

Restrooms and drinking fountains can be found at the McFarland Municipal Center (5915 Milwaukee St.) and the E.D. Locke Public Library (5920 Milwaukee St.)  DO NOT ask to use facilities in The Homestead or the McFarland United Church of Christ.  We recommend that you bring water bottles with you to the garden.  DO NOT drink water from garden hoses.  The materials used to provide irrigation to gardens are not designed to provide safe drinking water.  Hose water is inappropriate for human consumption.

Can I Bring My Dog to the Garden?

NO.  Pets are not allowed in the community garden.  There are signs posted at the perimeter of our garden, notifying the public that dogs may not be walked in or around the community garden, in order to maintain a safe and sanitary space for growing food.  Pet waste may NOT be placed in or near any composting areas.

What Garden Tools are Available?

All necessary tools for gardening are available for use by any community gardener, and are located in the central garden shed.  This includes:  shovels, hoes, rakes, clippers, garden forks, etc.  Please make sure that tools are cleaned off (a quick rinse with the hose is sufficient) before putting the tools back in the garden shed in their appropriate place.  Do not leave community garden tools in your plot or in common areas.  If a tool is broken or needs repair, please contact the Garden Coordinator, and place the tool in the “Broken Tools Box” in the garden shed.  If you choose to bring personal tools from home, they may not be stored in the garden shed.  The McFarland Community Garden is not responsible for any lost or stolen tools that are personal property.  The Raised Bed garden plots each have a small box attached with hand tools allocated to those gardeners.  Please do not remove tools from the Raised Bed storage boxes.

Can I Use the Rototillers?

If you are over 18, yes you can use the rototillers.  We provide rototillers, weed whips, and push mowers for our gardeners to use.  Be aware that the rototillers are in heavy use in the spring, and there is sometimes a wait list to use them (wait list on clip board in garden shed.)  The rototillers take up a significant amount of space in the garden shed, so they are only available early and late season, and they are stored elsewhere when not in heavy use.  If you would like to use a rototiller mid-season, let the Garden Coordinator know, and the machine can be made available for your use.  Before using any of our garden machinery, please read the instructions and sign the waiver on the clipboard in the garden shed.  Rototillers and weed whips may not be operated by anyone under the age of 18.  If a machine is out of gasoline, find the gas can that is labeled for that particular machine and refill according to directions.  If a machine is in disrepair, please contact the Garden Coordinator.  If you need help operating a machine, or would rather have someone else run the machine, please post a request by emailing: mcfarland-community-garden@googlegroups.com or posting a “Help Wanted” on the bulletin board in the garden shed.

Where Do I Access Water?

There are 10 water spigots distributed throughout the community garden, each with a heavy duty garden hose.  Hoses are of sufficient length to reach all garden plots.  We also have two rain barrels with hoses and watering cans next to the garden shed.  Costs for water are included with your plot rental.  Please be mindful about conserving water at the community garden, and avoid any waste.

  • Do not drag hoses through other garden plots.
  • Do not allow water to run into neighboring plots.
  • Overhead sprinklers are prohibited.
  • Soaker hoses may be used in plots, but they must be attended at all times during usage (i.e. you cannot hook up your soaker hose and leave the garden).
  • Never leave standing water in your garden.  Make sure containers are not placed in such a way to collect rainwater and become stagnant, otherwise mosquito larvae will thrive and we will all struggle with a burgeoning mosquito population!
  • Irrigate Efficiently to Conserve Water and Time!
    • Water at the BASE of your plants, at the juncture of the stem and the ground.  Avoid watering your plants’ leaves, otherwise most of the moisture is lost to evaporation, and excess moisture on foliage can lead to diseases in plants.
    • Deep watering once per week is sufficient.  Most plants need approximately 1″ of water per week for peak performance.  If we have had 1″ of rain, you do not need to water in addition.  To check how much rain we have received, look at the rain gauge by the garden shed.
    • Mulch around plants to help conserve soil moisture and prevent evaporation.
  • Hose Etiquette:  Our hoses are in heavy use throughout the growing season.  In order to prevent damage, and encourage longevity, please follow these steps when using them:
    • Promptly turn off water when done using
    • Carefully roll up hose (most spigots have a roller to make this easy)
    • Remove any hose attachment (sprayers or water wands) and leave next to or on top of the hose
    • Double check to make sure the water is completely off and there are no drips
    • If a hose or spigot is leaking, please contact the Garden Coordinator