People Tending Part Of Community Garden Chief’s Job

It’s a tight squeeze at the Glover Park Community Garden, with people tilling 149 plots leek by trowel.

Somebody has to maintain order.

“That’s my job,” says Mike Minton, “to run interference, try to keep everybody happy. We’re all living in pretty close quarters. So you have to be respectful with each other.” And the rules, which all acknowledge in writing when they take a spot.

But Minton, the garden’s chairman, says not all can meet the standard, especially in the summer. “It’s hot and they don’t want to get out there and get dirty. Or they have other plans and then they start falling behind. And then it comes to me and I have to adjudicate,” he said. “That’s the hard part.”

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The Glover Park Community Garden, at Tunlaw Road and New Mexico Avenue, slides toward winter. Photos Credit: John A. Bray

Inspectors, chosen from among the gardeners, travel the wood-chipped and fenced aisles every two weeks, looking for signs of dilapidation and abandonment. The land, abutting Glover Archbold National Park, is managed by the National Park Service, which has its own code. Minton said the agency’s color palette for structures consists of brown and dark green, with a brightly colored umbrella sometimes running afoul.

Three “discrepancies” and you’re out. Or almost out. A gardener can submit a memo to Minton to explain how they’re going to make amends. “If they don’t do that, they get removed.”

Eviction is rare, but it happens. There is another alternative: rescue by a co-gardener, someone drawn from the ranks of those waiting for a plot opening.

“It’s something we’re trying to encourage, especially with gardeners who are having trouble who don’t want to lose their garden,” Minton said, noting that injury and aging can take a toll. He helps with introductions. “If they like each other, they can co-garden,” he said. “Some folks don’t want co-gardeners. Some folks just fall off the face of the earth and they’re going to lose their garden.”

Someone’s always ready to take their place. The wait for a plot can take several years. But turnover among new gardeners is increasing, Minton said, speculating that the work turns out to be more than they can balance. “It’s a full-time job almost to maintain your garden,” said Minton, who keeps a 25 by 25 foot plot with his wife.

Minton took over the chairmanship about two years ago, after the death of Dino Kraniotos, who occupied the post for many years. “When he passed we had to scramble to get his leadership reassigned.” Minton, an architect, had helped out with garden maintenance but not held a title role.

The gardeners will gather for their annual meeting in early December, a breakfast to renew horticultural vows, pay the $30 dues and swap seeds. It’s a garden that includes people from all over the globe, people ready to cultivate a small patch of common ground. “That’s a pretty amazing thing,” says Minton.

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SOIL FACTORY: Glover Park Community Garden Chairman Mike Minton indicates the starting height of the compost heap at the bins he designed and built with fellow gardeners. “This is our nerve center here, our sanitation center really.” Castoff plant material from the gardens piles up over the season and then cooks down over the winter to form garden earth.