Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some common garden questions

If you think a question should be here but isn't, drop us a line to webmaster 'at' berkeleygardens.org
Why are garden spots given out in a lottery system
We have found a random-drawing lottery system to be the most fair way to add new gardeners to our community. It allows everyone an equal chance of getting in the garden, and removes any perception of favoritism or discrimination.
I won a plot - now what?
Seeing your new plot can be daunting. Some plots are in good condition, some will need some work.
  • During lottery day, we have many people on hand who can help you out, and have a dumpster available for larger trash.
  • The dumpster will be there all weekend, so you'll have time on Sunday if additional cleanup needs to be made.
  • If there are problems with the fence around your garden plot, contact maintenance 'at' berkeleygardens.org
How to organize your plot is up to you. If you are overwhelmed, take some time to see the other plots in the garden to get some ideas. Will you grow flowers or veggies? Raised beds? Free form gardening? Maybe build a small patio. It's up to you. As long as you follow the rules and don't build any large structures or block your neighbors garden, you can be as creative as you like. If you would like to building something but are unsure if it will fit in with the garden rules, please contact us.
What can I plant in my garden
You can grow almost anything in the garden. The only thing we prohibit are trees or other plants that can get over 6-8 feet tall, and invasive plants such as morning glories. If you plant 'spreading' plants such as raspberries, we ask that you bury them in their containers or restrict them in some other way so they don't invite your neighboring gardens.
Where can I get plants?
You can plant both plants and seeds in your garden. Seeds can be ordered on line or bought from any local store. Plants can be bought from any store, although we encourage shopping local. In May local farmers markets also start carrying plant. Some ideas for both are listed under the Resources tab.
When can I plant things?
You can plant nearly year round if you'd like. Each plant has a kind of water it likes. Your greens and root plants might like a cooler Spring/Autumn weather, while your summer crops like tomatoes don't want to be planted until the ground is warmer. Many gardeners have also built cold frames, which help extend their growing season

We are in growing Zone 6a, so some internet research will tell you when you should plant what. You can also grow winter crops, but use caution - things like winter rye sounds nice, but come spring you now have a plot full of grass you need to dig out :)

Here is a handy chart showing various crops, and the best time to plant them

Is it safe to eat things grown in the garden?
The garden is located on a lot where houses used to stand. However, when the garden was formalized, trucks and trucks of soil added a good foot of prime soil onto the garden spaces. In the 30 years since, gardeners have added soil and compost, so the soil you have is safe and rich.

If you are unsure of your soil condition, you can send a sample to the UMASS soil testing facility, where for $15 they will analyze your soil for lead and other contaminates, and will also tell you what supplements your soil needs, depending on what you would like to grow.

Find the test
application on-line here. Select the test Routine Analysis for Home Grounds & Gardening.
My garden needs a gate. When can I get one?
Gates were envisioned to be built by the gardeners themselves, giving them the ability to provide 'artistic expression' to their garden.

But we do realize not everyone is a carpenter. If you need a gate or your gate needs repair, and you want the leadership to help you out, send us an e-mail. But, there are a lot of repairs that need to be done all over the garden, and the volunteer construction team will get to all work as quickly as they can.
Do you have any tools I can use?
You are responsible for acquiring all the tools you need to work your garden. On Monday night cleanups, and during maintenance sessions, the Garden tool shed will be unlocked, and you can borrow any of our tools at that time. We used to have the shed open more often, but too many of our tools never came back…
How does water work in the garden?
City water is provided for gardener use. The cost of water is covered by your annual plot fee.

The City turns on the water some time in April, and turns it off some time in October. The city does this on their schedule - we have no say, and cannot ask for water to be turned on earlier or kept on later. We will send an email to gardeners whenever they city shares water dates with us. if you plant before water turn-on, or keep growing after turn-on, you should be all set, as regular rainfall should be enough to keep your garden supplied with enough water.

This is the regular city water supply, so what water is potable (should you be parched and want to drink from your hose)

Via a timer attached to our water supply, water is turned on at 6am and turned off at 8pm. Vandals occasionally break into the garden and turn the water on - having a timer prevents water from running all night long.

You can water from any garden tap. You are responsible for getting and storing your own hose. Hoses can be stored in your garden.

Please see the next question for water conservation/best watering methods
What about water conservation?
We ask that everyone use water responsibly.

Water only when your garden has dried out. You probably need to water less thank you think. Stick your finger in the ground about an inch. if the soil is dark and will clump in your hand, you probably don't need to water.

Water deeply when you need to water. By watering lightly for 15-20 min rather than drench your plants for 2 minutes, this allows the water to seep into the ground, and encourages your plant roots to grow down, where the soil dries out less. Watering just a little and frequently will cause your plant roots to stay near the surface and be more susceptible to drying out.

If you install drip hoses, make sure you remember to turn the water off when done and don't accidentally over water.

We don't have any rain barrels in the garden, but you are welcome to have a rain water retention system in your own plot, but please make sure it is covered in some way and does not become a breeding ground for mosquitos.
How do I dispose trash from my garden?
You are responsible for disposing of trash and green waste from your garden.

The garden does not have its own trash service. Please put your trash into a bag and bring it home with you, where you can put it out curbside with your household trash. The city also picks up green waste every 2 weeks curbside - you can also put your green waste in a paper bag and place it curbside on lawn and leave curbside days. (Please use the city's
Trash app to determine when green waste is collected)
Does BCG compost their greenery?
We no longer have a garden compost area. Our compost areas gathered too much trash, so we were forced to discontinue garden compost.

You are welcome to have a small compost facility in your garden, as long as it is in a
closed container. Open compost containers can become home to rodents.

The city also picks up green waste every 2 weeks curbside - you can also put your green waste in a paper bag and place it curbside on lawn and leave curbside days. (Please use the city's
Trash app to determine when green waste is collected)