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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink Can you suggest some helpful resources for starting a community garden?


Answer: I have found several publications and resources that should be helpful in setting up your rural community garden.

You may wish to look at the publication “Market Gardening: A Start-up Guide” which offers helpful advice on garden operations, sales, and marketing.

Your local extension office should be able to offer helpful information on your garden project and be able to tell you about why some of the previous community garden attempts were unsuccessful. You can locate your local extension office at

Another helpful resource is Urban Community Gardens which offers a great list of resources, publications, funding opportunities, and how-to guides on getting started.

• The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) offers a series of downloadable teleconferences on fundraising, farmers’ markets, garden entrepreneurship, garden leadership, and the “Community Gardener” newsletter. They also offer a community supported listserve to post questions and read the experiences of other community gardeners.

• The Food Share Community Gardening program offers helpful tools including a “Gardening Manual” and community garden tool-kit.

• The University of California Cooperative Extension also provides a Community Garden Start-Up Guide.

• The ATTRA Local Food Directory offers information and resources that will help you connect with local food buyers.

• The Community Food Security Coalition also provides great resources on community gardening and is well worth looking at.

• The Western Montana Sustainable Growers Union is a group of 12 Missoula-area organic farms that has developed the "Homegrown" label, which informs consumers that the food item is grown within 150 miles.

City Farmer offers a great resource on urban agriculture, community gardening and sustainable agriculture.

Rural Roots is a regional, 501(c)3 nonprofit food and farming organization dedicated to creating connections between sustainable producers, consumers, and other regional food and agricultural organizations.

Local Harvest provides information on market opportunities, a discussion forum, and newsletter.

• The Grow Montana Project is worth taking a look at as well.

Many related guides, projects and organizations that may be helpful in establishing and sustaining your community garden are available on our website


Bachmann, Janet. Market Gardening: A Start-up Guide. ATTRA Publication. 16 p.

Bellows, Barbara C. et al. 2003. Bringing Local Food To Local Institutions. ATTRA Publication. 28 p.

Bachmann, Janet. 2002. Farmers Markets. ATTRA Publication. 4 p.

Walser, Ron. Starting a Community Vegetable Garden. 4 p.

Berman, Laura. How Does Our Garden Grow? A Guide to Community Garden Success.

Feenstra, Gail, et al. 1999. Entrepreneurial Community Gardens: Growing Food, Skills, Jobs and Communities. University of California Agriculture and Natural resources. 106 p.

Naimark, Susan. 1982. A Handbook of Community Gardening by Boston Urban Gardeners. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. ISBN 0-684-17466-9.

Johnson, Dorothy & Bonlender, Rick. Creating Community Gardens. Minnesota State Horticultural Society.

Urban Gardening Program: The Coordinator's Book. The Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Service.



Permalink Do you know of any videos on sustainable agriculture?


Answer: I’m listing below a few of the sustainable agriculture videos I found that may be useful to you.

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG)
Virtual Farm Tours

Southern SAWG's video series titled Natural Farming Systems in the South provides an easy, economical way to take a virtual tour of some highly successful farming operations in the region. Compiled in partnership with the USDA's Risk Management Agency, these broadcast-quality videos focus on featured farmers who relate in detailed, plain-spoken terms the whole farming system and each component unique to their particular operation.
Note: Can see 2 minute clips online, can order the full videos (~20 mins) online.

Boggy Creek Farm

Austin, TX
Note: This is a YouTube video.

Innovations in Agriculture: An Introduction to the SARE Program (video)
This 14-minute video about USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program provides colorful vignettes of how sustainable agriculture is being researched and tested on farms and ranches across the nation. The video takes you across four states, where researchers, agricultural educators and farmers detail their efforts to adopt more sustainable methods.
Note: Can preview video streaming online, and can order it from the website.

Cooperative Extension - eOrganic
Video Clips about Organic Farming
Note: These are short clips that cover different topic of sustainable agriculture, can view them online.

University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Educational Videos
(Order Form Website)
Note: This is just an order form, no access to preview of videos. I would call and ask if there is a way to preview it before ordering.



Permalink Can you give me information on gravity-fed drip irrigation systems?


Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information regarding designing a gravity fed drip irrigation system.

For every 1' (12 cm) of elevation above the system you will gain .433 PSI (.030 bar). This means that if your water source is 10 above the system you will have 4.33 PSI (.30 bar) at the start of the system. (.433 x 10 = 4.33). Mind you, this is significantly lower than most drip irrigation guides will recommend. You can compensate this by creating a slope from the beginning to the end of your field, as 10’ is quite high for you to place your barrels. Another consideration is the platform in which the barrels will reside. This will be withstanding a lot of weight, so it must be very sturdy. The 100’ distance is a significant amount of distance to travel with low pressure and little to no slope. Reducing the bed length would help alleviate the worry of your irrigation water not reaching, and thus reducing yields, towards the end of the bed.

Flow rate:

Water flow rate is typically specified in gallons per minute per 100 feet of tape (gpm/100 ft) or by the emission rate of a single emitter in gallons per hour (gph). Tape flow rates typically range from 0.2 to 1.0 gpm/100 ft. For vegetable production, tapes with flow rates around 0.5 gpm are often used. Maturing vegetables grown in the northeastern United States require about 2 to 3 hours of irrigation per day during hot summer days when a 0.5 gpm/100 ft tape is used. Most drip tapes emit water at about 25 gallons per 100 feet per hour when operated at l0 psi pressure, so you can cut that in half for your gravity fed system to 12 gallons/ 100 ft. per hour given the pressure that I mentioned above.

For how long should you water?:
The NCAT Guide to Efficient Irrigation has a handy calculation to determine this correct set time=net water application (inches) x irrigated area (sq. ft.) / flow rate (gpm) x 96.3 (this is a conversion factor) x system efficiency. Using this calculation, I have come up with the following set time for one 100’ bed on your farm:
Time(hours) = 1” x 300 sq. ft / .5 gpm x 96.3 x 85%= 7 hours. Given this calculation, each 100’ bed will require approximately 84 gallons/ week if you do not have any rain to supplement your irrigation. For more information on accounting for rain in your system, please see the ATTRA publication Soil Moisture Monitoring.

Drip Tape size:
Diameter of the drip tape is important to consider in system design and is chosen based on row length. Row length directly affects both the flow rate through the tape and pressure loss in the tape. The decrease in tape diameter causes an increase in pressure in the drip system. For 100’ length bed 5/8” diameter is often used.

Since you will have very little pressure, you will want to limit the number of beds that you irrigate at one time. This can be done by installing a ball valve at each bed. The number of beds that you can feasibly water will take your experimentation. It may only be 1-2 beds. This will be apparent if the water is not appearing at the end of the drip line.

The Pennsylvania Ag Alternatives Center has developed a good overview of establishing a drip system This will at least give you an idea of the components that you will need to purchase and the relative cost of them. I have listed the PDF link to this publication at the following link:

The Dripworks company has consultants that can help you design a system. They have a good introduction and tutorial to many of the concepts I outline in this letter at the following link.



Permalink What information can you give me on sub-acreage orcharding?

Rhode Island

Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information regarding sub-acreage orcharding.

Information on Sub-acreage orchards and dwarf fruit trees:

Permaculture orchard design might fit into your ideas for a sub-acreage orchard, as the principle is to develop multiple uses and perennial plantings for the orchard area. This information is outlined in great detail in Bill Mollison’s permaculture book, which I have listed below under further resources.

Another great gook which describes varieties and maintenance of dwarf fruit trees is “Planning & planting your dwarf fruit orchard.” In this book, they summarize the advantages of dwarf fruit trees, as well as selection factors, site planning and planting. There are tables describing varieties, ripening times, hardiness, uses and other information for dwarf apples, apricots, cherries, pears and plums. This seems like the quintessential resource for your plans. I have listed this book, as well as how to obtain it below, under further resources.

Finally a book that is frequently recommended for small-scale orcharding is: The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden. This guide includes help on selecting the best fruit trees and information about each stage of growth and development, along with tips on harvest and storage of the fruit.

In general, pest management can be more of a challenge with these highly manipulated fruit trees. Dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees tend to have shallow root systems and competition from weeds for moisture and nutrients can restrict growth, so weed management is critical. Please see the ATTRA publication, Organic Tree Fruit Production, which provides a good overview of managing an organic orchard.

Further Resources:
Edited by Louise B. Lloyd. Planning and Planting your Dwarf Fruit Tree Orchard. Pownal, VT : Storey Communications
This booklet is no longer in print, but you can purchase a PDF online for a nominal fee (under $4.00) at the following link:

Mollison, Bill, and Reny Mia Slay. 1997. Permaculture: A Designers Manual. Tagari Publications.
This book is available from numerous sources.

Otto, Stella. 1997. The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden. Ottographics; Rev Sub edition (January 1, 1995)
This book is available from numerous sources.



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