I don’t yet own a house, but I’m already dreaming of my future garden. At the very least, it will have a lemon tree and an herb patch. I might also try tomatoes and another kind of fruit tree. However, having grown up with several fruit trees/plants in my backyard, I’m well aware of the challenge of growing produce: getting rid of it before it goes bad. You could just foist it on unsuspecting friends and neighbors, or you could set up a neighborhood garden share day (or two or three.)
Poll the Neighborhood for Fruits and Vegetables
Even though most of these crops won’t come in until the late spring at the earliest, you can start doing some planning now. Start by polling your neighbors to find out who grows what. Then look at a seasonal calendar to find the date that bisects most of their harvest seasons. If you have a wide variety, you might need to set up two or three garden share days over the course of the growing season. One in May, July, and September would probably be ideal.
Poll Neighbors for Folding Tables
While you’re at it, find out which of your neighbors have folding tables they can contribute to the day. Being able to set everything out will make it much easier to deal with.
Invite Several Neighbors to Participate
Start small with just a few neighbors, then see what happens as others learn of your plan. The set-up is simple: everyone brings their excess garden bounty to the share day and puts it on the tables. Everyone else wanders around with their bags or baskets and fills them up with the produce they can make use of. That way the neighbor who grows oranges will also get lemons and cucumbers while the cucumber and asparagus-growing neighbor can grab some strawberries and mint.
Donate or Can the Excess
If you have excess produce at the end of the day, contact a local homeless shelter to see if they can accept it. If they can’t, then organize a canning day for the next weekend. Put all that goodness in cold storage until then.
Repeat Again Next Year
If this becomes an annual tradition, it will quickly grow to the point where everyone should be able to find something they can use and can get rid of all their excess without having to tote multiple large bags to work or to relatives for distribution. That will also prevent your friend from starting to hate you after spending days dealing with the giant bag of apples you dropped on her doorstep one night.
Successful garden share days depend largely on the variation in local gardens and the number of people participating. It also helps to have a good growing season. If everyone in your neighborhood grows peaches in the same month, then no one is going to want to take the peaches off anyone else’s hands. But, it’s something you can keep in mind when planning future garden updates – what do you like that no one else is growing? That’s probably something that should be in your yard (assuming it will grow in your region.)