2020 garden survey results 

What you said!

The Gloucester Allotment Garden Association wants to thank everyone who responded to our end-of-year survey with comments both positive and negative.

Almost 25% of our gardeners voiced an opinion and we want to provide a summary of what you felt was important along with a few comments and insights of our own.

The main thrust of positive comments had to do with better communication and managing to get the gardens open despite COVID. Negative issues were more varied but included road conditions, rule enforcement, garbage, water usage and compost. 

Want to know the specifics? Read on!

Positive Thoughts

Communication Without a doubt the majority of positive comments had to with communication. As long time members are aware, GAGA has made great strides toward improved communication over the past few years with a revamped website and more online newsletter email updates. As a whole – the membership is very happy with the added communication in keeping you all informed about the community gardens. 

– GAGA communications with the website are great with photos showing what’s expected.
– GAGA has improved communication with gardeners. I love the new website, and the monthly communications sent by email. Good job!
– I find that the communication between the organization and the gardeners to be well done. Everything I am looking of is available and more, plus if GAGA needs a message to put out, it is received loud and clear.
– Really good communications this year, especially important with the covid restrictions. Many thanks to all.

So consider this note just a continuation of that effort in keeping you informed about what you care about!

COVID opening A strong second positive was managing to open the gardens this spring after lobbying the province to open the gardens with pandemic safeguards in place. That’s something we are indeed proud of. It did entail a lot more work to get the necessary approvals in place and we thank all of you who did help our efforts to lobby the government to open community gardening this year.

– I am very happy, that we have got our gardens opened this year, and that is a big challenge for you.
– I am so grateful that the allotment gardens were run despite the covid problem
– I really appreciated the fact that we were able to garden this summer despite the uncertainty of the COVID – 19 situation.
– Ce qui m’a fort intéressé est la manière avec laquelle vous avez lutté pour que les jardiniers ne perdent pas la saison de jardinage pendant la pendémie de corona virus.

Looking ahead to next year, it’s too early to know how the pandemic will affect the gardening season but it is our goal to open as usual potentially with COVID-19 restrictions still in place.

What you want improved

 Enough with the congratulations. There were areas you felt needed improvement as well. Those included:

Road conditions A number of complaints included road conditions and potholes. 

– The same holes keep opening up on the road, every year! Maybe instead of gravel they could use some asphalt to keep the stones in place.
– Keep the pot holes to a minimum.
– better compost, better roads. I suggest tar and gravel for the roads.
– Filling in the potholes on the road
– As well, although there has been an improvement of the condition of the roads, there is still a long way to go to having appropriate roads into the gardens. Bad road conditions started about 4 years ago. Before that, there were fewer problems with many huge holes that are very bad for our cars. Huge holes happen as well within the smaller roads giving access to the gardens. These are very rarely fixed. Maintenance of the roads needs to be done regularly as the need arises.

As an organization we do want to address this.

The roads at Orient Park have always been a big issue and permanent solutions are extremely costly. Filling the holes with larger gravel, soft asphalt or even paving them will not resolve the pothole problem as there are no edges to the roads or established culverts. Without proper drainage following rainfalls, water will continue to pool in the middle of the main and inner road ways causing holes to open up as gardeners drive through at high speeds. 

We are fortunate to have developed a very good relationship with Lafarge Construction in Ottawa who provide us with free gravel every season to help maintain the roads. We were not able to take advantage of that generosity this year due to COVID but anticipate that partnership will resume next spring. Any members who feel the road needs improvement – be aware we’ll be asking for help with gravel distribution next year! 

We’d also like to remind everyone that the main source of revenue for GAGA is plot fees. Those fees generate approximately $20K in revenue each season and the big expense items in our 2020 financial budget add up to 85% of our budgeted costs. Those big ticket items include operating supplies, maintenance, grass cutting, spring tilling and trucking in water to the Anderson gardens. Road repairs are expensive. Most recently in 2019 our road repair bill for Orient Park was over $7200. It’s not something that we can afford to do regularly. As a community gardening organization we also feel it’s not where we should be primarily spending the association’s funds. And if poor road conditions cause gardeners to drive more slowly – well that’s a plus . . . many gardeners do complain about people speeding well past the posted limit of 20 kph on the roads. Slow down! 

Rule enforcement Another common complaint was rule enforcement. 

– Addressing gardeners who don’t follow the rules. A general email to all when trying to address one or two people never works. Address the offenders not the group.
– Enforcing the weed rules. Making sure gardeners don’t expand their plot on the roadside.
– Incognito inspections in order to catch rule breakers i.e. 2 car loads of relatives visiting one plot and /or car washing …….
– Ensuring all members adhere to the rules. I understand this is almost impossible but there has to be a way that all members understand water is precious and not to be wasted. 
– Enforcement of rules re: repeat offenders for dumping trash, poorly maintained gardens. How about a 3 strikes you’re out system?
– No compliance or monitoring and consequences of non-compliance with regulations. In the end, you can do what you want by not respecting others. There should be consequences (if you don’t clean your garden, you should either lose your lot or pay a little more the following year, even if you ask to pay more for water during the year: those who didn’t pay should have to pay more the following year).
– GAGA can improve in enforcing the rules set out by the organization. The condition of many many gardens at Orient Park this year was terrible. Gardens are full of weeds, many have been abandoned and never cleaned up. Why have rules if they are not enforced. It is not fair to the serious gardeners who follow the rules and who receive weed seeds from their neighbors. The condition of the Orient Park garden as a whole has been terrible, worst year ever. Enforcement of the rules and support to the new gardeners would be a great improvement.

This is probably the most difficult issue for us to manage. The vast majority of our community gardeners respect the rules that have been developed over the years and do their best to abide by them. But every year there are complaints about individuals breaking those rules. Over the years the board has tried different methods of policing the gardens with varying degrees of success. When we come down hard on a gardener for a rule infraction it invariably results in bad relations and hurt feelings. If we are too soft, the complainant often feels we are not doing enough. From our perspective, we are also mindful of the fact that we are a community trying to garden in harmony and there is no desire to police the gardens with an iron fist. We’re all volunteers too and we can’t fix everything. We’d like all plot owners to be more considerate of one another and be thankful for the great gardening experience we are able to provide. For the most part we try to use the email communications to indicate expectations to prevent issues from developing in the first place. We do not expel any gardeners for ignorance of rules but aim to educate. When we have irrefutable evidence of repeated offences – we have expelled gardeners in the past and will continue to do so in the future – reluctantly. We do have a growing waiting list of over 125 names. If there are issues that cannot be resolved peaceably with your plot neighbors – there’s always someone willing to take your plot off your hands . . .

Garbage Too much of it everywhere!

– I can’t understand how some people can leave garbage around the gardens and compost piles. Would additional video cameras help discourage this? It’s my first year gardening here so I don’t know if this is a perennial problem, or if it’s getting better or worse each year…
– I question whether it is GAGA or the city but roads can be fixed more regularly and how people throw things into the ‘wooded areas’, this can be weeds from their garden to real garbage, sad to see what is there. Clean up – I am not exactly sure what stalks or roots can be left behind, but this should be made very clear to plot owners and if they do not comply then there needs to be a strict penalty or no plot for the next year – no exceptions.
– The amount of garbage being thrown at the garden and the extra ” stuff ” collecting on permanent garden plots

Garbage was definitely a sore spot for all of us this year at Orient Park. Our inability to hold a full end of season cleanup due to COVID impacted us but it was an ongoing issue all season. It shouldn’t be. As members of GAGA – it’s each gardeners responsibility to dispose of their trash. Period. We’re well aware that the gardens are public lands and used as trails by many in the community and there’s no denying that some of the garbage was likely brought in by non-gardeners. But we are the main property managers of the space and we would implore you to treat the gardens with more care next season. Don’t leave trash lying about. Pack it out. We too have noticed the growing amount of stuff collecting particularly on perennial plots and this something we plan on addressing and being more forceful about next season.

Water usage The scorching hot start to the summer was a big issue that affected water availability at the Anderson gardens this year.

– The water problem in Anderson should be addressed (provide solutions or a bigger amount in the budget next year).

With no municipal water source available, GAGA typically budgets eight loads of water to be delivered to Anderson for the entire summer. This past year, that budgeted amount was gone in late June and GAGA dipped into reserves for an additional four loads of water as well as instituting an additional water fee for Anderson gardeners for only the second time in the association’s existence. It’s not something we want to do again and our budget next year will reflect that. It is likely more formal rules regarding what crops will be allowed at Anderson will be addressed to make sure they are not water intensive. Be forewarned!

Compost A surprising complaint had to do with lack of compost. 

– I would prefer more compost in the spring. I have a half plot and find the compost provided to too little. Maybe the option to buy some?
– Increase the the quantity of compost in each plot.
– The compost arrives too late year after year. Most of the time we have to buy our compost if we want to start earlier. If Gaga could arrange to have the compost delivered within 3 days after the opening date, that would be great.

GAGA typically provides compost to every single plot in the gardens. That compost is delivered by the city for free and we do not have direct control over when it will be delivered or over its quantity or quality. Not all gardens are able to provide this service so while we understand everyone would like more and better compost – we only have so much available to us from the city. On the other hand – there is a lovely and growing pile of compost available to all on site at Orient Park for anyone willing to break a sweat with a shovel!

In conclusion

There were other individual complaints raised as well but the above is a good reflection of the general issues you felt were important. Thanks again to all of you who took the time to comment. 

To end on a more uplifting note so here’s one final comment to share:

– They can improve on having better weather during gardening season. Having rain during the season and not at the end.

Well said. We wish we could control the weather too!

Steve Vesely
GAGA Registrar

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