The Hanover Community Gardens had their origin in Victory Gardens established on Dewey Field in Hanover during World War II by Dartmouth Biology Professor Jim Poole, who also oversaw the transition of the gardens into a cooperative community garden group after the war. Since that time the gardens have continued as a venue where residents of Hanover and nearby towns can plant organic gardens containing vegetables and flowers in a sunny, protected location. For the past forty-five years the gardens have been located in the former Garipay fields off Reservoir Road in Hanover. In the early 1990s, they were moved a short distance to their current location between the Dartmouth Rugby Fields and the Dartmouth Child Care Center on land owned by Dartmouth College.
The gardens have a restricted, no-cost, renewable four-year license agreement with Dartmouth providing them with annual use of more than half an acre, including two flat sections separated by a sloped vacant area, along with a parking area. The gardens are split into twenty full plots, each 20’ x 20’, with walkways between them. Some of the full plots are further divided into half-plots, enabling about 30 families to work a garden plot each year.
The gardeners are quite diverse, ranging from long-time residents of Hanover to recent arrivals, with ages ranging from 80+-year old gardeners who have been members of the garden for over 30 years to young families and graduate students in their twenties who are gardening for the first time this year. Some of the families have children who actively participate in the gardening. All of the gardeners agree to follow the rules and guidelines of the garden, which include using only organic fertilizer and cleaning up their garden plot each fall. In keeping with the community garden tradition, gardeners share gardening tips and produce with each other and participate in several joint activities each year, including garden clean-up in the spring and fall.
Although each gardener has control of their own plot, overall oversight and management are provided by a volunteer garden committee that is selected by the gardeners at their annual garden clean-up in the fall. Each gardener pays an annual fee for use of their garden plot; the current fees are $40 for a full plot and $20 for a half plot. With money from the fees, Hanover Community Gardens provides each section of the garden with water (including hoses), organic compost, natural wood chips for walkways, and protection from intrusive animal pests. The Town of Hanover has provided assistance with these tasks for a number of years.
The gardeners have always had to deal with animal pests such as woodchucks and raccoons, but the problem didn’t become severe until around 2000, when the deer population of Hanover started to grow rapidly and the deer seemed to enjoy snacking on the vegetables being grown in the Hanover Community Gardens. After various remedies proved unsuccessful, the gardeners decided in 2004 to erect a seasonal fence around the garden sections in order to keep out animal predators. Although this has somewhat alleviated the problem of deer in the gardens, the fences have never been very sturdy, the plastic netting has deteriorated in the weather extremes, and the fence has not deterred woodchucks and the occasional raccoon or skunk. This past winter the gardeners decided to take a more effective long-term solution to the animal pest problem by proposing to erect a year-round fence to protect the gardens. Approvals were received from Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, and thanks to a generous contribution from an anonymous donor, along with donations from the gardeners and local organizations (Hanover Improvement Society and Mascoma Bank), Hanover Community Gardens will have a new more durable and secure fence installed by professionals this summer. It is expected that the new fence will provide the gardens with protection from deer, woodchucks and other animal pests for at least 10 years, and will also provide more space for the gardens to expand with more plots for interested gardeners in the coming years.