Community gardens, or neighborhood gardens, are areas set aside and run by the local community for the purpose of gardening. They can be used for just about anything – flowers, vegetables, ornamental plants, green space, education, or socializing.
Community gardening is a growing trend, especially in urban areas. They help to promote physical and mental health, environmental sustainability, and community pride. There are over 10,000 community gardens in the United States and more are sprouting up regularly.
Community gardens can be anywhere – the middle of Manhattan or the outskirts of suburban Charlotte. Anyone can be involved – young or old, rich or poor, rookie gardener or seasoned veteran. Community gardens can be big or small. They can have hundreds of people or just a few. They can be a group effort or establish individual plots. It is up to every community to decide what their community wants from the garden.
Lots of people wonder how to start a community garden in their neighborhood. The America Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is a good resource for information. The process of creating a community garden can be broken down into a few steps.
First, organize a meeting of people interested in starting a community garden. Post flyers, chat with neighbors, mention gardening at t-ball games, or put an ad in the local coffee shop. It can be challenging to find dedicated community gardeners.
Second, establish a committee and identify resources. Put someone in charge of the community garden. This can be decided by democratic vote, appointment, or volunteering. Also determine your budget. Communities, grassroots movements, the ACGA, local government, and grants are good options to help with the finances.
Third, find a location. An easily accessible location for a community garden is key. Often a community can reclaim an abandoned lot, work on the rooftop of a skyscraper, takeover a portion of a large park, rent a vacant area, or even buy a plot of land. Look into liability insurance. Check the area to make sure it receives adequate sunlight, is pavement free, has access to water, and make sure the owner of the land knows what you’re doing.
Fourth, prepare and develop the site. This is a group effort. Hauling away trash and digging through rocks takes time, energy, and money. Putting soil on top of concrete doesn’t cut it. It takes manual labor to get the site ready for gardening.
Fifth, organize the garden’s design. Build the infrastructure. Do you want to have individual plots or a group area? Do you want a fence and a gate? Where are you going to put a weatherproof message board? Better design can increase the garden’s potential yield. Some communities design a children’s plot to help kids learn about gardening.
Sixth, establish rules. This is important. Decide who gets a plot? How much are fees and annual dues? Is there a membership? How will maintenance duties be assigned? Will the garden be a group effort or will everyone have an individual plot? Will the garden be organic? What’s the garden’s purpose – green space or kitchen garden? Will the crops be eaten, sold, or donated? Consider your community and then establish the rules that are best.
Finally, let your neighborhood know about the community garden. Spread the word. Before you know it everybody will be involved. A true sense of community will develop and so will an exciting, productive, connection with the environment.
Starting a community garden takes lots of work, but the benefits are well worth it. Places that participate in community gardening benefit from reduced crime rates and cheaper food. It is a physically and psychologically rewarding process that builds community pride. Community gardens are a trendy, green, social spot.
It’s not surprising how popular community gardens have become in the past decade. They are a nice way to get dirty in the city with your neighbors and friends. Community gardens are urban green spaces that help people realize what a community is all about.