Whether you’re gardening as a healthy hobby or for the delicious products of your labor, it’s a great way to spend your time. If you have concerns about starting a garden on your own or simply want a way to bring your local community together, a community garden could be a wonderful idea. Not only does it have some unique benefits of its own, but it can mitigate many of the reasons why you don’t enjoy or maybe even fail at gardening.
We’ve already touched on community gardens in our post Easy Ways to Go Green for Earth Day & Beyond, but this topic deserves its own article. What should we know about community gardens?
What are Community Gardens?
Community gardens are a pretty straightforward concept. Generally, they are plots of land used to house a shared garden where everyone who helps out gets a share of the yield. Since they’re often popular in urban areas, where space may be limited, the plots may sometimes be rented or used with permission of the local government. Other times, they may be part of a common area, like if a small group of houses connect at the backyard. This could also be true for apartment complexes or row homes that share a larger backyard.
In a communal garden, the area is shared, with everyone pitching in to grow an agreed upon crop.
Not all community gardens are the same. There are two general types of community gardens. First, you have a neighborhood or allotment garden, which is broken into separate allotments. Each gardener has their own allotment that they can use to grow and harvest what they choose. Second, the other main type of community garden is a communal garden. In a communal garden, the area is shared, with everyone pitching in to grow an agreed upon crop. This type of garden takes more organization as a group than an allotment garden, but it enables a greater degree of community bonding.
Why You Should Consider a Community Garden
There are many benefits to starting a community garden, beyond the usual benefits of having a garden like health improvements and the fresh produce. If you live in an area where having a private garden isn’t an option, a community garden provides a space for you to grow fresh fruit or vegetables. Community gardens can also make it easier to maintain a garden for people who otherwise wouldn’t have the time or aren’t physically able to do all the maintenance work.
It creates a central area where likeminded neighbors can gather to chat and strengthen community bonds.
The camaraderie aspect of a community garden can’t be overlooked, either. Starting and maintaining a garden with your community is a fantastic way to bring the neighborhood together. In a sense, it creates a central area where likeminded neighbors can gather to chat and strengthen community bonds. It’s also a great way to build friendships with those around you and help you avoid social isolation. Some cities are also turning to community gardens as a way to revitalize and beautify their local area. Often, they’ll take vacant lots that have stood empty and unloved and turn them into areas of community strength. It’s a really creative way to utilize space where land comes at a premium.
How to Set One Up
If you’re interested in starting a community garden, start by gauging your neighborhood’s interest in the plan. If there are enough people interested, next, you need to find the space. In some cases, one will become immediately obvious, but in others, you may have to search a bit.
You’ll need to make sure your site is suitable for a garden. This means it gets enough sunlight (at least six hours) and has access to a water source. If you plan to plant directly in the ground, you should check the soil to make sure it’s a good quality to grow in. If you plan to make above-ground garden boxes, that aspect becomes less important since you may provide your own soil. Once you know the spot is good for growing, you’ll need to get permission to use the space from the owner. It may be a private owner or your local township or city, depending on the spot and where you live. It may help to offer to lease the land for a number of years, which gives the owner a small payment and includes a liability waiver.
It may also help to set up garden rules and a work schedule for tending the garden, though everyone can help out whenever.
Once you’ve found and obtained the rights to the gardening spot, it’s time to plan your garden. Discuss which type of community garden you’ll grow (communal or allotment) and whether you’ll be planting in the ground or in planter boxes. If you choose allotment gardening, that’s about the end of the necessary group planning. If you want a communal garden, you’ll need to agree on what vegetables you’ll be growing and where. It may also help to set up garden rules and a work schedule for tending the garden, though everyone can help out whenever. It’s also a good idea to develop a joint fund and have everyone chip in for supplies and gardening tools.
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This may sound like a lot, but once you begin working with your neighbors and planning, things should begin to fall into place. There are a large number of resources, like the Neighborhood Gardens Trust, you can depend on for assistance. Ultimately, you want to make sure that your community garden is a stress-free and unifying event for you and your neighbors, so it helps to be organized and ensure everyone is doing their part. Once your community garden is up and running, you’ll have a pleasant source of fresh local produce and communal unity that everyone can enjoy!