Community gardens create vibrant, engaging spaces from vacant, abandoned, underutilized lots. A garden is an amazing amenity to any community that offers more than a handful of benefits. These benefits can be as simple as increasing social interactions to as powerful as helping to deter crime. I think that one of the most positive benefits stems from the strengthening of community that happens when working together to create and then tend to, the garden itself.
Before You Begin
Starting a community garden may seem to be a simple task. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful garden in their community? However, in many instances you will face many challenges upfront, especially when trying to obtain land.
The benefits of growing food in a community garden are amazing!But it’s also important to know that a project like this takes time to get off the ground but the results are 100% worth all the efforts!
- Reach out to others who would be interested in creating a community garden– There are many out there who have green thumbs but might feel restricted to the gardens in their own backyards. Let them know the benefits of community gardening.
- Do your homework! Identify property that might be used for your garden "“ acquiring land is going to be one of the toughest obstacles you will face. Many times a piece of property may seem perfect for a garden, but is being held by local government for another project or is owned by a private entity.
- Contact your local government, and be flexible! – let them know your intentions, they might already have location ideas for potential gardens. It’s important to work closely with local government to ensure that the property you receive is legal obtained and not earmarked for any future projects.
- Make a plan for your garden "“ What will you grow? How many people will be tending it? What should it look like? Many different plants have different requirements for root growth, space and amount of sunlight needed. It’s wise to keep all these things in mind when creating the design for your garden.
- Set up guidelines! – It’s a good idea to set up a few simple rules to ensure everyone has a pleasant experience while working their garden plots. Setting up guidelines that dictate a clear rotation schedule for general maintenance of the garden, allowed hours of gardening, what chemicals are and are not permitted, cleanup procedures and other community garden do’s and don’t’s will foster a positive gardening experience for all who are involved (City Farmer.)
Suggested web links
www.communitygarden.org – recommended by a leader in the community gardening movement in the Chicago region
www.earthbox.com – A great site if space availability is an obstacle! Check this out if you want to learn about interesting ways to make a big impact with a small space!
www.thegrowingconnection.org – An organization that introduces gardens to schools across the globe using EarthBoxes!
aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu – the website for the Horticulture Department at Texas A&M University. It has a plethora of data available to the general public. Be pleasantly overwhelmed! Heavily recommended by my master gardener friend.
Contributed by Andrea Lewis | Master of Urban Planning and Policy Candidate | 5/13/2009