There are so many benefits of community gardening; it's hard to list them all. They give you a chance to meet the neighbors, enjoy some fresh air, and grow something to give back to others or cook for your family. Some community gardens simply restore a touch of nature to areas that haven?t seen any for decades, while others are dedicated to putting fresh produce on the table. Whatever reasons you have for getting involved, here are some easy ways to do it.
Whether you?re new in town or a long-time resident, finding a community garden can be a challenge. However, the American Community Garden Association (ACGA) has made it easy for you to join. Just visit their site and type in your zip code. You?ll see the registered community gardens listed. Of course, not all community gardens are listed with the ACGA. You can find others through your municipality, your neighborhood newspaper, online, or just by asking around.
Starting a community garden can be a rewarding yet challenging experience. You need to organize a group of people who are willing to put in the work of clearing space, weeding, and planting. But you first need to gain permission to use an area. That may mean trips to City Hall, or persuading a landowner to grant permission for the garden. Local governments and community organizations are usually very receptive to the idea of establishing a community garden. Try to get the use of your garden for a minimum of 3 years, to make your hard work pay off. If you?re putting in a garden to help a neighborhood other than your own, be sure to gain buy-in from the people who are supposed to benefit from your efforts. The ACGA has a list of points to consider when starting a community garden on their website.
A recent study by Ohio State University determined that if the city of Cleveland harnassed 80% of its vacant lots for food gardens, it could grow between 22 and 48% of its demand for fresh produce. This figure shows the vast potential that community vegetable gardening may have for your city or town. If your garden is being started on a former vacant lot, you might want to stay with raised beds. Soil can easily be polluted from lead and other contaminants, but with raised beds, you bring in your own soil, and control the planting environment. A nearby source for water is also a great asset.
Are you interested in hummingbirds and butterflies? What about preserving native plants? Does urban runoff concern you? There are community gardens across the country that address all of those issue and more. The town of Worthington, Ohio recently put in a community rain garden. Tuscon, Arizona has several interesting community gardens that focus on preserving rainwater. Even New York City has community gardens where songbirds, crickets, and frogs can be heard. Whatever your interests are, you can bring together a group of people who share them to create a garden around those interests - for yourselves and your community.