We can’t discuss the benefits of a community garden without actually defining what exactly a community garden is – and does.
Like its name suggests, a community garden is a garden planted by – and for – a specific community of people. Community gardens are set up in suburban neighborhoods, rural areas, schools, etc., on a designated piece of land suitable for a gardening plot. The land may be used as a shared garden space that serves everyone in a particular community or as separate garden plots individually owned and operated by members of the community.
Community gardens are ideal for individuals who live in apartments or homes that don’t provide enough space for personal gardens. It is also a wonderful way of revitalizing a downtrodden section of a neighborhood, like a vacant parking lot or even a rooftop. Getting involved in a gardening community allows individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow their own plants and vegetables to do so.
Community gardens may differ from area to area. Some may solely grow flowers while others grow vegetables, or a combination of the two. The common thread, however, is that community gardens are actively maintained by the gardeners themselves, not outside vendors or city/county employees.
According to the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA), the benefits of community gardening are not just limited to growing and eating your own produce. Many other factors come into play, such as enhanced social interaction, improved quality of life, neighborhood beautification, lower family food budgets, conservation, better eating habits, even crime reduction.
Land for a community garden is either publicly or privately owned. More and more cities are turning vacant lots into community gardening spaces, which reduces neighborhood blight and deters crime. It also makes productive use of an otherwise abandoned area. Some government entities allow community gardens to be set up in public parks. They are also created as conservation gardens, where native plant restoration is the primary focus.
It’s necessary to take into consideration several factors when initially planning a community garden: location, ownership, purpose of the garden, organization of the garden and garden management, to name a few.
The ACGA is a national organization that oversees many community gardens nationwide. Check out their website for information on starting and planning a community garden. You can also find community gardens in your area if you’re interested in getting involved and/or participating.