How to Start a Community Garden in Your Neighborhood
Community Gardens: Gardening for a Cause
If you have a green thumb and a little extra time on your hands, starting a community garden in your neighborhood might be the perfect outlet for your creative energy. At its essence, a community garden is a plot of land that is cultivated and maintained by a collective of people, through the act of gardening.
In addition to being a great way to get outside and to build community, community gardens increase property value and are 3-5 times more productive in terms of vegetable yield than traditional farms. Further, community gardens can lead to reduced crime in your neighborhood by increasing the feeling of ongoing activity in a neighborhood at any given time.
For more stats and facts about the benefit of community gardens, you can check out this study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. But for now, read on for a quick guide on how to get started.
Getting Started: Organizing a Community Garden
The first step in developing a community garden in your neighborhood is to organize a group of interested people who will be willing to put in the grunt work of getting the garden up and running. You can also invite neighbors and members of other local horticulture groups to get involved through community postings.
The American Community Garden Association recommends forming a planning community with people who are experienced in community organizing and leadership. This will make it easier to streamline the planning process up front.
Find an Ideal Garden Location
After you’ve established the community you will be partnering with, you must then find the garden space. When choosing a site for the garden, first think about proximity to the community that the garden will be benefiting. Exposure to sunlight and accessibility to proper drainage are two other important factors to consider.
Green Thumb NYC has a great checklist for how to approach finding a new garden site in an urban environment, which you can use as a blueprint for finding a lot in your city.
Prep Your Garden Space
Once you’ve chosen your space, you should follow these EPA guidelines for testing the soil to find out what was in the earth before your garden arrived. From there, you can build a fence or wall to reduce the risk of neighborhood critters like raccoons and rabbits eating the fruits of your labor.
The Spruce has a great step-by-step checklist for building a stone retaining wall, but you can also use wood or even garden netting to fortify the parameters of your garden.
Start Sowing Those Seeds!
After you’ve found the prime location for your community garden and the land has been prepped, you must then choose the seeds, starts or plants that will grow most ideally in your location. If you live in a really hot city like Atlanta or Phoenix, for example, you will probably want to plant different seeds than if you live in Portland, Maine.
Burpee Seeds has a Growing Zone Finder, where you can enter your zip code in order to find out which zone you live in, and which seeds will grow best in your particular environment.
Sit Back, and Reap the Benefits
The benefits of a community garden are immense. Not only will you be able to take home some of the delicious fruits and veggies that you and your neighbors have grown (not to mention the community dinners!), but you may also consider donating some of the harvest to local food banks and charity organizations.
A community garden is a working classroom that will teach and benefit the community for years. Good luck and enjoy!