Do spiraling food prices and concerns for where food comes from have you looking for alternatives to what’s in the supermarket bins? With Spring on the horizon, it’s a perfect time to think about starting a community garden!
The benefits of starting a community garden are many…
- Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
- Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
- Stimulates Social Interaction
- Encourages Self-Reliance
- Beautifies Neighborhoods
- Produces Nutritious Food
- Reduces Family Food Budgets
- Conserves Resources
- Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
- Reduces Crime
- Preserves Green Space
- Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
- Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections
So without further ado, here are 10 steps to help you start a community garden in your neighborhood…
- Find a plot- Locate suitable land with access to water and electricity. Vacant lots, schoolyards and churches are all potential sites, just be sure you have permission from property owners.
- Create a crew- Gather a group of like-minded individuals and create a garden plan. Consider the phases of a typical garden project and talk about who is going to be responsible for what in each phase:
6. Harvest Festival
7. Clean up/Winter Over
- Design time- You garden space should have full sun for a minimum of 6-8 hours per day. Consider how much land will be needed to give each family ample produce or their own plot to grow in. (Visit CommunityGarden.org for ideas.) When laying out plots an/or planting beds, be sure to leave enough space for walking and trundling wheelbarrows or carts. Most gardens can be grown in less than 6 months; typically a garden calender runs from May through October, depending on the climate. The Earth Systems Research Library has an online tool to find out your climate by state at tinyurl.com/myclimate.
- Get commitments- Make sure everyone participating in your community garden understands that it takes hard work to grow plants successfully, and everyone must commit to doing their fair share of the labor. Inventory the skills of members and ask neighborhood gardeners to share their experience. For basic information on plants, check out websites of groups like garden.org.
- All Organic or Anything Goes?- Incorporate into your rules the type of garden you have chosen. If you have a compost pile on-site, plan to educate members about how composting works, and what what can and can’t be composted. For more information on composting visit howtocompost.org/.
- Bartering is good- If you need a tool shed built, offer to trade produce for carpentry skills. Scour yard sales for cheap gardening tools. If you have to raise money for fencing, or other materials, create a fundraising appeal tailored to the community. You can also check out websites like freecycle and Craigslist for garden supplies and tools.
- Communal Tools- Assemble tools and supplies such as hoses, couplings, sprinklers, watering devices, wheelbarrows etc. and decide which tools and supplies are for communal use.
- Garden Goals- Write down your garden’s goals and record the progress in a garden journal. Set up a garden website or blog, and social media pages and share your successes with members online. Ask farmers at your local farmer’s market for expert advice on any problems you’re having with your crop. If you live in an urban area, check out foodsecurity.org/urbannag.html for tips.
- Sharing is caring- Share your produce with neighbors who do not have the time or means to grow a garden. Encourage them to join you next season if they are able. According to ampleharvest.org, more than 36 million Americans (12%) are hungry and rely on the food pantries to help sustain their families. The USDA has rules on donating grown or gleaned foods posted online here.
- Get to work!- Even if it’s still too cold to start planting, get started making plans! In some cases, grants are available for getting a garden started or for taking gardens to another level. Go to kidsgardening.com to apply for funds.
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