2 Way to Create a Community Garden

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Yearning for seeds, itching to rake, peeking through fences? These are signs of gardening envy, a common problem for people who don’t have a yard.

However, it’s possible to get the pleasure of gardening without owning a plot.

Community gardens, public spaces with private plots that can be rented, are excellent alternative to a backyard. For a small fee, gardeners get a desirable hunk of land, use of some gardening tools and convenient water for irrigation.

No wonder the concept is growing. There are more than 18,000 community gardens established in the United States, according to the American Community Garden Assoc.

When subscribing to a community garden, individuals get more than a few feet of soil, says Jeremy Smith, author of the new book, “Growing a Garden City” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010).

“One of the wonders of a community garden is that you get the experience of everyone in the garden. You have the connection,” says Smith, of Missoula, Mont.

Experienced gardeners are on hand to offer advice and provide backup for chores that won’t wait. Garden partners can contribute to a culinary adventure by sharing their bounty.

A plot neighbor who grows five kinds of basil or bitter melons just might share cooking tips and maybe even a taste of what he’s growing.

Townships or neighborhood clubs may support a community garden or those who’d like to establish one their area. Either way, here are some tips.

Gardening as a Group Activity

Start by believing there’s interest and need, says Robert Harkrader, who is helping with this year’s community garden launch in Adel, Iowa. Then gather like-minded gardeners to work with you.

“You don’t want to do this by yourself. Recruit as many people as you can. Locate other help, such as the local parks and recreation department,” says Harkrader, who, with other volunteers, started planning late last fall.

The Adel gardeners didn’t lack for appropriate land. If site shopping, look for a garden plot that’s close to irrigation water and near a shade and play area for rest and recreation, Smith says.

Appoint one person as the garden organizer who keeps track of equipment and assigns chores. Find partnerships with local businesses or the city to defray costs and labor. For example, the city of Adel helped with composting. Now the organizers are asking for tool donations.

Build enthusiasm with ongoing activities. The Adel gardeners got tips on food preservation from the local extension service. One gardener who only grows herbs gave a lecture on the health benefits of his crops.

Even though the growing season is just beginning, the Adel gardeners are looking forward to their potluck dinner at the end of the year.

Expect to pay a Small Fee

Community garden plots cost $30 to $80 for the season. Sizes vary according to location, but 15 or 16 square feet are typical.

Ask about the garden’s rules. You may be required to weed a few hours every month or share tools.

Make sure the garden offers a rest area. You’ll want to take break, and inviting benches under shade trees will be very appealing.

Gardens that offer crop swaps, cooking classes and other activities will make this summer even more pleasurable.

Even if you have a home garden, you may want to enroll in a community garden. People may use their backyard for ornamentals and the community garden for vegetables,” Harkrader says.

Community gardens, set in sunny spaces, may give plants the necessary six hours of sunshine a day a home garden can’t provide.

Tags: summer, community gardens