Not too long ago I had the privilege of instructing a class on the basics of home vegetable gardening at my local library. During this class we went over such things as getting your garden ready, enriching your soil through composting, organizing the layout and of course managing the garden once it was all put together.
During the course of the evening I got to meet some wonderful people who are just as passionate as I am when it comes to home vegetable gardening. One of the gardening enthusiasts that I met did all of his gardening in a local community garden. Living in an apartment complex this gentleman did not have his own land but instead took advantage of the apartment complexes community garden.
The apartment owner had set aside a large piece of his land so that his tenants could use it to grow a garden. What they grew was up to the tenant who was assigned a piece of land, it just had to be legal and you had to care for the plot of land, meaning it could not look like an overgrown mess. The charge was $20 to rent a portion of the land for the entire year and you were given 1st dibs to rent the same plot (or more) the following year.
This got me thinking about how a community garden could be a great thing for many people who have little space and is it possible to start a community garden in any area of the country. So I started doing some research on the topic. What I found was, maintaining a community garden is no different then if the garden was in your backyard. There are just a few caveats.
The first thing you need to do is put together a committee for the community garden. Since, by definition, a community garden is maintained by a community of people, it goes without saying that putting together a committee to work on issues you may face will keep it organized and structured. Usually a committee consists of (all volunteers of course) a president, a vice-president, secretary and treasurer. Yours may differ but this is usually the standard for any organization.
Once you have your organization in place you need to find some land. This can be as simple as going to your local township government council and asking if there is any unused land that your group can use to garden on, or using land at your local church or place of worship, up through finding individuals who own land and are willing to let your group garden on it, sometimes for a small fee (or sometimes free as long as you maintain it properly).
Before you ever put a seed in the ground or pick that first ripe red tomato, find out if you will need insurance. The last thing your township, church or land owner wants is some kind of lawsuit because food grown there might have made someone ill, or someone gets hurt during gardening. Two vast extremes I know, but you have to be prepared.
How will your community garden work? Will you create equal sub plots on the land such as was the case with the student in the class I taught or make it one giant garden? Which direction you decide will be up to the community using the land. For instance if the community is made up of multiple families with the intention of growing food for themselves, your best bet is to create equal sub plots. If the intention is to grow food to donate it to a local food pantry, then one giant garden will work. You get the idea.
Finally, in the whole idea of community gardening, be sure you get feedback from all of the gardeners in your group of what works, what doesn’t work, who had troubles growing items and so on. Having this information on hand and the answers to those issues will go a long way in making sure the community garden is a success.
Be sure to check out these books on community gardening and of course CommunityGarden.org which has a plethora of information to get you started.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us and the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook.
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