Neighborhood Nourishment: How to Form a Community Garden

Liberty Community Garden

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Gardening is becoming ever-more important as food prices continue to rise. You can save a lot of money on food by growing your own – not to mention the health benefits of homegrown produce.

However, many people don’t have yards large enough to support a garden the size needed to grow an abundant amount of food. While growing some food is better than growing no food, there are ways you can grow a garden larger than your own yard.

One of those ways is to join a community garden. In a community garden, a group of people come together to grow food on a plot of land. This land is usually either owned by one of the community garden members, or leased for use by the city.

It’s usually quite affordable to get your own “spot” in the community garden. So if there’s one in your area, it’s a great way to get your feet wet with gardening without investing in a garden in your own yard.

If there isn’t an established community garden in your area, why not start one yourself? Here are some ideas to get a community garden established in your neighborhood.

Connect with Community Leaders

One of the first to things you need to do if you’d like to organize a community garden is to seek support from your community’s leaders. It’s possible there may be an unused plot of land they can approve for use once they understand the benefits to the community. The support of a community leader can also help make your project a reality faster.

Liberty Community Garden

Liberty Community Garden, Battery Park City. Image courtesy of Chris Kreussling.

Locate People That Want to be Members

Start spreading the word within the community that you’d like to establish a collaborative garden. It’s important to make sure there is enough interest to make the community garden sustainable. When you find a few key people that are interested, they can help you spread the word through their networks to help find more members and perhaps secure the land plot.

Secure Land Use Permissions

While you’re considering where the garden will be located, it’s important to consider whether the land will be private or publicly owned land. If you’re lucky, a private owner may provide a lease in exchange for a plot in the garden. However, you can also try and secure the rights to unused public land as well. The city may be willing to lease unused public land at an affordable rate if they see the value to the community. Whatever type of land you go for, make sure you have a lease in place so you don’t lose use rights mid-season.

North Lawndale Green Youth Farm

North Lawndale Green Youth Farm. Image courtesy of MrBrownThumb.

Create the Garden Design Plan

Once you have secured the land use rights, you will need to design the layout of the garden. How the garden is laid out will depend on whether each member will have their own plot to tend, or if you’ll have a shared used model. You’ll need to decide:

  • Where each of the beds will go,
  • How the paths will work and
  • Where the full perimeter of the garden is.

Survey the potential members so you can make sure the layout works for everyone’s needs.

Make a Schedule

If you’re going for a shared use model where everyone gets a share of the total harvest, you’ll need to create a schedule that lays out a time for everyone to tend the garden. If you’re using this model, it’s best to set up a meeting where everyone can sign up for a time that works for them. If you need additional volunteers, look to civic groups to recruit volunteers.

What is your experience with community gardens?

Feature image courtesy of Chris Kreussling

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