There’s a new season germinating in gardening, when neighbors work together to create, keep, grow and harvest a bountiful garden located in a central, shared location. The community garden trend is growing, as more and more Americans take part — and for good reason. Along with growing fresh fruits and vegetables and beautifying vacant lots, neighbors who participate in a community garden can help strengthen social connections.
If you have spied a shared urban gardening space in your neighborhood or heard others rave about their experiences, you may wonder about the ground rules and how to get involved. These basics can help you get your foot in the gate:
- Garden plots can be raised beds or in-ground. Different families or individuals can maintain each bed.
- Look for a sign listing the garden’s name and a contact person. Reach out to the organizer to inquire about open or soon-to-be-available spaces.
- Often, the garden community shares the basics: tools, water and upkeep of common areas, including pathways, gathering spaces, fencing and composting.
- There may be ground rules such as conditions for membership, organic gardening practices, minimum maintenance, cooperative work and time limits for planting and harvesting.
If no space is available, ask how you can lend a hand, such as maintain a plot while a family is on vacation or pitch in on volunteer tasks such as fall cleanup. Inquire about where excess produce is sold or donated; you may be able to shop the garden’s bounty.
When you become an official community gardener, be certain you respect your fellow growers:
- Keep your plot planted, weeded, watered and in good shape all season long. If you need to abandon the project, notify the garden organizer as soon as possible.
- Contribute to the shared maintenance by keeping your space — and the adjacent pathways and any common spaces — free of weeds and litter.
- Refrain from planting tall crops that may shade adjacent plots. Stick with hardy, easy-grow plants that require little hands-on maintenance. Life gets busy, and when your garden isn’t right outside your door, daily visits can be difficult. Harvest only your own crops.
- Shun fertilizers, insecticides, chemicals and any substances that potentially could harm other plots or that other gardeners might not welcome.
To find a community garden near you, as well as tools and resources, visit the American Community Gardening Association’s website.
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