How to Join a Community Garden
So you’d like to join a community garden and tend a little plot of land. The idea of growing your own food is very appealing! Being part of a community project is also great for getting to know like-minded people in your neighborhood.
You’ll get fresh air, exercise, and experience in this homesteading skill. In recent years there has been a movement to start more community gardens in urban areas. A lot of folks are looking for a deeper connection to their food and the environment.
If you are hoping to save money on food, learn to garden, and live a greener lifestyle, then you’ll really dig a community garden. Not sure where to start? Here’s the dirt on finding and joining a community garden near you.
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What to Look for in a Community Garden
You may not have many choices when joining a community garden. Some areas have a lot of community gardens and others don’t. If you have a lot of them nearby, here are some things to look at:
- Close proximity to your home or work
- What is the cost to lease a plot?
- Is it well maintained?
- Strong sense of community
- Safe area and easy access
- Is there a composting area and water source available?
- Are there well-defined rules and hours?
- Newsletter or website with information
How to Locate a Community Garden Near You
Maybe you walk right by a community garden on your way to work or the grocery store. More likely you’re not even sure if there’s one in your area. You can start by checking the American Community Garden Association’s ‘Find a Garden’ page. This is not a complete listing. If you don’t find one near you on their website, don’t despair!
Check with your local Extension Office to see if they have community garden listings in your area. If that doesn’t help, call city hall, gardening clubs, churches, and community centers nearby to see if they have the scoop on one near you. If all else fails, you might be able to start your own! Here’s a handy guide to help you get started.
Getting Started with Your Community Garden
Once you locate a community garden that is close by you’ll need to apply for a plot. Some have plenty of available space, others have a waiting list. This will depend on your area and the interest level.
When the season winds down in fall or in early spring are often the best times to apply for a garden space. Some members abandon their plot during the season so you may be able to take over their space. It will depend on the rules of your community garden.
You’ll want to know a few things before you dig in:
- Is there a fee?
- What are your responsibilities?
- Is there a list of rules?
- Do you need to sign an agreement?
Remember that there are rules regarding your use of the space for a reason. Gardening can be hard work and some people give up on their plots in the middle of the season. Unkempt gardens are frowned upon by neighbors and administrators. So take good care of your plot to avoid losing the privilege and your rental fee!
What You Need
There are some tools and materials you’ll need to make your job easier.
Here are the basic tools and materials you may want for a small space:
- Seeds and seedlings
- Watering can
- Harvest basket, bag or bucket
If you have a larger space you may also want some additional tools and materials:
- Garden fork
- Garden hose
- Pruners or garden shears
- Organic fertilizer
- Organic insect control
Make the Most of Your Garden Plot!
Once you join a community garden you’ll want to enjoy a good harvest from it. To ensure a productive and attractive garden, follow these steps!
- Read up on gardening methods before the season starts
- Put together a bag with drinking water, sunscreen, and gloves for your comfort
- Bring a watering can or hose if one isn’t supplied
- Have a bucket or basket on hand for harvesting
- Plant vegetables and flowers that you enjoy
- Choose disease-resistant and space-saving varieties
- Space rows or beds to allow for easy access
- Plant some herbs and flowers to attract pollinators
- Position taller crops so they don’t shade the neighboring plots
- Use succession planting for continual harvests
- Plant a bio-intensive garden and use companion planting for increased yields
- Work in compost or organic fertilizer for plant vigor
- Show up for meetings or classes if they are available
- Use only organic products to be a good neighbor
- Invest in a small border fence if you would like to mark out your space
- Be sure to plant your garden in a timely manner and keep it weeded
- Visit your plot and pick regularly to keep plants in production
- Learn to preserve the harvest!
- Follow the rules so you don’t get kicked out
If you are new to gardening, check out this USDA Community Gardening Guide for basics about starting your garden.
Take Care of Your Plot
Remember that most community gardens won’t tolerate a plot that looks abandoned. If you don’t maintain your garden space you can’t blame them for taking it back or tilling it under. Be sure you keep up with the work and don’t get behind! If you are sick or will be away for a while, contact the organizer to let them know. Work out an arrangement with one of your garden plot neighbors to tend your plants while you are away.
A Community Garden is a Great Way to Homestead in the City!
Many people in urban areas dream of moving to a homestead and living a simple lifestyle. However, the cost of
Some urban community gardens even have beehives, chickens, fruit trees, and herb gardens. If you have these resources you may learn even more from your community garden experience!
Do you belong to a community garden, or are you looking to join one in your neighborhood? Leave a comment!