Interested in growing your own food, and yet do not have the yard to maintain a garden or enough space to set up an indoor one? Fret not, because you can still fulfill your gardening goals by participating in a community garden near you. So what exactly are community gardens and where can you find one?
What are Community Gardens?
Community gardens are very simply, pieces of land that are tended to by a group of people for the benefit of everyone in the community. It can either be individual or shared plots of private or public land – as long as the community is united in its purpose – which is the cultivation of organic vegetables. Community gardens provide a lot of benefits for the community, such as:
Provides fresh and organic produce for everyone
Contributes to the sense of community and connection to the environment
Provides everyone the opportunity and satisfaction of growing their own food
May help alleviate climate change – by decreasing carbon emissions produced from commercial food production
Allows the community to build their own food security (and in a sense, also contribute in a global scale) – by allowing members to grow their own food for their own consumption, and at the same, share it with everyone
Community Gardening Etiquette
Now that you have an idea of what a community garden is, here are a few things you should know about joining one and the basic to-do’s as a member. Please note that these are general guidelines and that most community gardens have their own rules and whatnot.
Time it right. You can join a community garden either in early spring or midsummer – when some plots have already been abandoned (people’s priorities change or some realize at this point that gardening is not for them). So if you were unable to get a slot in early spring, you can check again in a few weeks. If you see some plots lying fallow, you can check with the members and leaders if you can possible take over.
Familiarize yourself. It would also help if you start attending community garden hosted events, tours, and volunteer opportunities. Most community gardens are open and always looking for people who are willing to lend a helping land in maintaining the garden – this would be a good way to gauge if gardening and that specific community garden is the right fit for you. Plus it would also be a great opportunity to get to know and socialize with the community garden leaders and members.
Once you are already a member, here are a few basic gardening etiquettes you can practice:
Pick your own. Please do not pick other people’s crops without permission, stick to your own crops no matter how beautiful or plenty your neighbor’s crops are. Always ask permission, and if possible suggest crops swaps.
Clean up. Maintain a clean and tidy plot, such as: pulling out any weeds growing in your plot or in the pathways leading to it, ensuring that spilled soil or mulch are cleaned up the best you can, and returning communal tools in their proper storage place.
Only use allowed materials in your plot. Some community gardens maintain strict organic-only policies, so if your garden is one of these, you should definitely not use chemical-based fertilizers or pesticides. And even if your garden is tolerant towards non-organics, there are definitely advantages to going easy on the chemicals and sticking to natural pest control and fertilizers.
Trod carefully. And we mean this literally. Keep into the paths, and if necessary, step carefully between plots and never step in them even if a spot might look empty. Those seemingly empty spots might have germinating seeds or even bulbs from the previous season. At the same time, do your best to not step into vine plants that might’ve drifted into walking paths. And if these vine plants are yours, do your best to train and keep them maintained in your plot.
Tend to your kids and pets. Community gardens are great learning opportunities and activities for kids, and even pets. But be mindful if you do decide to bring them as kids can wander and pick other gardener’s crops, and pets can inadvertently play and trample in other plots.
Be considerate of others. Plan your plot and crops carefully. Consider the possible height of the plants you plan to grow with the direction of the sun, and ensure that you wouldn’t be shading anyone else’s crops from much needed sunlight.
Participate. The best way to ensure that you aren’t breaking any rules is to actively participate in the community garden. Ensure that you keep communication lines open by attending organized event and gatherings, signing up in their forum if there is, or joining in their Facebook page or group if there is one.
Do note that these guidelines and etiquette are basic and most community gardens have their own set of rules for their members. Make sure that you familiarize yourself with these as well.
Community Gardens Directory
Ready to join a community garden? You can check our list of community gardens below to see if one is near your area.