Community Garden Corner

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Community gardens serve a number of purposes including fresh produce, social interaction and learning opportunities. I once helped establish a community garden in downtown Baltimore, MD where the goal was to turn abandoned lots into productive garden spaces. City beautification is among the many benefits community gardens can bring. With all these advantages come challenges too. Some are familiar to all gardeners but some are unique to community gardening.

Everyone has their own style of gardening. Some gardeners are meticulous about weeding while others are not. In a shared space, allowing weeds to set seed has an impact on the surrounding gardeners as well. Using community garden funds to keep a large mulch pile onsite for gardeners to use is one strategy to prevent this scenario. Planning regular “community workdays” where all gardeners are encouraged to work side-by-side is another option. Turn workdays into fun social events by playing music and having a potluck lunch when the work is done.

Clear, concise rules and regular communication go a long way for success in the community garden. February is a great time to bring the gardeners together for a planning meeting. Allow everyone to contribute and establish the rules for the year based on what worked well and what needs to improve from last year. During this meeting create a contact list with everyone’s email and phone number. Plan the calendar for the year including several celebrations. Focus on building community and get everyone working towards the same goals.

Funding is another challenge for community gardens. Charging a fee to individual gardeners who grow in each plot helps to offset these costs. This also results in the gardeners being more invested (literally) in caring for their space. Another source for funding is sponsorships. You may seek funding, even small amounts, from neighboring businesses who appreciate the beautification work your group is doing. Sponsors may be recognized with their company logo on community garden t-shirts, signage or by having their name(s) engraved on the tools they helped purchase.

If you are looking for resources to establish a new community garden or find an existing community garden in your area, contact your local extension office.

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