Community Garden projects and tips

Community Garden Types

There are many different styles of community gardens, but all community gardens provide gardening opportunities and social benefits to a community. Invohowlvement in a community garden can provide inner-city dwellers with much needed produce, boost social networking within a community or expose children to the disappearing art of self-sustained living according to the Technology for the Poor president Dr. Job Ebenezer. Community gardens exist in many forms: self-sustained gardens, gardens assisted through grants and volunteer programs and gardens developed hand-in-hand with local parks departments. Several community gardens receive private funding as well.

Community Garden projects and tips
Community Garden projects and tips

Community-Sustained Gardens

Community-sustained gardens–like Job Ebenezer’s urban container gardens are usually inexpensive gardens cared for and monetarily funded by the individual community members, though expensive upscale versions of these gardens do exist. Building a container garden requires nothing more than sowing seeds in a child’s wading pool with added drainage holes that is filled with dirt. Dr. Ebenezer utilized these inexpensive community gardens in urban areas in Chicago to prove gardening was accessible for even the very poor.

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Non-Profit Organization Assisted Community Gardens

Many non-profit community garden programs have spread across the country. Founded in 1975, the Capital District Community Gardens (CDCG) in upstate New York is one of the oldest. Non-profit garden programs are dedicated to establishing and maintaining the belief that gardening is rewarding. NPO community garden programs develop volunteer bases to care for community gardens, fundraise and obtain available government grant money to fund local community garden programs.

Community Garden projects and tips
Community Garden projects and tips

Parks Department Community Gardens

Some communities establish community garden programs through local legislation efforts that divert city parks and recreations monies to the building and maintaining of community gardens. The Community Garden program–a division of Portland Parks and Recreations (PPR) in Portland, OR–has assisted in developing community gardens since 1975 according to Community gardens are funded through PPR, and PPR staff and volunteers care for the gardens.

Community gardens enrich neighborhoods and have the ability to assist local ecosystems. The growth and propagation of local native species in large gardens surrounding communities helps local ecosystems with pollination and continued existence. Community gardens are also excellent ways to allow urban children exposure to gardening and horticulture many urban living arrangements cannot provide. Community garden programs can also provide work for the elderly and persons rejoining society after rehabilitative efforts undergone in hospitals or prison systems.

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Community Garden Tips: Getting Started and Finding Help to Follow Through

There are many reasons communities come together to create a common area garden. Reasons can be as simple as creating closer friendships with neighbors while enjoying the beauty built by their own hands to teaching a community to grow food to feed the family and keep at risk youth busy and out of trouble. Fostering a deeper sense of community grows over time when an endeavor such as this is undertaken.

The types of community gardens neighborhoods might consider are ornamental and nutrition based. The ornamental garden is often called a pocket park and is grown to beautify areas in impoverished communities. The nutrition based garden is grown to feed either families of the neighborhood who tend the gardens or given to food banks to be distributed to those in need.

Either type of garden can be used as a teaching tool for local schools and as job training for those looking for work in the horticultural field.

Community Garden projects and tips
Community Garden projects and tips

Who is in Charge?

Any time a group of individuals come together on such a large project, it is important that there be guidelines clearly set out so that all involved understand what is expected.

The community garden can be handled in a couple of ways. One is to assign each person a chore in the garden to be carried out on a regular basis; in essence, this is their job for the duration of the garden. This is more along the lines of the common garden. The other way to manage the community garden is to assign a specific area of the plot to a family as their ‘own’ garden. They are responsible for their garden and they reap what they sow this is not dissimilar from the allotments found in the United Kingdom.

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There are many questions that must be answered once the community decides which type of shared garden they will grow. Questions about where to find the land, what to plant, how to acquire needed supplies and will there be one go-to person from the group that will coordinate with everyone else?

To hash out all these questions so that everyone involved will understand the process, a community meeting should be called.

Points to Discuss at Meeting

  • Who will be the person or persons who coordinate the efforts?
  • Put guidelines down on paper and make certain everyone has a copy.
  • Is the land public or private? Will the city allow use of city property to be used for a community garden? Will you be able to get a signed lease? This should be done whether the land is being rented or used for free.
  • What will be planted? An ornamental garden used to beautify an area will be filled with blooming plants while a garden grown for food may have a variety of vegetables, fruits and nuts.
  • Where will the financing come from for seeds, plants, fertilizer and garden tools like this ? Will there be a water bill to pay the city? Fundraising is time consuming but is not as difficult as it may seem.
  • Being flexible create and assign a list of expected tasks. Flexibility will foster better relationships.

Contact the local Cooperative Extension Office to inquire about an extension specialist or Master Gardener stopping by to assist in educating members about the process of gardening.

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Consulting an attorney about liability should be on the list. It may be necessary to purchase insurance to cover injuries of those working or passing through the community garden.

Finally, give the garden a name that represents the community of people that created it.

Community Garden projects and tips
Community Garden projects and tips

There is so much talk these days of becoming green. A number of seniors have chosen vegetable gardening as a way to pursue fellowship and physical activity while producing fine food and doing their part toward sustainability.

Need for and Benefits of Senior Community Gardens

It is obvious there is a demand for these gardening plots since all three of the gardens in the Montgomery County, Texas area have waiting lists, and 80% of those gardeners are active seniors or boomers. An attractive feature of these gardens is the ability of the gardeners to come and go as their schedules and energies allow.

With the rising numbers in the population of older adults, the benefits of providing garden land for community gardens for seniors are becoming more and more obvious. With sustainability as a goal for many people, more and more gardens are popping up around the country.

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There are many benefits to seniors who work in these community gardens:

  • Fresh vegetables, many of which are organically grown
  • Locally grown food, eliminating need for transporting food
  • Increase level of sustainability
  • Exercise, fresh air and fun in the sun
  • Fellowship with other gardeners
  • Progress in going toward a green community
  • Savings on food budget, a big bonus in the changing economy
  • An opportunity to pass gardening skills on to younger generations including grandchildren

Community Garden projects and tips
Community Garden projects and tips

Gardeners Working in the Community Garden for Seniors

In talking with senior gardener Joe Perugini, he confessed to gardening at two sites. He works at a Montgomery County Community Garden for Seniors and also at the Woodlands Bear Branch Community Garden. It gets him outside and he enjoys watching vegetables grow. He shows up regularly to stay on top of weeding, watering, and other chores.

He has been able to use his mother’s seeds from Italy for pole beans and rattlesnake beans. However, heirloom tomatoes would not thrive in the Gulf Coast sun. He has been successful in saving seeds for the next planting season. And of course, there is nothing as good as the fresh vegetables he takes to the table.

Another master gardener, Barby R. Carroll, has worked in the other county garden in Conroe, Texas. He stated that the gardens help keep retirees busy since they are used to going to work. He spoke of sharing many pounds of tomatoes with The Friendship Center in The Woodlands.

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How Some Community Gardening for seniors are Organized

The two county gardens run by Precinct 3 Recycling Complex of Montgomery County, Texas charge a one-time fee of $25 for use of a plot in their efforts toward building a more sustainable community.

The Woodlands Bear Branch Community Garden started in 1995 and is managed by the Woodlands Community Associations. Water and raised beds are available to residents of The Woodlands, Texas. The costs ranges from small, medium and large plots up to $50. a year. This garden includes a small orchard of fruit trees. It also is enclosed by a 10-foot fence for both security and to prevent entry by deer and feral hogs.

According to Robert Dailey, Environmental Education Specialist, they are adding more plots to the space to accommodate the growing waiting list, and to achieve fuller use of the land available. He also reported that when some gardeners are out of town, others watch over their plots, watering and tending them as needed. However, if a garden is being neglected, the gardener will receive an email reminder.

Community Garden projects and tips
Community Garden projects and tips

Continuing Information Available to Senior Community Gardeners

A county agent gives a free seminar at the local library twice a year, and it is well attended by 70 to 80 people. Also, information is emailed regularly to participating gardeners. This is especially helpful to newer gardeners, and also to experienced gardeners who have moved here from other climates. Gardeners are also referred to the Texas AgriLife Extension Services for local planting and care instructions.

The American Community Gardening Association also supplies tons of information online, as well as providing assistance on finding a local garden. It also gives hints on starting a community garden.

Community gardens are becoming more popular for seniors and boomers. There are many benefits to seniors involved with community gardens. There is some organization involved to set up and manage community gardens for seniors. Many senior gardeners take advantage of continuing information available to improve gardening techniques and network with other gardeners. Go find a garden and enjoy!

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