Participating in a community garden was something we gave thought to years ago and now we are doing it.
Local community gardens are the big rage all of a sudden this year because people want to get outside.
Recently, a window of opportunity presented itself to us and we scored 1 of 5 plots that were available.
In fact, every community garden in our city has been sold out so we were very fortunate to get in.
The possibility of having a successful community garden relies on many factors which I will discuss.
Let me take you through the process of obtaining permission for starting a community garden and the importance and disadvantages.
What Is A Community Garden?
A community garden is also known as a plot garden or community food garden where you pay a small fee for a piece of land to grow vegetables and fruits.
The land is owned by the city so the organizer has to go through a process to get one up and running.
Divided into separate plots a community garden is a great way to grow a garden if you don’t have the land at home.
Many people who live in apartments, condos, or even in big cities that don’t have access to land use a community garden.
Local community gardens are a great way for low-income families who cannot afford to buy vegetables to grow their own.
This is why my sister in the UK got involved because it made more sense for the family financially.
By joining an initiative such as this allows for nutritious healthy meals which otherwise may have been limited.
Most community garden plots sell out fast so if you want the land to grow on getting in touch early with the plot organizer is advised.
Getting Involved With Community Gardens
With the lockdown and Covid-19 being outdoors and doing anything is better than doing nothing.
When I lived in the UK a community garden was something that was normal for us.
My sister and brother-in-law have been using a community garden every spring and summer to grow vegetables.
I often thought it was pretty cool to have that option available for residents who had limited to no land.
In my old house that I sold before moving to Canada I had a decent sized backyard.
I still grew herbs and vegetables in pots some of which I wished I could have brought to Canada.
In a corner of my backyard I rototilled a small garden space and grew tomatoes and peppers.
Besides coming home to my dog after work and taking him for a long spin at the park gardening was a stress reliever for me.
Last night we found out how important a community garden is in our city where land is at a premium.
In fact, we had no idea there were over 20 community garden plots where people come to grow food and foster a green environment.
Our current property is 31×130 and not big enough to have a proper garden so we’ve resorted to planting in pots over the years.
The only plant we have in the ground is our rhubarb which grows so big that we share with our neighbours.
What Can You Grow In A Community Garden
Both Mrs. CBB and I were talking about what we would grow on our plot of land in the garden last night.
Since we are bit late into the season to start from seed we may have to source seedlings.
There are so many gardeners who have planted too many seedlings and sell them to the community.
This is how we bought our cherry tomatoes this year as I ran out of time to start the growing process.
I paid $6 for 6 cherry tomato plants which I thought was reasonable.
She also had kale which I wished I had grabbed but we didn’t know about this opportunity at the time.
Unless the coordinator of the garden has any rules on what you can and cannot grow you should be able to choose anything.
For example, we are only allowed to grow berries and vegetables in our plot.
We have also been asked to be mindful of tall vegetables and how they may impact your plot neighbours for sunlight.
Community Garden Ideas For Planting
- Snow Peas
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green, red, orange or yellow peppers
- Hot peppers
- Herbs such as basil, dill, parsley, chives etc.
- Any kind of berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries etc.
How To Plan A Community Garden
The first thing to do when planning a community garden is to fill out an application with your city.
Most cities in Ontario should have a community garden coordinator with whom you would contact.
The coordinator will work with the garden initiator to find a suitable plot of land that gets enough sunlight.
This may come with rules and regulations as set out by the city and every city is different.
Ideally, your garden should have enough plots for a certain amount of people as determined by your city.
Once approved your city may help kick-start the garden by supplying some materials including rototilling.
There is also a process of making sure there is liability insurance just in case someone were to get hurt.
Creating A Step-by-Step Community Garden Plan
With your application the city may want to see a written site plan that details a step-by-step plan.
This may include but not limited to;
- Plot Sizes
- How many plots will be available or needed
- Expectations for gardeners to maintain their plot
- Plot agreement for gardeners and Covid-19 guidelines
- Supplies and other supports needed
- How you plan to mark the plots (Will they also include the gardener’s name?)
- Land size needed
- How will users water their garden plot?
- Accessibility needs
- What you want to grow or plan on allowing
- Proposed site or area for your neighbourhood
- Volunteer names who will monitor the garden
- End of the season clean-up plan
Other things such as cost to buy a plot and plans for composting and ways to water the garden if city water is not available.
Contact your local city hall to find out what your city has to offer you for resources.
You might also want to ask if there is a community garden grant that allows for accessibility.
This may include the possibility of a raised garden bed so everyone can join in the fun.
How Does A Community Garden Make Money
Community gardens are typically grown on city-owned property and partially relies on donations.
Starting a community garden is not a money-making adventure it’s a volunteer(s) taking time to bring something beautiful to a neighbourhood.
Although financial donations are widely accepted for community gardens there are other ways neighbours can help.
- Volunteer their time to help and raise awareness of the benefits
- Offer garden tools for use to the community garden coordinator
- Donate leftover gardening materials such as wood, fencing, mulch, and clean soil
- Offer free seeds, plants, vegetable seedlings for use in the garden
- Provide a compost bin that is not being used
For the community garden that we joined the fee is only $20 for a 4×12 garden plot.
The only rule is that gardeners look out for each other’s plants by being mindful of garden space.
The garden allows for 15 plots x $20 is only $300 but it helps with purchasing supplies.
Are Community Gardens Worth The Effort?
There are many things we can’t wait to explore with the community garden we just became a part of.
While chatting with the community garden planner we realized how valuable an opportunity this is.
Do I think a community gardening is worth the effort?
Any time you get the privilege to learn how to become self-sustainable it’s worth the elbow grease.
It’s also an opportunity for our son to get involved with gardening so he grasps a better understanding of where his food comes from.
Your garden plot may grow beautifully or a vegetable might not grow as planned, but that’s ok.
The benefits far outweigh the cons of starting a community garden if even for educational purposes.
Importance Of A Community Garden
Gardening not only gets you outside but it has many other health benefits including lowering blood pressure according to Sunlife Canada.
Moving every day is important for many health reasons. Those who do manual labour tend to have a lower blood pressure than expected, Thomas says. He did a study that asked older women to squeeze a simple device with their hands regularly.
The device was similar to a gardening tool. After eight weeks, the women had lower blood pressure. In another study, women over 80 showed lower blood pressure and less anxiety after working with plants.Sunlife Canada
- Improves mental health for people who garden as a hobby or to get away from everyday boredom and, stress relief.
- Provides healthy food choices for families and improved nutrition
- Lowers food costs
- Allows for increased physical activity
- Involves the entire family including children who want to participate
- Learning opportunities from other community garden participants who share tips and tricks.
- Teaches children about self-sustainability
- Increased access for people without land to garden
- Builds neighbourhood relationships and brings awareness to the community.
- Potential for food sharing among the growers
Cons Of Starting A Community Garden
Not all community gardens will have access to water and use only rain barrels.
If it does not rain that means that the water supply will be low or non-existent.
Our community garden has access to city water which will be free to use as well the city provides free rain barrels for use.
However not all cities have the financial resources to fund a community garden 100%.
This is why volunteers and donations are always accepted to keep the initiative alive.
- Not getting approved by the city or lack of support services
- Animals may start nibbling on the garden goods such as rabbits, birds, chipmunks, and raccoons.
- Loss to theft or vandalism
- No rain or water accessibility
- Lack of garden tools and materials
There may well be more cons to this system but I won’t know until we dive into it this summer
I’ll come back and add to the list if I find anything that proves it’s not favourable for a community garden’s success.
Gardening Is A Labour Of Love
You have to enjoy gardening and it should bring you joy before participating in a community garden.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure about the way you are gardening.
Gardening is a labour of love and it’s also a labour of success and failures.
Like anything else we learn from our mistakes and improve on our successes.
As my father-in-law used to say, “You’ll never find anything better than the food you grow in your garden”.
Discussion: Do you participate in a community garden? Tell us all about it in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your experience.