December 4, 2020

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How to Find, Join, and Participate in a Community Garden

Photo: Jon Bilous (Shutterstock) Gardening has always had its fair share of fans, but it’s...

Photo: Jon Bilous (Shutterstock)

Gardening has always had its fair share of fans, but it’s another example of an activity—like baking, knitting, and doing puzzles—that has taken off even more since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Not only do some people find it relaxin; gardening also has mood-boosting and mental health benefits. Plus, at a time when everything is uncertain, being able to grow at least a small portion of your own food may help people feel more in control.

And while that’s great for people who have enough outdoor space to plant some type of garden, it’s certainly not the case for everyone—particularly thosein urban areas. That’s where community gardens can come in. But how do you find your own local utopian green space? And what kind of time and cost commitment would it involve? Here are the basics.

What is a community garden?

Community gardens may be operated by a nonprofit or a local university, or be a component of a neighborhood’s public health strategy. In some cases, it’s one communal piece of land, where everyone pitches in and shares the products of their hard work. Other times, the garden is divided into smaller plots that individuals or families can have for their own use.

The size and availability of plots in a community garden largely depends on where it’s located. For example, those in cities are frequently set up in otherwise empty lots (with permission from the city or the owner of the land). And as you’re probably already figured out, suburban and rural community gardens tend to have more space.

How do you find a community garden?

A quick Google search or browsing your city or neighborhood’s website may lead you to what you’re looking for, but not every community has a garden. In those situations, you may need to travel (a short distance) to a nearby area. You can also check out websites dedicated to community gardening to find one that’s a good fit for you. Some of these include:

What are the monetary and time costs required to join a community garden?

The specific costs vary, but the aim is usually to keep participating or renting a plot as accessible as possible. In some cases, the fees may be reduced or waived for those unable to afford them on their own. (Check with an individual garden on its rules and policies.)

There are no standard community garden fees, so you’ll have to do some research to find out both the cost and size of a plot. For example, the annual costs of spots secured through Project Grow in Michigan are $130 for full plots (approximately 750 square feet) and $80 for half plots (approximately 375 square feet). In the Sunshine Community Gardens in Austin, Texas, full plots are 20′ x 20′ and costs $90 a year, while half plots and quarter plots are $45 and $40 a year, respectively.

The amount of time you’re expected to commit to a community garden can also vary significantly. While some only ask that you maintain your own plot, others have hourly work requirements for each month to ensure everyone pitches in to share the regular maintenance work. Along with the costs and size of the plots, this is something else to look into and ask about as you’re deciding whether to join a community garden.



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