A rising trend in urban and suburban neighborhoods is the concept of a community garden. What began as a way for people living in cities to grow some of their own vegetables has turned into a community-building sensation across the country.

Why start a community garden?

The benefits for having a community garden in your neighborhood are endless. First, it allows people to grow their own food–a rewarding process in itself. You’ll learn about sewing seeds, caring for plants, and harvesting the vegetables. When it’s all said and done, you’ll save money as well, since it’s much cheaper to grow your vegetables than to buy them from the grocery store.

Gardens are also a great way to build a sense of community in your neighborhood. You’ll meet new people, make new friends, and have something to be proud of together. Plus, talking about what you’re planting is a great ice-breaker when it comes to meeting the neighbors for the first time.

Aside from helping you and your neighbors, community gardens are also a modest way to help the environment. A garden means more food for bees, a refuge for local critters, and more plants producing oxygen. Plus, when you get your vegetables right from your garden you cut back on all of the resources used to wrap, pack, and ship vegetables across the country to grocery stores, reducing your carbon footprint in a small way.

Excited yet? I hope so! Now that you know why to start a community garden you need to know how.

Steps to making a community garden

  1. Get the neighborhood together
    Invite your neighbors to a local cafe or library to talk about starting a garden. To build interest and awareness, start a Facebook group and post a few flyers in your neighborhood.
  2. Figure out the funding and logistics 
    At this meeting, start talking about how the garden is going to be funded. Seeds, tools, fertilizer, and other expenses don’t have to put a damper on your fun if you’re prepared. The three main sources of funding for a community garden are finding sponsors, running neighborhood fundraisers, or having a membership fee for plots in the garden.
  3. Find a spot for your garden
    The best places to turn into gardens are plots of land that currently bring down the aesthetic of the neighborhood. Find an area that could be cleaned up and approach the owner of the land with the idea. You can offer them free membership or whatever other resources are available in exchange for being able to use the land.
  4. Throw a cleaning and a kick-off party
    To build the garden, invite everyone from the neighborhood over to the plot of land for pizza. Then once they’re there stick a shovel in their hand (okay, maybe let them eat a slice or two first). Once the garden is ready to be planted, you can host another “kick-off party” so everyone can celebrate their hard work.
  5. Rules are made to be spoken 
    Community gardens are a ton of fun. But to keep them that way you’re going to need to decide on some ground rules for things like open hours, membership acceptance, tool usage, leadership, and so on. Post the rules on the Facebook, website, and at the garden itself so everyone can see them.
  6. Keep the momentum
    If you want your garden to last you’ll need to do some work to keep everyone excited. Make a Facebook group, a website or whatever else you think will help people stay connected. Ideally, you want your messages to include everyone involved in the garden so that everyone feels involved.
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