How Does a Community Garden Work?

How Does a Community Garden Work?

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Have you ever visited a community garden? Have you wondered how a community garden works?

These gardens vary in size, design, and management, but they all serve the purpose of providing people space to pursue their interest in gardening.

Some operate as communal farms, where all residents work together to grow crops which are then shared amongst them or donated to food sharing organizations. Others, such as the garden I belong to, rent individual plots. Each renter is fully responsible for the care and maintenance of their own plot.


A Garden Overview

I became a member of a community garden a year ago. Along with several other city gardens, it is operated by an organization called Long Beach Organic. LBO has operated in the city since 1994.

Individual Plots

In my community garden, there are around forty private plots, and every one of them is rented. I was on a waiting list for a year and a half before a plot came available to me. As a beginner, I received a standard 10×10′ plot.

There are some larger plots, and they have been rented to the same people for years and years. These are the people I try to get to know because they are experienced master gardeners. They have so much wisdom and information to share.

Wandering through the gardens, it’s amazing to see the variety of plantings, structures, designs, and decor in the various plots. Some, like mine, are fairly straightforward vegetable and flower beds. They have so many different designs, including raised beds, rows, square foot gardens, or old-fashioned English gardens, with plants jumbled together in a happy riot.

Standards and heirloom vegetables, berries, flowers, cacti – if it grows in the area, you can probably find it somewhere in our garden.

Look carefully and you will discover driftwood pergolas, mosaic birdbaths, butterfly houses, compost bins, and handmade stepping stones amongst the plant life.

old plot in community garden
colorful dragonfly garden art
greens growing in community garden

Community Areas

In addition to all of the individual plots, our garden has extensive communal areas. These include an orchard, a native plant garden, herb garden, charity garden, children’s educational garden, storage sheds, compost piles, a pizza oven, and picnic area.

We even have a beehive and produce our own honey!

One of the other community gardens in town has chickens, and I’m hoping we will be getting some soon.

The garden has grown tremendously even in the year since I joined. The children’s garden is the most noticeable addition, with a pergola, fountain, bridge over a dry creek, and raised beds planted with flowers. Now that it is complete, we will be hosting more family events and starting a summer camp next year.

All of these areas – as well as the many events that take place on the property – are cared for by LBO members. We donate a minimum of twenty hours a year to support our garden, and members can be found weeding the orchard and picnic area; building sheds, raised beds, pergolas, and more; serving meals during special events; and providing educational classes or workshops.

pergola in childrens garden

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

Audrey Hepburn
fountain in childrens garden

Community Garden Benefits

Community gardens provide a wide array of benefits.

They beautify what might otherwise be vacant lots, turning eyesores into welcoming greenspace.

They provide a place for people to gather and get to know one another, strengthening neighborhood bonds.

The plants help clean the air and reduce rainwater runoff.

Excess produce is donated to food pantries and other community organizations.

Educational programs teach new skills and share information.

flowers in community garden

I envision a day when every city and town has front and back yards, community gardens and growing spaces, nurtured into life by neighbors who are no longer strangers, but friends who delight in the edible rewards offered from a garden they discovered together. Imagine small strips of land between apartment buildings that have been turned into vegetable gardens, and urban orchards planted at schools and churches to grow food for our communities. The seeds of the urban farming movement already are growing within our reality.

Greg Peterson
compost bins
persimmons on tree

Community Garden Resources

There are many excellent resources on the internet with information on locating community gardens and the organizations that sponsor them. Chances are, there’s a garden in your town that you may not even know about!

Some really helpful information can be found at:

American Community Garden Association

University of Missouri Extension Service

Soil Science Society of America.

pink zinnias in bloom

Related Post: The Community Garden: Sharing the Love of Gardening

If you have an interest in gardening, I encourage you to explore community gardens in your area.

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What to expect at a community garden

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