Want to save money on produce, eat food that was grown nearby and savor the freshest veggies and fruit possible? Why not start a community garden? All it takes is a gathering of friends and neighbors, a plot of land and some sweat equity to make it happen! We asked Bill Maynard, the Community Garden Program Coordinator for the city of Sacramento’s Department of Parks and Recreation and board member of the American Community Gardening Association for some tips.
What are the main benefits of having a community garden in your ‘hood?
There are many benefits besides the great-tasting vegetables: build and beautify the community, create an outdoor meeting place, meet your neighbors, share in a common vision, make a place for children to explore and learn through outdoor experiences.
What’s the best way to get a community garden off the ground, and what steps have to be taken with your city?
Every city is different, so check if a community garden is allowed in your city, or if it’s restricted to a specific zoning like AG land. If it’s not allowed, it may take a year or two to change any ordinance to allow it. Probably the easiest place to start a community garden is on church property. Also, your park and recreation department may allow community gardens – their Policy Book details what kinds of programs they support.
Select a site to hold a meeting or two near in the area – onsite or at the library. Distribute flyers about the meeting to libraries, farmers’ markets, and food banks to test the interest level for a community garden. If no one shows up, you may not have enough support to make the garden sustainable. On the other hand, you may learn that there’s a huge interest for a garden!
Are there certain crops that work best for community gardens because they’re easiest to grow, reap most crop or cost little to plant?
Grow what you like to eat; but plant in season. Most parts of the country can grow tomatoes, squash, and greens. A package of seeds costs less than buying seedlings, so buy seeds on a co-op basis and share them, as there are too many seeds in a package for one person. Seeds keep for a few years, so you don’t have to buy new seeds every year unless you use them all, like radish seeds vs. tomato seeds.
What’s the best way to manage a community garden once it’s up and running?
Most gardens have a monthly workday where gardeners work on the common areas of the garden both inside and outside – pulling weeds, pruning, and mulching. You can also have task committees or teams that address a specific task in the garden, such as pruning fruit trees or roses, outside perimeter care, composting, or tool care.
Start your community garden and let us know how it goes!
Community Garden 1: Courtesy of American Community Gardening Association
Community Garden 2: Courtesy of American Community Gardening Association
Carrots and radishes: Photo Credit: (Imagine) 2.0 Flickr via Compfight cc