How To Join A Community Garden

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How to Join a Community Garden

Are You Interested in Joining a Community Garden?

You’d like to join a community garden and rent a little plot of land. The idea of growing your own food is very appealing! Being part of a community project is great for getting to know like-minded people in your neighborhood. You’ll get fresh air, exercise, and experience in this homesteading skill. In recent years there has been a movement to start more community gardens in urban areas. A lot of folks are looking for a deeper connection to their food and the environment.

Learn How to Start a Community Garden

If you are hoping to save money on food, learn to garden, and connect with the Earth, then you’ll really dig a community garden. Not sure where to start? Here’s the dirt on finding and joining a community garden near you.

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Swiss chard interplanted with basil and flowers
Grow some easy crops like Swiss chard, basil, and marigolds in your plot!

What to Look for in a Community Garden

You may not have many choices when joining a community garden. Some areas have a lot of community gardens and others don’t. If you have a lot of community gardens nearby, here are some things to look at:

  • Close proximity to your home or work
  • What is the cost to lease a plot?
  • Is it well maintained?
  • Strong sense of community
  • Safe area and easy access
  • Is there a composting area and water source available?
  • Are there well-defined rules and hours?
  • Newsletter or website with information
cherry tomatoes work well in a community garden

How to Locate a Community Garden Near You

Maybe you walk right by a community garden on your way to work or the grocery store. More likely you’re not even sure if there’s one in your area. You can start by checking the American Community Garden Association’s ‘Find a Garden’ page. This is not a complete listing. If you don’t find one near you on their website, don’t despair!

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Check with your local Extension Office to see if they have community garden listings in your area. If that doesn’t help, call city hall, gardening clubs, churches, and community centers nearby to see if they have the scoop on a community garden near you. If all else fails, you might be able to start your own community garden! Here’s a handy guide for starting one.

arugula seedlings
Planting seeds is exciting!

Getting Started with Your Community Garden

Once you locate a community garden that is close by you’ll need to apply for a plot. Some community gardens have plenty of available space, others have a waiting list. This will depend on your area and the interest level.

Early spring is often the best time to apply for a garden space. Some members abandon their plot during the season so you may be able to take over their space. It will depend on the rules of your community garden.

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You’ll want to know a few things before you dig in:

  • Is there a fee?
  • What are your responsibilities?
  • Is there a list of rules?
  • Do you need to sign an agreement?

Remember that there are rules regarding your use of the space for a reason. Gardening can be hard work and some people give up on their plots in the middle of the season. Unkempt gardens are frowned upon by neighbors and administrators. So take good care of your plot to avoid losing the privilege and your rental fee!

garden tools

What You Need

There are some tools and materials you’ll need to make your job easier.

Here are the basic tools and materials you may want for a small space:

  • Hand trowel
  • Seeds and seedlings
  • Watering can
  • Compost
  • Gloves
  • Harvest basket or bucket

If you have a larger space you may also want some additional tools and materials:

  • Hoe
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Garden fork
  • Garden hose
  • Mulch
  • Pruners or garden shears
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Tomato cages
  • Organic insect control
calendula attracts pollinators

Make the Most of Your Garden Plot!

Once you join a community garden you’ll want to enjoy a good harvest from it. To ensure a productive and attractive garden, follow these steps!

  • Read up on gardening methods before the season starts
  • Put together a bag with drinking water, sunscreen, and gloves for your comfort
  • Bring a watering can or hose if one isn’t supplied
  • Have a bucket or basket on hand for harvesting
  • Plant vegetables and flowers that you enjoy
  • Choose disease-resistant and space-saving varieties
  • Space rows or beds to allow for easy access
  • Plant some herbs and flowers to attract pollinators
  • Position taller crops so they don’t shade the neighboring plots
  • Use succession planting for continual harvests
  • Plant a bio-intensive garden and use companion planting for increased yields
  • Work in compost or organic fertilizer for plant vigor
  • Show up for meetings or classes if they are available
  • Use only organic products to be a good neighbor
  • Invest in a small border fence if you would like to mark out your space
  • Be sure to plant your garden in a timely manner and keep it weeded
  • Visit your plot and pick regularly to keep plants in production
  • Learn to preserve the harvest!
  • Follow the rules so you don’t get kicked out

If you are new to gardening, check out this USDA Community Gardening Guide for basics about starting your garden.

shovel and rake

Take Care of Your Plot

Remember that most community gardens won’t tolerate a plot that looks abandoned. If you don’t maintain your garden space you can’t blame them for taking it back or tilling it under. Be sure you keep up with the work and don’t get behind! If you are sick or will be away for a while, contact the organizer to let them know. Work out an arrangement with one of your garden plot neighbors to tend your plants while you are away.

Bee pollinating fruit tree blossoms

A Community Garden is a Great Way to Homestead in the City!

Many people in urban areas dream of moving to a homestead and living a simple lifestyle. However, the cost of land, work, and a lack of time and resources are big drawbacks for ‘wannabe’ homesteaders. If you can tend a garden plot in a community garden it will be a great learning experience. You might find that you love gardening, or maybe you hate it and need to keep your day job!

Some urban community gardens even have beehives, chickens, fruit trees, and herb gardens. If you have these resources you may learn even more from your community garden experience!

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Lisa Lombardo

Freelance Writer & Blogger at Tohoca, LLC
Lisa writes in-depth articles about gardening and homesteading topics. She grew up on a farm and has continued learning about horticulture, animal husbandry, and home food preservation ever since. She has earned an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She is a self proclaimed gardening freak and crazy chicken lady.

In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.

The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.
Lisa Lombardo
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About Lisa Lombardo

Lisa writes in-depth articles about gardening and homesteading topics. She grew up on a farm and has continued learning about horticulture, animal husbandry, and home food preservation ever since. She has earned an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She is a self proclaimed gardening freak and crazy chicken lady. In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org. The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.

7 comments on “How To Join A Community Garden

  1. Pingback: How to Start a Community Garden - The New Homesteader's Almanac

  2. Holistic Fish

    This is what I have – an allotment space in a community garden. It’s just about 20 m2 or so, but perfect to get me started with growing my own! And we have coffees every Saturday when we share tips on what to grow and how.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lombardo Post author

      That’s great! If I didn’t live out in the country with a big yard, I would love to do something like this again. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  3. Jennifer Cook

    I loved this post. When we lived in Ohio, our town had many vacant lots that I thought would be great for a community garden. To date, it has not materialized and since we now live rurally, it kind of went off my radar. I wish there were more of these and I also think schools should promote their own too and teach the kids how to grow food. Thanks for the informative article and all the helpful hints too. I am sure someone is going to be glad they read this post.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lombardo Post author

      Hi Jennifer,
      Thanks so much! I have seen the vacant lots in areas where I’ve lived too and wondered why there weren’t more community gardens. I think it takes on or more very dedicated people to pull it off. I plan to share some info for people who want to start one soon. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  4. Lisa Lombardo Post author

    Hi Nancy,
    Sounds like a wonderful experience! I belonged to a community garden before we moved here, but it wasn’t very community centered if that makes sense. 🙂

    I am hoping to have a new post soon on how to start a community garden, for folks who don’t have one nearby. Best wishes with the house hunt!

    Reply
  5. Nancy W

    The first garden we ever had w as a community garden sponsored by the Audubon Society. The land was a former farm and the soil was incredible! Met so many nice people. If we don’t find a house with land I’ll be joining a community garden!

    Reply

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