What Is a Community Garden (and Should You Join One)?

There are lots of reasons why you might want to join a community garden. Here are our top seven.

What is a community garden?

Community gardens are spaces where people come together to grow a variety of produce. Sometimes referred to as P-Patch gardens, these sites are often on city land and can be located on vacant or abandoned lots, putting the space to better use and beautifying the landscape. (The name P-Patch originated in Seattle after the Picardo farm was acquired by the city and converted into Seattle's first community garden space in 1973.)

Gaining popularity over the last few decades, community gardens are vital especially in cities where there might not be much contact with nature. Many urban dwellers have limited or no growing space. Community gardens offer access to a plot or area to grow food, and can even help supply fruits and vegetables in food deserts — neighborhoods where there is limited access to fresh produce.

How do community gardens operate?

Each community garden operates differently and uniquely. Some provide garden plots to an individual or group. There are often waiting lists to get in until space becomes available. Others may be structured where each person volunteers to tend and maintain the garden. Some community gardens may have a membership program with fees to help offset costs, such as water.

How can I find a community garden near me?

Start by asking around your own community: Community centers, parks and recreation centers, libraries, schools, even your local city hall might be able to connect you with a community garden. If there are no community gardens near you, consider starting one yourself. Find out if your neighbors would like to help organize and join the effort. You can also turn to online resources to locate a community garden or access resources to help you start one. Try the American Community Garden Association and search Community Gardening Meetup groups.

community garden and greenhouse

Why should I join a community garden?

Whether you're new to gardening or not, joining a community garden may be something you want to consider for a variety of benefits. Here are just seven reasons why community gardening might be exactly right for you.

1. Healthier and more active lifestyle

Gardening often requires breaking a sweat and can be quite labor-intensive, especially when preparing the soil for planting, turning the compost, or tending the garden before, during, and after the growing season. Not only are you getting outside and interacting with nature, you're also getting exercise. Talk about a win-win!

2. Access to fresh produce

One of the pleasures of gardening is you literally get to reap what you sow. There's often nothing more satisfying than when it's time to savor and enjoy what you grew yourself. And you don't have to worry about harmful pesticides or fertilizers since you'll know exactly how everything was grown.

3. Learn from others

Like a lot of activities done in groups, not only does the work get done faster but it's also a great opportunity to learn from other people. No matter your level of gardening experience, there's always something more to discover. It could be a new technique for sewing seeds, constructing a garden bed, designing and building a bee hotel, or learning the ins and outs of making a compost pile. And if you have kids, community gardening is a great way for them to get involved in growing food and gaining a new appreciation about where food comes from. And perhaps they can sample a wide range of produce they otherwise wouldn't try.

4. Reduce stress

Life is stressful. We often hear we need to find ways to lower our stress, such as exercising more or spending time doing a hobby. Gardening is known to provide stress relief as you play in the dirt. There's something soothing and calming about working with the soil, tending to baby plants, and watching them grow. A study conducted in England suggests gardening is beneficial for mental and physical health for a variety of reasons.

5. Create stronger communities

With our busy lives, it can be easy to spend the majority of our time between our jobs, our homes, and running errands without much time or thought about who lives in the neighborhood. Gardening with others can be a great way to get to know your neighbors, find out what's happening in your city, meet new people, and even make new friends. It's a place to strengthen bonds and get to know and interact with diverse groups of people, ultimately allowing us to expand our world.

6. Bring nature to urban areas

When you live in a city, it's common to encounter more of a cement jungle full of buildings than wide expanses of greenery. Community gardens bring nature to the people by creating more sustainable environments that help attract birds, pollinators, and other beneficial wildlife. Many community gardens allow visitors to stroll through, offering a beautiful place to observe and see nature in action.

7. Clean up the landscape

Many community gardens are created on lots that were once vacant and likely littered with trash. When people come together to turn an empty space into a garden, not only do they clean up the area and get rid of an eyesore, they also create an attractive, inviting, and safe space.

Joining a community garden gives you the opportunity to make a better world in a tangible way.

More to explore: The 14 Easiest Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs Any New Gardener Can Grow

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