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Community Gardening (Benefits & Purpose) – GIY Plants

Community garden full of plants

Community gardening is more than caring for patches of dirt where vegetables grow. These gardens are hubs of community activity, providing connections to nature and others.

There is room in the community garden for both beginners and experienced gardeners. Community gardens are also ideal for individuals with little or no land to grow crops.

Studies show community gardens improve the physical and mental health of their members. They also help promote environmental stewardship, food security, and social cohesion. [1]

In this article, we’ll go over the many benefits of community gardening. We’ll also provide tips and resources for starting a community garden.

So let’s dive in and start growing!

What is a Community Garden?

Man explaining what a community garden is

A community garden is a shared piece of land. People come together on this land to grow plants and vegetables for personal or group use.

Community gardening has a long and rich history dating back to ancient civilizations. Evidence for community gardens existed in Ancient Persia and Ancient Egypt. In ancient Egypt, farmers collected community wastes to fertilize collective urban gardens. [2]

Community gardens also exist in more recent times under various names. Allotment gardens were popular in Europe during the 18th-century period of urbanization. In America, victory gardens were also very popular during World War II.

In the 1960s and 70s, community gardening became popular again. Urban residents wanted a new way to access fresh produce and connect with neighbors.

Today, community gardens exist in various settings, from inner-city neighborhoods to suburban areas. They continue to provide a space for people to grow food, connect with nature, and build a sense of community.

How do community gardens work?

Community gardens are collaborative projects. Groups of people work together to plan, prepare, and maintain a garden. This involves:

  • Planning. Community gardens involve people within organizations such as churches, schools, or community centers. These people come together to develop a community garden. They find a good location, get funding and resources, and make a plan for the garden layout and management.
  • Preparation. Once they have a location, they need to get it ready for planting. This might include preparing the soil or setting up irrigation. It may also include building things like raised beds.
  • Planting. Once the garden is ready, members plant seeds and seedlings. Sometimes, each person has a separate plot to take care of.  Other times, everyone works together to tend to the whole garden.
  • Maintenance. Community gardens need regular maintenance. Watering, weeding, and controlling pests keep the plants healthy.
  • Harvesting. After picking plants, members usually share the harvests or give the food to local food banks.

Why Community Gardens?

Reasons why community gardens are beneficial.

There are lots of reasons why people get involved in community gardens. Here are a few:

  • Fresh produce: Community gardens provide people with access to healthy and fresh produce. The produce grown may not be available or affordable at stores.
  • Gardening education: Community gardens can be a great place to learn about gardening. More experienced members often teach less experienced ones about gardening.
  • Social connections: Community gardens offer a chance to meet new people. Friendships often form around common interests.
  • Neighborhood improvement: Community gardens can help beautify a neighborhood. For example, community gardens transform unused lots into beautiful garden spaces.

Types of Community Gardens

Different types of community gardens like raised beds.

There are different kinds of community gardens, each with its separate features:

  • Allotment gardens. In these gardens, each person receives an individual plot to take care of.
  • Cooperative gardens. In these gardens, everyone works together to take care of the whole garden. The harvest is then shared among everyone.
  • Demonstration gardens. These gardens show different gardening techniques and practices, like organic farming or permaculture. Demonstration gardens also teach people to start gardens of their own.
  • Donation gardens. In these gardens, members donate the harvest to needy organizations.
  • School gardens. Located on school grounds, these gardens teach kids about gardening and sustainability.
  • Youth gardens. Designed for young people, these gardens teach kids about gardening and the environment.
  • Therapeutic gardens. These gardens offer peace and relaxation. They often serve people with mental or physical disabilities.
  • Roof gardens. These gardens are on the roofs of buildings, often in cities. They can grow plants, herbs, and vegetables and provide a green space for the community.
  • Community orchards. These gardens grow fruit trees and berry bushes. They may also have herbs and vegetables.
  • Food forests. These gardens mimic a natural forest ecosystem and grow various edible plants.

Benefits of Community Gardening

Community gardens have many benefits, including:

  • Access to fresh and healthy produce. Community gardens provide access to crops that may not be available or affordable.
  • Gardening education. Community gardens offer a chance to learn about gardening and sustainability.
  • Social connections. Community gardens can help people connect with others who have similar interests.
  • Health benefits. Studies have shown that community gardens can help reduce stress. [3]
  • Environmental benefits. Community gardens can promote biodiversity, water conservation, and pollution reduction.
  • Community beautification. Community gardens create pleasant spaces for people to relax. They also transform less desirable areas into more attractive places.
  • Economic benefits. Community gardens may provide a small income for gardeners. They may also reduce the cost of food for participants.
  • Food security. Community gardens can increase food security. Areas with limited access to food, known as food deserts, benefit the most.

Disadvantages of Community Gardening

While community gardens have many benefits, there are also some disadvantages:

  • Space. Community gardens are often in small areas. This limits the types and quantities of plants that can be grown.
  • Resources. Community gardens may not have access to the same resources as private gardens. These resources include irrigation or greenhouses.
  • Privacy. Community gardens are public spaces. This means they may not have the same level of privacy as private gardens.
  • Control. Gardeners in community gardens may not be able to choose the types of plants or the layout of the garden.
  • Access. Depending on the location, community gardens may not be easy for everyone in the community to get to.
  • Time commitment. Gardening in a community garden takes time and effort to maintain and care for the garden.
  • Security. Community gardens may be at risk of theft or vandalism.
  • Experience. Not everyone has the knowledge and experience to contribute to a community garden.

Community Garden Rules

Community gardens have rules and guidelines to make sure everyone has a good time and stays safe. These rules may vary depending on the location and needs of the community. Some common rules include:

  1. Assigned plots. Many community gardens give each person their individual plot to take care of.
  1. Maintenance. Gardeners are usually expected to help take care of the whole garden. This includes tasks like watering, weeding, and pest control.
  1. Pesticides and fertilizers. Some community gardens may have rules about using pesticides or fertilizers. This protects people and the environment from harm.
  1. Planting guidelines. There may be rules about the types of plants that can be grown and how tall they can be.
  1. Tool and equipment usage. There may be rules about using and taking care of tools and equipment in the garden.
  1. Safety. There may be rules to help keep everyone safe. For example, this may include guidelines for using power tools or working near water.
  1. Pets/alcohol. Some community gardens may not allow pets or alcohol on the premises.
  1. Community involvement. Many community gardens encourage people to join in community events and activities. These activities include educational workshops or social gatherings.
  1. Respect for others. Community gardens expect members to be respectful of others and their property. This creates a positive and inclusive environment.

How to Start a Community Garden

Three friends planning how to start a community garden.

Starting a community garden takes careful planning and patient coordination. Here are some steps to follow if you want to start a community garden:

  1. Gather a group of people or organizations interested in gardening and community service. You may want to approach community leaders or civic organizations. Or look for support from organizations you’re already a part of, like a school or church.
  1. Find a suitable location for the garden. Look for abandoned lots, public land, or other plots of land that are suitable. The land doesn’t have to be dirt – you can also start a garden on raised beds or with hydroponic farming. Make sure the location is central and accessible to the community.
  1. Decide on the purpose and focus of the garden. Will it be for growing vegetables, herbs, or flowers? Promoting sustainability? Providing a space for education and community involvement?
  1. Create a detailed plan for the garden, including its layout, management, and maintenance. You’ll need to create a budget, identify resources, and create a timeline.
  1. Engage with local authorities to get permission or support for the garden. This may involve working with the city or county government.
  1. Secure funding and resources. There are many costs involved. This includes costs for preparing the site, maintenance, and buying tools. and equipment. You may be able to get grants or donations to help with these expenses.
  1. Prepare the site. Prepare the soil and buy supplies. Install irrigation systems, and build raised beds or other structures.
  1. Plant and care for the garden. You can work with the community to care for the garden or assign individual plots to gardeners.
  1. Establish rules and guidelines for participating in and using the garden. This may include expectations for maintenance and participation, membership fees, and any restrictions.
  1. Promote and involve the community in the garden. Host events or educational workshops. Create a website or newsletter, and engage with local businesses and organizations.

Long-term things you should consider when running a community garden include:

  1. Set up a system for organizing and managing the garden. Depending on the size and complexity of the garden, you may need to establish committees or teams. These teams can help handle different aspects of the garden. Fundraising, maintenance, or education are great roles to delegate.
  1. Check the garden regularly. This involves tracking the community garden’s progress. You may also want to assess the health of the plants. Identify any challenges or opportunities for improvement.
  1. Promote inclusivity and accessibility. Community gardens should be inclusive and accessible to all members of the community. Provide accommodations for people with disabilities or offer translation services for non-English speakers.
  1. Celebrate successes and share your knowledge. Don’t forget to celebrate the successes of your community garden. Share your knowledge and successes with others. Host events, write articles or blog posts, or give presentations to other groups.

Starting a community garden can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It takes some effort to get it up and running, but the benefits to the community are well worth it.

Most Common Plants in a Community Garden

Most common crops grown in a community garden

The types of plants found in a community garden depend on many factors. The climate, soil conditions, and gardeners’ preferences will influence the crops chosen. Here are some common plants grown in community gardens:

  • Vegetables: Many community gardens focus on planting easy-to-grow vegetables. These vegetables include tomatoes, carrots, beets, kale, eggplant, peppers, Brussels sprouts, swiss chards, beans, peas, onions, lettuce, etc
  • Herbs: Herbs such as basil, parsley, and cilantro are often grown in community gardens. Use herbs in cooking or in natural remedies.
  • Fruits: Depending on the climate, some community gardens also may include fruits. Common examples include berries, apples, pears, strawberries, and raspberries.
  • Flowers: Annuals such as marigolds and sunflowers thrive in community gardens. Perennials like daisies and coneflowers and bulbs also thrive in community gardens. Tulips, daffodils, and irises, as well as roses, do so as well. These flowers can attract pollinators like bees to the garden.
  • Some medicinal plants, like chamomile and echinacea, are often grown for their healing properties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are community gardens free?

Some community gardens may be free to use, while others may charge a fee for membership or to use the garden space. This fee may help cover the costs of maintaining the garden, like buying supplies or paying for water and electricity. Some community gardens might also require members to do a certain amount of volunteer work to use the garden.

How do you promote community gardens?

To promote a community garden, create a website, newsletter, or social media presence. Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and Pinterest are good places to start. Try publishing your community garden in a local newspaper. You may also want to host events and workshops. Partner with local organizations to involve the community.

What are the key features of a community garden?

The main feature of a community garden is a plot of land and a watering system. Pathways, seating areas, signs, tools, and composting areas are also very important.  Community gardens also provide opportunities for collaboration and for forming new friendships. They also promote sustainability and beautify the community.


[1] Zick, C. D., Smith, K. R., Kowaleski-Jones, L., Uno, C., & Merrill, B. J. (2013). Harvesting More Than Vegetables: The Potential Weight Control Benefits of Community Gardening. American Journal of Public Health, 103(6), 1110–1115. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2012. 301009.

[2] Destiny, C. (2017). Urban Agriculture a Smart Way of Connecting with Nature. 1st World Environmental Day.

[3] Van Den Berg, Agnes E., and Mariette H. Custers. 2011. Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress. Journal of Health Psychology. 2011. 16:3-11.

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