Starting or joining a community garden can be one of the most rewarding experiences around. The thought of it alone induces images of bright sunny days, working in the soil with neighbors, friends, and loved ones, and harvesting bountiful organic crops that will thrive for generations. It can be all of that. However, it also comes with a set of challenges. Since such projects are dear to our Foundation’s heart, we are using this week’s blog post to address some of these potential challenges along with solutions so that your experience is only enhanced.
5 Challenges in Managing a Community Garden and How to Plow Through Them
1. Getting approval to start a garden
If you are still in the planning process then your biggest challenge likely is getting approval. Before contacting your local municipality or school board (if the garden is on neighborhood school grounds) start a committee of community individuals with varying levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities that will speak to managing a successful community garden. This committee can work to choose a prime location (and alternatives), put a formal plan in place, and present it to “governing” bodies for approval. Learn more about this process in this detailed article on how to start a community garden.
2. Securing funding
Community gardens need not be an expensive endeavor, but they do require some start-up and maintenance funding. There may be a budget in place with your local municipality (or school board) to support such things, but even without, there are other options. Have your committee put together a sponsorship package and present it to local area businesses that can either contribute financially to it or by providing items necessary to starting and maintaining the garden, such as seeds, soil, and construction materials. You’ll find that many local businesses will be more than happy to contribute to such a worthy cause. There may also be organizations in place in your area that can help in this capacity.
3. Deciding upon which vegetables or flowers to grow
Another head-scratcher for establishing a successful community garden involves the types of crops to grow given the climate in question. Thankfully, there are many seed options that will accommodate the moderate climates of North American cities, provinces, and states. Refer to this article on five crops that grow well in community gardens and you will be well on your way to harvesting a very bountiful garden in your locale.
For the most part, keeping your community garden grounds secure at night is of little concern. Since community is the key, the sanctity of the grounds tends to be respected by everyone. Nonetheless, it may be appropriate to select your garden plot in a zone with adequate lighting (street/sidewalk lights). If none exists, consider installing warm-toned LED lamps on posts surrounding the garden – there are even solar powered options. A sturdy fence should also be constructed to discourage “samplers” of your produce – including animals. If your community has a neighborhood watch in place include the garden on the evening route and encourage all local area residents to keep an eye on it. Post a highly visible hotline contact (number or email) on a sign fronting the community garden should a neighbor notice anything that requires immediate attention.
5. Getting the kids in the community interested
A community garden is not a short term project. It is something that you want to pass down from generation to generation. To accomplish this, you need to spark a passion for organic gardening/farming with the community’s younger generations so that they get involved now, and take the torch when it is their time. This all starts with getting them interested in the notion at an early age. Start by having them read up on the concept with these five fun and highly recommended organic gardening books for kids. For the more tech-savvy (aren’t they all these days?) these top organic farming and gardening apps will have them jumping on your (their?) smartphones and tablets to manage their own virtual community gardens before joining you in the real one. Of course, the most effective method to get the neighborhood youth interested in community gardening comes from leading by example. When they see you all out there together, creating something tangible, nutritious, and tasty, they will feel the natural urge to join in on the fun.
Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation believes in “nurturing our interconnectivity with one another, with our food, our land and our communities” helping to establish community gardens a big part of our mission in Canada. Our Foundation has programs in place to get such projects off of the ground, and we encourage you to learn more whether you have an established community garden or are taking the first steps to create one.