Community Gardens

How to start a community garden.


cone flower in a community gardenOn abandoned lots and at schools, office parks, retirement centers, and churches in more than 10,000 diverse locations across North America, gardeners without land of their own and those who want to beautify their neighborhoods come together to create community gardens. Some are strictly ornamental, but many produce fruits and vegetables for the members themselves and needy people in the community. All bring a variety of benefits to the participants and to the surrounding area. The benefits include:

  • Providing fresh, healthful produce for people in areas where it is not often found.
  • Creating a quiet green space where residents can relax and find respite from the stress of daily life.
  • Bringing together people of different ages, backgrounds, and income levels to work collaboratively for the good of their neighborhood.
  • Improving safety—studies in St. Louis, Chicago, and other cities found that people living near community gardens suffer less crime and domestic strife than those who don't.

Many European cities offer residents "allotments"—small plots in the surrounding area where gardeners can enjoy the experience of sowing and growing. But in the United States and Canada, community gardens are typically organized and led by local volunteers. Often, members have individual plots where they grow food for themselves, but in some gardens the group shares all the labor and the harvest.

In most North American cities, municipal parks departments and/or nonprofit organizations provide support and resources to community garden groups. If you want to start a community garden where you live, get in touch with the American Community Gardening Association, a national organization of gardening and open space volunteers and professionals. It offers programs and support for community garden volunteers.