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The Basics of Community Gardening: Getting Started

If you're considering moving to the country but don't think you have the gardening chops to dive into growing your own vegetables right away, joining a community garden is a great way to get your feet wet. After all, a big plus of rural life is having enough land to walk outside and pick vegetables fresh out of the garden for dinner. Getting started with a community garden will give you the confidence to turn over your own soil when the time comes.

There are other great reasons to join a community garden:

  • Make it a family affair! Bring your kids along and teach them where food comes from.
  • Save money on groceries.
  • Get outside on a regular basis.
  • Give back to your community.

 Joining a community garden

As with any new endeavor, it's best to know what you're getting into before taking the plunge. Here are some community gardening basics from Peterson Garden Project, a gardening education program in Illinois.1

What are your goals?

Many types of community gardens exist out there, so it's good to know your goals before going in. Some community gardens solve food shortages in their communities. The proceeds of the garden go to a food bank or other local service that helps people in need. Others involve neighborhood schools in teaching kids how to work the land. Others are groups of neighbors who don't have space to garden but want to grow their own veggies. Still others are flower gardens where people can work together to beautify their communities.

Expect to get your hands dirty

Community gardens aren't places where you pay a fee and show up once a month to collect your produce. Joining a community garden means helping with the maintenance and care. Some gardens have schedules where you can sign up to show up. But in many cases, members just go with their garden trowels and a kneeling mat and get after the weeds when they have time.

Remember, it's about "community"2

In other words, share when you can. Maybe you've ordered too many seeds or plants. Let your fellow gardeners know they're up for the taking. Do you have gardening equipment, extra hoses, wheelbarrows or anything else that might be useful? Share!

Starting a community garden

No garden in your area? Or, have you already moved to the country and want to find a creative use for some of your land and give back to your community? Starting a community garden is one way to do both. Unsurprisingly, the points you want to consider when starting a community garden are similar to those you consider to join a community garden. Here are some tips from the Conservation Fund.2

What’s your purpose?

Follow your passions. Maybe you’d like to supply food to a local food bank, create a sense of community in your new home, give city dwellers the chance to get a taste of the wide open spaces, or even make a little extra money. Whatever your purpose, common community garden models include individual plots where people tend their own crops, a managed garden in which people work together and decide together what happens to the produce, or market gardens. With this type, the produce is sold or donated.

Get clear on the supplies you'll need

In addition to a sunny plot of land, you'll need fencing, garden tools (if people aren't bringing their own) a place to store those tools and a water supply. And speaking of water, who will pay for it? If that's you, consider charging a membership fee to cover the costs.


If you build it, they might not come. Before you invest your time and money in creating a community garden, make sure you have enough people to support it. You can get the local schools involved and put signs up in your new community. If your goal is to supply food banks consider involving your place of worship, or reaching out to nearby cities or suburbs.

Whether you're joining or starting a community garden, it's a great way to get involved, learn to enjoy working the land and help people in the process.

  1. Peterson Garden Project
  2. The Conservation Fund

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