With the cold days and dreary nights of winter behind us, the long-awaited higher temperatures of spring might have you itching to get outside. And if you have even the slightest green thumb, you know that tending to a garden can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences during the warmer weather months. But if you’re living in an apartment, chances are you don’t have a yard of your own for planting flowers or vegetables. Luckily, cities across the nation are becoming hip to the idea of creating communal garden spaces for residents unable to garden on their own. Community gardening offers both physical and social benefits as well as enacting a positive change on the environment. If you’re on the West Coast, check out these great gardens where you can get down and dirty, as well as tips on how to start your own.
Stanford Avalon Community Garden
You might not believe that there are community gardens located within the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, but this city takes gardening very seriously. Emerging from the ashes of the beloved South Central Farm in Los Angeles, which was demolished in 2006 and was widely considered as the largest community garden in the nation, the Stanford Avalon Community Garden was founded by many of those displaced farmers and has grown to over 180 plots in its six short years of existence, running for 11 blocks in the Green Meadows neighborhood of the city. The garden has become so popular that there are nearly 100 families on the waiting list.
Location: 658 E. 11th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90059
Brentwood Community Garden
Portland is widely known as one of the greenest, environmentally-focused cities in the United States, so it comes as no surprise that there are over 40 community gardens in the city, with new plots being added regularly, providing fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to area restaurants and the chance to get outside and get back to nature. As the second largest community garden in the city, the Brentwood Community Garden was constructed in 1996 and features 78 garden plots, a fruit demonstration area, shed, gazebo with an 800 gallon water tank and five raised accessible garden beds.
Location: SE 57th Ave. and Cooper St., Portland, OR 97206
Fort Vancouver Garden
One of the more unique community gardens in Vancouver, the Fort Vancouver Garden is a volunteer-run, organic interpretive garden modeled after the type of garden that would have existed at the original Fort Vancouver in the 1840s. Many of the vegetables and flowers in the garden are varieties from that era, including beds of carrots, turnips, parsnips, roses and dahlias.
Location: 1001 E. Fifth St., Vancouver, WA 98661
Stone Soup Community Garden Project
Located in the ethnically diverse, lower-income Sacramento neighborhood of Del Paso Heights, the Stone Soup Community Garden Project was founded in 2003 to combat the rising rates of childhood obesity as well as provide a reliable source for fresh fruits and vegetables in the area. Named after the children’s book, Stone Soup, which is about two travelers who teach a village about the value of sharing ingredients and cooking food together, the garden is a community favorite.
Location: 3611 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento, CA 05838
Hayes Valley Farm
Founded in January 2010, the 2.2-acre Hayes Valley Farm was founded by a group of San Francisco urban farmers, landscapers and gardeners after the area it’s located on fell into disuse after the Loma Prieta earthquake. In addition to the garden space, Hayes Valley Farm also hosts workshops such as bee keeping, garden design and composting. In the summer, the farm screens a farm film series and offers yoga classes.
Location: 450 Laguna St. & Fell St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Are you interested in starting up a community garden in your neighborhood? Here are some ideas to help you turn a local plot of land into something you can really dig.
- Organize a “town hall” style meeting of people interested in starting a community garden and determine your needs, such as what kind of garden it should be, who will be involved and who will benefit.
- Form a planning committee to tackle specific tasks like funding, construction, communication and youth activities.
- Identify existing resources that can help you plan out the garden, and then approach a sponsor to aid in the donation of seeds, tools or money. Churches, schools and private businesses are good places to start.
- Choose a site based on the amount of daily sunshine, availability of water and whether or not the site passes a soil test for potential pollutants. Determine who owns the land, and see if gardeners can be granted a lease agreement.
- Organize volunteer crews to prepare and develop the land, and then decide how you are going to lay out the site, factoring in number of plots and pathways between them.
- Set some ground rules, and put them in writing. Common issues that may arise are how the money will be used, how plots are assigned, who will handle maintenance and whether or not gardeners will share tools.
- Develop a strong communication network to keep all participants abreast of any news. Create an email list, form a telephone tree or install a rainproof bulletin board in the garden to inform members of relevant information.
Photo credit: iStockphoto/youngvet