Join a Community Garden: Dos and Don’ts

Community gardens: When to hoe your row and when to slow your roll!

If you’re a green-thumbed apartment renter, you probably don’t have a patch of yard to call your own. That can be frustrating for people who want to grow their own plants outside, but don’t worry! There’s an easy solution that’s probably not too far away: Join a community garden.

A community garden is a communal piece of land on which many people plant vegetables or flowers in divided plots. It’s a way to beautify a community, improve your diet, get some exercise, connect to the environment and save money on grocery bills, all at the same time.

If there’s a community garden near you that you’re interested in joining, go for it! But there are a few things you should know before you get your hands dirty. Read on for our dos and don’ts of community gardening.

Do: Find out who’s in charge. Your local county extension office, which you should be able to find with a simple Google search, should have information on the different community gardens in your area. Find a local contact and learn all you can about the garden you want to join. The American Community Gardening Association has a garden finder that you might also use.

Another option is to drive by a garden on a weekend, when people are out tending their plants, and ask them about joining.

Don’t: Steal anyone’s vegetables. This is an obvious gardening faux pas, but seriously: not cool.

join a community gardenDo: Stick with low-maintenance plants, unless you’re a seasoned gardener. You want your plants to succeed, so start small, especially if you’re a first-timer. Do some research about the climate in your area and what grows well there, and start with those plants. Your fellow gardeners should be able to share some advice as well.

Don’t: Throw shade. Don’t let your plants block the sun for other people’s plants. What happens or doesn’t happen in your own plot is yours to deal with, but don’t affect anyone else’s garden.

Do: Make sure you can afford it. Most community gardens require annual dues to pay for general upkeep. The amount can vary greatly depending on your area and the garden in question, so do your research. The cost is likely minimal, but you should still know what you’re getting into.

Don’t: Use unapproved pesticides or fertilizers. Your community garden probably has rules about what sort of chemicals you can use – many don’t allow any at all. Remember that what you do in your plot does affect others’ plots, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

Do: Keep the walkway around your plot neat. The area around your plot, as well as in it, is your responsibility. Nice walkways make the entire community garden look nice, so do your part.

Don’t: Let your kids or pets run wild. Although gardening is a fun activity for kids as well as adults, keep an eye on them when you visit your plot. They might trample someone else’s garden, and that wouldn’t be very neighborly.

Do: Offer to water your fellow gardeners’ plots when they go on vacation. They can do the same for you when you’re out of town.

Don’t: Let weeds grow. Your plot is for intended plants only! And after you pull weeds, don’t just toss them aside – put them in a trash can. If everyone does their part to keep the community garden beautiful, it’ll remain a beloved activity for your neighbors and yourself.

Are you a member of a community garden? What tips do you have for first-timers?

Image credits: Shutterstock / Arina P Habich, Oliver Sved, Laura Stone

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