Community Garden Gardening

If you have a yard, you may wonder if gardening in a community garden makes sense. Why pay to rent a plot when you have space on your own?

Let's compare.

Location

A garden at your home wins hands-down for convenience. You can go to your garden whenever you want and pick fresh produce right before you use it! That's as fresh as you can get - best flavor and most nutrition.

However, your yard may not have the best conditions for a successful garden. Sunlight is the most important element for vegetable growth. In the suburbs, landscaping is typically designed for people to enjoy. Landscapers put in trees and shrubs that provide cooling shade.

A community garden that has been thoughtfully designed will be located in a sunny location. This can be uncomfortably hot in the summer time, but it's the best for growing vegetables. With proper care, your plants will grow bigger and healthier in a bright sunny location than in partial shade. Your harvest will be larger.

You will likely have to travel to get to your community garden. Travel can be a barrier - especially when it's hot, rainy, or cold.

Water

At home, you will have access to the water at your house, and you'll likely use a sprinkler or hose connected to an outside faucet. 

Community gardens vary with their accessibility to water. Water is the second most important element for successful gardening, and it's important for a community garden to have easy access to water. Depending on the layout of the garden and the availability of water, it may be easier or more difficult to water your garden than it would be at home. 

But if there is no water available at the community garden, choose another garden (if you can).  

Set up and Soil Quality

At home, the set up of a new garden is a significant amount of work. You will have to decide what kind of garden you want to construct (in ground? raised beds?), buy the materials and supply the labor. 

Your home soil may be lacking in nutrients, and its texture may be difficult to work with. In many American subdivisions, the builders strip the topsoil from the building lots when constructing the neighborhood, leaving soil of questionable quality under the lawns. They are expecting the homeowner to use chemical lawn products to maintain the lawn, so the quality of the soil beneath is less important. 

For your vegetable garden at home, you will have to put time and money into developing the soil. If you are using raised beds, you will purchase soil and compost products. If you are gardening the ground, you will add compost and manure, soil amendments, and nutrients. It will take years to build rich loamy soil most vegetable gardens need. 

In community gardens, the soil quality can vary. It too depends on the type of plots they offer (raised beds or in-ground). However, if your community garden is managed well, attention will be paid to the soil early on in the life of the garden, and on an ongoing basis. This means the soil will be tested and adjustments will be made.

Garden management may assist with soil supplementation for the entire garden every few years. For example, they may arrange for composted manure to be spread on all plots before the growing season starts. 

Additionally, when plots have been worked for year after year, conscientious gardeners have amended the soil with their own compost and natural products, improving the soil for their own gardens. Gardeners who come next benefit years after. 

Cost

You don't have to pay for a home garden, other than supplies. 

Community gardens usually charge a fee to cover basic operating costs. Usually it's a reasonable fee. You will also have supply costs for your community garden plot. 

Pests

It's not clear whether a home or community garden is better in avoiding pests. Which pests plague a garden is very specific to the location and the types of crops that are grown.

At home, you may be able to use techniques that you can't do at a community garden, such as planting trap crops far from your "real crops" to lure the pests away.

In the community garden, other gardeners who have planted there for years will be able to help a new gardener anticipate the common pests that show up year after year. They will probably know strategies to combat the pests. This would save the new gardener the disappointment of a crop destroyed by unknown pests. 

Social Benefits

The home garden is private and you can care for it any way you want to. You can design it any way you want to. You can let it grow outside the bounds of the garden.

If you get tired of it, you can let it go wild, or pull it all out. 

If you go away for a while, you will have to arrange for someone to tend it while you are gone, which may be difficult.

At a community garden, there are garden rules to follow, including rules on how much you must tend your plot. You must be mindful of your fellow plot-holders and make sure your garden doesn't encroach or interfere with your neighbors' plots.

You may have to contribute to the care of the entire garden with volunteer hours. You may have to donate some of your harvest or tend a community plot (e.g. a plot from which anyone can harvest.)

At the community garden, you can collaborate with other like-minded gardeners. You can strike up friendships, and there are other gardeners readily available to tend your plot while you are out of town. 

Neither home gardens nor community gardens are clearly superior in the social aspect. They are very different ways to garden with pro's and con's for each.

So what do you think?

Even if you have a backyard, it may not be an optimal location for a vegetable garden. If you want to grow your own vegetables, the community garden offers unique benefits. You can be more successful gardening in a community garden plot than at your home. 

I think community gardens are a wonderful place to grow, even though I have my own yard. I grow specific crops at home, but I could never have as much success in my back yard as I do in the community garden plot. There is not enough sunlight in a large enough space. 

Why not look into community gardens in your home town? 

Other articles from Till and Trowel: specifically about community gardens and their benefits:

Close

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.