The American Community Gardening Association’s website can point you to the nearest plot in your area where you can take up shovel and join the dig. But if there are no local gardens, you and some neighbors can start one yourselves. Their website also has a detailed road map on creating a community garden.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet to get you going.
1. Find an abandoned or empty plot in your area and determine who owns it by checking with your City Hall or county government. Public land will require either permission or a lease agreement.
2. Make sure the site gets at least six hours of sunlight a day and has access to water (or water can easily be transported to the lot).
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3. Think about past use of the land. A former dump site might not be the best option considering the inevitable seepage from discarded Windex bottles and Tide containers.
4. Organize a meeting of would-be gardeners and make plans. Does the group want to raise vegetables? Fruit? Flowers? All of the above? I’d even suggest hosting a kick-off “Garden Party” to make the whole thing a bit more festive.
5. Divvy up the plots and clearly mark which section goes to which farmer. Outline the plots with something permanent, yet gentle, like string tied around stakes.
6. Determine who does what. Will you operate on a “To Each His Own” policy? Or will you divide the tilling, hoeing, weeding, and picking tasks in a democratic way?
7. Perhaps most importantly, who gets to eat the fruits of all this labor? Shall each gardener reap what she sows? Or will your plots be more of a free-for-all? Or perhaps you’ll harvest a charity garden and give your veggies away.
Aside from knowing exactly where your food is coming from and getting some exercise, group gardening could also be a lot of fun, a learning experience for neighborhood kids, and even a real bonding experience for your neighborhood. Plus, you won’t have to pay $3 for basil at Trader Joe’s!