What is a community garden?
A place where people gather to grow something together, such as vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers (edible or pollination). Community gardens can be located in parks, play fields, schools, retirement communities, open fields, yards or churches, and can be planted on flat land, in raised beds or even containers. There are over 20,000 community gardens in the United States, and that number is increasing by 5-10% annually.
The core beliefs of the American Community Gardening Association are: There are many ways to start a community garden; For a garden to be sustainable, it must grow from the local community and reflect its strengths, needs and desires; Diverse participation and leadership enrich and strengthen a community garden; Each community member has something to contribute; Gardens are communities within themselves, as well as part of a larger community. For more information on the American Community Gardening Association, visit their website at www.communitygarden.org
Below we’ve included a list of frequently asked questions for community gardens. This contains excerpts from a presentation of one of our own local Master Gardeners, Bill Dixon. To see the full presentation slides, click here. Additional questions can be directed to Bill by email at email@example.com or by calling the Master Gardeners at 509-735-3551.
Why build a community garden?
- Grow your own food (38% of households grow some food)
- Save money (food gardening household spends $70 & produces $600 of food)
- Better tasting, higher quality, safe, fresh & nutritious food
- Physical exercise & health benefits
- Fresh air & sunshine
- Mental relaxation & psychological benefits
- Build community, improve neighborhoods & increase property values
- Help others in need
- Teach youths & other inexperienced gardeners
- Learn more about gardening
- Have fun!
How do we start?
“A community garden is 90% community and 10% garden…Do not build it and they will come.” – Pat Munts, Spokane
- Begin by organizing a core group of 10 or more dedicated people.
- Identify skills and resources, then recruit more help.
- Reach out to potential gardeners.
- Hold a meeting to agree upon need for and purpose of the garden
- Find sponsors and expert help (Master Gardeners)
- Locate a good site
- Meet with neighbors and address any concerns
- Hold meetings to design the garden, develop application process and rules, and decide on fees
- Address liability and need for insurance
- Raise funds, seek donations and recruit more volunteers to build it
How do we select a site?
- Best if within walking distance of high density, low income housing with little gardening space
- Not being used by others (kids playing, trails)
- Safe, clean & accessible
- Long-term commitment for garden
- Flat, level land with at least 12 inches of good topsoil (test it)
- No potential contamination (industrial or orchard) & if in doubt test it
- Southern exposure with full sunlight
- Away from trees & large shrubs
- Water readily available
- Wind protection, if possible
- Shade for gardeners to rest
- Access to toilet
How can Master Gardeners help?
The mission of the WSU Master Gardener program includes teaching community members to manage their gardens, increase healthy living through gardening, helping low-income citizens to grow their own food and become more self-sufficient, and donating produce to food banks.
The role of Master Gardeners in Community Gardens is to lead community members through the garden development process, help assess suitability of the property, help design the garden, provide assistance with funding, grants, donations and volunteers, arrange for or lead workshops and seminars, give one-on-one or small group gardening instruction, and develop ongoing mentor(s).
What else do we need to get started?
- At least 10 dedicated gardeners
- Master Gardener mentor(s)
- Raised beds with mulched paths (preferred, but not required)
- Fence, gate & lock (depends on location and animals)
- Sign and bulletin board
- Lots of compost and organic fertilizer
- Seeds and seedlings
- Hoses and nozzles
- Long-handled and short-handled tools with lockable toolbox
- Trash barrel
What should we plant?
- Plant whatever gardeners & their families like to eat
- Avoid spreading plants unless you have lots of space (vining squash, melons & cucumbers)
- Avoid plants that require lots of water & fertilizer, are disease & insect prone, and are low value (corn & potatoes)
- Plant three successive crops to maximize production:
- Cool season crops in early spring (March & April)
- Warm season crops in late spring & early summer (May & June)
- Cool season crops in late summer (July & August)
- Rotate crops every year
- For raised beds, plant densely and practice interplanting (early & late varieties, short & tall crops)
- Try something new each year!
How should we care for the garden?
- Make sure you have enough dedicated gardeners before you start
- Establish a garden committee with a coordinator to run the garden
- Develop and follow garden rules
- Share communal work
- Share harvest with other gardeners, neighbors and those in need
- Celebrate your successes
- Learn from your failures
- Recruit gardeners for next year
- Have fun with it!
How do we ensure garden sustainability?
- Remember that it’s 90% community and 10% garden
- Plan and work together
- Prepare the soil annually
- Rotate crops
- Keep weeds from seeding
- Harvest produce when ripe and share with those in need
- Constantly recruit new gardeners and volunteers
- Continue to seek donations
- Teach the next generation to enjoy food gardening
- Remember – If you just till up soil, throw out some seeds, turn on the irrigation and neglect weeding, your garden may not last beyond one season!
- Invite children into all community gardens by including space in the design for children to garden.
- Provide seeds, seedlings and safe hand tools and encourage gardeners to bring their children to garden.
- Have teenagers help with garden construction, under adult supervision (no power tools).
- Create garden rules addressing supervision of children in the garden.
- Conduct workshops, one-on-one and small group instructions for children.
- Mentor children to develop interest in gardening and learn lifelong gardening skills.
- Include the entire household in harvests and celebrations
- Encourage children to taste the fruit of their labors!
7102 W. Okanogan Place
Kennewick, WA 99336
Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
(closed 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.)
Plant A Row is a people-helping-people initiative to provide hungry people with fresh, nutritious garden produce. It was started by the Garden Writers Association in 1995. The local program is run by WSU Master Gardeners. In 2013 over 16,000 pounds were donated!
Donate your produce!
Gardeners are encouraged to donate their surplus garden produce to help feed those in need in our local community.
Produce can be taken to any of the Benton-Franklin area food banks on the Plant A Row donation site list. Please call in advance because donation days and times may change. You may also donate directly to anyone in need.
Your donation will be weighed and you may request a receipt, giving you a $1.50 per pound tax deduction if you qualify.
Plant A Row also provides free seeds and plant starts when available. Contact the coordinators on how to receive some.
Plant a Row
Serving our Community
- Master Gardeners of Benton & Franklin Counties work with local businesses, non-profits and volunteers to build food gardens for our community. Learn more about this program on this episode of PBS Access NW.
WSU Master Gardeners of Benton & Franklin Counties teaching youth about connection to nature and community while helping feed local families.