A community garden is an area of land that is gardened by a group of people who grow flowers and vegetables while cultivating social connections in the community. A community garden might be one large plot of land that is worked by a group, or it may be multiple plots gardened by individuals, or even a combination of the two. You can find these gardens almost anywhere – a vacant lot, a rooftop space that is designated as open or “green” space or even on the grounds of a school or hospital. Produce can be grown for individual use, to be sold at a local market or in support of a local food bank or other non-profit organization.

Find The Best Community Garden For You

The Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia community gardening locator map lets you enter your zip code to find a garden near you, while the American Community Gardening Association provides a comprehensive database for garden locations. As with the PHS website, you simply plug in your zip code for a map of nearby gardens.

Another source of potential gardening plots is the Neighborhoods Garden Association. NGA is a land trust organization that holds title to just under 30 gardens. These flower and vegetable gardens, as well as a number of sitting parks, are cared for by residents from the community. Because NGA oversees all insurance and tax details, gardeners are free to cultivate their craft – and crops.

How It Works

The rules for belonging to a community garden vary from garden to garden, but operate from a similar set of expectations and rules. In Philly’s Southwork/Queen Village Community Garden, for example, bylaws state that first priority for plots is given on a first-come, first-served basis to residents of Queen Village, an area which is defined – per the garden’s bylaws – as stretching from the Delaware River to 6th Street and from the south side of Lombard Street to the north side of Washington Avenue.

Gardeners from the prior season who are in good standing are granted first preference of plots the following year, and all gardeners must sign an agreement annually. A small fee – $5 at this particular garden – may be charged for registration, and the organization is overseen by a board made up of gardener members.

There are rules for most gardens about dates by which crops must be in the ground or risk losing the plot to someone from a waiting list of hopeful gardeners. Rules may also include expectations for the number of hours each gardener is expected to spend tending a plot as well as an expectation for the level of upkeep to each plot.

Want To Learn More?

The Philadelphia Horticultural Society offers a program for those interested in starting a community garden. The Garden Tenders course trains gardeners and potential gardeners through hands-on experience with gardening workshops and education in the areas of finding a sight, cultivating volunteers, forming partnerships and more.

For those interested in learning about organic community gardens, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education is an excellent resource. With 481 16’ x 20’ garden plots, gardeners from the community grow produce for their own families as well as for local churches, food banks and even for sale to area restaurants.

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Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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