Last year, we devoted a large number of our “gardening season” entries to the types of gardens that you’re lucky to have if you live in a smaller town, suburb or rural environment. But for many urban dwellers, the closest they’ll get to the joy of soil in their fingers is a potted plant. And not that potted plants aren’t lovely, but they just aren’t a garden. However, fortunately, in most cities, green spaces and community gardens are on the rise. Even if gardening isn’t “your thing” you should get to know (and love) your community garden. Here’s why and how.

Firstly, What Is a Community Garden?

The basic definition of a community garden is a single plot of land that is collectively gardened by a group of people. In most cases, the land is either publically owned and designated as a community garden or privately owned and zoned for gardening. How community gardens are set up can vary. In some cases, members contribute to garden supplies as well as donate time and labor work in the garden and all of the land is shared. In other cases, the community garden may be sectioned off with individuals or families having their own plots. Most community gardens combine both of these practices and have both a shared area and individual plots within the same space. In most (but not all) cases there’s an annual fee associated with having space at a community garden. But for all of the reasons we’re about to list, we think it’s more than worth it to anybody who pays it (or donates it for another).

What Are the Benefits of Community Gardens?

The better list would be “what isn’t a benefit of a community garden?” – and that list would be short! We probably can’t detail all of the benefits that community garden areas bring in the space that we have, but we can bullet point the most important ones.

Good for the Planet: This one is simple. The more green spaces we create on the earth, the better it is for the earth. In many cases, community gardens actually replace spaces that were vacant lots, so something that had absolutely no environmental benefit at all becomes something that has a significant environmental benefit.

Killing the Food Desert: Especially in urban environments with a lower socio-economic population, the food desert is a very real detriment to personal health. In many cases, the only food within walking distance is processed or fast food. Community gardens help to alleviate this problem and provide fresh and healthy food no matter what the neighborhood.

Community Spirit: There are so many reasons that the sense of community in many neighborhoods is breaking down. We like to talk a lot about isolated lifestyles with mobile technology and lack of person-to-person communication when we discuss this, but the reality is that the problem is much greater. Community gardens create a way for people with similar passions to find each other and connect. They also create community pride and, for many, decrease stress.

Child Education: There are so many great internet articles and studies out there about how children who are exposed to gardening have a better understanding of food and grow up to have healthier diets and better health. Community gardens make this possible for neighborhood youth.

How Can You Support Your Community Garden?

So how can you support your community garden? Here are our favorite four ways.

Develop: Be a person who creates change! If you don’t have a community garden in your neighborhood, be the person who makes it happen. It will take some work, some resources and some other advocates, but you can make a big difference in your world by being the person who drives the conversion of a grey space to a green space.

Participate: If you already have a community garden in your area, start participating! You may not even realize until you start that you love gardening.

Donate: If you love the idea of community gardens but know that it’s just not your thing to go digging in the dirt, find out how you can donate to your local community garden in the form of supplies or operational money.

Pay-It-Forward: If your community garden requires an annual fee, be a “garden angel” and pay for the annual fee for a person who would struggle with it.

Community gardens are a more modern version of gardening, but they have all – if not more – of the benefits of traditional gardening. Learn to love your community garden today!

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Photo Credit: The Forum News via Flickr