Wednesday, May 4, 2011

on gardening in a community

columbus gardens

columbus gardens

community gardening

my first experience tending a garden was in a community garden. when we moved to minneapolis just over four years ago, we were lucky to rent an apartment owned by two ladies who had helped to found one of the longest-running community gardens in this city- and it was right across the street from our apartment. there are so many reasons why i couldn't be happier that my gardening journey began in this community, and today i'm going to share just a few of those reasons.

:: education. when i joined our community garden in 2007, i had never gardened before and knew almost nothing about how to grow anything. it's safe to say that almost everything i've learned about gardening has come from the folks with whom i share a bit of land (and a few incredible resources). i have learned so much from other gardeners that i never would have discovered had i been gardening alone in my own yard. i've discovered different ways of trellising plants, gotten advice on what might be wrong with my plants, and been given countless ideas of new things to plant. last year, just as i was about to place my seed order, a fellow gardener told me that she would be growing dry beans. at the last minute, i added them to my order and they ended up being one of my favorite things that i grew last year. this year, dry beans will make up almost half of what i'm growing.

:: space. even though i was lucky enough to have a yard at our first apartment, and was allowed to garden a bit of that space, we were just renters and i never felt the desire to put a lot of effort into building a garden that i would eventually leave behind. many folks who participate in community gardens do so because they do not have any space, or have very limited space, to garden at their homes. even though i now have a backyard garden at my home, i'm delighted to still have the additional space just a few blocks away.

:: community. i feel lucky to have moved into a neighborhood that has a very strong sense of community. despite that, this garden has been one of the main ways that i have met my neighbors. having an excuse to spend time outdoors in the middle of the community gives me the opportunity to see what's going on around me, say hi to people who walk by, and get to know the other gardeners, who are all my neighbors.

:: creating a positive, safe space. the lot on which this garden sits used to have a home, which burned down in the late '80s.  it sat vacant and charred for years before some of the neighbors got together and decided to grow something positive amidst the tragedy of the fire, as well as some of the other struggles that the neighborhood had faced. although things have drastically improved over the past 20 years, there continues to be violence and tragedy all around. it brings hope for the entire community to have a space where neighbors and community members can come together and build something positive.

:: partnership. as i've been writing this post, i've realized that over the past few years, at least, our garden has partnered with many other community organizations to improve the garden or provide additional services to the community.  some of these groups include: a traveling puppet show who performed in the empty lot next door, a youth summer welding class who created our gate, a sustainable architecture class who built our shed out of reclaimed materials, and a neighborhood artist who created our new sign (to name just a few).

for all of these reasons, and many more, i continue to tend my community garden plot even though i have moved a few blocks farther away, and have my own gardening space at my home. community gardening is something i highly recommend, whether or not you need the extra space.  even if you don't want more garden (who doesn't?!), i would encourage anyone to find out if there is a community garden nearby, and get to know the gardeners and what's going on in the garden.  you won't regret it. 


  1. This is such a great post Julia. And it's so true how community gardens can bring hope to a neighborhood. I like how the people around where you live really seem to embrace the community aspects of gardening.