A community garden, such as this one in West Chester, can be located in a vacant lot.
How it Works
The image of a house with a vegetable garden is an iconic part of American culture. Many gardeners look forward to receiving their seed catalog in the mail during the winter, and start their plants indoors before planting them in their gardens. Other gardeners, however, live in apartments or townhouses and have no opportunity for their own vegetable garden but can still enjoy growing their own fruits and vegetables in community gardens. Some community gardens can include chickens or other livestock.
Flexibility in Location
A community garden can be located on a vacant lot that a group of gardeners can divide into individual plots or it can be part of a larger tract with farm vehicles, barns and utilities. It can also offer gardening opportunities for those who live in houses without yards.
Maintenance is Easier
The garden can be owned by a non-profit group or municipality, and can be leased to individual gardeners who share maintenance responsibilities.
The garden can provide opportunities for healthy and fresh foods.
Community gardens can be found at schools, hospitals, and parks and are located in both urban and suburban municipalities.
Locally-grown vegetables can be fresher than produce shipped from long distances.
Type of Garden
A committee should determine the type of garden (vegetable, flowers, organic, or a combination), the type of population it will serve and the benefits that members will receive. The committee should enroll and coordinate volunteers who will share their time and knowledge. The committee should also encourage sponsors such as churches, schools, private business or parks and recreation departments, who can donate supplies, use of land or funds.
A convenient location should be considered. Soils testing, daily sunshine, water availability, lease and insurance issues should be addressed. Access (particularly for tractors or other large agricultural vehicles), parking, buffers along lot lines, and signage also need to be considered.
Once a site is chosen, the design should include plot sizes and markers, equipment storage and compost areas, pathways and a rainproof bulletin board for messages. Fees associated with renting a plot should relate to the size of the plot, maintenance requirements and operation costs, and amenities such as tools, organic compost, seeds, and trash disposal. Perimeter fencing and landscaping should be provided. Consideration should also be provided for a children's garden.
Bylaws and guidelines will be needed to ensure that the rules of the garden are observed, regular maintenance is performed, and procedures are established for dealing with vandalism or damage caused by inclement weather.
Community gardens can include livestock, such as chickens.
Community involvement is required. Responsibilities should be shared by the entire group to avoid placing excessive workloads on too few members.
Rules and Regulations
Rules need to be established that address cost sharing, accessibility, allocation of the produce, responsibilities, etc. Members should recognize that as they share the yield from the garden, they also share in the risk of a failed crop.
The organization managing or owning the garden may need insurance coverage.
Zoning ordinances should allow community gardens with minimal regulations.
A portion of Brightside Community Farm in Charlestown Township is preserved with a conservation easement for the benefit of the entire community.
The West End Community Garden is located in West Chester Borough. Residents in the area near West Gay and Wayne Streets formed the Historic West End Neighborhood Association to improve their neighborhood and created the garden to help strengthen their sense of community.
Cumberland County offers a model community garden zoning ordinance.