In the last installment of our community garden series, we are presenting the most common types of community gardens. A community garden can take many shapes and forms depending on the desired benefits and objectives as well as the available land. A community garden may be a place to grow plants, vegetables, herbs or flowers among the company of neighbors and friends. It could also be a collection of individual plots that are each tended by an individual gardener or a sanctuary where individuals can learn or heal. There are many ways to organize a community garden, but there are a few methods that are the most common, including neighborhood gardens, allotment gardens, donation gardens, school gardens, therapy gardens and market gardens. A community garden can be one of these or a hybrid of several styles of garden.
A neighborhood garden is a plot of land that a group of neighbors tend together as a group. These gardens often consist of both edible and decorative plants and are frequently viewed as something akin to a park for the community. A neighborhood garden strengthens community bonds while also beautifying the neighborhood.
Allotment gardens are typically vacant lots that are divided into individual plots. These plots are then assigned to individuals who tend the plots in whatever fashion they like. These gardens are popular with individuals who enjoy gardening but do not have a yard of their own. The result is a beautiful patchwork of different gardens that provide fulfillment to individuals and natural beauty to the community as a whole.
Donation gardens focus on growing edible crops for philanthropic reasons. The resulting food is given to local food pantries and homeless shelters. Most donation gardens focus on organic produce and rely on natural fertilizers and organic soil conditioners for a healthy, robust yield. These gardens also often produce their own compost using left over food stuff and vegetation. Because the garden is city-central, we recommend the Bokashi compost fermentation system rather than traditional decomposition, as it is much faster and does not emit foul odors into the community.
School gardens give urban children a chance to experience horticulture in a way that is normally unavailable. These gardens focus on teaching children about sustainable agriculture, science, and applied mathematics in a hands-on gardening atmosphere. The interaction also provides personal growth, as they develop their ability to work as a team, learn life skills, and develop social skills. The result is a more knowledgeable child with a strong sense of accomplishment. Schools can also benefit from collecting cafeteria wastes and converting it into soil amendments. These types of projects help children learning recycling and growing plants. Because there is less waste going into dumpsters, there are less hauling costs.
The purpose of a therapy garden is to provide emotional, spiritual or physical rehabilitation to those who need it. These types of community gardens are popular with hospitals, elder care facilities, therapy centers, substance abuse rehabilitation centers, and special needs schools. Therapy gardens are based on the principal that humans crave connectedness with nature. A green space encourages exercise and introspection, both of which are healing.
As demand continues to increase for fresh local produce, so does the demand for market gardens. A market garden is a community garden that is farmed for profit as a source of supplemental income for lower income families. These gardens allow needy individuals to raise their own cash crops for sale to restaurants, individuals and at farmers markets.
Rooftop and Balcony Gardens
In many urban areas, space is limited…or so one would think. One just need look up to see there are acres of surface area that can be converted to food-producing areas. These farms can supply local produce to fit any of the above types of gardens. They also help provide much needed oxygen and clean air in these urban areas. Several cities, New York and Chicago in particular, are boasting multiple rooftop gardens. The sites are selected for a variety of reasons such as location to low rent and a strong roof. Soil is hauled up to the roof and beds are developed for planting. Irrigation lines are installed and a farm is set up on top of a building. Areas are left for composting and collecting rainwater as well.