A community garden is much more than raised beds and vegetables. The garden builds a sense of community, and it should be an asset to the wider neighborhood.
At its best, a community garden engages gardeners and nongardeners, which ensures a long lifespan for the garden and wide public support. If you manage a community garden, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers these tips to help your garden reach its full potential.
Create an event to honor local public service personnel, like emergency medical service (EMS), fire and police personnel. Provide a few fresh vegetables or serve garden-themed snacks as these important community members tour your garden. Honor these public servants and let them know how your garden actually serves the space and surrounding community. Police may keep an eye out for theft and vandalism, and EMS personnel will know the location of the garden in case of an emergency.
Host an evening of arts in the garden. Many small towns have community theater groups or hometown artists. Station artists and their work around the garden. Have local actors perform short monologues to promote their theatrical works.
Add a garden stop if the neighborhood has a spring tour of homes. This could be a wonderful opportunity to share the story of your garden.
Get involved in your area’s fall festival. Host a scarecrow contest or a pumpkin-carving demonstration. October is a beautiful time in the garden. The weather is cooler and the cool-season crops are at their best.
Consider adding a story time in the garden during the summer months. Local school-age children may enjoy being in your garden for a book reading. There are many garden-themed books available, and your local schools will appreciate your efforts as well.
Host educational events for gardeners and the general public. Everyone likes to learn how to better grow tomatoes or what vegetables to plant in the fall. Contact your local UGA Extension agent or one of your county’s Master Gardener Extension Volunteers about teaching a class.
Finally, what makes your community unique? Do you have an unusual town name? Is your area known for something special? The town of Crabapple, Georgia, could host a crabapple preserves workshop. The city of Canton, Georgia, was founded to create a silkworm industry. Host an evening of insects in the garden and tie the history of the area to the garden to make a fun, educational event.
To help ensure a long life for your garden, make your garden visible to people outside of your group of gardeners. Neighbors need to know what a dynamic space it is. Community members outside the group of gardeners could be a source of support. Be creative and help your garden reach its potential.
Consider these ideas from UGA Extension to create a more vibrant community garden. If you want to start a community garden, review the valuable resources at the Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture before you pick up a hoe, buy a pack of seeds or pick out a garden spot. Visit www.ugaurbanag.com/gardens/garden-resources/.