Community Garden Procedures, Benefits, and Goals

Wayne Williams, Della McGuire
  • Author
    Wayne Williams

    Wayne has taught at every grade level. Language arts, math, science, and social studies are just a short list of Wayne’s content experience spanning 25 years. He has a B.A. in History from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and an M.A. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix.

  • Instructor
    Della McGuire

    Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

Explore the benefits of community gardens. Learn about the objectives of gardening, how community gardens work, and the importance of neighborhood gardens. Updated: 05/31/2022

What is a Community Garden?

In 2021 about 40% of people living in the United States were considered to be obese and over 50 million people suffered from mental illness. Populations are increasing around the world and waste is piling up, accelerating the global warming crisis. While we enjoy technological advances in smartphones, video games, and virtual reality, we are becoming even less social and even more disconnected from each other, factors that have been linked to depression. There is no one answer for all of these pressing issues, but surprisingly, a simple growing trend, called a community garden, could be a step in the right direction.


Manoa Community Gardens where plots are designated for individual and shared use.

An overhead view of the beautiful Manoa Community Gardens where plots are organized in rows and designated for individual and shared use.


So, what is a community garden? A community garden is a public piece of rural, suburban, or urban property designated for people living in the surrounding area to grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables. A community garden is not a commercial farm that pays employees. All work and decisions concerning the garden are made by the community garden members. Historically, community gardens emerged in large cities to combat economic and social issues. They have positively impacted the ability of people to access healthy food, improved nutrition, encouraged physical activity, and through real social interaction, they have even strengthened participants' mental health. In addition, the issue of climate change is also addressed by establishing and refurbishing neighborhood gardens.

In the United States, community gardening can be traced back to the mid-18th century when a community-based society called the Moravians planned, planted, harvested, and ate together. Detroit was the first city in the 1890s to sponsor vacant lot gardens to combat the economic recession. Then, in the spring of 1973, in New York City, an artist by the name of Liz Christy, her college friends, and several garden activists who called themselves the Green Guerillas, cleaned up a vacant lot and built over 50 raised garden beds. This action motivated people living in the community and had great success. Today, there are well over 10,000 community gardens serving people who either can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables or live in an area where access is limited.

Community Garden

A community garden is a shared, semi-public space where people in the surrounding neighborhood share the work and harvest of maintaining a garden space for growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or even livestock. The way a community garden is set up and maintained can vary greatly from one to the next.

For example, one community garden can consist of several raised beds on an empty lot and neighbors can come by each day to attend to the plants and pick food to eat. A different community garden can be in the yard of a house of worship, and the harvest supplies the soup kitchen and food bank. In urban communities with limited available land, several raised beds in a lot can be rented out to community members, so each renter has their own gardening space. Yet another community garden can grow on privately-owned lawn behind a house, and the gardener can distribute the produce to the neighbors as it's harvested in exchange for volunteer labor. As you can see, there are multiple ways to identify a community garden as such, but the common element among them all is that more than one family or household both contributes to the work and benefits from the produce.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Plant Cells Lesson Plan

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Community Garden
  • 1:18 Benefits
  • 3:19 Rules
  • 5:01 Best Practices
  • 6:08 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

How Do Community Gardens Work?

Now that we have established a basic understanding of a community garden, how do community gardens work? It is important to know that there are several types of community gardens and each process may vary slightly depending on the specific need or objective of that garden.

Some of the most popular examples of community gardens include:

  • Plot Gardens are most popular in urban settings where sections are assigned to individual gardeners who are solely responsible for their plot.
  • Collective or Cooperative Gardens are operated by individuals that work together and share the harvest equally.
  • Youth Gardens are educational gardens that take place at school and are led by an instructor.
  • Entrepreneurial Gardens can be an extension of a youth garden where students not only learn how to grow plants but are taught how to earn a profit from their harvest.
  • Therapeutic Gardens focus on mental health and are usually found at a retirement home or rehabilitation center.


The Washington Capitals fans volunteered in District of Columbia Public Schools to assist with the creation of a community garden.

Example of a colorful school plot garden for kids. Each rectangle color-coded garden bed rests on grass in an open space.


Generally, all of these examples work the same. First, a garden club is established and leaders or officers are elected. A plot of public land is then located and divided into individual plots usually consisting of fifteen or more sections. If space is limited, private spaces can be acquired where small fees might be charged. Each individual gardener is responsible for their own plot and the harvest or the production of those crops are used by that individual, who is able to do with the yield as they please. Collective gardens take another approach requiring the entire group to cultivate the garden together and then share everything equally. Once a foundation is set, leaders are selected, plots are designated, and procedures are agreed upon, the rules can then be solidified.

Community Garden Rules

The function of community gardens seems simple enough, however, challenges do occur and it is important to establish guidelines or rules when developing a neighborhood garden to prevent or handle conflict, should it arise. For example, in a collective garden, you may find that only a few people are actually working while others are showing up only when it is time to harvest. In other instances, you may have some new gardeners who are really motivated and plant without a purpose. In an urban plot garden, participants may grow outside the boundaries of their section which could limit the space of others. Some may even use chemicals that are bad for the environment and contaminate the soil around their plant beds. This is why it is important for a community garden to develop guidelines and create a detailed contract that clearly outlines the rules for members to review and sign.

One of the most important universal rules is to consider all participants during the rule-making process. A garden can not function without a little cash flow and in some cases, it may be necessary to include the fees required and a refund policy. Once plots have been assigned, a schedule should be followed. For example, a plot cannot be left unattended for more than four weeks or it will be reassigned to the next person on the waiting list. In addition, make sure participants understand the size limitations of their plot and that it should not extend into other gardener plots or pathways. Vertical gardens are a good idea, however, height requirements should be listed on the contract as well. When using a plot garden format participants should harvest plants from their section only. General maintenance requirements are important to make sure everyone understands the importance of keeping their area clean by pulling weeds and removing diseased and pests-ridden plants.


This compost bin represents the green matter which should be collected in order to create a good compost for your community garden.

An old single wood compost bin with fresh food scraps piled to the top.


Creating a compost system is vital. People need to have an organized system of bins or garbage cans and agree to separate their trash. It is also suggested to inform members that illegal plants are prohibited and provide participants with a clear list of plants that are against the law. Some community garden members may even decide to bring their pets so including a no pet rule won't hurt. Guests and visitors can be granted access if accompanied by a member, but leadership should make sure guests are informed of the rules as well. Members should agree not to lend their keys to anyone. Organic gardens exclude any harmful pesticides. Even if a person wants to use a natural pesticide, a community garden official needs to review and approve the product first. Again, rules may be different depending on the specific types of garden and its goals. Despite the objective, all will benefit greatly from a strong contract with rules that are clearly highlighted. If carried out properly, a community garden can offer consistent life-changing rewards.

Benefits of Community Gardens

The benefits of community gardens revolve around two major categories: the environment as well as the physical and mental health of both the neighborhood and the people who live there. The consumption of fruit and vegetables is undeniably associated with reducing the risk of disease. In 2021, less than 15% of adults consumed the recommended amount of fruit, and the statistics were even worse when it came to vegetables. One of the most important benefits of community gardens is the access to nutritionally-rich foods grown to support the needs of low-income urban neighborhoods and rural areas where fresh fruits and vegetables are located too far away. As it relates to the environment, replacing vacant lots with green spaces in inner cities, reduces the extra heat generated by vacant paved areas and assists with the climate change crisis.

Here is a list revealing ten other benefits of community gardens:

Benefits

Community gardens have several benefits to the people and the environment. These gardens create a sense of community among neighbors who are increasingly disconnected with each other. They create opportunities to provide healthy options in neighborhoods that are often food scarce. For example, in some remote rural areas, the nearest grocery store is prohibitively far away, and many residents rely on pre-packaged food from the gas stations and convenience stores. In these communities, such a garden is critical to the survival of the people in providing a well-rounded diet.

The people working in the garden benefit from exercise and sunshine as well as the therapeutic benefits of working in a garden. Weeding a garden is particularly effective in stress relief and provides mental health benefits to participants. Learning about the ways plants grow and the best conditions to help them thrive can provide the mental and intellectual stimulation of cultivating a new skill. Also, a community garden can change the culture of a neighborhood by providing a shared interest and activity that brings people together.

One of the biggest benefits to a community garden is in creating a culture of self-sustainability. In a low-income neighborhood, a community garden may mean saving enough on groceries to provide for other household needs. People have become more and more separated from traditional foodways, and community gardens can replace the kind of independent living we once knew when everyone had their own backyard garden.

Environmental benefits may be the increase of pollinator plants that can improve conditions for bees and other endangered pollinators. Plants also reduce the overall temperature compared to paved spaces, so these gardens are especially beneficial in urban areas. The environment of a community is improved by having an element of natural beauty so that rather than empty lots in some neighborhoods, the space between buildings can be filled with flowers or even food.

Rules

Because the community garden is an individualized structure, the rules are entirely dependent on each individual garden space and determined by the organizer or committee creating the gardens. It's important to get feedback from garden participants because the nature of a community garden is collective and their voices should be included. Once a garden space or location has been established, it may help to identify the population the garden hopes to serve.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Video Transcript

Community Garden

A community garden is a shared, semi-public space where people in the surrounding neighborhood share the work and harvest of maintaining a garden space for growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or even livestock. The way a community garden is set up and maintained can vary greatly from one to the next.

For example, one community garden can consist of several raised beds on an empty lot and neighbors can come by each day to attend to the plants and pick food to eat. A different community garden can be in the yard of a house of worship, and the harvest supplies the soup kitchen and food bank. In urban communities with limited available land, several raised beds in a lot can be rented out to community members, so each renter has their own gardening space. Yet another community garden can grow on privately-owned lawn behind a house, and the gardener can distribute the produce to the neighbors as it's harvested in exchange for volunteer labor. As you can see, there are multiple ways to identify a community garden as such, but the common element among them all is that more than one family or household both contributes to the work and benefits from the produce.

Benefits

Community gardens have several benefits to the people and the environment. These gardens create a sense of community among neighbors who are increasingly disconnected with each other. They create opportunities to provide healthy options in neighborhoods that are often food scarce. For example, in some remote rural areas, the nearest grocery store is prohibitively far away, and many residents rely on pre-packaged food from the gas stations and convenience stores. In these communities, such a garden is critical to the survival of the people in providing a well-rounded diet.

The people working in the garden benefit from exercise and sunshine as well as the therapeutic benefits of working in a garden. Weeding a garden is particularly effective in stress relief and provides mental health benefits to participants. Learning about the ways plants grow and the best conditions to help them thrive can provide the mental and intellectual stimulation of cultivating a new skill. Also, a community garden can change the culture of a neighborhood by providing a shared interest and activity that brings people together.

One of the biggest benefits to a community garden is in creating a culture of self-sustainability. In a low-income neighborhood, a community garden may mean saving enough on groceries to provide for other household needs. People have become more and more separated from traditional foodways, and community gardens can replace the kind of independent living we once knew when everyone had their own backyard garden.

Environmental benefits may be the increase of pollinator plants that can improve conditions for bees and other endangered pollinators. Plants also reduce the overall temperature compared to paved spaces, so these gardens are especially beneficial in urban areas. The environment of a community is improved by having an element of natural beauty so that rather than empty lots in some neighborhoods, the space between buildings can be filled with flowers or even food.

Rules

Because the community garden is an individualized structure, the rules are entirely dependent on each individual garden space and determined by the organizer or committee creating the gardens. It's important to get feedback from garden participants because the nature of a community garden is collective and their voices should be included. Once a garden space or location has been established, it may help to identify the population the garden hopes to serve.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some benefits of a community garden?

Some of the benefits of developing a community garden include the improvement of nutrition, physical activity, and overall mental health for participants. Increasing the number of neighborhood gardens can also support the environment by positively affecting the issue of climate change.

What is the goal of a community garden?

Many cities and organizations provide opportunities for residents to become involved with community gardens. The goal is to provide better access to healthy food and to promote social activities that could possibly reduce the crime rate.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons & teaching resources‐all in one place.
Video lessons
Quizzes & Worksheets
Classroom Integration
Lesson Plans

I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.
Teacher
Jennifer B.
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account