Community Gardens

 Why a Community Garden?

Community gardens provide significant economic and community development possibilities such as an oasis for families to learn from each other as well as from nature.  Fresh air, exercise, and camaraderie.  No yard, or a yard that is shaded or too small.  Youth and adults teach or learn from each other.  Raise vegetables, herbs, and flowers, instead of buying them.  Create a shaded oasis for families.  Attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.  Filter stormwater runoff.  Bring neighbors together.  Increase property values.

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Where to Begin?

 Start with people, not plants.  Recruit active, interested, responsible gardeners.  Create an informal organization for communication, dues, etc.  Who will your garden serve (church community, specific neighborhood, youth center, the Food Bank)?  What will your garden grow (vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers)?

The Garden Site

 Who owns it? Is permission needed from an outside party to use it?  How is it currently being used? How was it used historically (factory, house, church yard)?  For vegetables, does the site receive 6-8 hours or more sun per day?  The site must have water, and fencing to keep out critters and other unwanted visitors is often desirable.

A Few Words about Soil Quality:  Gardening in an urban setting is different than gardening in the suburbs. Urban garden sites may contain lead and other chemicals; here vegetables and fruits should be grown in “raised beds” (i.e., wood structures filled with fresh soil) which prevent edible plants from taking up soil contaminants. In the end, these sites may be better locations to grow ornamental flowers and trees.

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Many local and national organizations can help with:

  • site assessment and utilization
  • material lists and sources
  • funding opportunities
  • community and garden organization
  • planting: what, when, how, how much
  • maintenance and pest management
  • communication tools
  • nutrition education and cooking tips

For more information contact:

~ Carrie Murphy, Extension Educator, Horticulture, New Castle County (302) 831-COOP, cjmurphy@udel.edu

~ Tracy Wootten, Extension Educator, Horticulture, Sussex County (302) 856-2585, wootten@udel.edu

~ The Delaware Center for Horticulture: Tara Tracy, Community Gardening/Urban Agriculture Manager, (302) 658-6262 ext. 109, ttracy@thedch.org

Additional resources:

 http://www.thedch.org/what-we-do/community-gardens/our-gardens-farms

(Adapted from The Delaware Center for Horticulture’s Grow a Community Garden….Grow a Community!, March 2012)

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