Get Dirty – and Get Social – in a Community Garden

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What is there not to like about joining a community garden? It’s environmentally sensitive, it’s therapeutic for body and soul, and it cultivates food, herbs, beauty – and friendships.

Community garden clubs are everywhere. 

Even the most urban of cities, New York, has dozens of public and private community gardens sprinkled throughout the city’s five boroughs. Apartment dwelling members number into the thousands of plant lovers.

Some community gardens come with a bonus: members are entitled to their own small plots to grow their own carrots, peppers, beets, cucumbers and other veggies and herbs. Members deepen social connections as they prune and dig a few hours a week while swapping gardening tips and information – and sometimes veggies — with fellow community garden enthusiasts.

Community Gardens: Good for the ‘Hood!

What’s more, everywhere they’re located, community gardens are proving to be good for their neighborhoods according to a five-year study conducted by University of California ecologist Stacy Philpott.

It’s not just the plants, herbs, food and fellow member friendships and support that community gardeners enjoy. Dr. Phillpott’s study showed that the gardens also offer a habitat for a diverse range of life, especially beneficial insects including  pollinators and insect pest predators.   

Want to join a community garden and try out your green thumb?  Simply Google “Community garden near me” and your hometown or zipcode.

Green Volunteer Opportunities

There are plenty of gardening volunteer opportunities, some in surprising locales.

For example, you can go to prison.

Alcatraz, the famous 22 acre prison island off San Francisco, is part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. You can volunteer at the Gardens of Alcatraz to help rehabilitate the former prison’s plants and gardens.

Prefer something tamer than a former prison? How about a mini-zoo?

Children in particular relish visiting Baltimore’s Filbert Street Garden thanks to its dwarf goats and sheep (which eat the garden’s surrounding brush), ducks, chickens, great horned owls, bats (which eat mosquitoes, stink bugs, moths and more) as well as hives filled with those glorious pollinators every garden in the world requires: bees.  The animals and insects are a vital part of Filbert’s community garden’s ecosystem.

Community Garden History

Originally women were rarely members of the botany and horticulture clubs prevalent in colonial times. Then in 1891, The  University of Georgia’s botanical garden in Athens, GA was forced to shut down.  With thousands of plants (some very rare) at risk, 12 concerned women launched the Ladies’ Garden Club of Athens.

Don’t think this leaves male gardeners out, though  – the Gardeners of America Club is a nationwide organization specifically for men who want to get their hands dirty and spread the word about gardening through outreach and education.

How does your garden grow? Share your experiences and pix at the Garden Club community in Senior Planet Community! Learn more here!  

Local garden clubs began to create local community gardens, each unique to the area.  Membership rules likewise vary. Sometimes one pays a modest annual fee — $20 to $30 is typical. Other clubs give one a key to the community garden after the contribution of a certain number of hours of work (typically about 20) within a specified time period.

Finding a Community Garden Club

You can get down and dirty – with plants – with a google search of “community garden near me” and your hometown or zipcode.  There are also several national organizations to consider as well that list community garden clubs throughout the U.S. They include:

If you relish growing plants and friendships with fellow enthusiasts, welcome to the only club you can join where everyone agrees:  It’s trowel and error! 

Your turn

Got a green thumb? Are you a member of a community garden? Share your experiences in the comments!

Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and other outlets.

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