Eat Healthier: Starting a Neighborhood Garden

If you live in a subdivision or neighborhood with even a small amount of public or common land available, you can bring your neighborhood closer together, teach children healthy life skills, and improve your diet by creating a community garden.

Here’s how to get the ball rolling in your neighborhood.

Do Some Research
Spend an evening on Google checking out community gardening websites, such as the American Community Garden Association or the USDA’s People’s Garden initiative. You’ll find lots of tips, including information on how to work with your town or city to make sure your garden is legal, what equipment you’ll need and how to prepare the land. You’ll also want to research what plants grow best in your climate and which spring, summer and fall vegetables you should plant during those seasons.

Invite Participation
Float the idea in your neighborhood first by talking to a few neighbors, then by sending an invitation to everyone get feedback from other residents. You can put flyers in neighbors’ doors or use your neighborhood’s Facebook Group page. If your neighborhood or subdivision doesn’t have a Facebook Group, start one and give the address on your flyer.

Start your planning early, well before growing season starts. It could take more than a month to get all of your permissions, feedback and volunteers in order. Let people know upfront that throughout your discussions that you will keep in mind the garden’s impact on property values (which can increase with a well-done neighborhood garden).

Hold a Meeting
Once you’ve determined that there’s support for your idea, invite everyone to the proposed plot or common area for your first meeting. A big concern among neighbors will be how the garden will affect property values. Bring some pictures of other community gardens you think are well designed to let folks know you can plant a vegetable garden that looks great. Done right, a community garden will raise property values as potential homebuyers see the neighborhood, including children, working together.

Create a list of the equipment you’ll need for your garden and the cost. Many people will step up and donate the use of a rototiller, shovels, hoes, hoses, planters and other equipment. You might include an attractive storage box (not a shed) with a lock to keep items you’ll use frequently. Someone might step up and offer to sponsor (fund) the garden. Make sure you have at least one expert gardener at your meeting to look at your land, sunlight and drainage, and to make suggestions and answer questions.

Contact your local water utility to see what water costs per gallon. A neighbor or two next to your garden might be willing to let you use their spigot when they find out that you only need less pennies’ worth of water each week.

Think About a Kids’ Garden
One way to get more support for your community garden is to sell it as a children’s garden so kids can learn how to grow their own food, learn about healthy eating, and spend less time in front of their computers, game boxes and smartphones during warm weather. Getting teens involved as mentors to the younger kids will also help cut down on vandalism and theft.

Discuss Participation
Talk about who will do the work and how you’ll distribute the delicious fruits and vegetables. Depending on the size of your garden, you might give people their own small plots to plan their own veggies. You might come up with a list of fruits and vegetables that everyone grows together and shares.

Get Started
Once you have approval or permission to start your garden, have agreed on the layout and know who will be participating, set the date for your first day of work.

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