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By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
While this year’s experience was different then last year’s, it is still a learning experience.
I have learned a lot through this experience and have been a little frustrated at times.
But communities were not built in a day nor will the gardens associated with them spring up over night.
The present research I am doing through a survey I created for my Masters degree has backed up several of my challenges I have faced this year. The first one is what exactly is a community garden. This term is very broad and depends on the end use or what you hope to get out of the garden. In my research I have found 7 different types of community gardens and each one is unique in itself.
While the term “land” is used in the description of each garden type, do not feel that you have to garden in the traditional manner. Today’s community gardens can be built right into the land or raised beds can be used.
Also, do not fret if your community garden falls into two or more categories. In my situation, The Charlestown Community Garden is a neighborhood garden space but inside this space is The Maxwell Project. This garden by definition is a youth garden but it is run like a neighborhood community garden.
A neighborhood community garden is one where land is divided up and each individual cares for his or her own parcel of land. This is what The Charlestown Community Gardens are along with The Maxwell Project.
Another type is one that has been in the news a lot and that is youth/school gardens. This type of community garden teaches kids about gardening, nature, biology, science and other topics not normally associated with gardening.
Entrepreneur or job training gardens are ones that are designed to teach individuals a skill, such as gardening. The fruits of their labor are then sold at farmers’ markets. Profits from the sale goes to pay those who participated.
Communal gardens are ones that I have a hard time with. While on the surface the concept is great, my experience with human nature tells me this is not always the case. Regardless of my feeling toward the success of this type of community garden, the premise of this type of community garden is that every one works the garden space and then the rewards are divided equally among the gardeners.
A food pantry garden is a new concept for me and really makes sense. The just of this type of garden is a plot of land is “farmed” by volunteers or clients themselves. Produce that is harvested is then returned to the food bank.
A therapy garden is one that is placed near a hospital, senior center or prison. It utilizes plant therapy as a way of reaching and helping people. In this garden space, a wide variety of plant material is planted including vegetables and herbs along with flowers and trees.
Demonstration gardens are ones set up to teach a skill or new technique. These can be found around many county extension offices or horticulture research parks.
So if you are considering creating your own community garden, explore what your community needs are first and then decide which type of garden suits your community. If you need some inspiration, check out The Charlestown Community Gardens and/or The Maxwell Project. Also, if you would like to contribute to gardening research, please take consider taking this 5-minute survey. Together we can help build cities where community gardens are not the exception but the rule.