Spring is officially here! As the weather gets warmer and warmer, those soup nights may start to seem less appealing. There’s always gazpacho, but perhaps it’s time to try something new! How about community gardening?

A community garden is, quite simply, a piece of land gardened by a group of people. This is a wonderful solution for city-dwellers who may not have the yard space to have their own garden, or perhaps don’t have the time to be solely responsible for tending a garden. Some community gardens consist of friends and neighbors working together on a single plot, others offer a pre-determined amount of space within a shared garden for each person to individually grow what they wish. Regardless, community gardens not only provide fresh produce and plants, but also a chance to work together to improve the neighborhood, build community and connect with the environment.

The American Community Gardening Association (which is a GREAT resource to start your own community garden) offers the following benefits of being part of a community garden:

  • Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
  • Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
  • Stimulates Social Interaction
  • Encourages Self-Reliance
  • Beautifies Neighborhoods
  • Produces Nutritious Food
  • Reduces Family Food Budgets
  • Conserves Resources
  • Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
  • Reduces Crime
  • Preserves Green Space
  • Creates income opportunities and economic development
  • Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
  • Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

williams1The Pittsburgh Project recently won the Pennsylvania Horticulture Greening Award for their community garden. The garden helps teach urban young people about basic ecological concepts, principles of nutrition and healthy eating, and skills in environmental stewardship by transforming vacant plots of land into garden spaces, with young people as key participants. TPP’s husband and wife duo, Mark (Community Outreach Coordinator) and Courtney Williams (Community Gardening Coordinator) are pictured here in their community garden (more like community “farm”) on Charles Street in the Northside.

allegheny-garden2Also tucked into the Northside in the Mexican War Streets is The Olde Allegheny Garden, where there are 10×20 foot plots in the garden available for $30 a year. Gardeners are free to plant whatever they wish. A recent campaign for new gardeners produced a rather innovative advertising flyer. Taped up on power poles and street lamps around the area was the following: “WANTED: Seasonal relationship with someone who doesn’t mind a history with a little dirt.”

homewood1

The Homewood Community Garden is an urban community garden located on Forbes Avenue between Homewood Cemetery and Frick Park. Their mission: “To provide people with a little bit of land on which to grow food, flowers, and the sense of well-being that comes from nurturing growing things.” They offer 20×20 foot plots for a fee of $30 per year.

If you’re interested in starting your own community garden, Grow Pittsburgh is happy to offer advice and can help you plan, provide plant starts, and link you to resources in the community. In the near future, Grow Pittsburgh will also be starting a garden tool lending program. Western PA Conservancy has numerous community flower gardens throughout the city (probably in your own neighborhood) that are planted and maintained entirely by volunteers, and could use your help!

A little dirt under your nails is a great reminder that spring has finally arrived…and summer’s not too far off. Invite those friends you made during soup night to start a community garden. You’ll have plenty of fresh veggies to start soup night again once fall approaches.

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