There are lots of different types of community gardens, and each neighborhood should assess what they really want and what their goals are before deciding to start a community garden. The main types of community gardens are what you might call a neighborhood garden, or an allotment garden, where each individual gardener has their own plot.
Another very common type of community garden is a communal garden where everyone works together and gardens the whole space. And there are different subtypes of communal gardens. You may have a charity garden. For instance, members of a church may work together to grow food for their food pantry or soup kitchen. Or, they may donate to those who are in need.
Other types of gardens would be a garden that focuses on therapy or working with children. Mentors teach children how to garden and have some nutrition education.
Yet another type of community garden would be where you’re seeking to do some vocational training or helping young people gain some skills, and perhaps selling the produce from that garden.
A very traditional type of community garden, where the garden is divided into plots, and then rented out to different gardeners is one that can be very large, or very small. Usually it works best to have plots of different sizes available for gardeners. Individuals or families may want different size plots. This type of garden has certain guidelines and rules that come with it, and the gardeners pay their fee, and then have a certain plot to care for throughout the growing season. And, all the produce that comes out of the plot is theirs to do with what they wish.
A real benefit of a plot rental style community garden is that each gardener has a lot of ownership. And they have a really good reason to keep what they’re doing in good condition, and take good care of their plot. This is because they’re investing in that garden just as if it were their home garden.
A down side of a rental plot type garden is that there is more management involved. Someone has to keep track of the money and make sure that everyone are being good neighbors to the other plot owners. And they also need to determine who has the responsibility of taking care of the common areas, and other maintenance concerns.
In contrast, a communal garden is usually a situation where everyone works together, and they grow a larger patch of different types of vegetables. And then anyone who wants to, that’s worked in the garden, can come to take some produce. Often, the excess produce is given to other neighbors that are in need, or that would like to have some of the produce.
A benefit of a communal style garden is that it’s very easy to encourage relationships where people work together. You can get a lot done with everyone working on the whole garden.
A down side to the communal type gardens is that a lot of times you’ll end up with only a few people doing the vast majority of the work. And, you can quickly become burned out on the project. Then, the project won’t be as sustainable in the long run. With a communal type garden you can also run into situations where the people that do a lot of the work feel upset when those that do less work take more than what they perceive is their fair share of the produce. So, depending on the relationships in the community, a communal garden may work very well, or it may work not so well at all.
This feature story prepared with Rebecca McMahon, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Sedgwick County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.