Growing Together: Community Gardening

6 min read | by Ashley Gary 
A group of newly planted flowers in a group. The Community for Location Independent Professionals

The countdown always starts in March for me. Just three short weeks into the month and my wintry prayers have been answered: the coming of spring. While you may see me out and about on social media visiting parks and preserves, the bulk of the work I do is actually from home. I spend a lot of time researching, writing and interacting with people digitally. As a remote worker who’s typically alone and stuck behind my laptop’s screen, it’s always nice to be able to reconnect with nature. There’s nothing I love more than the golden warmth of sunlight on my skin, green vegetation all around and flowers in bloom. Not only is this a time to celebrate being able to enjoy the warm weather (heat lover here!), it’s also the time to reconnect with others. With spring comes a host of outdoor activities that you can do with neighbors, friends and family. However, if you’re looking for a way to ease stress, be productive, and help others, joining a community garden might be the activity you never knew you wanted to start.

A Sense of Community

As remote workers, it can be hard at times to feel like you’re a part of a community. Loneliness and lack of community are a common complaint among people who work virtually. Having the sense that you are connected with others is essential to keeping distributed team members happy. It’s no wonder that a sense of community is important to people; Humans are social and it’s hardwired into our minds. When we are around others, most people are happier and healthier. Where do we find these other people though, when we spend all day at home on our computers? An easy way to find people to connect with is to examine your interests and hobbies. Joining others who share your interests creates a foundation to build relationships. This is exactly what happens when you start to participate in a community garden. An added bonus of community gardening is that you get to interact with people who live in the same area as you and it’s easier to see them on a regular basis.

Garden Club vs. Community Gardening

Gardening as a hobby has been around for a while. The first gardening club in America was founded 128 years ago in 1891 in Athens, Georgia. Since then garden clubs have spread around the country and flourished. You can hop on right now and have a good chance of finding a garden club near you. This community is thriving and there are a variety of events to attend like flower shows and classes. However, if cultivating prized roses is not quite your thing, you can always find your green thumb at a community garden. Modern community gardens have been popular in metropolitan areas across the United States since the 1970s. These gardens are open to the public to come and grow edible (and ornamental) plants, although you may have to pay to rent a plot. The bounty can be shared among the members and at farmer’s markets.

Sun Hat for UV Protection, Pliers and Gloves
Get started with the essentials. You need a good Sun Hat for UV protection, pliers and a good set of gloves.

Get Started With The Essentials

Now that you’ve found a community garden near you, what do you need to actually start? If this is your first foray into gardening, you may not have all the tools you need just lying around. I mean, I don’t have a hand trowel tucked away in my closet, so don’t feel bad if you’re utterly unprepared. 

Here are the essentials that you’ll want to buy before making your first trip to the garden. Be sure to shop around for the best prices and check to see if you can find a gardening set that includes these tools (and possibly more).

  • Gloves

  • Hat

  • Hand Trowel

  • Pruning Shears/Lopper

  • Digging Fork

  • Paddle Hoe

Gloves. As a new gardener, it is essential to have gloves. You’ll want to protect your hands from scratches, irritants and dirt. Make sure they fit comfortably, and it helps if they are water-resistant. 

Hat. You’ll also want to wear a hat to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays while you’re hard at work prepping, planting and maintaining your garden. 

Hand Trowel. A hand trowel is a necessity. They look like a handheld shovel and can be used for many things like digging up weeds, making a hole in the ground, moving dirt and transferring plants. 

Pruning Shears/Lopper. If you’ll need to clear out your patch in the garden, you may need pruning shears or loppers (similar but larger with a longer handle to do tough jobs). These are good for cutting away any plant material that may be in your space and will come in handy once you actually begin to see your plants flourishing. 

Paddle Hoe. Another necessity is a paddle hoe. This long-handled tool can be used to cut weeds or roots, shape soil into mounds, or dig rows. 

Digging Fork. The last thing you’ll want to pick up is a digging fork. Sometimes soil can be compacted or otherwise difficult to dig into. The digging fork helps you to break the soil up so you can prepare it for planting. While it’s possible to do this without the fork, it can be much harder and drain your energy before you’ve really begun.

5 Easy Plants To Grow For Beginners

You’ve got your gear and tools, but do you have your seeds? Although there’s a wide variety of plants you could grow, here are five that are great for beginners who may not have developed their green thumbs just yet.

  • Lettuce

  • Bush/Pole Beans

  • Strawberries

  • Mint

  • California Poppies

Lettuce. If you love salads, you will be happy to know that lettuce is easy to grow. On top of its ease, it only takes about a month and a half to go from seed to harvest.

Bush/Pole Beans. Beans are also a favorite of beginner gardeners. Just be sure to know if you are planting bush beans or pole beans. While bush beans don’t need any support, pole beans will need a trellis to grow. 

Strawberries. Not so interested in vegetables? Many fruits and berries are a great choice for beginners like strawberries. 

Mint. Herbs are popular among “newbies” as you can easily grow plants like mint from seed or transfer, and they require very little care.

California Poppies. If you’re looking to grow some beautiful blooms, California poppies are resilient and will grow for even the most forgetful gardener. The blooms are even edible!

Now you have everything you need to dig into community gardening. You may find that there’s a learning curve, but the good thing about being a part of a community is that others will help you out along the way and show you tips and tricks. You never know, you may grow skillful enough to show others how to feed their souls, bellies and their neighbors. 

Originally Published by Ashley Gary on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 08:00 | Updated On Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 08:01

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