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Community gardens are places where people come together to grow food, foster good health, green urban environments, support life long learning and cultivate vibrant communities. Since the 1970s, this contemporary take on community gardening has seen a burgeoning of community gardens around the world, but the idea of a group of people gardening on common land is far from a new. Gardening on public land dates back to the early 19th century when the British Government allocated plots of land to the poor to grow vegetables and flowers.
In the UK and Europe allotment gardens have been an important source of food for many families, some passing on allotments for several generations. In Australia, the turn of the 20th century saw an emergence of community gardens as a response to war and food shortages. Community gardens are being recognised as an innovative way to grow food and improve health. They bring together people from all walks of life, backgrounds and ages to foster a lively and connected community.
Turning an unused plot of land into productive social hubs is just one of the benefits of community gardening.
Once the idea for a community garden takes off and a group is formed, locating and securing a suitable site sometimes takes a while, but there are now many local examples of successful gardens for inspiration. Along with community gardening in designated public sites, more people than ever are reaping these benefits by taking to their nature strip to grow edible and other plants. When gardening organically, think of your fruit and vegetables as part of an eco system that starts in the soil and includes the water supply, people, wildlife and even insects. Organic gardeners rely on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops.  Genetically modified (GM) crops are constantly in the news as of late and are not allowed under organic standards because they are modified and not original to their variety, they are unsafe and untested.
The merging together of plants and soil allowing the Earth to naturally bear what it was made to do would be considered organic gardening. You might wander how you can garden without herbicides and pesticides and how are you going to control the weeds, bugs, and animals that may threaten a thriving garden?
But the thing is, for years gardeners have been growing things just fine without the use of chemicals. We should be able to use the same ingredients as the early settlers used rather than franken chemicals born in a chemist’s laboratory. Vegetables and fruit produced using organic method tastes better, have more vitamins and minerals and have none of the cancer causing chemicals in them.
There has been a great rise in the interest of ecology and concern about the environment that has bred new life to this form of gardening. Taking advantage companion planting and natural predators the home gardener can manage pest control and maintain an organic garden quite easily. Most people who decide to start organic gardening report that the enjoyment they receive is paramount to their decision to go the route of no-chemicals in favor of the all-natural route.  Many people like to watch the tender new growth come to full maturity and, as a bonus, you get to eat it! Naturally grown corn on the cob and newly picked green beans are especially noticeable, but nothing compares to vine ripened organically grown tomato. A phenomenon noted by most people when harvesting their very first vegetables from their very first garden is that everyone eats much more of a given vegetable than they would of a similar commercial variety. For a gardener who still isn’t convinced about the need to garden organically, here are some statistics that may help change your mind. The choice is yours, it’s really not that difficult to go the organic route and the health benefits will be worth the trouble. What’s your biggest concern about surviving life after an EMP attack destroys our grid? Retired engineer-turned-gardener Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening” consistently tops the list of best-selling gardening books – and there’s a reason. Square foot gardening differs from most other gardening systems in that you don’t use your native earth. The classic Square Foot bed is a 4’ x 4’ square constructed of anything from lumber to bricks to cinder blocks.
Another place where square foot gardening shines is in its ability to produce high amounts of veggies in a small space.
Unlike some methods, square foot gardening as Bartholomew recommends it is a completely organic system.
David Goodman is a naturalist, author and hard-core gardener who has grown his own food since 1984. David is the author of four books, writes a regular column for The Ag Mag in North Central Florida, is a Mother Earth News blogger and has also written for outlets including Backwoods Home, Survival Blog and Self-Reliance Magazine. David is a Christian, an artist, a husband, a father of seven, a cigar-smoker and an unrepentant economics junkie who now lives somewhere near the equator on a productive cocoa farm. And for lots more gardening info, click here and subscribe to his often hilarious YouTube channel.
I got rid of the boxes this season and using berms, because otherwise I’d be missing this entire season. In Cuba organically farmed community gardens fed millions of people after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its economic support in 1989.


The recent wave of community gardening began with Melbourne’s Nunawading in 1977, followed a few years later in 1985 in Sydney, with community gardening at Callan Park in Rozelle. Whilst gardening is the focus, community gardens are generally community hubs for a range of activities – learning and education, playgroups, arts and creative activities, preparing and sharing food, community events, celebrations and social enterprise. Neighbourhood groups with a shared passion for fresh organic produce work together to learn and share knowledge of growing food, help reduce family food budgets and provide opportunities for exercise, recreation and learning, as well as spaces for contemplation and relaxation. Gardens are usually located on vacant public land, which can be donated by local councils or other organisations under various lease arrangements. Each has its own particular character depending on the people participating, garden size and design, the environment, what’s grown and how the garden is managed. No matter where or how people choose to come together, community gardening offers local residents the chance to meet neighbours and experience a greater sense of community connectedness through the shared activities and pleasures of gardening.
The former Executive Director of the National Trust of Australia, Tina has over 25 years experience managing membership and volunteer organisations.
Not only are native plants low-maintenance, hardy and naturally grow well in your environment, but they are also well-suited for local wildlife.•  Choose brightly-colored flowers such as red or purple petunias to attract birds and wildlife, as those attracted early in the season are likely to stick around all summer.
An organic gardener strives to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimize and continually replenish any resources the garden consumes.
The plants and the soil are one working together to provide food and nourishment not only to humans but to animals and organisms as well.
Herbicides and pesticides were considered the gardeners best friend and now you will be expected not to use them? Early settlers of our land did not have any herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers and they got along just fine. It only makes sense that we should be able to apply the same principles to get the same results as they did today. By using natural materials, such as kitchen and garden scraps a gardener can create compost and fertilize the garden naturally. Organic gardening goes way beyond lack of chemicals in our vegetables and fruit and the benefits for us and our families. They found that about half of the essential nutrients on our food had been reduced by as much as 38 percent as compared to the 1950′s. Many of the immune enhancing compounds that make life wonderful, make our food taste wonderful, and also protect us from cancers and a lot of chronic disease. When you take your first bite of an organically grown tomato it’s something you won’t forget and you will never want a commercially grown tomato again.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. Studies have found significantly higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and significantly less nitrates (a toxin) in organic crops. A 2003 study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry concluded that organic foods are better for fighting cancer. You will be able to recycle your kitchen and garden waste and at the same time help save the environment.
Square foot gardening promises little or no weeding, consistent results, and lots of organic veggies from a tiny space. Instead, you use a perfect mix (Mel’s Mix) of “soil” created from one part compost, one part vermiculite, and one part peat moss. Bartholomew also strongly recommends putting a permanent grid over the top dividing the bed into easily manageable 1’ squares. It’s also weed-free, unless you start with homemade compost that wasn’t “cooked” enough in a hot compost pile. If you want to grow beans, cabbages, salad greens, peppers, onions and other smaller plants, square foot beds are very convenient and supportive. As you pull out spent crops, put in a handful of compost in the holes left behind and then plant again. With a square foot garden, you can drop a garden right over grass or weeds without even pulling stuff up.
If square foot gardening were the end-all system, it would be recommended across the gardening community, right? It may be perfect for a townhome’s backyard… and gardener that likes watering regularly… but it’s less attractive when you have a lot of land available. I use a combination of methods ranging from row gardening to biointensive beds to water gardening to permaculture, etc. And if it takes a 4’ x 4’ box with good instructions and a smiling mentor; sure, you can start with square foot gardening. From the victory gardens during WW1 and WW2 to large greening projects, to small curbside gardens, community gardening has taken many forms.
From these early beginnings, community gardens became increasingly popular and now many councils have supportive community garden policies.


Community gardens point the way to living sustainably in an urban environment showing waste minimisation, composting and water usage techniques that can be used by people in their own homes. They can be sited in schools, universities, parks, cul-de-sacs, vacant lots, roof tops, verges or nature strips or retirement homes, indeed anywhere there is a large enough space with good access, adequate sun and a water supply. Gardens can be communal or shared gardens, where the group shares the work and harvest or allotment style gardens, where people garden their own individual plots.
Plant a row of mauve or yellow flowers to attract butterflies and simultaneously provide them with a wind barrier and safe place to perch.•  Flowers such as sunflower, blazing star, coneflower and zinnia make great sources of bird seed.
Organic gardeners don’t use pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers on their plants. And in 2005, scientists found that, compared to rats that ate conventional diets, organically fed rats experienced a variety of health benefits. Bartholomew also has plans for melon and bean trellises so you can grow vertically and get more use from the space.
This means you do not have to bring in anything new after the initial purchases of peat and vermiculite. Mel Bartholomew is really fun to read – the book is worth buying just to hear what a truly excited and enthusiastic gardener sounds like.
Yet writers like Steve Solomon, Ruth Stout, John Jeavons, Toby Hemenway, Carol Deppe, Edward Smith, Dick Raymond and others have different methods that work for them. Though Bartholomew is using the system for international relief efforts by growing with compost alone, rather than his three-part mix, even compost takes work to make, or money, if you buy it. The standard square foot bed also doesn’t allow you to grow much in the way of large root crops or crawlers like melons.
You might not have weeds to pull – but you’ll be spending some time watering during the summer.
Square foot gardening is in my arsenal – but it doesn’t play a major role in my garden plans. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll eventually outgrow the box and concentrate on building your own soil rather than bringing it in from outside. In some suburbs there are long waiting lists, highlighting the strong demand to be involved. Given their long history and popularity, there is a wealth of material available to assist groups wanting to establish a community garden. This grid can be made of stretched string, PVC, 1 x 2 lumber or whatever you have lying around. For a person just getting started, he takes the overwhelming world of food production and cuts it into nice, neat 12” x 12” pieces that are easy enough for even a complete novice to digest. He’s an organic gardener and a philanthropist, and just seems to be an all-around sharp guy with a good heart. In fact, I’m now digging beneath my old square foot beds and stacking in wood as water reservoirs in a hugelkultur-inspired fashion… but that’s another story altogether.
Having partnerships with a diverse range of individuals and organisations helps ensure the success of the garden. Having a visual delineation of your plants is definitely helpful, but this part of the Square Foot Garden design is where gardeners often diverge from the plans in Bartholomew’s book.
If you’ve got a limited amount of space, like well-planned systems, and you’ve got some resources, square foot gardening is a great method.
While sometimes things go wrong, with good consultation processes and willingness by everyone to make it work, the benefits are huge.
My food forests, seed saving and seed slinging, green manuring, and intercropping were beyond her, but a 4’ x 4’ box of veggies was a good gateway to introduce her to home food production.
Double-digging could create the same space for $0.00, provided you had a little compost or manure lying around. If you wanted to feed your entire family with square foot beds, you’d be out some serious cash.
Granted, you’d earn it back in home-grown organic produce over time – which is why I bit the bullet and built beds for my wife – but it’s still a big outlay.
Corn, beans and squash work well together, as corn grows tall and provides a structure for the beans to grow up, while squash shades the roots. Using these easy tips, you can be sure your green garden will grow to be the envy of the neighborhood! If you want to attract butterflies, be sure to include plants that caterpillars like (and allow them to eat the plant).
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Comments

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