A community garden might be just the thing for that empty lot in your
neighborhood, or that big patch of weeds near your church or school.
These gardens produce a bounty of benefits: healthy food (or flowers!),
help for the family food budget, a prettier neighborhood, and lessons
in self-reliance, among others. Primarily, a community garden gathers
folks together to plant, nurture and harvest the garden. Read below to
find out how your family can begin a community garden this spring.
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
||Community Garden Perks
Make a Difference...
Community gardens can have advantages you wouldn't even consider, like
conserving resources and reducing city heat. Though they require some
planning (does the site get enough sun? is there a convenient water
supply?), they can also set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating
habits in your children. Read the 10
steps for getting started from the American
Community Gardening Association. This group also offers tips for
organizing the garden, establishing guidelines, creating signage-even
how to make your community garden child-friendly.
Photo: American Community Gardening Association
||Dig and Delve into Horticulture
Talk About It...
Gardening can involve the community or a simple plot (or flowerpot) in
your backyard. It provides an outdoor alternative to computer games and
the satisfaction of watching something grow. To get your children
engaged, read the "
Parents' Primer" at
kidsgardening.org. You'll learn that many outdoor settings can be
ripe for "growing a gardener."
Keep your expectations age-appropriate, and keep in mind your
child's temperament and interests. Early on, they will relish the
digging and plopping in seeds; later they can help make plant markers
and calculate the distance needed between plants.
Let kids help choose what to plant, relax your standards for
perfectly straight rows, and leave plenty of time for worm hunting.
If the garden design happens to include a cave for an action
figure, so much the better!
Celebrate your child's contribution by taking photos,
collecting and pressing leaves, keeping a scrapbook and drawing
Take advantage of "gardening moments" to discuss things like
plant life cycles or the concept of beneficial bugs.
Learn About It...
Read how a little girl and her community turn a vacant lot into a lush
garden in DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan's City Green. Even the irascible
Old Man Hammer eventually makes a contribution, and discovers he can
change his ways.
||Fact and Inspiration
"The simple act of planting a garden can create positive
environmental, economic, and social impacts on a neighborhood.
Community gardens foster cultural understanding and an awareness of the
environment around us."
||One Family's Story-Nurturing a Healthy Planet, One Carrot at
When Donni Miller's daughter Nubia was just a toddler,
Miller arranged to volunteer with her at the Youth Farm and Market
Project. This Minneapolis organization promotes urban organic
agriculture, youth organizing and traditional cultural nutrition. Also
appealing to Miller was the focus on helping kids make the connection
between growing healthy food and eating it.
Now that Nubia is three, it's become a regular routine. Each
week during the growing season, the family troops across the street to
the garden, where they meet school kids also hard at work learning
what's involved in growing organic produce. They water, weed and
harvest. Nubia relishes her important role as a community gardener-and
has learned a great deal about plants, besides. By age two she could
identify basil, tomato and carrot plants by sight.
Photo: Donni, Nubia, & Rain Miller
||News From DGT
Doing Good Together's Family Service Night project has been
selected for display at the National
Service Learning Conference in Minneapolis this month. We are one
of just 50 organizations chosen-one from each state! It is an
opportunity to showcase our work and inspire others to start similar
If you live in the Twin Cities, sign up for our free monthly
family volunteer listing. DGT canvases the Twin Cities to compile a
listing of clever and creative family volunteer projects. The list is
ideal for families seeking either one-time or ongoing volunteer
here, enter your e-mail address, and hit "send."
Photo: National Service Learning Conference