The Many Benefits of Social Gardens

Most of us can’t afford the acres of rolling farmland we imagine in daydreams, but combining resources can allow friends and neighbors to enjoy gardening activities – and fresh produce — with a minimal investment. While some neighborhoods have land set aside for official “community gardens”, a social or shared garden is more of an informal arrangement among neighbors or friends.

A shared garden is an easy, rewarding and efficient way for everyone to enjoy fresh produce — even those those who don’t have time or room for an entire garden or an official spot for a community garden in the neighborhood. You can share a backyard, or just share a potted garden on a balcony, patio, rooftop, or deck and split the labor and cost of supplies. After all, one pot of basil will yield more pesto than you care to eat and one large rosemary bush will keep the whole block in savory leaves for years.

Whether you’re tending a tomato bush on the stoop or an elaborate garden in an empty lot, your growing space should get at least six hours of sunlight per day. Once you’ve selected your sunny spot, it’s time to get together with friends and decide what you want to grow. Keeping in mind what is in season, go over dishes you enjoy. If you like pasta or Italian food, oregano, parsley or basil may be what you’re aiming for. Tomatoes are always popular. Mint makes a nice supplement to herbal tea or water, while chives will do wonders for baked or mashed potatoes. Peas and beans grow vertically and are well suited for small spaces, while watermelons and pumpkins require room to run. Be sure to plant some less commonly known herbs or vegetables so you can look forward to experimenting together in the kitchen. And speaking of sharing in the kitchen, you and your friends may want to consider going in together on a home freeze dryer so you can collectively preserve the abundance of your harvest!

If you want to keep it simple, a few cheap planters, seeds, and soil are all you really need. Assign gardening tasks according to interest and ability. Invite a local Master Gardener to visit and give your group advice. Be flexible and remember the garden is a place to come together and be generous. You may be surprised to find you all get a lot more than vegetables out of your shared garden!

If you’re a gardener at heart, but don’t have the time or space to really get out there, a shared herb or vegetable garden may be the solution – and it just may become your favorite seasonal ritual.

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