Community Gardens

Lynne Forbragd, UM Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County, March 10, 2014

Community gardens have become very popular in recent years and have been cropping up in vacant city lots, churches and schools all around the metro area. Community gardens, first known as Victory Gardens, date back to World Wars I & II. They were developed as a way to reduce the strain on food production during the war. People grew their own fruits and vegetables as part of the war effort. Dowling Community Garden located in Minneapolis is one of the original Victory Gardens and is still in operation.

Today's community gardens have not strayed very far from this original vision and there are many benefits of participating in one in your neighborhood. You get to know your neighbors, gives you an opportunity to share your excess harvest with other gardeners or with those in need, and learn new techniques from fellow gardeners. Gardeners love to share their tips. Community gardens add beauty to the neighborhood by changing a vacant lot into an abundant green landscape. Gardening improves your health by increasing your physical strength and adds nutrients by eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

When choosing a community garden, it’s important to do your research to find the type of garden that will fit your needs, expectations, time and level of commitment. The traditional community garden has a defined number of separate plots that are cared for by individuals or families who harvest food from their own plot. Common areas like paths, flowers gardens, trees and sheds are cared for by all members.  Some only have plots available with no common green space which eliminates the commitment to common areas.

In communal gardens gardeners are asked to plant and maintain the entire garden. These are typically connected to a specific program or organization with a defined goal i.e. a church group raising food for their congregation or a food shelf.

School based gardens are located on school property, giving students access to the garden for educational purposes. The goal of these gardens is to provide further education in the preparation of healthy meals. It also gives students a sense of community if the harvest is donated to a food shelf. Specialty gardens are designated for specific populations with distinct characteristics. For example, this type of garden could be located at a senior center that provides raised garden beds for special physical needs. 

Most cities in Anoka County have established community gardens. The month of March is a good time to get signed up for a plot before warmer weather arrives. Check with your local city hall, schools and churches to see if one is located near you.