Community Gardens NZ
Community Gardens NZ
Community Gardens NZ.
Community gardening is where a single pieces of land is gardened collectively by a group of people.
The purpose and benefits of community gardens can be:
- Provides fresh healthy food.
- Creates a sense of community in local areas.
- Can reduce the feeling of isolation and loneliness for local residents.
- Gives people healthy exercise in fresh air.
- Can improve the neighbourhood environment.
- Can give participants a sense of connection to nature, that can be therapeutic and relaxing creating a sense of well being.
- Can be used as an educational opportunity for children and adults to understand and appreciate nature and how food can be produced.
- Can reduce the use of fossil fuel and associated CO2 emissions, by saving people from driving to the supermarket to buy food, and reducing the amount of food needed to be transported significant distances to markets.
- Saves money for participants who don’t have to buy so much food.
The land is typically publicly owned by the local council. Although it may be privately owned land that is used. The management is often by a community organisation that elects members to perform the various management roles. Sometimes a security fence with access restricted to members of the collective is required to reduce theft and vandalism problems.
Types of gardens.
Most community gardens are aimed at food production. But there are also collectives that are aimed at habitat restoration with native plants for conservation and recreation purposes. Also some gardens are more for amenity recreational uses and can include art such as sculpture, garden furniture for seating, and childrens play areas. Some combine all of these features, so require careful planning to achieve these all these aims. There are also groups such as Green Guerrillas of New York who started out doing a more instant type of garden that may not be long lasting, but the organisation has developed and taken on larger long term projects.
Some models have the whole area worked on and harvested collectively by all participants. Other models have clearly divided plots within the total area of land that are managed by either an individual gardener or a family or small group of friends as agreed between then selves. Other community gardens have a combination of both individual plots, and an area that is shared for both upkeep and produce harvesting. There have been cases where the work load is unevenly spread between gardeners who are planting and maintaining, while some people are more keen on just harvesting the produce and eating the produce of other peoples labour. This can result in disputes and ill feelings between members of the collectives. This tends to lead an evolution from one large collective control and harvesting of one large plot to individual and small group control of smaller plots within the whole area of land.
There is no standard layout for the overall area. Although what tends to happen is it starts out with the whole area being cultivated and then progresses to using raised beds with paths between. This reduces the need to walk on the beds and compact the soil. The cultivation beds are typically about double the width of an average arm length. This allows a gardener to reach from one side to the centre of the bed without needing to stand on the soil. The height from the ground level also reduces bending over that can reduce back aches. These beds vary in length depending on materials used and space available. The orientation is best to be north south where possible so the morning sun shines on one side then afternoon on the other. East west orientation tends to result in shading of small plants by larger plants on the northern side, and plants leaning towards the sun.
Some collectives decide to grow both annual vegetables and tree crops. The trees are best grown in a separate area because it’s difficult to grow small annuals near large trees, because the trees take the light and moisture away from small shallow rooted plants.
The gardens tend to evolve over time. Often including storage and/or shelter structures, and green houses.
So if you’re considering starting a community garden one of the most important stages is the planning stage because you can avoid many future problems at this stage.
- Get together a core group of people who are prepared to participate.
- Determine where you could have a community garden.
- Approach the land owner and go through whatever process is necessary to secure your long term use of the land.
- Decide what you can all agree to have in the space.
- Create a plan on paper or computer to scale and work out where everything will fit in.
- Work out the priorities and break the work down into stages that can be done over a period of time.
Overall Group Organisation.
There are many models for organising community gardens, which are typically determined by the original group participants. These models include:
- A group of enthusiasts who get together and work on the project in a fairly casual way.
- Through to a more organised democratic way that involves more organising, but allows everyone to have a say, and have the majority rule, rather than just a few making decisions that can result in bad feelings and people leaving. This typically involves electing a board that may include a convenor who would typically be responsible for arranging when and where a meeting will take place and often chair the meetings. There can be a deputy convenor who will take over when the convenor is not available. It’s a good idea to have a secretary to record the minutes, particularly any decisions that are made. A treasurer is useful to handle and record any financial activity. Then members may fulfil other roles as they needed.
- The organisation may decide to become a registered society, which may help make them apply for various types of funding from councils or other funding bodies.
Community garden organisation are usually open to a wide range of participants including, young through to senior citizens, inexperienced to experienced, and people of all socio economic and cultural backgrounds.
With the well organised groups there is usually an annual membership fee, that can be determined by the group if they have an annual general meeting, where this can be proposed and voted on. This money can then be used for a range of purposes including:
- Buying plants, materials, tools etc.
- Communication costs, website, stationary etc.
Some groups have a system where a garden bed can be rented for a specified amount and period of time.
Some useful references for more information are: Click the link it opens a new window.
- maps.google.co.nz community gardens