I have always loved the idea of community gardens. As an urbanite, it can be difficult to find the space to grow our own produce or flowers. Every window sill in our apartments and condos stuffed full of tiny pots of basil, oregano, and thyme; maybe orchids or sunflowers filling the room with color. But for the things that require more space, like produce, we’re left with finding an organic grocery somewhere like Whole Foods. Don’t get me wrong, I love Whole Foods and shop their regularly – canvas totes in hand – but I think of friends who’ve had the opportunity to garden in their own homes and the feeling comes back. I think of the way their eyes light up when we all sit down to dinner and someone comments on how delicious the tomatoes are – Oh! Those came from our garden! – or the tiny grilled eggplant that from a grocery would be a disappointment, but because they were fed, and watered, and loved by the homeowner they are absolutely perfect. There is a great sense of pride that comes from enjoying and sharing the fruits of ones labor.
So how can we share that pride here in Downtown Phoenix? I know I don’t have the kind of space to plant artichokes, peppers, eggplant, or broccoli. That’s when community gardens come to mind. A friend of mine has access to a community garden through her church and just loves taking her two little kids out there with her husband to gather their harvest. Granted, she lives in the burbs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have one here!
Because of our climate, most vegetable crops do best with fall plantings, with winter and spring harvests. Which works out because who wants to be outside in late August harvesting a summer crop? Though, with that being said there are ways of laying out a community garden to allow for added shade components to protect summer crops while leaving winter and spring crops in full sun if one so chooses. I think of all of the hearty winter recipes I have stockpiled in my head, and how amazing they would taste with fresh-from-MY-garden vegetables. Um, yum.
However, there are some things to consider when planning or implementing an urban community garden. Obviously things like land acquisition and funding come to mind, but also soil tests to check nutrients and heavy metal contents, as well as considering the previous uses of the land to assess the risk of contamination.
I can’t help it though, I keep dreaming of urban community gardens here in Downtown Phoenix. I would totally be a member of one if it were available. Think of all the community spirit and comradery it would build! For more information, visit the American Community Gardening Association.