Growing a garden in the inner city can often be hard since very little land, if any, is available in your backyard. If you’ve always had a green thumb and thought you’re out of luck since there’s nowhere to plant, then you may want to think again.
This is where a community garden can come into play.
A community garden is a patch of land that will be worked on by volunteers inside your community, and just like a backyard garden, you can grow anything the soil allows it to grow. Whether it’s a patch of watermelon, pumpkins or celery, it’s up to you. These gardens can beautify a space, provide food for a local bank if there’s excess and even bring the community together.
Starting Your Community Garden
Before you get excited, you first need to be aware there are many steps involved before you get out the shovel and start digging.
- Come up with a plan
First, you need to come up with a plan. Who are you going to start the garden with? Your church? Your neighbors? A local food pantry? It’s important to see how many people are going to be on board before you find a plot of land and find out you’re the only weeding a one acre garden. What about the food? What are you going to do with it once it’s harvested?
- Find land
The hardest part is often finding land. Is there any public land that you may be able to take advantage of? What about a local farmer who may donate an acre or so? If you find a space, make sure they guarantee it for a few years to ensure you can keep growing. Always get permission in writing before you start a garden on land you don’t own.
- What are you going to grow?
Once you have your group and the land, that’s great. It’s next best to decide which vegetables and fruits you’re going to grow. A blueprint is essential because it lets your volunteers know what’s going to be planted, when they can harvest and when they should show up. It’s best to either start a Facebook Group or even a simple website to keep the garden volunteers inside the loop. When planning your vegetables and fruits, be sure you have enough space to grow everything.
Now that you have a few of the most important steps out of the way, it’s now able to delve into — what may be the most important part — the costs.
Starting a garden won’t come free, unfortunately, but the rewards and crops you harvest could far outweigh the rewards.
Exploring the Costs
- Land costs
The land, most of the time, will be donated by a private person or even the local government. Most community gardens will often pay nothing for their land.
- Soil analysis
To make sure you can grow something, it’s so important to have your soil tested before you even get the shovel out. A simple soil test will often be less than $20. After this test, depending on the site survey, you may need to cough up, even more, money for additional tests.
- Prepping the land
Unless your land is already prepped for a garden, which is highly unlikely, you’re going to have to consider the time invested to till the land and bringing compost if necessary. The average truckload, which often has up to 15 yards worth, can cost about $400.
Piggybacking on the prepping cost, you must figure out if you’re going to rent your larger equipment such as a rototiller or purchase it outright. Purchasing one, for instance, can cost close to $500, while renting one, could cost less than $50 for the day. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a volunteer who has one to use.
- Your crops
A garden, of course, won’t be a garden without the wonderful veggies and fruits. If growing from seeds, it shouldn’t cost more than $2 to $3 per packet, and the costs will greatly depend on how much land you have. The costs will be much more if you’re buying plants that are already potted and ready to go.
- Hand tools
Hoes, shovels, rakes and a potato fork are all the necessary tools to keep your garden looking great. A good set can cost $20 to $25, but most gardens often have their tools donated to them.
Most of the time, it will be hard to have access to running water, so with that being said, you may more than likely need a water storage tank since installing a new pipeline will be rather costly. The cost of one will depend on the size. For instance, a small 100-gallon tank could cost less than $200, while a 10,000-gallon tank could cost more than $5,000.
Lastly, think about where you’re going to store your items when you’re away. A small plastic shed could cost a few hundred dollars, whereas a permanent structure could be well into the thousands.
While a community garden will take a lot of planning and investment of both your time and money, it can reap many rewards in the end for your community.
Stephanie is a freelance writer who also helps consumers pay a fair price with her cost-helping database, howmuchisit.org
To plant a Garden is to believe in Tomorrow!
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