Community gardens can be a great way to bring neighbors together. (Photo courtesy of Jacqlyn Rivas.)

Community gardens can be a great way to bring neighbors together. Groups share in the work (maintenance) and rewards, the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor. Many types of groups have become involved in community gardening, such as homeowners associations, neighborhood block groups, educational institutions, social service agencies, correctional institutions, corporations, religious organizations and gardening clubs.

These groups are interested in creating and maintaining community gardens because participation increases self-esteem and confidence as well as encourages youth to become involved. Groups create beauty, grow edibles, improve their nutrition and fitness, reduce stress, are neighborly and promote healthier communities.

Initial planning and communication are keys to successful community gardens. Site selection is very important. A minimum of six hours of full sun is needed. The site should have appropriate zoning and legal restrictions, enough space, access to water, well-drained soil, be free from tree/large plant roots and have a ‘clean’ history (free from contaminants or other environmental concerns). A shaded area should be available for resting, space for a tool shed, parking, possibly restrooms, have power if needed for the water supply and a plan to manage debris. Site preparation, fencing installation, staking of plots/paths, soil amendments, raised beds built or purchased, soil testing completed and irrigation installed including the required backflow prevention.

If you are interested in creating a community garden, contact our local UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County office. We don’t provide the labor, but we do have information and experience to assist you, including topics that range from horticulture to irrigation system design, food preservation and nutrition. For more information, please Google ‘ask IFAS’ followed by ‘Community Gardening.’ Also, contact the Coalition of Community Gardens – Tampa Bay

View our calendar of events and Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Facebook page on the internet at the Hillsborough County Extension. For assistance with horticultural questions, call 744-5519, or visit us at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County at 5339 County Rd. 579 in Seffner. We hope to see you at an upcoming workshop soon. Remember to reuse, reduce, recycle and repeat.

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