In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
March, 2005
Regional Report

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This urban community garden is inviting while also providing security, a necessity in many locales.

Opting In on Community Gardening

There are many ways -- large or small, lengthy or fleeting, costly or free -- for opting in on community gardening. At first, I envisioned the concept as the communal vegetable garden in the center city, often a reclaimed vacant lot, where each gardener is allotted a small space to grow their own food for the season. But that is a limited view.

Community gardening is accessible to everyone, whether it's approached as a heartfelt art form, a practical applied science, or a bellyful of fresh food. Community gardening can encompass a beautiful garden open for public view and enjoyment, or a group activity shared by many or just a few. It can be rural or urban or suburban. There is value in all of the different ways of staying in touch with the earth, both for the individual and the community.

Opportunities run the gamut from established, structured programs to the ad hoc "teachable moment." One formal community effort requiring a lengthy and sustained commitment is the Master Gardener program. Usually run through the local county extension office, this volunteer program includes educational and training components, as well as a specified number of community service hours each year covering a variety of projects. The program specifics vary from state to state and county to county.

Supporting Local Projects
Another track, requiring no gardening skill or physical labor beyond the stroke of a pen: help fund the summer flower baskets hanging on your town's light poles, donate toward the annual spring bulb display at a favorite public space, purchase membership in an arboretum or botanical garden, or encourage community leaders to establish a new park or communal vegetable garden space. Write a letter commending those who nurture the public planting areas and green spaces that enrich our daily lives.

Giving Time and Effort
More ways to participate: reach out and offer your gardening skills and enthusiasm to a youth group, scout troop, or after-school enrichment program, community center, nursing home, or rec program. Just a few hours of your time teaching seed starting or helping set out transplants, and you could spark a life-long love of gardening or renew a forgotten interest for an adult.

Share a garden-fresh bouquet or homegrown tomato with a nongardening coworker or neighbor. Shop at the local farmers' market and support those growers. Donate your excess harvest to the local food bank. Or join a vegetable co-op, purchasing shares of the upcoming season's bounty grown and delivered by a local entrepreneur. Compost your yard waste and share your know-how. Set a pot of posies on your doorstep.


Encourage family, friends and neighbors -- and especially our children -- to dig in and enjoy your community's gardening efforts, however large or small, and to garden themselves. This is the ongoing thread that keeps our hands and souls in touch with the earth, our bodies fit, and our taste buds attuned to truly fresh, unprocessed food. Take your pick! To enrich any community through gardening, in whatever form pleases you best, benefits us all.


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