It’s been a difficult time over the past year. We’ve all been cut off from those who mean the most to us, with both friends and family being kept at arm’s length. It’s not just our immediate circle that has struggled though, you may live in a town, village or community that usually holds local events that bring everyone together, and these have also had to be put on hold. As the light at the end of a long tunnel is getting closer, now could be the time to start rebuilding your community in safe and healthy ways. Where better to start than with setting up your very own community garden?
In this article, we’ll tell you all about the health and wellbeing benefits of having a community garden, how to get started and we’ll also give you a sneak peek of our own efforts at HSL.
Benefits of a community garden
There are several health and wellbeing benefits to a community garden, here are just a few…
There is something very special about a group of people coming together with one purpose in mind. It builds friendships, comradery and unity for a community that might not have previously known each other very well. Starting a community garden is a perfect way to deepen friendship ties, and make new ones with others along the way. Bring a thermos of tea (separate ones until restrictions lift, of course!) and a pack of hobnobs, and chat the day away whilst doing a bit of manual labour.
There are endless studies out there explaining how gardening is good for your health. With gardening comes a multitude of emotional benefits such as lowering stress levels, gaining a sense of achievement and awakening your senses. You should also never underestimate how carrying out a physical task like gardening is great for your physical health too – filling your lungs with fresh air whilst working some unused muscles after a year of being more stationary than usual.
Whilst planning out your community garden, you could certainly dedicate an area to beautiful blooms that will help the bees to gather nectar and pollen, but you can also assign a space for a vegetable patch. Allotments are in short supply these days, and even when they become available, they are a lot of work to maintain alone. If you come together as a community to care for the carrots, runner beans and potatoes, then you can each take a turn with helping them grow and flourish. And, of course, once it’s time to harvest, you can split the fruits of your labours between the people who’ve worked on it, or even donate to a local food bank to help those in need.
Beautify urban landscapes
If you live in a pleasant little village or town, then beautiful grounds might not be something you’re in short supply of. If, however, you are one of the many people who live in a city, then beautiful spaces can be hard to come by. The wonderful thing about community gardens is that they are usually built on land that would have otherwise be vacant, or might have even been collecting waste. With a little (or a lot) of work, these areas can become beautiful safe havens that are enjoyed by both those who work on them, and also the passers-by who stop to appreciate the beauty of nature.
How to start a community garden
You’ve decided that you are entirely behind the idea of working in your own community garden, so where do you start? First, you may want to check whether there are already existing ones in your area. Contacting the council to ask, or making a local Facebook group enquiry should let you know whether there are already any in the area. If there isn’t, then here are the steps you can take to begin your very own:
- Talk to your neighbourhood
There’s very little point in getting carried away with making plans and contacting local businesses for funding if you’re the only person who is interested in doing it. Speak to your neighbours and put a tentative query on a local message board to gauge the potential uptake. Once you’ve got a group who are interested, then you can get started on making it a reality.
- Reach out to local groups
If you don’t have very many individuals who are interested in getting a community garden started, then try local groups like brownies, girl guides and scouts. These groups are always looking for new ways of helping in the community – and it will also assist them in gaining a badge or two along the way!
- Find the site
Now that you’ve got a group of people together that want to get involved, you need to find a patch of greenery (or potential greenery) that can be used for your community garden. When you’ve located a suitable space, find out who owns it (if you’re unsure, then the local council should know) and get in touch with them to see whether they’d be willing to let you use it – either for free or for a low rent. When you write to them, list the benefits of a community garden and how it will help the area.
- Consider the funding
With the best will in the world, and even with a whole host of volunteers ready to work on it, these projects cost money. You’ll need to pay for seeds, tools, plants and potentially land lease fees. Try reaching out to local businesses to see whether they’d be willing to sponsor the garden. You could also reach out to the local council to see whether there are any “green grants” available in your area. Finally, if you’re still struggling for funding, you may need to consider a membership fee for those who are involved to keep it going.
- Plan, plan, plan
Finally, the initial administration is out the way, and so it’s time to get planning. Arrange a meeting of those who are most interested in the organisation of the project (others might just want to stop in to do a bit of weeding), and plan out how you’d like it to look, a work schedule for getting it started and cleared, which plants to choose, who will do the buying and transportation, and any other planning needed to get it going. Check out how much sun the area gets, where the water supplies are and what the soil is like so that you know how to bring out its best features.
- Get growing!
Now that everything is organised, the area is planned, and the initial supplies have been collected, it’s time to get going! Bring in as many people as you need to get started – initially, there will be a lot of digging and heavy labour, so plan to have the most able-bodied individuals in the early days. Once your garden is up and running a bit more then everyone can be invited to help. When your blooms begin to blossom, fruit and vegetables start to appear and it’s all coming together, then reach out to your local mayor or community newspaper to come along and document the amazing journey you’ve been on.
Bringing a bit more green to HSL
Here at HSL, we wanted to bring a little more beauty to our head office in Batley, West Yorkshire, and so we have started our very own community garden for our colleagues to enjoy. We’ll be painting a mural to start the project and then our friendly team of volunteers from across the business will be planting flowers, fruits and vegetables for everyone to cultivate and enjoy. We can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages for updates on how it’s looking.
We’d love for you to send us pictures of yours too – you can send us a private message on our Facebook page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any helpful hints you’ve found from your own community garden.