From: Robin Blackstone, ENN
Published October 15, 2013 05:15 PM

Breaking Urban Ground for Community Gardens

Community Gardens bring people together, builds relationships, improves quality of life and activates communities through its bounty, exercise, therapy, education, family budget augmentation, social interaction and neighborhood beautification. A community garden can be used for food, ornamental gardening, urban forestry, preservation and management of open space, memorial gardening and any other types of gardening that a community collectively values.  But much goes into creating one especially if it's an urban garden.

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For any community making a garden takes forethought and organization. This includes:

·      Organizing the group of interested people

·      Identify the community's resources necessary for the garden's success including local garden associations, horticultural societies, landscaping professionals, etc.

·      Identify and secure a location

·      Secure a sponsor

·      Test the soil on the site for pollutants, and check for of water availability

·      Determine if liability insurance will be necessary

·      Prepare and develop the site

·      Organize the garden so as to establish necessary plots to satisfy the mission of the garden

·      Plan an area for children

·      Determine rules and put them into writing

·      Setup a communication network to maintain contact amongst members and interested community resources

·      Celebrate often!

With these valuable tips in hand, Sally Brown, Associate Professor at the University of Washington offers additional considerations when dealing with urban soils for those wishing to start up a garden in a city. Brown notes that soils are more often contaminated in the urban setting and most commonly with lead. But there are other potential contaminants too resulting from what may have once been on the site such as old cars or buildings that housed unknown chemicals and substances.

Further, healthy soils must not be compacted and must contain at least 5% organic matter to improve soil structure. Increasing the amount of compost and biosolids within the soil will enable it to hold more water and provide the necessary nutrients for crops. Soil replacement is not always required and the addition of compost will help decrease contaminants in the soil. Contaminants are diluted out with the addition of the compost mixed into the soil. Some contaminants, such as lead, often become less hazardous when compost is added. Brown explains, "Compost can change the form of the lead in soil so that if you actually do ingest the soil, the amount of lead that's available to do harm is reduced."

Read more at the American Community Gardening Association and the American Society of Agronomy.

Community Gardening photo via Shutterstock.

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