What is a community garden and how do I start one?

Community gardens are plots of land that people share to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and spend quality time together.

What are the benefits of a community garden?

There are many advantages to being part of a community garden, including: 

  • Eating healthier food at more affordable prices. Many people, especially new immigrants, find it hard to keep up with the cost of living in Ontario. Community gardens provide families with gardening areas to grow fresh food of their choosing, and gives families with lower incomes access to healthy food.
  • Learning new skills. Being part of a community garden increases people’s knowledge of being more self-sufficient by growing their own food and cooking healthy meals. 
  • Increasing green space and helping the environment. They reduce the amount of carbon and nitrogen in the atmosphere, and they increase the amount of oxygen we breathe in. 
  • Getting to know your neighbours. Settling into a new country can get very busy and very isolating. Community gardens offer a way for people to connect with others in who live close  and explore a shared hobby.

The easiest way to find a local community garden is to search online. There are also organizations, like Sustain Ontario, that are trying to set up a province-wide network of community gardens. They even have a map of regional community gardens programs in Ontario!

How do I start my own community garden?

Many organizations and even local governments support groups that want to start their own community garden. 

In Toronto, for example here’s how you can get started: 

  1. Form a group with at least four other community members who will commit to maintaining the garden with you. 
  2. Find an empty plot of land and get permission from the landowner to use it.
  3. Contact the city’s Community Gardens Co-ordinator to approve the location you want to use. 

The plot of land you choose must:

  • Get at least six hours of sun per day
  • Be near watering facilities
  • Not interfere with any underground pipes or lines
  • Be convenient for community members to access
  • Not disrupt other park functions, like sports, dog walking, picnicking, etc.

You don’t have to pay to get space to start a community garden, but there may be some costs that your group should consider like tools, composting, fencing, plants, etc. There are many organizations that will fund community gardens and reduce your expenses, so do your research first!

Where else can I get more information about community gardens?

To learn more, check out: