Community gardens can do a lot to make more good: Studies find they help reduce crime, bring in new businesses to the area, create a better network of neighbors, and have a positive effect on property values. Some community gardens even deliver fresh food to the people who need it the most.
That all gets a (green) thumbs up, right? Here's how you can get the green light to put your green thumb to work.
1. Think about what kind of garden you want to get involved with.
Not all gardens are the same. Some are just designed for plants, bushes, and flowers. Some provide therapy to the disabled, some are used to educate students, and some help get fresh produce to the needy. Some even do all of those things — and more! Take a look at your neighborhood and see what options are nearby. Or think about how far away you're willing to travel to find the garden that really speaks to you.
2. Do some networking.
Once you've found a garden you're interested in, go visit. Gardens have hours during which they're open and you can go meet some of the members. (They also tend to have events, which are advertised on the gates.) Go and talk to the gardeners in person and ask about the membership process. There might be an orientation, or some dues that you'll be required to pay.
3. Be up for some random odd jobs.
Some community gardens can have a long wait list. Like, really long — a few years or more! But just because you might not be able to get your own plot (read: little box of land) doesn't mean you can't get involved. Your local garden might still need help with random odd jobs. They may need you to clean up garbage, help with some watering, plan events, and more.
4. Start your own garden.
Maybe there aren't any community gardens near you? Have you thought about the fact that you can be the one the change that? You can be! Talk to your friends and neighbors to see if anyone would be interested. Then, scope out some (sunny) land and find out if the owner would be willing to lease it your group (at least three years is ideal). Your town might even give you some grants to help fund the project.
5. Consider donating some money.
Maybe you don't have 10 minutes to get down and dirty in the dirt — that's totally fine — but maybe you do have an extra 10 bucks? You can donate to your local garden or look for something on the national level. For example, the American Community Gardening Association is funded entirely through memberships, donations, and grants.
Other ways to give back: Want to Volunteer in Your Community? 5 Tips for Finding the Right Opportunity