The Benefits of Starting a Community Garden

It's not easy to find an activity that appeals to children of all ages and adults in one family, much less to an entire community. However, working and growing together while building a community garden can provide just that. Unearthing ways for family members and neighbors to work together towards a common, healthy goal is a priceless treasure.

What is a community garden?

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a community garden, the name pretty much gives away the concept. Community gardens are spaces where people who live near each other come together to plant anything from fruit and vegetables to herbs and flowers. 

These gardens are popular in urban areas and are a good way to spruce up spaces that might otherwise be filled with trash or remain unused. Additionally, urban gardens increase biodiversity in the area, which can attract bees and butterflies, and promote more natural spaces in an otherwise urbanized setting. 

Community gardens often start out with a set of rules. Some might require membership while others might simply require you to agree to terms, like volunteering a certain number of hours or limiting work to a certain area of the garden. Once those guidelines are in place, community gardens are a great way to bring people together, build community and help the environment.

Benefits of starting a community garden

Gets you outside more often

Working in a garden is a sure way to spend more time outdoors. When we don’t spend enough time outdoors, we miss out on many of the benefits of being outside more often. The natural power of sunlight alone may be reason enough to break ground on your garden. Research continues to support the amazing health benefits of the sunshine vitamin, also known as vitamin D.   

Daylight exposure has been shown to increase melatonin production leading to better sleep, revive your immune system, as well as boost mood and focus by increasing the body’s serotonin levels.

Encourages healthy food habits

Having healthy foods in your home increases the likelihood that you will eat healthier. Gardening brings healthy and natural (and very local!) produce into your home and ultimately into your body. The delight found in eating something you actually grew yourself is more than motivating. According to the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, families with even one member in its household who participates in a community garden were 3.5 times more likely to eat their vegetables at the recommended rate of five times daily. 

Getting kids involved with gardening is a fun and effective way to encourage healthy eating. Learn about different fruits and vegetables and enjoy cooking recipes with the produce from your harvest. 

Makes you stronger

Let’s face it — gardening is work. Sure, gardening can also be fun, and certainly rewarding, but it requires effort and a willingness to get in the dirt. Yet, there is something rewarding about hard work in gardening. Gardening makes strong hands and a strong body — in a very earthy kind of manner. 

Humans have grown strong for thousands of years by cultivating the soil. When you work in the garden, you’re getting in touch with a kind of work that our ancestors have done for thousands of years. All the digging, planting and weeding required to build a garden is excellent physical exercise that will certainly burn substantial calories in the process. Yet, it also will strengthen your resolve and determination. Gardening is a labor of love and grit — it brings enjoyment but requires steady and patient work.

A community garden is an activity full of teachable moments for children and adults. Laboring in a garden gives a greater appreciation for all the hard work and patience required for healthy, sustainable food sources. The work not only benefits us but is something that bears fruit for others as well. 

Feeds your emotional health

Nature nurtures, and watching a garden grow has long been known for its healing properties.  Studies have shown that gardening relieves stress in numerous ways, including expressing creativity, focusing energy on a repetitive outdoor task, and channeling unique, green mindfulness. 

Some scientists now believe that a little dirt under your fingernails may even help. Experiments have demonstrated that M. vaccae, a healthy bacteria that thrives in soil, may increase levels of serotonin and reduce anxiety.

Enriches your environment

Plants naturally add oxygen to our air, helping us breathe while also contributing to cleaner air and reducing pollution. Increasing the number of pollinator plants improves the conditions for bees as well as other endangered pollinators. Gardens are especially helpful in urban areas where plants carry the power to offset temperatures increased by asphalt and paved spaces while adding beauty as well. 

When you start a community garden, you will help create a green space in your neighborhood that people of all ages can enjoy. The garden can truly become a community-building activity and involve many hands from your neighborhood. The work brings people together to labor and reap the benefits as a community. 

Nurtures relationships

Working together in a community garden can grow so much more than fruits and vegetables. It has a special way of naturally leading to a renewed sense of neighborhood ownership and gratification. Even when people live close to each other, they may not connect and start to build friendships during their busy lives. Projects bring people together and help them connect.  

When people commit to grow a garden, they also create a community around their shared purpose. As you labor alongside others, you build something together. It doesn’t just benefit you — it can benefit your local community and neighborhood. And, when you create something together, you connect in deeper ways. You build memories and stories. Community gardens can help people become better neighbors. 


It's not surprising there has been a recent and substantial increase in the number of community gardens around our nation, as we look and long for some needed relief from screen fatigue.  Gardening can provide a welcomed respite from activities and days often immersed in technology and offers a great opportunity to cultivate new friendships in our communities. 

Laura Jackson is a freelance writer based in Hilton Head, S.C. with her husband and two teenagers.