Backyard gardeners enjoy many benefits in return for their labor. For example, research shows urban adults who garden eat fruits and vegetables nearly 5 times per day. People who do not garden do so about 4 times per day. And, 37 percent of home gardeners meet national recommendations to eat produce at least five times per day compared to 25 percent of non-gardeners.
While gardening at home is good for your diet, gardening in a community setting can be even better for you. Community gardeners consume fruits and vegetables about six times per day, and 56 percent meet those same national recommendations for daily fruit and veggie consumption.
In one study, almost 95 percent of community gardeners said the garden helped their family’s health. The same community gardeners also reported experiencing mental health and relationship benefits. The gardeners said the activity was a good way for them to spend time and that it brought them relaxation, enjoyment and reduced stress. The garden was a place to spend quality family time, and it contributed to a sense of family togetherness, they said.
Some local religious and spiritual organizations offer community gardening programs. But, the longest operating community garden in the area is owned and operated by the City of Reno.
Teglia’s Paradise Park Community Garden, at 2745 Elementary Drive in Reno, features more than 50 gardening spaces. Most of the plots are in-ground beds, but six are raised beds. Four of the raised beds are reserved for people with mobility impairments.
There are also two large garden spaces. These big plots work well for schools to help youth learn life lessons about nutrition and where food comes from. Organizations or companies can work one of these large spaces as well to harvest not only fresh produce but to work at team building too.
Garden participants must be 16 years of age or older and attend an orientation. The cost is $10 per garden bed or $15 for two garden beds. There is a limit of two plots per family. For the best chances of success, participants should visit and tend to their plot every day.
To sign up for a garden bed, visit the Teglia’s Paradise Park Activity Center located inside the park, or call 775-356-3176. If you are interested, be sure to make contact right away. This late in the season, not very many available garden plots remain.
The community garden is not only looking for gardeners, but volunteers too. If you are interested in helping with the garden, contact Brenda Mahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A way to participate in a community gardening project from the comfort of your own home or business is to join Reno Blooms! It is a program of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, Moana Nursery, the City of Reno Parks and Urban Forestry, May Arboretum Society and Nevada Landscape Association.
To take part, plant an outdoor container or bed with flowers or other plants. Then, purchase an official Reno Blooms! flower stake from Moana Nursery, and display it in your container or bed. Keep your plants and flowers watered and healthy and your Reno Blooms! flower stake on display from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Share your blooms with the community by posting them on social media with the hashtag #renoblooms. If it is OK for people to visit your blooms, add your location to Moana Nursery’s participant map. By doing so, you will experience the benefits of gardening in a community setting while helping community pride and garden beds alike to bloom.
Edible and ornamental backyard and community gardening is not without challenges. Master Gardener Volunteer Jennifer Fox said the challenge she faced one year with her garden bed at Teglia’s Paradise Park Community garden was squirrels. She said to overcome that, she grew crops the squirrels did not seem to bother, such as garlic, onion, basil, dill and green beans.
To learn more about the benefits of backyard or community gardening, or for help overcoming gardening or landscaping challenges, talk to a Master Gardener Volunteer. They are available to answer questions from the community on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Drop by the office at 4955 Energy Way in Reno, or call 775-336-0265.
First steps in starting a community garden
If you want a community garden paradise in your neighborhood like Teglia’s Paradise Park Community Garden, you may be able to make it happen.
Step 1: Test the Waters- A community garden is not just about gardening. It is about people too. Successful community gardens depend on the gardeners who work in them, investing their time, effort and other resources into the garden’s success. If you would like to start a community garden, you will need to go around, talk to people and get them on board. Stay with this step until you have the contact information for about a dozen dedicated people.
Step 2: Have a Meeting- Gather everyone together and talk some more. Invite your dedicated people plus area residents, groups and organizations who may be interested or who could help. At the meeting, brainstorm ideas and have everyone give feasibility a thought. Community gardens are great, but they are a lot of work too.
Step 3: Inventory Resources- Gardens have needs, and you will have to meet them. You will need land and water as well as soil and tools. Knowledge is another must-have. Do you have someone on board who can work with the irrigation system? Build raised beds? Do you have an experienced gardener who can help with proper plant selection, planting, care and harvesting? How about someone who knows how to compost safely or who understands food safety when it comes to gardens? No one person has to know, have or do everything, but together your garden group should be able to cover its bases. One way to fill the gap between what you have and what you need is to ask area organizations and businesses for information, training, consultations or donations.
For the next steps, download “Creating a Community Garden,” available online at www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/ho/2013/sp1307.pdf.
Ashley Andrews is the horticulture communications assistant with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Horticulture questions? Visit www.growyourownnevada.com.