Community gardens are a great way for families and individuals to grow fresh and healthy produce and connect with other passionate greenthumbs in their area. They contain individual and / or shared plots for growing a variety of fruits, vegetables and other desireable plants (including flowers). They are gardened by a group or a community of people which are usually volunteers. Community gardens can be located in a variety of locations such as schools, parks, churches, community housing properties and even private properties. The Niagara Region has more than 70 community gardens, including one at Brock University.
The success and sustainability of community gardens relies on community support and a variety of people getting involved. If you don’t have a greenthumb, there are many other opportunities to volunteer or get involved with your local community garden. Taking on some of the maintenance of the garden, donating materials or leading workshops are a few of the many ways to contribute. Every member of the community brings their own strengths, knowledge, and experience to the garden, which serves to increase its overall productivity.
Many community gardeners look to use healthy and sustainable techniques to increase the success and productivity of their plots. One of the most common techniques is known as companion planting, which involves placing a crop (e.g., kale) in combination with another crop (e.g. onion) for benefits, such as reducing pest infestation. Companion planting can also involve the use of flowers. This method, also called diversification, helps with pest control, pollination, maximizes the use of space and increases crop productivity.
While there are thousands of successful plant combinations, here is a small list of common crops grown together and their benefits:
Planting onions in between lettuce and carrots will help to keep away rabbits.
Marigolds are often planted with lettuce, bean plants and tomatoes to prevent a variety of pests.
Lemon balm can be planted near flowering crops, such as apples, to help attract bees and encourage pollination.
Planting basil near asparagus will attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs. Ladybugs help to fight off unwanted pests such as aphids or leafhoppers.
Beans are generally a great companion to all crops as they help to increase healthy nutrients in the soil such as nitrogen.
Gardens can be managed at a very low cost while also utilizing vacant green spaces. As well as allowing members to get to know and interact with their neighbours, a garden can also help to partially address the food security of a community. They also promote local produce and help to reduce our energy footprint, which is a mitigation action to climate change. Finally, community gardens have the opportunity to address several of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and, through these goals, create a healthier and more sustainable environment for our communities.
The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Caption:Depending on its size, a community garden can produce enough food to fulfill a portion, if not all, of the gardeners’ fresh produce and herb needs during the growing season. The Brock University community garden, pictured here, is a great example of what companion planting may look like.