Connect through Curbside Community Gardening
By: Mike Darcy
Gardening is contagious! I don’t mean that in a bad way, but in the way that it spreads from one person to another. Whether in a residential neighborhood, a condominium with a patio, an apartment with a balcony, or a community garden, people delight in talking about their gardens. There is something sort of magical about gardening and how it breaks down social barriers as there are no stigmas to gardening. All of our unique differences are easily shared and celebrated when we share gardening. We battle the same insects and diseases and share in the same delight of the first ripe tomato or the butterflies that visit our flowers.
Community Curbside Plantings
Several years ago a gardener in Portland, Oregon decided that he would landscape the hard-to-plant ‘hell strip’ in front of his house. (The words ‘hell strip’ describe that area between the curb and the sidewalk which is often a hot, sad looking lawn that is a magnet for weeds.) He decided that he would treat this area as he would a regular garden bed and selected plants that could withstand minimal water, would look good all year, and be low maintenance. He also amended the garden’s poor soil with rich amendments (Black Gold Garden Compost Blend would be a perfect choice), filled the strip with great plants for the location, and waited for success. The result was beautiful!
When I mentioned earlier that gardening is contagious, what happened next was a perfect example. Soon, the neighbor across the street wanted to do something similar. Then the neighbor two doors down planted his curbside lawn strip, and so it went until almost every house on his block had created a garden in what was once just a ‘hell strip’. Each strip was unique – some were in full sun, others in dense shade, and others contained large street trees with enormous roots – so each garden was different. And, as the neighbors developed their own unique curbside gardens, they became better acquainted with people on their block that they did not know as well.
Converting curb strips into lush, colorful gardens also adds environmental value to urban communities. Bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies are attracted to floral wealth. This creates great learning opportunities for our children as well as shared beauty for our neighborhoods. Gardens with milkweeds may attract Monarch butterflies or red monarda may attract hummingbirds. What you plant will define the pollinators your gardens attract. (Click here to read our many pollinator gardening articles!)
Home Gardens for Better Community
While in my neighborhood we do not have sidewalks, that certainly does not stop people from strolling along the road, admiring the gardens of their neighbors. I garden prolifically and always meet neighbors during garden work. Passersby stop, talk, and soon we are discussing which tomato is the best and how to keep the deer from eating the roses. Sometimes it amazes me when I reflect on my neighborhood and all of the people that I know because of our connection to gardening. Gardening brings people together, allowing them to become better acquainted while becoming better, more knowledgeable gardeners.
We have one particular neighbor named Janet who has lived nearby since childhood, and she keeps a flower garden along the road. She is constantly tending this area, and as a result, nearly everyone knows Janet. She talks to those that walk by and shares her information on why this plant is looking so good this year or why this plant is not looking so good. In the summer, she shares her produce from her vegetable garden with passers-by. Is my neighborhood different from others? I don’t think so.
Share your love of gardening with your neighbors in large ways or small. The next time you go to a party, take a favorite plant division along with a bag of Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix or Garden Compost Blend as a host/hostess gift. It will be the talk of the party, and the recipient will be thrilled.
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