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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

3 Reasons to Start a Community Garden this Year - Guest Post by Lee Flynn



Community gardens have been increasing in popularity in recent years. Once only found in large cities, these gardens are now beginning to pop up even in small towns as more people become aware of their many benefits. What's more, a community garden doesn't have to be difficult to create. All that's needed is an unused tract of land, some basic tools, some seeds and good, old-fashioned teamwork. Here are three reasons to start a community garden this year.

Neighborhood Solidarity

A community can be likened to a large extended family. When its members isolate themselves from one another, bonds won't form and everyone is a stranger to everyone else. However, when its members spend time with one another, work together and get to know each other, bonds grow strong and a sense of solidarity is developed. A community garden encourages people of the community begin to care about one another and the area in which they all live. This can have benefits for not only the beauty and property values of a neighborhood but also the lives of everyone in it. It's also a great opportunity to forge lasting friendships that would have otherwise never developed.

Saving Money and Being Prepared

Fruits and vegetables are essential for good health, but in these financially strained times, they can be cost-prohibitive for many people. A community garden allows you to enjoy wholesome, delicious produce for only the price of seeds, and many plants can be harvested more than once. This is also a great option for people who are interested in food storage techniques and preservation. A single harvest can be enjoyed throughout the year or saved for an emergency preparedness cache when preserved correctly.

Things like carrots, beets, tomatoes, greens, berries, potatoes and cucumbers can be planted according to their seasons and then easily canned, dehydrated or freeze-dried for later use. However, planning well in advance is necessary for this to succeed. Some veggies, such as peas, must be planted very early in the year when temperatures are still cool in order to produce well, so plan to put on warm fleece fabric before heading to your garden plot.

Encouraging Better Health

A community garden can promote and support health in many ways, which is essential for happy, productive families and neighborhoods. The most obvious way is through physical activity. Gardening is often a labor-intensive task that works the entire body and provides both cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise. These reduce the risk of a wide array of health problems, like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure and even certain forms of cancer. That's to say nothing of the benefits on mood and sleep quality that come with increased exposure to sunlight, and research has also discovered that when people exercise in green spaces, they experience better cognitive function.

The results of a community garden also encourage healthier lifestyles by providing a source of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetable free of chemical pesticides and GMOs. If you have children who don't like to eat their veggies, the benefits are even greater. Researchers have noted that children who have a hand in growing and harvesting vegetables display a much greater willingness to try them and often end up enjoying them as a result. On a similar note, children who participate in the planting and management of gardens feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they see their efforts paying off, which can help boost their self-confidence and teach the value of persistence and hard work.

In addition, community gardens provide a way for even the elderly and disabled to participate in the world around them. This can help them feel like valuable members of society and provide a means of social interaction, which studies have shown could lower the risk of dementia, depression and anxiety.

Community gardens are a great way to bring people together, decrease the costs of eating well and help everybody in your neighborhood be healthier and happier. If your community doesn't already have a garden, consider getting your friends and neighbors together to talk about how it can improve everyone's lives and begin making plans to start one this year.

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