There aren’t many better feelings than getting into the garden in spring, feeling the rich soil in our fingers and delighting at new growth. Perhaps the only thing better is knowing the benefits of our garden bounty extend well beyond the bounds of our own yards. Use the tips in the following pages to ensure your garden efforts serve others as well, from neighbors and community members to our critical pollinators.
Gardening with a Purpose
Use your green thumb to help your community. Gardening connects us with nature, and provides us with food, visual delight and even stress relief. But the benefits of gardening can spread even further when we put our efforts to work to help our communities. Here are a few ways to turn gardening skills into local activism.
Start a community garden.
Community gardening is an activity people of all ages can enjoy. Not only do community plots provide a great space to grow crops, they also create an opportunity for neighbors to meet and learn from each other. Organizations such as the American Community Gardening Association can help you start or find a community garden in your area, and provide resources to help your shared plot flourish.
Create or volunteer with a school garden.
Studies show that students who have helped in gardens do better on science achievement scores in school. Getting kids directly involved in their own garden also teaches responsibility, and helps them understand where food comes from. For ideas and inspiration, visit Earth 911.
Donate produce to a food bank.
One in eight Americans doesn’t have enough food for an active, healthy life. Consider donating your excess garden produce to a food bank — or planting an extra row in your garden with the specific intent of donating it. Contact food pantries in your area, and ask for their policies on donating fresh produce. For more resources on donating your garden’s bounty, visit GRIT Magazine, or check out the USDA’s guide.
Start a seed library.
A seed library is just what it sounds like: A communal store of a variety of seeds, often maintained through a public library. Local gardeners can check out seeds, plant them, then save seeds from the resulting plants to return to the library. Talk to your local public library about starting a program or, if one already exists, volunteer to donate, pack or organize the collection.
Certify your garden as a wildlife habitat.
Adding wildlife-friendly features to your garden helps local fauna survive habitat threats. To make sure you’re providing the shelter and nourishment needed for your area wildlife, get your garden officially certified by the National Wildlife Federation. To be certified, you just need to demonstrate that your yard or garden uses sustainable gardening practices, and provides food, water and shelter. Learn more about the process here.