Community Gardening

Today, new concerns about food safety and sustainable practices, greater isolation from neighbors, and the loss of gardening space have made the age-old practice of community gardening more relevant than ever. Whether you are already a member of a community garden, want to get involved in one, or are just curious, this guide offers valuable lessons about cultivation and cooperation-as well as dynamic gardens and great food!

  • About This Book
  • Seeing Green: Ellen Kirby
    • Benefits of Community Gardening
    • Making the Case
  • Food Gardens: Kat Shiffler, Lara Sheets, and Liz Tylander
    • City Slicker Farms, West Oakland, California
    • Community Crops, Lincoln, Nebraska
    • East New York Farms!, Brooklyn, New York
    • Edible Schoolyard, Berkeley, California
    • Gardeners in Community Development, Dallas, Texas
    • Intervale Center, Burlington, Vermont
    • Nuestras Raíces, Holyoke, Massachusetts
  • Youth Garden Programs: Patsy Benveniste, Eliza Fournier, Lynne Haynor, and Angela Mason
    • The Food Project: Cody Urban
  • Therapeutic Horticulture: Susan Fields
    • Horticulture Therapy in Community Gardens
  • Growing New Americans: Aaron Reser
  • Pocket Parks and Small Community Gardens: Daniel Winterbottom
    • Starting Out
  • Habitat Communities: Pat and Clay Sutton
    • Learning from Plants and Wildlife: Marilyn Smith
  • Making Gardens Sustainable: Lenny Librizzi
    • Site Protection
    • Rainwater Harvesting
  • Soil Health and Safety: Ulrich Lorimer
    • The Magic of Compost
  • Bringing Community Into the Garden: Robin Simmen
    • Access, Fences, and Beyon
    • Tips for Political Action
  • Resources
  • Contributors
  • Index

In cities and towns across North America, community gardening is flourishing. The American Community Gardening Association estimates that in the U.S. alone there are 18,000 to 20,000 active gardens. The gardens are large and small; formal and informal; urban, suburban, and rural. They operate on municipal land, land trusts, and private land; many are official, others are guerrilla acts of cultivation. Some community gardens are organized by hundreds of gardeners, others by just a handful. Some gardens allot plots to individuals; in others, gardeners work collectively. Community gardeners grow food or flowers, or curate art or natural features. The common element is that all of these gardens are created and maintained by members of the community for the benefit of the community.

Helping people improve their daily lives through the cultivation and enjoyment of plants is a core mission of Brooklyn Botanic Garden and its GreenBridge community environmental horticulture program, which since 1993 has provided practical support for community gardeners throughout Brooklyn and beyond. This book is Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s effort to recognize the great work of this movement, but, as such, it can only scratch the surface in describing community gardening today. The book opens with a chapter highlighting the myriad benefits of community gardening and closes with a recap of all the ways these gardens can be vital neighborhood resources. In between, the authors examine specific types of garden programs and strategies. This book doesn’t cover the nuts and bolts of starting a garden, but refers you to some excellent organizations that do. At the back of the book you can find these and other essential resources; a special companion web page ( hosts interactive links to an expanded resource list.

Greening, sustainable living, and learning about food are becoming top priorities in North America, and community gardens directly address these issues and more. If you are curious about community gardening, the programs that are described here may inspire you to get involved. And if you’re already an active community gardener, this book may help you tell your own story, and perhaps even help you strengthen or expand your garden’s work.


American Community Gardening Association
1777 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43203
Toll Free: 877-ASK-ACGA

1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225

USDA Cooperative Extension System and Master Gardener Programs

Starting and Running a Community Garden

American Community Gardening Association

  • Start-up guide, tip sheets, and many resource links. Be sure to sign up for the ACGA e-mail group and e-newsletter.

City Farmer

Community Garden Organizer's Handbook

LA County Cooperative Extension Common Ground Garden Program

Youth Programs

Center for Ecoliteracy

Center for Food and the Environment LiFE Curriculum

The Food Project

Garden Mosaics

National Gardening Association

School Garden Wizard

Habitat Gardens

Monarch Watch

National Wildlife Federation

North American Butterfly Association

Other Garden Programs

American Horticultural Therapy Association

Local Harvest

National Immigrant Farmer Initiative



Brooklyn Compost Project

Natural Gardening

BBG All-Region Guides

Rain Gardens

Rain Gardens of West Michigan

Water Resources Group

Seed Saving

Seed Savers Exchange

Universal Design

See the CAC Community Garden handbook.

Ellen Kirby is the former director of GreenBridge, the community environmental horticulture program of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She is a member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association and a member and former president of the American Community Gardening Association. She has a masters degree in theological education and a certificate in horticulture from BBG. For more than 20 years Kirby served as the coordinator of a community garden in Brooklyn; since her retirement from BBG in 2007 she has lived in Brooklyn and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Elizabeth Peters is the director of Publications at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She is the former editor of the Independent Film and Video Monthly and has written toolkits on grassroots organizing and community building. From 1990 to 1992 Peters coordinated Tuscarora Organic Growers, a collective of small central Pennsylvania family farms that sells fresh, local produce in Washington, D.C.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has 30 years’ experience working with Chicago-area neighborhoods, schools, churches, and human service organizations to create and maintain gardens. Since 2003, the garden has focused on apprenticeship training and leadership development for high school students through the Green Youth Farm program. Patsy Benveniste is vice president of Community Education Programs and oversees the garden’s outreach efforts. Angela Mason, M.S., is a horticulturist, trained landscape designer, and youth education specialist who manages the Community Gardening and Green Youth Farm programs. Eliza Fournier, M.S., is a community garden educator and coordinates the Green Youth Farm program in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Lynne Haynor is a youth development educator who coordinates the Green Youth Farm North Chicago site.

Susan Fields is the manager of GreenBridge at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She formerly served as the deputy director of the GreenThumb program of the New York City Parks Department and worked with community gardens throughout the city. Fields has degrees in social work and psychology, a certificate in gardening from the New York Botanical Garden, and has studied horticultural therapy.

Garden Cycles was a three-month documentary project undertaken in 2007 by three young women on bicycles, who toured from Washington, D.C., to Canada to investigate the emergence of the “new American farmer.” Lara Sheets cofounded the 7th Street Garden education program, which helps address food justice in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood. Kat Shiffler is a freelance journalist whose reporting has been featured in Z Magazine, Clamor, and Glimpse and on public radio. Liz Tylander is a community outreach coordinator for D.C.’s Urban Forestry Administration. She has a range of experience in community organizing and natural resource management, and also teaches high school students about their local ecology.

Lenny Librizzi is the assistant director of the Open Space Greening Program at the Council on the Environment of New York City. He is one of the founders of the Water Resources Group, which promotes sustainable water practices in community gardens; he is the project developer and leader of NYC’s Community Garden Mapping Project; and he teaches the horticulture component of Learn It, Grow It, Eat It, a youth environmental education program. Librizzi is a former board member and publications chair of the American Community Gardening Association and has been actively involved in environmental issues for over 25 years.

Ulrich Lorimer is the curator of the Native Flora Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and holds a degree in landscape horticulture from the University of Delaware. He teaches various gardening, native plant, integrated pest management, and botany classes at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the New York Botanical Garden.

Aaron Reser lives in Minneapolis and researches, writes, and illustrates for clients including the Chicago Botanic Garden and Heifer International. She has worked for seven seasons with farmers from around the globe while a grower with Farm in the City in St. Paul, Youth Farm and Market Project in Minneapolis, and the Red Hook Community Farm in Brooklyn.

Robin Simmen is director of GreenBridge, the community environmental horticulture program at Brooklyn Botanic Garden; formerly, she was GreenBridge manager. Her work at BBG promotes a greener Brooklyn, community gardens, sustainable horticulture, composting, and soil and water conservation. She previously served as an environmental planner for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in Massachusetts, where she focused on land use and water resource issues. Simmen holds degrees in landscape design from Conway School of Landscape Design and Cornell University.

Marilyn Smith is director of Children’s Education at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Each year over 150,000 children are reached through the Garden’s education programs, and BBG’s Children’s Garden, established in 1914, gives children ages 3 to 13 direct experience in preparing gardens and tending plants. Smith has worked in the field of environmental education for nearly 20 years. Before coming to BBG, she worked as a naturalist in Ohio and directed a nature center in Connecticut.

Pat and Clay Sutton are writers, lecturers, and naturalists who have cowritten several books, including How to Spot Butterflies, How to Spot an Owl, and Birds and Birding at Cape May. Pat is a founding board member of the North American Butterfly Association and served as program director at the New Jersey Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory for 21 years. Clay is a conservation consultant and longtime instructor for the American Birding Association’s Institute for Field Ornithology. They live near Cape May, New Jersey.

Daniel Winterbottom holds a BFA from Tufts University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and adjunct professor of architecture at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he directs a design/build program through which students work with communities to create design solutions that address social and ecological concerns. Winterbottom’s work on casitas, healing gardens, sustainable design, and service-learning teaching has appeared in Places, the New York Times, Seattle Times, Landscape Architecture, and Garden Design; he also wrote Wood in the Landscape.


August 7, 2010
Victoria Stott

Can someone there tell me what the vines are that cascade down the sides of buildings in Rome? They look like they are floating columns. Or do you know where I might find out this info? Thank you - Victoria Stott

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