Did you know you live in an area where community gardens are thriving? You may even live near one and not know it.
Community gardens are collaborative projects on shared open spaces where participants work together to maintain the garden and share in its bounty, including healthful and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.
There are numerous benefits to community gardening.
Gardens are packed with nutrition for a healthier you. Fruits and vegetables that can be grown in a community garden contain nutrients that can help you decrease your risk of certain diseases. Some of those powerful nutrients include calcium, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.
But it’s more than nutrition. Being outside and getting some exercise extends gardening’s health benefits beyond eating locally grown food.
Community gardening is a wonderful way to connect with neighbors and create lasting friendships. The mental health benefits of getting your hands in the soil and contributing something positive to your yard are immeasurable.
So how to start?
In our mild climate, greens do well almost year-round.
Kale, which contains vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium, is particularly easy to grow and will produce new leaves as long as you keep the seeding tops pulled off. Swiss chard, which contains magnesium, vitamins A and C, is another hearty green that does well in our mild climate throughout almost any season.
Leaf lettuce, which contains vitamin A and folate, and spinach, which contains fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, folate and magnesium, grow well in the spring and fall. There are so many lettuce varieties and colors you won’t see at the store that it can be really fun to grow your own, and many can go from seed to the dinner table in six to eight weeks.
Most children will eat what they grow, so if you can’t get kids to eat their veggies, encouraging them to plant some can help even the pickiest eaters become a little more adventurous.
And don’t forget to grow some flavor boosters. So many herbs grow well in our area. Rosemary and sage can be planted in pots and are perennials (they grow more than one year) so with a little care they will just keep on growing. Basil is another herb that does well in a pot or in a small patch, can be made into pesto, and is a classic summer green that goes great with tomatoes.
Where are the existing community gardens in Thurston County?
Thurston County has 14.
There is a community garden in almost every city and town of Thurston County — Bucoda, Lacey, Olympia, Rainier, Rochester, Tenino and Tumwater. Visit http://www.thurstoncommunitygardens.org to find out more about each one. And sign up now for a garden plot before they are all taken this year, so you can enjoy all the great benefits of community gardening.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.