Friday, March 13, 2009

Community Gardening

I live in a residential area of a mid-sized city on Texas' Gulf Coast.
My neighborhood has houses on decent sized lots.
We also have vacant lots in the neighborhood.
Recently, our neighborhood association went to the city and asked for permission to take over the care and upkeep of one vacant lot. It had reverted back to city ownership due to taxes and the like and the city crews occasionally came through and mowed it.
The city, happy to be relieved of the burden, agreed.
We (the neighborhood) are in the process of planting a community garden.
It will not be neatly fenced off plots for each neighbor, it will be an attractive, small *pocket park* with flowering trees, pathways and benches.
But, the big difference will be that everything planted will be edible varieties.
Lemon, lime and orange trees. Blueberry bushes. A strawberry patch. Walkways edged with kale and collard greens. A patch of herbs here and there. Tomato plants. Peppers.

An edible garden.

Still attractive, but with a purpose.
Anyone that wishes to can harvest from the garden, whether they contributed to the labor and upkeep or not.
It has been shown that in areas with *edible gardens*, crime went down. Community involvement went up.
Our neighborhood community is doing this in an attempt to encourage other neighborhoods to do the same.
We want to see every vacant lot in town to become gardens where people can raise food and harvest food.
With as much vacant land as there is in most towns, there is ample room for gardens.
Even small patches in urban areas can be changed from useless green spots of grass to USEFUL green spots planted with carrots or Swiss chard. Still attractive, but with a far more practical nature.

Think of the possibilities!
Highway median strips...miles long. Normally planted with grass, they could be planted with grains---which, after all, are simply more *domesticated* grasses.
The landscaping around public buildings, time consuming, water needy, could be planted with fruit trees and shrubs instead.

There are a lot of hungry people out there. Food banks are currently over burdened. Prices continue to rise and there is no end in sight. More and more people are becoming unemployed.
Many of these people are not prepared. Still, that doesn't mean we (who are prepared) should simply shrug our shoulders and say "Must suck to be you". It also doesn't mean we should hand over our food to them.

Community gardens and edible landscaping can be part of the solution to hunger.

Tent cities are springing up around major metropolitan areas, with the unspoken consent of the urban planners and metropolitan governments. There is simply no other place for many of these people to go. Charities do their best to provide the denizens of these make shift housing areas with food and water and other necessities of life. Wouldn't it be sensible to have edible gardens planted adjacent to these tent cities?

Even if you have your own garden and are prepared, look around. Are there places in your community that would benefit from having an edible garden?
Remember, there is a huge benefit to neighbors, even if you, yourself do not harvest from the garden. In every neighborhood this has been tried in, CRIME GOES DOWN.
Prostitutes and drug dealers do not want to stand on a corner where people are apt to be coming and going to work on or harvest from the garden.
Vacant lots breed crime...with a well-tended garden, this is not as likely to happen.
It also gives the neighborhood a *vested interest* in that vacant lot.
If you see a drug dealer going into the bushes of a vacant, overgrown to make a deal, you are apt to turn a blind eye.
If you see a drug dealer going into a garden that you have helped tend...well, I expect most people would either call the police or get a few like-minded neighbors to go over there and let that dealer know his enterprise should be relocated to a different neighborhood, and quickly!

In the old colonial villages they had the Village Green. Animals could be grazed there and crops could be grown there.
I think it is time we returned to this concept.
We can start with common gardens.
Maybe later we can re-introduce the animals!


Because of a couple of rude people that left comments that included links to porn pages and such, I have been forced to start moderating comments again.