4 Problems All Community Gardens Face

Community gardens can be amazing places where neighbors come together and get closer with nature in an otherwise urban environment, but the best ones don’t occur by accident. In order for a community garden to succeed, cultivating the proper rules and community involvement takes at least as much work as actually harvesting the vegetables.

Here are four problems nearly every community garden inevitably will face, as well as some potential solutions to get around these issues:

1. Untended Plots

New gardeners are generally very enthusiastic about adopting a plot and growing their own food… until they see just how much time and work it takes. Two to three months into the process, there’s a major drop off in participation for people who realize they’re in over their head. As a result, untended and abandoned plots can be seen all over the garden, often overrun with weeds, making the space look sad and less loved than it should.

Solution: Institute a forfeiture rule on all plots. If a plot has been abandoned for a certain amount of time, the community garden is permitted to remove items and allow new gardeners to start fresh.

2. Contaminated Soil

It’s a sad reality, but something research repeatedly shows: the soil in community gardens is often contaminated. Because of the pollution that is prevalent in urban environments, undesirable toxins like PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) make their way into the soil at higher rates than in non-urban environments and, in turn, get passed along to the food. Obviously, growing crops in the city is already not the most ideal situation, but is that reason enough not to garden at all?

Solution: While there’s not much gardeners can do to alleviate their cities’ rates of pollution, they can take solace in knowing gardening contributes to substantially healthier diets than most other people in the city eat. Away from farms, urban kids and adults are more likely to eat unhealthy foods, so fresh vegetables – even slightly tainted ones – are better than that.

3. Theft

Growing your own produce is a rewarding process… assuming the rewards are still there at the end. Many a community gardener has spent months tending to her vegetables only to return one day and find them missing right around they time they’re ready to be eaten. Sure, you can take it as a compliment that someone found them your veggies to look so delicious that they couldn’t resist, but what’s the point of all that effort if someone is just going to steal from you?

Solution: Many community gardens put locks on the gates to prevent non-gardeners from helping themselves to the produce. While that doesn’t prevent fellow gardeners from taking others’ plants, as participants in the community, they are less likely to do so.

4. More Privatized Space

Of course, a garden with locked gates doesn’t feel very communal. In theory, anyway, one of the goals of the garden is to create a safe, beautiful space in an otherwise cluttered urban area. By shutting out the majority of the residents from this area, you’re actually excluding the community more than doing something special for them.

Solution: Without a security system in place – something that’s generally too expensive to be realistic for most community gardens – there is no easy solution for this problem. In addition to theft, gardens that keep their gates unlocked report increases in vandalism, litter and illicit activities, so most gardens tend to exclude non-members for the sake of maintaining the garden.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

People will steal anything.

Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen3 years ago

If vegetables from soil contaminated by toxic waste from early industrialization are healthier than what US urban population usually eat, I would really like to know what they usually eat.

Dt Nc
Dt Nc3 years ago

Shame to steal from a community garden

Dt Nc
Dt Nc3 years ago


Karen F.
Karen P3 years ago

Pretty lousy to steal and vandalise someone's hard work. Some people could really do with cultivating a conscience.

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B3 years ago

thank you

Donna T.
Donna T3 years ago

thank you