Not a Fad: Community Gardening a Modern Tradition

If you’re settling into a new custom Florida home and would like to get your hands dirty — but not in your own backyard — consider becoming part of a community garden.

Here’s why: Florida homeowners tend to have swimming pools, hot tubs, summer kitchens, patios and terraces in their backyards. Lovely, flowering tropical shrubs placed by landscapers? Likely.Community Garden Tradition An extensive vegetable garden? Unlikely.

Of course, the above is a generalization. People who love to garden will tend to fruitful pots of tomatoes and peppers on their patios, and sprawling summer squash and zucchini plants can masquerade as ground cover. But unless your new home is sited on several lots or acres, home gardening can be tough to do in today’s suburban communities.

Thus, the community garden movement, which had its genesis in a very urban area, has spread to populated and suburban communities everywhere over the past several decades. Where did community gardening start? Read on and we’ll tell you.

The Big Apple birthed community gardening

It all began in New York City in the 1970s when a group of non-profit environmentalists spread seeds in vacant lots and in front of abandoned or derelict structures to beautify rundown areas in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Known as the Green Guerrillas, these burgeoning environmentalists were attempting to rehab neighborhood acreage “gone to seed” during a 1970s financial crisis. If they couldn’t access ugly rundown plots due to fences and gates. the Green Guerrillas would toss seeds, fertilizer and water into the offensive areas.

Gradually their efforts attracted attention. Folks in other Manhattan neighborhoods noticed their work and a grassroots effort was born. Along with the natural beauty the gardening movement provided, it also prompted neighbors to become more involved in their neighborhoods.

A prime example? Liz Christy, one of the Green Guerrillas founders, toiled on a lot in her own Lower East Side neighborhood, along with other volunteers. They cleaned it up, improved its soil and eventually were joined by other urban gardeners. Vegetable beds sprang up along with newly planted trees.

Located on the northeast side of Bowery and Houston Streets, the garden — now known as Liz Christy’s Bowery-Houston Garden — became New York City’s first official community garden in April 1974.

Green thumbs go mainstream

Thanks to the Green Guerrillas’ grassroots success, and the gorgeous example of the Bowery-Houston Garden, word spread along with seed packets and ideas. Using the Bowery-Houston Garden as a teaching base, Green Guerrillas began hosting workshops and teaching other New York community gardeners to grown their own goodness.

One of the key components to those workshops (along with knowledge) was pass-along plants — cuttings and seeds that fledgling gardeners could take from the Bowery-Houston Garden to transplant in new gardens all over Manhattan.

The practice continues today. NYC officials founded the Green Thumb program in 1978 to coordinate and assist its community-garden practitioners. Now overseen by the city’s Parks Department, it’s the biggest urban gardening program in the U.S., with more than 600 gardens and 20,0000 gardeners throughout the city, and a steady calendar of workshops that keep Big Apple gardeners learning and experimenting in their own plots.

New York’s community gardens run the gamut from kitchen gardens to ornamental gardens, to beautiful spaces with benches that neighborhood residents can enjoy. This trend is spreading south, however, and we are starting to see more and more community gardens pop up across Florida and many other states throughout the country.

Ready to begin your Florida gardening history? ICI Homes can help. Start here.