Going Green Through Community Gardening

More and more people living in communities are focused on better living through green initiatives.  Ten years ago, I realized that backyard vegetable gardening was becoming a trend when I began receiving complaints from homeowners about neighbors growing beans behind their home.  At the time, I had a difficult time coming up with a reason to send the “bean growers” a violation letter.  Today, I receive requests for approval from owners to build gardening boxes.

 

Clearly a shift in attitudes has occurred in recent years.  More and more backyards are being cultivated into beautiful gardens filled with a bounty of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs.

 

Last spring, during a community inspection, I was inspired by some of the gardens I saw to try my own hand at vegetable gardening.  From a raised bed box garden only 4’ x 8’ in size, I produced pounds of produce such as tomatoes and Japanese eggplant I shared with neighbors and family.  I was able to do so without bending a single provision of my community’s governing documents.

 

Green Guidance
Whether your community is a condominium, coop, townhome or single-family, there is room for gardening.

 

  • Board members can seek “green” guidance through various local and state agencies to learn more about backyard, patio and community gardening.
  • Community management firms may also have information. Associa Green HomeGrown, provides tips, facts and resources for home gardening.
  • Another possible resource for information is landscape companies and nurseries that are typically more than willing to assist by offering clinics for interested homeowners to encourage community involvement.

 

Covenant Considerations
Backyard gardening in single-family communities is more traditional and typically does not result in a covenants violation; however, you should check carefully to determine whether amendments would be required related to sod coverage percentages, fencing and plant material.  Townhomes, coops and condominiums with limited space and more restrictive rules could consider revising rules to allow container gardening or even establish a community garden.  Things to consider:

 

  • Review current documents to determine if vegetable gardening is permitted and consider whether changes should be made.
  • Establish rules and guidelines for vegetable gardening and notify the members.
  • Plan a community event to educate homeowners and residents on the benefits and “how-to’s” of gardening.
  • Award prizes for the best Victory Garden, best crop of various fruits or vegetables.  Recognize those winners in the community newsletter or on the website.
  • For condominium, coops and townhomes, consider if land is available and located appropriately to establish a community garden.
  • Develop a budget for the establishment of a community garden.
  • Create a committee to plan the garden, establish rules and guidelines, assign sections, etc. being sure to develop a mission and organizational and structural criteria for the committee.

 

Little Known Facts
Did you know that Disney World has its own community gardens?

 

  • The Liberty Oak, which is the focal point of the Liberty Square area in Magic Kingdom, is the proud parent of more than 500 young trees. They all started out as acorns harvested from the majestic oak.
  • More than 30 tons of fruits and vegetables grown at The Land pavilion at Epcot are served in Walt Disney World restaurants.

 

If your association has not yet established green initiatives, the gardening route would be a great way to kick it off.  What better way is there to build community spirit for a better world?

 

Sherrill Schafer, PCAM®
President
Community Management Concepts, Inc.
Jacksonville, FL

 

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