April is National Gardening Month and prime planting season in central Indiana. All of these April showers will not only bring May flowers but also June strawberries and July tomatoes. For those who live in the city, especially those who live in a tiny downtown apartment like me, gardening may seem out of reach. Fortunately, however, the City of Indianapolis has really gotten behind the idea of community gardens. With the help of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Indianapolis now has at least 70 community gardens, greatly surpassing the Office’s goal of 50 gardens by the end of 2011.
Community gardens are collectively owned and managed gardens that provide healthy, fresh, sustainably produced food for members of that community. In addition to the produce, however, these projects create educational opportunities and foster a genuine sense of community by challenging neighbors to work together for a common cause.
For girls, there are countless benefits. Exercise and fresh air are the obvious ones. In addition, gardening is a great hands-on opportunity for girls to learn about biological processes such as photosynthesis or pollination. Caring for plants and watching their development is also a wonderful way to get girls excited about healthy eating. A young gardener will likely want to celebrate a successful harvest by sampling what she has helped to produce. Furthermore, research has also shown that gardening improves mental and physical wellbeing for those with special needs, including those with autism spectrum disorders.
If you want to get involved in an existing community garden, there is probably already one in your neighborhood. If there isn’t, or if you are interested in starting your own, the City of Indianapolis can provide plots of abandoned or underutilized land for this purpose. An application and list of vacant plots is available online.
For more information about how to start and maintain a community garden, Indy [Grows] Gardens is another great local resource.