Whether rural, urban, or suburban, abandoned properties are blight to communities. One way to turn these eyesores into a community asset is by transforming these areas into community gardens. Abandoned tennis courts, empty residential lots, abandoned gravel parking areas are ideal candidates to rekindle as community gardens.
Not all properties will allow for full cultivation of the soil necessary for a traditional garden. Perhaps the property owners did not give consent for excavation or removal of items or perhaps it is just too expensive for the community volunteers to clean potentially contaminated soil or remove concrete pads. An economic and sustainable solution to these problems is to use raised beds.
Raised garden beds
Raised garden beds can be built with boards, stones, concrete block, bricks, or other material that will build up the garden bed higher than the surrounding ground. Bales of straw can even be used to build raised garden beds but straw or other organic material is not recommended for this purpose as it can only be used for one season and will decompose leaving the soil without containment.
Raised beds should be a minimum of 6 inches deep which will properly house an herb garden. Deeper beds are needed for root vegetables and berry patches, at least 24 inches deep is recommended for these plants. Other vegetables, such as tomatoes, squash, or leafy greens can be grown in raised beds measuring 12 inches deep.
The advantages of using raised garden beds are many:
- Allow for clean garden soil to be used to grow food in areas where contaminated soil may be a problem.
- Allow for proper drainage so plants will not be waterlogged.
- For a longer growing season because the raised beds will warm earlier than the ground soil.
- The beds will keep certain plants such as horseradish and mint contained so that they do not take overtake the rest of the garden.
- The raised beds can be removed if the property is ever to be used for another purpose.
- Raised beds spaced adequately allow accessibility for those in wheelchairs
- Once constructed, raised garden beds require very little maintenance.
Replacing abandoned properties with a community garden will help strengthen the local community. Neighbors and volunteers will engage with one another and a sense of community will grow. In addition, the abandoned property will be much more attractive and will be serving both the community and the environment. -KATHY FAIRCHILD