I was involved in community gardening for many years. At first, only as a lot holder, then I joined the community garden committee and eventually came to chair it. I only dropped out of the community gardening world when we moved into our current house where I now had space for my own vegetable garden. Even then, I’ve maintained good ties with the local community gardens and often work with them in various community activities.
I remember helping run the community garden as always being a struggle. There were more politics involved than you might have thought! Something would inevitably come up, we’d try to solve the problem, then the solution led to some other complication. Other than talking to members of other community gardens, we had very little outside help, yet we sure could have used it.
But now there’s a book on community gardening: The Community Gardening Handbook, by Ben Raskin, subtitled The Guide to Organizing, Planting, and Caring for a Community Garden. Essentially, the title says it all: it’s a wealth of information on all aspects of community gardening. This includes different kinds of community gardens, from guerilla gardens to rooftop gardens, and—the part I would have found most useful at the time—how to both start a community garden from scratch, then how to run it. There is also plenty of information on the actual physical preparation of a community garden: what to do, when to do it, etc.
I found the final section of the book, the Plant Directory, describing how to grow popular vegetables, herbs and small fruits, the weakest part of the book. The information was just too brief and covered few of the problems that come up. But then, there are many books on vegetable gardening that cover the subject so well. Most garden committees already know where to look for that kind of information.
The book is illustrated with photos of community gardens in action, which were mostly more inspiring than useful and, in the Plant Directory, rather artsy drawings of vegetables and fruits: cute, but of very little interest. Since this is essentially a how-to book, I would have liked more how-to illustrations, but there are only a few.
The latter two comments aside, The Community Gardening Handbook is a most useful book and should certainly be in every public library and on the bookshelf of every community garden.