The Dark Side of Community Gardening [2023]

Running through the Trees

Are you considering starting a community garden? While there are many benefits to communal gardening, such as building a sense of community and providing access to fresh produce, it's important to be aware of the disadvantages as well. In this article, our team of expert gardeners at Community Gardening™ will delve into the dark side of community gardening, uncovering potential barriers and negative impacts to be aware of.

The Downside of Community Gardening

Increased Workload

Community gardening is not for the faint of heart. Maintaining a garden can be a lot of hard work, and this workload is multiplied with the additional responsibilities of a community garden. Coordinating volunteers, distributing tasks, and managing the logistics can easily overwhelm an unprepared team. It's important to establish clear procedures and expectations to avoid burnout among team members.

Limited Space

Many community gardens are located in urban areas, where space is at a premium. This means that gardens are often located on small plots, and there may be limited opportunity to expand, as surrounding land is often already in use. This can limit the variety and quantity of produce that can be grown at the community garden, potentially hindering its sustainability and productivity.

Theft and Vandalism

Unfortunately, community gardens are not immune to theft and vandalism, and it can be disheartening to pour time and energy into a garden only to have it destroyed or stolen. This can be especially discouraging for volunteers who are passionate about the project. It's important to have a plan in place for addressing these issues, such as installing a fence or seeking legal action when necessary.

Inequitable Access

While community gardens are meant to be a space for all members of the community, the reality is that not everyone has equal access to the garden. Those who live farther away, have limited mobility, or have less free time may have difficulty participating. Additionally, those with less gardening experience or knowledge may feel intimidated or discouraged from participating. Community gardens should strive to be truly inclusive and work to actively reach out to and support underrepresented members of the community.

Environmental Concerns

While it's true that community gardens can be a positive environmental force, it's also important to consider potential negative impacts. Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals can contaminate soil, compromising the health and safety of gardeners and impacting the surrounding ecosystem. Additionally, soil erosion and water pollution can result from improper or unsustainable gardening practices. It's important to prioritize safe, eco-friendly practices in community gardening and educate volunteers on the importance of sustainability.

Barriers to Community Gardening

Lack of Funding

One of the biggest barriers to community gardening is lack of funding. Starting a garden requires resources such as tools, soil, seeds, and watering equipment, and these can be expensive. Additionally, community gardens may face ongoing costs such as water bills or maintenance fees. It's important to secure funding through grants, donations, or partnerships in order to establish and maintain a successful community garden.

Limited Time and Resources

Those who are interested in starting a community garden may face limited time and resources. They may not have the expertise or experience needed to manage a garden, or may simply not have enough hours in the day to devote to the project. Community gardens can be successful with a committed team, but it's important to assess the time and resources available before jumping in.

Land Access

Finding suitable land for a community garden can be a challenge. Land may be limited or owned by private entities unwilling to make it available for public use. Additionally, zoning regulations or municipal permitting may make it difficult to establish a garden in certain areas. It's important to work with local government officials and community groups to identify potential land and navigate the permitting process.

Is a Community Garden a Good Idea?

While there are certainly challenges to community gardening, our team believes that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. By creating a shared space for gardening and providing access to fresh produce, community gardens can play an important role in promoting food security, building community, and educating people on the importance of sustainability. With careful planning and management, the obstacles presented by community gardening can be addressed and overcome.

Quick Tips and Facts

  • Establish a clear plan and expectations for community garden responsibilities
  • Seek funding through grants, donations, and partnerships
  • Prioritize eco-friendly and sustainable gardening practices
  • Work to actively support underrepresented members of the community
  • Address theft and vandalism with preventative measures
  • Work with local government officials and community groups to navigate zoning and permitting regulations

We hope this article provides helpful insights into the dark side of community gardening. For more information on community gardening, visit the American Community Gardening Association.


  • Brady, C. (2014). The Case Against Urban Agriculture. The Atlantic.
  • Community Garden Start Up Guide (2023). American Community Gardening Association.
  • Flora, C. (2017). Exploring the Cultural Significance of Community Gardens. Journal of Community Literacy.
  • Krasny, M., & Tidball, K. (2012). Community Gardens as Representational Spaces. Urban Ecosystems.
  • Pirog, R., & Benjamin, E. (2003). Checking the Food Odometer: Comparing Food Miles for Local versus Conventional Produce Sales to Iowa Institutions. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *