Over the past five years, community gardens have really taken off in Spokane County. Today there are more than 20, and more are being added every year.
There is no central community garden organization and although many follow the same rules and regulations, all the gardens are individually run and managed by volunteers.
Some are on church or other private property.
Some are only available to residents of a specific apartment complex or social services program.
Some – like the Hillyard Pump House Garden and the East Central Community Garden – are located on property that belongs to the City of Spokane Water Department.
Since 2011 it’s been possible to establish a community garden in a park, like Grant Park Community Garden, as long as a neighborhood organization is willing to manage and sponsor it and gets approval from the Spokane Park Board.
The Spokane Regional Health District gave the community garden movement a major kick-start four years ago when it funded the East Central Community Garden, the West Central Community Garden, the Hillyard Pump House Garden and a garden at The Salvation Army. Funds came from a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health.
But starting a community garden does not have to involve park property and federal grants. The simple truth is that anyone can start one, even in a private backyard – no special permits are needed, but it may be a good idea to run the project past neighbors.
Of course, there are things to consider: lots of sunlight, good soil quality, access to water, nearby bus routes for those who don’t drive and how to cover startup costs such as garden bed frames, soil and a fence.
Most Spokane community gardens emphasize organic growing processes. Gardeners purchase access to a plot for a year at a time for between $15 and $25. Restaurants have plots as do some schools and neighborhood organizations.
Washington State University’s Extension Master Gardener Program continues to be a resource for all the community gardens, yet by far the best way to get involved is to simply show up at garden and lend a hand.