Urban gardens are any gardens that exist in an urban setting, while community gardens are located in public spaces or commonly-held land and shared. Community gardens may be individual plot gardens where each person has their own space in which they grow food and they personally maintain. A group garden is a collaborative approach wherein all gardeners share in the planning, care and harvest. Mixed plot gardens incorporate both of the previous types. Community gardens are “often associated with revitalization of urban lands through neighbourhood beautification and restoration, transformation and care for previously un-maintained landscapes, and urban greening.”
In their handbook to starting a community garden, Alberta Health Services recommends the following steps to establishing successful urban and community gardens:
Secure sufficient interest. A needs assessment should be completed to ensure there is sufficient interest to establish a community garden. Encourage diversity in membership.
Set up a garden committee. Having a committee to guide the activities of the community garden can be useful to delineate roles and responsibilities, a calendar of events and engage the broader community.
Build partnerships. Determine what is required to establish the garden (building planter boxes, landscaping, sourcing supplies, etc.). The garden committee can be tasked with securing partnerships with organizations that can provide supplies, capacity-building, donations, trades, advice and other support.
Budget. Once a budget is developed, community gardens can seek funding or sponsorships, or can rely on member fees. Charging a fee for participation may be limiting to low-income residents, so this should be taken into consideration when budget planning.
Site selection. An ideal site for a community garden will have good growing conditions and access to water. The location should be safe and accessible and available based on zoning and land use policies, regulations or bylaws in place. If a garden is to be planted in the ground rather than in raised beds, soil should be tested and underground utility lines mapped. The surrounding community should be consulted in the site selection process.
Planning and design. The garden committee can design the garden to consider its appearance, functionality and accessibility (e.g., space between planters), environmental goals, signage, safety and room for growth.
Guidelines. A list of guidelines for garden users will typically include safety considerations, expectations of conduct in the garden, tasks and roles, contact lists, any forms such as waivers or fees and a process to follow should guidelines be breached. Guidelines and expectations for the community garden should be posted in a visible location on-site and protected from the elements.
It is recommended that the landowner of the community garden (whether this is the municipality or a private landowner) maintain liability insurance to cover the gardening activities and any issues that may arise. Municipalities, community groups or developers leading the establishment of community gardens should encourage diversity of membership and ensure accessibility to all interested parties. Local governments can make use of vacant land where appropriate to set up a community garden. This example of NBS has the potential to support high-needs neighbourhoods and combat green gentrification wherein low-income neighbourhoods have disproportionately low access to green space.
The Business Side
Community gardens can increase property values in adjacent neighbourhoods, particularly in the revitalization of vacant or underutilized space. Unless vacant land needs to be remediated (link to brownfields chapter), it can be relatively low-cost for a municipality to establish a community garden on existing unused space, increasing the productivity, aesthetic appeal and safety of vacant lands. Multiple streams of funding can be accessed (i.e. from municipal, provincial or federal sources, private foundations, companies supporting community development initiatives, etc.) to offset the cost of establishing a community garden, including grants, sponsorship and in-kind support from community members. The value of the food produced and the corresponding savings on grocery bills for gardeners is another economic impact of this NBS.
The Nature Side
Urban and community gardens increase biodiversity, support pollinators and introduce plant life to places that may have otherwise been lawn, vacant space or simply concrete (e.g., balcony gardens). Plants in these gardens absorb stormwater, produce oxygen, sequester carbon and can provide shade, for example from an orchard or similar large planting.
The Community Side
Community gardens generate social opportunities, cross-cultural interactions and social cohesion, as well as recreational and educational opportunities for the neighbourhood. Lower food bills and quality produce are other benefits of community and urban gardens, especially for low-income communities. This example of NBS may increase food security for participants and their families.
Gardens add nature to urban and periurban areas and provide people with a way to connect to nature and their environment. Community gardens have been linked to “significant improvements in participant mental health.” Physical health benefits also result from access to fresh produce and spending time in nature.
This NBS provides “robust alternatives to vacant plots which are often associated with undesirable impacts including heightened criminal activity, dumping and safety hazards” and can promote a sense of improved safety for residents. Community gardens can increase property values in adjacent neighbourhoods and could be planned for in new developments.
 Cochran, S. & Minaker, L. 2020. The Value in Community Gardens: A Return on Investment Analysis. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue Canadienne Des Études Sur L’alimentation, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 154–177.
 Alberta Health Services. 2019. Community Gardens Handbook - How to start and maintain a Garden: A Guide for Community Groups in Alberta. Alberta Health Services.
,  &  Cochran, S. & Minaker, L. 2020. The Value in Community Gardens: A Return on Investment Analysis. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue Canadienne Des Études Sur L’alimentation, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 154–177.
Alberta Health Services. 2019. Community Gardens Handbook - How to start and maintain a Garden: A Guide for Community Groups in Alberta. Alberta Health Services.
Cochran, S. & Minaker, L. 2020. The Value in Community Gardens: A Return on Investment Analysis. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue Canadienne Des Études Sur L’alimentation, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 154–177.