I've always sort of know that community gardens exist, but I didn't realise how common they were, or how amazing they were, until about last month when I first visited Arkwright Meadows Community gardens and now I'm hooked.

In case you've never heard of, or been to, a community garden I'm here to share with you today. The photos in this post are from Arkwright Community (AMC) Garden's summer festival where I was invited to talk about zero waste so I'm going to talk about that, and community gardens as a whole! Let's get going.

I grew up around gardening, both my Mum and my Nan have owned allotments and I would spend a lot of time in my childhood running around in raspberry patches and helping to plant bulbs. Since moving to uni I haven't had any semblance of a garden apart from a block of concrete out of my back door. But I didn't realise how much I'd missed the environment of being around fresh growing fruit and veg, that feel of being in an allotment, in touch with nature, until I visited AMC Gardens and I realised how calm it made me feel. I miss the sea living in Nottingham, I always used to go down to the beach to de-stress but a garden can really have the same affect; on me at least.

But what do you actually do at a community garden?
I used to think that community gardens were just places you could go and visit to spend some time sitting around with nature, that they were just for visiting and observing. But I was definitely wrong there.

There's an awful lot you can do at a community garden, though it varies a little from garden to garden, generally you can: volunteer as a gardener, buy cheap organic fruit and veg, buy plants, spend time relaxing, get involved in community events, rent an allotment space, and a whole lot more.

At Awkwright Meadows specifically they hold kids clubs, yoga classes, sell fresh, straight from the plant, produce as well as plants and seeds, they have a tandoor oven for rent, run cooking classes, cycling events, a seasonal celebration and more! I've only been to a couple of their events but the atmosphere was amazing, as was the food!

The general idea with community gardens is that they're run by and for the community so each one will have slightly different events, and I'm sure if you get involved you can even suggest or run events and workshops yourself.

The environmental Impact
Food production accounts for 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions [1] with emissions produced in every part of the process. There are of course lots of factors that go into this but if you're looking to eat more locally and become more sustainable through your food then they're usually as local as you can get without growing all the food yourself. The food industry is becoming increasingly owned by huge companies with little regard for the environment but with local produce like this you know exactly where the food is coming from, how it's grown, and how far it's transported to get to you, plus you get to support your local community and economy in the process.

Even if you don't buy the produce from your local garden being in touch with the natural environment is also a great way to learn about the effects of humans on the world, and to learn how to treat the world better. You can learn hands on the life cycle of food as well as the seasons of various plants which means gaining knowledge to make more informed, conscious, and sustainable choices with the food you choose to buy. People nowadays are more out of touch than ever about where their food comes from and a lot of it is because we simply don't spend as much time outdoors as we used to and it's now become almost a luxury to garden and grow.

Getting children involved with nature helps with both their development and their appreciation for the natural world too! My mum likes to take credit for my commitment to the environment as I spent a whole lot of my childhood outdoors, gardening, and learning about the world. And she can definitely take a lot of the credit, spending my younger years surrounded by plants has had a huge impact on how I view the world and the appreciation I have for my food and the environment. And you don't have to have your own garden, or any knowledge about gardening, to enjoy and learn from a community garden. Spending time with nature is especially important for children who live in very urban areas as low childhood exposure to nature is associated with worse mental health through to adulthood.[2] So if you don't have access to a garden at your own home community gardens can offer amazing respite for all sorts of people.
Back to the Summer Festival
As I said earlier in this post all of the photos were taken at Arkwright Community Garden's summer festival, a wonderful day full of music, food, and sustainability. With Dr. Bike giving free bicycle repairs, Enva giving out tips on recycling, Penney Poyzer gave an amazing talk on food waste, lots of plants and veggies were sold and there was a fair bit of rain too (it is British summer after all).

I had people making pledges for the environment as part of the Year of Green Action (for which I am an ambassador), was talking about hard to recycle items, gave a talk on starting zero waste living, oh and ate quite a bit of vegan cake.

One of the #yearofgreenaction pledges that got me was one that looked like it was from a small child that just said "please dont chuk plastic in the osharn" which honestly broke my heart a little bit.

My talk was attended by a small group of people and we had some really good conversations about waste and becoming more sustainable, and it also gave me some more ideas for workshops and talks I can make in the future!

Overall it was just a lovely lovely day with some lovely lovely people. If you're in the meadows area then I definitely recommend going along to one of their events. It may look a little quiet in pictures, but I assure you turn out was good! There were just lots of small children around so most of my pictures were working to avoid taking pictures of them.

Unfortunately I don't live that close to The Meadows and so Arkwright isn't too practical for me to volunteer at but I will be volunteering at a different community garden sometime soon I am sure. There are plenty in Nottingham. and I will tell you exactly where...

Community Gardens in Nottingham:
Bulwell - Bulwell Forest Garden 
Clifton - Summerwood Community Garden
Hyson Green - Windmill Community Gardens 
Long Eaton - Long Eaton Community Garden
Meadows - Arkwright Meadows Community Garden 
Sneinton - Green's Mill Community Garden 
St Anns. - Eco Works
Stapleford - Dig in Community Allotments

 Visit your local community garden!
If these pictures and descriptions of what community gardens are all about and how they can benefit you and the environment haven't persuaded you to at least check out your local garden then I'm not sure I can help. Just give it a go, you know you want to.

Honestly you get a community of people together completely transforming a space from an empty field or neglected space to a community hub and I think that is amazing, and that more people need to get involved in them. Not only for the environment and the community but for themselves. Soil has microbes in which create a happy and relaxed feeling, plus by gardening you learn so much more about where your food comes from, what vegetables are in season when, and just become more in tune with the environment.

Want to set up your own? 
If there isn't one in your area then you can set one up yourself, check out the RHS guide on setting up a community garden for some tips to get started, including sustainability tips. But be wary they're not a small undertaking and take an awful lot of time an effort to build and maintain. You'll need a small team of people and a lot of determination.

Overall, I just want to emphasise getting in touch with nature, however that is, as well as your local community. So get out there and get connected!

And thank you to AMC Gardens for asking me to do the talk and get involved. I'm sure I'll be back!

If you know of a community garden in your local area then please do let me know! I'd love to include places outside of Nottingham in my above lists.

[1] https://foodsource.org.uk/sites/default/files/chapters/pdfs/foodsource_chapter_3.pdf
[2] https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/16/10/1809/htm