Community Gardens

By Marilyn Thomson, Certified Master Gardener 

Zinnias and vegetables at Fort Barnard Community Garden

Zinnias and vegetables at Fort Barnard Community Garden
Photo © 2018 Marilyn Thomson

A community garden is a parcel of land generally located in an urban area cultivated by an individual or a group of people. These parcels are usually rented, can be on private or public land, and are for the benefit of those who tend the garden. Fruit and vegetables are grown for sustenance. Ornamental and flowering plants are grown to aid pollination and for their visual beauty.

Community gardens exist widely in many parts of the world. In the United States, they originated during the economic recession of the 1890s. Detroit was the first city to have a municipally sponsored urban gardening program. This program provided the high number of unemployed residents with access to vacant land throughout the city, seeds, tools, and instructions on how to grow food, making it easier for them to feed their families. Detroit’s program was a success and cities across the country proceeded to develop similar programs.

During the 1960s and 1970s, communities and grassroots organizations built community gardens to promote environmental stewardship and revitalize neighborhoods affected by urban flight and decline.

Some of the different types of community gardens are:

  • Neighborhood gardens, the most common, consist of a group of people who come together to grow food and ornamental plants in a rented public or private parcel of land.
  • Residential gardens are organized, maintained, and shared by residents of a particular community, such as apartment, condominium, assisted living, or affordable housing.
  • Institutional gardens are associated with public or private organizations that provide services to specific populations, such as those requiring mental or physical rehabilitation and skill training.
  • Demonstration gardens are managed by Master Gardeners, who provide research-based education on sustainable landscape management practices.

City of Alexandria Community Gardens

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Through community gardens the City of Alexandria helps to increase residents’ access to locally grown, environmentally sustainable foods as part of the Healthy Food Alexandria initiative. These gardens provide public land for residents to grow fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants.

Community gardens located within the City of Alexandria:

For more information about these gardens or to start your own garden you may contact Park Operations at 703-746-5496, or

Arlington County Community Gardens

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Community gardens in Arlington County strive to increase access to affordable and healthy food and to engage residents in a hands-on approach to improving their community.

Community gardens located within Arlington County:

  • South Four Mile Run Drive along the bike trail
  • 9th Street South and South Buchanan Street along the bike trail
  • Fort Barnard at South Walter Reed Drive and South Pollard Street
  • South Glebe Road and South Lang Street
  • North Barton Street and 10th Street North
  • 9th Street South and South Rolfe Street
  • 1601 Key Boulevard

For more information about these gardens or to start your own garden you may contact the Program Coordinator at 703-228-7872 or


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