This year, I made jars and jars of mincemeat. I’m rather fond of the stuff, and now my freezer is full of it. Where did I get the raw materials? From the green tomatoes that I grew in my own garden, of course! The intriguing bit is that the garden is not really my own: it’s my neighbor’s, and I get to grow food there for free.
How Does Yard Sharing Work?
Yard sharing is becoming more and more popular as a way for the landless to garden. While there are community garden spaces, they’re really popular and often have long waiting lists. At the same time, acres of land in the suburbs goes unused, sitting under the green of a lawn that someone spends time mowing. How about putting that lawn to work? That’s what yard sharing sites like Sharing Backyards do.
This past spring, I went to the local yard sharing site and saw that someone had posted a yard in my neighborhood, just a ten-minute walk away from my house. We connected through the site, and then we met for coffee to see if we’d be a good match. After a year of gardening in a yard share, I have a much better understanding of the process. Here’s what I’ve learned about yard sharing.
Setting up the Boundaries
A yard share is a relationship, and relationships need to have boundaries. At the beginning, you need to clarify how your relationship will work. Who owns the plants? The produce? Who spends money on seeds? When can you access the property? In our case, I bought or sourced the mulch materials and seeds and shared the produce with our yard share partners, who also did some of the watering.
Creating a Work Schedule
Speaking of watering, you’ll need some ongoing garden maintenance. I did all of the work of setting up the garden, and I shared the watering with my yard share partners. The way you work is up to you.
Considering Your Investment
How much do you want to put into the yard share? I did place a couple of perennials into the garden, but most of my investment is in annual vegetables. I can save their seeds so that there won’t be as much of a cost next year. That way, if my yard share partners ever move, I won’t need to dig up my plants!
Hedging your Bets
I’m not really landless: I have a garden, but it is too shady to grow a lot of food. I also have food like sprouts growing inside my house. However, I wanted a place to garden big and garden outdoors, so I looked for a yard share. However, I know that things happen: the owners could move, and the new owners might not want to share with me. I am looking for a second garden, and I’m also focusing on growing my own sprouts and microgreens inside my home.
You can grow good food in just a small space. This book can tell you everything you need to know:
The Benefits of Yard Sharing
Why share someone’s garden?
- It grows food for your family. Of course, this is probably the reason you want a garden. When you grow food to eat or preserve, you don’t need to buy it from the store. You can even save some of the seeds to grow in your garden next year.
- It uses unused land. I look at all of the big green lawns in our suburban neighborhood, and mentally I turn them all into food gardens. This gives me a chance to actually dig into one of those lawns and use that unused land.
- It allows you to hone your gardening skills. If you’re a city dweller, it can be hard to find land where you can try gardening on a larger scale, grow food in quantity, and make and learn from your mistakes. Yard sharing gives you the space to learn.
- It builds community. The folks who own the yard were pleased to have us gardening there. We shared some of the produce and even got to partake in some delicious homemade bread!
- Yard-sharing develops skills and interest in growing food. Those who yard share might have little time to grow food, but they may want to learn how to do it. By involving other families and your children, you help create community knowledge about food gardening.
‘Borrowing’ a Yard
Sharing someone else’s yard really works for my family. While I was nervous at first, after a successful first year, I am looking forward to the 2013 gardening season.
Would you consider a yard share?