Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2021

The Montgomery County Community Gardens Program

By Karen A. Williams

Interest in all types of gardening has increased during the pandemic.  Many residents of our neighborhood have added or expanded gardens in their yards, focusing on vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, or native plants.  An opportunity for new or experienced gardeners to expand their efforts beyond their own yards is through community gardens.

Produce donated on 11 September 2021 by gardeners at Briggs Chaney Community Garden to Harvest Share, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting food insecurity in Montgomery County.  Cat Kahn, the founder of Harvest Share (, is in the middle.

Community gardens are large plots of land on which individuals care for their own sections.  Community gardens improve health through access to fresh foods, minimize the environmental impact of growing food, and provide opportunities to learn about gardening and develop relationships with other people sharing similar interests.

Throughout the pandemic, our community garden has been a sanctuary.  It nourishes us and provides a peaceful place where gardeners can get away from the challenges of day-to-day life.  Plus we get tomatoes! — Allen Perper, Garden Liaison for Briggs Chaney Garden and long-time resident of our neighborhood

Our County has a well-developed program for community gardens.  In 2008, then-Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin worked with the Montgomery County Department of Parks to establish the community gardens program.  The Montgomery County Community Gardens Program began with the opening of Sligo Mill Overlook Park in Takoma Park in 2009 and now includes 11 gardens distributed around the County.  The Program is managed by Michelle Nelson, who works closely with Garden Liaisons, volunteers in each garden who manage the day-to-day activities and issues.  A total of more than 500 plots are available for rent by County residents, ranging from 10 plots in the smallest garden to 118 in the largest garden.  New applications for plots are typically accepted beginning on the first Monday of February for the coming year.  A waiting list for each garden is created when the garden is full for the season.

The African spider flower, grown mainly for its leaves, is an example of the wide diversity of crops from around the world that are grown in Montgomery County community gardens.

All gardens are enclosed with deer fencing which ranges from seven to 10 feet in height.  Water is available at most gardens from early April until October.  Plot sizes range from 200 to 625 square feet, depending on the garden.  The gardens at Bradley and Parklawn Community Gardens have adaptive garden tables and other features to make them available for use by persons with disabilities.  Gardeners must follow organic gardening practices, and compost and wood chip mulch are provided as part of the program.  Each gardener is required to contribute eight hours of service each year to maintain the communal part of their garden or to participate in other communal activities.  Gardeners have opportunities to engage in community service activities and social events.

A view of Briggs Chaney Community Garden.

The community gardens closest to our neighborhood are the Long Branch Garden (2.1 miles), the Sligo Mill Overlook Garden (6 miles), the Fenton Street Garden (2.9 miles), the Park Garden Overlook (4.3 miles), and the Briggs Chaney Garden (4.8 miles).  For more information on the program, please visit

[Williams, USDA botanist and gardener at Briggs Chaney Community Garden, has lived in the neighborhood for 34 years.]   ■

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