Gathering to garden

Many options for community gardens in Springfield

click to enlarge Gathering to garden
Enos Park Neighborhood Gardens is also a gathering place for events and cookouts.

When we think of community gardens, what usually comes to mind is a juicy strawberry or a tomato plucked fresh from the vine. While home-grown local produce is delightful, also keep in mind that community gardens function as a nexus of community. They are places to meet and get to know others with similar interests, to make connections and get involved in other community groups and events.

Community gardens are sprinkled throughout Springfield. Some are communal style, which means that volunteers help maintain and harvest a garden shared by all. Others provide personal plots for rent so gardeners can plant and harvest the garden of their dreams. Many gardens provide access to tools and water. If you do not have a sunny yard in which to garden, or if you seek to find camaraderie, look no further.

Butler Elementary School Community Garden

1701 S. MacArthur Blvd.

Contact: Alana Reynolds, 217-528-1563, [email protected]

Raised beds, containers and in-ground plots located throughout the school grounds grow a variety of vegetables, herbs and annual and perennial flowers. On the front lawn is a blackberry patch and monarch waystation. Garden leaders, volunteers, students and teachers maintain the gardens during the school year, and the produce is used during nutrition and cooking lessons.

The gardens are used as outdoor classrooms and all students and teachers participate in lessons aligned with learning standards. During the summer months, the garden is maintained with the help of volunteers, and produce is harvested and taken home by many families in the community.

Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church

501 S. Douglas

Contact: [email protected]


Garden boxes can be rented for $10, and there is one community strawberry box. The old, wooden deteriorating boxes are being replaced with metal boxes.

A blessing of the boxes/garden opening event at 11:30 on Sunday, April 3. All are welcome to come to service at 10:30 or just the garden event. First community work morning of the season Saturday, April 23, 9 am until noon, all skills welcome.

Enos Park Neighborhood Gardens

1022 N. Fifth St.

Contact: Carey Smith, 217-747-8337, [email protected]

Thirty raised beds plus three wheelchair-accessible beds make up the communal garden, where volunteers share in the work and share in the harvest. Volunteers meet three times weekly: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from 9-11 a.m. from May through September. Anyone can volunteer and take home fresh, organic produce.

The personal plots garden consists of 21 raised beds plus two wheelchair-accessible beds available to rent for $10/year (no one turned away for lack of funds). The rental fee provides access to tools, water, seeds, mulch and gardening assistance upon request. Personal plot gardeners may come at any time, but garden staff and volunteers will be on hand Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m. for mentoring.

The Neighborhood Gardens also contain a U-pick strawberry patch, free and open to the public in season, as well as a variety of newly-planted fruit trees, vines and bushes. A 1,600-square-foot prairie in two parcels was planted in early 2022.

Free educational classes and social events are offered throughout the season. A free farmers market will be held on site Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from 10-11 a.m. once harvesting begins later in May.

Iles School/Living Water Christian Ministries Garden

1405 E. Laurel St.

Contact: Noël Scott at Iles School, 217-525-3226

This communal garden is tended by Iles School students during the school year, and is also open to the public. There are 10 raised beds, two wheelchair-accessible beds and a smaller strawberry patch. Across the street at Iles School, a monarch garden has been planted.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Community Garden

801 E. Sangamon Ave.

Contact: Chuck Cawley or Doug Rathbun

[email protected], 217-558-7041

This nearly 1-acre garden is located at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Water, garden tools and compost are available on site for gardeners. Local residents of Springfield and the surrounding area may rent plots for the season. The garden consists of 175 individual 12' x 12' plots, and each plot costs $20. Tilling is available for an additional $10. Gardeners grow their own produce and care for their plots. Only the gardeners renting plots can harvest from the garden. Space is limited. Season began March 13.

Jefferson Park Community Garden

Jefferson Park, 300 N. Oxford Rd.

Contact: Sean Dickerson, 217-544-1751 ext 1012, [email protected]

This small community garden located at Jefferson Park consists of individual 10' x 20' plots, which cost $10 per plot. Water is available on site. Space is limited.  Season runs April 1–Nov. 1.

Lincoln Land Community College

Green Center - Community Garden

5250 Shepherd Rd.

Contact: Thomas Spears, 217-786-3675, [email protected]

LLCC's Community Garden consists of one-third acre with 42 raised beds. Water is available on site. The cost is $25 for the first bed and $15 for each additional bed with a maximum of four beds per individual. Open to all.

Motherland Gardens Community Project

815 S. 15th St.

Contact: Yves Doumen, 217-502-0718, [email protected]

This communal garden is open by appointment. Beehives will be installed in 2022, with private plots available for rent anticipated beginning in 2023. Gardening classes offered on-site.

Project Southtown

1310 S. 11th St.

Contact: George Sinclair, 217-553-2243

This communal-style garden has been on public hiatus with the pandemic, but is open to volunteers this year. Chickens and bees provide for educational opportunities, as well as fresh eggs and honey. Gardens include various beds plus a large asparagus patch.

The Spartan Garden at Southeast High School

2350 E. Ash St.

Contact: Kayla Morrison, [email protected] or The Spartan Garden Facebook page.

Southeast High School students and staff manage this garden, which consists of raised garden beds and is located in the field between the school and the football/track field. Seeds, tools and instructions are provided by staff and volunteers. Plants are grown by Southeast's own biology teacher, Andy Heck.

This garden provides produce to the culinary arts and nutrition programs at Southeast, but also functions as a community garden from April/May until October. Neighbors and community members are welcome and encouraged to come learn about gardening and take home free, fresh produce. A micropantry, little free library and small orchard are also located on site.


click to enlarge Gathering to garden
In the early days of the pandemic, Lynn Ehmen led an effort to create a garden at Washington Middle School that is open to the public to harvest and also provides fresh food for the micropantries around town.

University of Illinois at Springfield

Campus Community Garden

5255 Shepherd Rd.

Contact: Dr. Megan Styles, UIS Garden Faculty Adviser, [email protected]

The UIS Campus Community Garden provides hands-on learning opportunities for UIS students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the surrounding community. The garden demonstrates the school's commitment to sustainability and "leadership lived." The UIS garden is a true communal garden; the students plant and tend everything, and community members are welcome to help and harvest at any time.

This is an outdoor classroom where community members teach one another, share gardening tips and secrets and build lasting relationships. Participants cultivate fresh produce, build relationships and work to make our food system more sustainable. Barbecues, social events and weekly work days are offered during the gardening season.

Washington Middle School Communal Garden

2300 E. Jackson St.

Contact: Lynn Ehmen,

This large communal garden is free and open to the public to harvest. Any leftover produce is used to stock micropantries throughout Springfield.

If you are a new gardener, the world is filled with opportunities to learn. In addition to the endless opportunities the internet provides, Lincoln Library is offering free gardening classes via Zoom, and the University of Illinois Extension office provides many resources to gardeners.

Carey Smith manages the Enos Park Neighborhood Gardens, and is thrilled to have a job that marries her favorite interests: community and gardening. If your garden was omitted from this list, or if you have additions or corrections, please contact her at [email protected].

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