No yard? No problem! Community gardens are abundant in San Francisco. Sure, some have mile-long waiting lists and rigid commitment guidelines. But there are plenty of plots that are free and open to the public, so you and the kids can simply drop-in, get your hands dirty, and maybe even leave with something fresh-picked for dinner.

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Image courtesy of Alemany Farm

Brooks Park (Lake Merced)
In this enchanting park and garden space, kids can splash around inside a giant hand filled with fallen fog, keep an eye on a butterfly fountain and take in the view from atop a ten-foot-long cob bench that looks straight out of Pee Wee’s playhouse. In addition to wandering around the community garden, there’s often some dirty work to be done on the surrounding park land: Last winter, the park’s website made a plea for visitors to “bring a shovel” and go ahead and plant potted trees that were placed along the hillside into the soil.

Shields and Ramsell Sts.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: brookspark.org

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Image courtesy of Alemany Farm

Alemany Farm (Bernal Heights)
This three-and-a-half-acre organic farm produces up to 250 pounds of fruits and veggies each week, everything from leeks to lemons to loquats, much of which they donate to local residents in need. What used to be a dumping ground for old car parts and rusty appliances is now one of San Francisco’s largest and most successful community gardens. The farm encourages volunteers of all ages to drop by, get their hands dirty and learn about local agriculture during their community workdays: Every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month (noon–5 p.m.), every 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month (noon–5 p.m.), plus every Monday afternoon from 1-5 p.m. First-time visitors will be taken on an orientation tour of the farm when they arrive.

700 Alemany Blvd.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: alemanyfarm.org

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Image courtesy of Please Touch Community Garden

Please Touch Community Garden (Civic Center)
This mini urban oasis is tucked between two buildings on Grove Street, just steps from City Hall. Kids and adults alike will be captivated by this whimsical little space, sprouting with lettuces, beans, tomatoes and flowers. It was started in 2010 by a local artist who wanted to create an accessible garden for residents of the neighboring Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually impaired. The garden is open to the public on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., when, as the name implies, visitors are encouraged to run their hands through the soil, pull some weeds and get their hands on all that’s sprouting there.

165 Grove St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: pleasetouchgarden.org

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Image courtesy of Koshland Learning Garden

Koshland Learning Garden (Hayes Valley)
Situated right next to the newly renovated Koshland playground, this garden just calls to the kids. The 54-plot greenspace is tended by local residents and school children (18 plots are reserved for schools). They also host community workdays designed especially for the littles. The gardens are open everyday during park hours, and kids are encouraged to explore. And if they tire keeping tabs on the favas and okra, the park also features a half basketball court, an open green area, benches, and the aforementioned playground.

Page and Buchanan Sts.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: koshlandgarden.blogspot.com

image via loinlife.wordpress.com:

Image courtesy of loinlife

Tenderloin People’s Garden (Tenderloin)
An unexpected little corner of the Tenderloin is an explosion of cabbage, kale, beans, herbs and more. This well-kept garden transformed an unused city lot in 2010, and today volunteer gardeners can be spotted working away five days a week, tending to and harvesting food to be distributed to needy local residents—a creative solution to the problem of their not being a decent grocery store nearby. The gardeners invite helpers, big and small, to join them in the garden during the following hours: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3 p.m.–5 p.m.

Larkin and McAllister Sts.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: tndc.org

Suzanna Mitchell : ©2014 S.F. Giants:Mitchell

Image courtesy of Suzanna Mitchell : ©2014 S.F. Giants

AT&T Park (SoMa)
Planning on catching a ballgame this summer? Well now you and the kids can spend the seventh inning stretch among sprouting chard, chives, kale and avocado. AT&T Park just opened its edible garden in June, and concession stands are gearing up to offer items made with the inaugural crop. This teaching garden is aimed at kids, and will also be open during off-game days for classes and camps to swing by for a visit (and maybe even a lesson in kale salad composition by right fielder Hunter Pence, who is a kale convert).

24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107
415-972-1800
Online: sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com

koshland_community_garden

Image courtesy of Koshland Learning Garden

Garden for the Environment (Inner Sunset)
The whole family can get schooled in gardening basics at this one-acre organic demonstration garden. In addition to (low to no-cost) weekly workshops in everything from composting to low-water use landscaping, they welcome volunteers of all ages on Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.–4 p.m. to help with everything from pruning and weeding to planting and harvesting.

7th Ave and Lawton St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-558-8246
Online: gardenfortheenvironment.org

Good to know: When planning your trip to any of the gardens above, be sure to dress in layers and bring along water bottles, a hat, sturdy shoes, sunscreen and a snack.

If you’re ready to dig in and commit to a plot of your very own, email Melinda.Stockmann@sfgov.org to find out what’s available in your neighborhood.

For a full list of the community gardens run by the SF Rec & Parks department, go to: sfrecpark.org.

Do you have a favorite community garden? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

—Erin Feher