One of the best ways to meet new people and make new friends is to have kids.

One of the best ways to meet new people and make new friends is to have kids. No doubt about it, friend-making can be an absolute desert without kids. Children are the number one thing that brings families, neighbors, and strangers together. When a new family moves onto the block, parents meet each other at the park, school, or while passing each other on their daily walk.

My daughter, Sarah, moved to New York City a couple of years ago and made several friends. She had her first child last August and made quite a few more friends – all with children. You may thinking, "What in the world does this have to do with living GREEN?" Simply everything!
You may be thinking a city as big as New York is a virtual wasteland of green space, flora, and fauna. I have to admit, outside of Central Park, the city may not be largely diverse in native flora. However, small communities in New York have come up with some brilliant ideas of to use vacant lots for shared green garden spaces.

Across the street from the apartment where Sarah lives one such community garden is located. It is surrounded by a beautiful tall wrought iron fence with a lock. Residents within a certain geographical vicinity may apply for a key for $10. This fee helps to support the garden.

The garden is well-designed with several different small landscape areas: an herb garden, Chinese Zen, and other general flowing areas with small trees and flowers that adorn meandering trails and footstones. Benches are dotted throughout that create secretive rest spots. Somehow this one-third acre garden stretches to accommodate an entire community.

The really ingenious part of this is the back garden area is divided into separate vegetable plots and fenced behind the front landscape. The lucky patrons of these highly coveted plots have had their name on the list and waited for one for many years. They only get a plot when someone else gives it up. Those who have a vegetable garden plot, in return care for the front garden for the rest of the community. Each grower is in charge of a specific flower garden area, or a task in the landscape (i.e. mowing (with a non-powered mower), caring for the apiary (bee hives), watering, etc.).

On Sundays, the vegetable growers give guided tours of the whole garden, front and back. It is a very open, free-spirited, and inviting environment. This spring an ornithologist gave spring migratory bird "hikes" (remember, this is a teeny-tiny garden) but they still recorded over 60 migratory species that stopped by that day. Just think – what if that little piece of paradise had not been here!
It is always good to look and see what other communities are doing with their green spaces. To Sarah, it is a maintenance-free backyard – and a great way to meet new friends, too!

Lynn Youngblood is a Kansas City-based naturalist who writes for Gatehouse Media.