Community gardens are popping up on Long Island like weeds after a rainstorm. These are spaces where you can claim a plot of land for a season to grow whatever suits your fancy (as long as it's legal) and keep what you harvest. It's an ideal setup for those who dream of tending to rows of heirloom tomatoes but don't have the space in their own backyard to sow the seeds.

"I've done it for the last 15 years and look forward to it every spring," says Patty Rauchut, 54, who owns a massage therapy center in Great Neck. "I grow herbs, catnip, basil, all different kinds of lettuce, squash, peas, cucumbers." 

HOW IT WORKS

Community gardens are open for gardeners of all skill levels. A water source is provided - all you need are seeds or plants and the zest to nurture.

Many gardens are organic and require their growers to follow suit by using only on-site mulch, compost or natural fertilizer in their plots. Some invite gardeners to donate some of the produce to a food pantry. All ask growers to respectfully refrain from pilfering crops from neighboring plots.

Here's a look at community garden sites that still have land available this year, in alphabetical order by town.

BROOKHAVEN

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Where: Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Brookhaven, 631-451-6968

Eligibility: Town of Brookhaven residents
Cost: Free
Plot size: 10-foot by 5-foot, 4-foot-by-4-foot

The small space has just a handful of raised beds, which are watered by the town's lawn sprinkler system - but staffers say the garden may be expanded if there's interest from growers.

DEER PARK

Where: Edith Salzer Organic Community Garden, 808 Nicholls Rd., 631-957-7474

Eligibility: Deer Park residents
Cost: $10 ($5 ages 60 and older)
Plot size: 10 feet by 30 feet and 10 feet by 15 feet

Fifty-five plots are available.

EAST HAMPTON

Where: Long Lane, administered by East End Community Organic, 631-329-4694, eecofarm.org

Eligibility: Open to all
Cost: $175 ($125 for a second plot after your first year)
Plot size: 20 feet by 20 feet

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Growers plant in raised beds following organic gardening practices. "We have a spread from millionaires to people who have trouble coming up with $175," says master gardener Peter Garnham. "The thing they have in common is that they want to grow their own food, food they can trust."

GREAT NECK

Where: 105 Clover Dr., through the Great Neck Adult Education Program, 516-773-1720

Eligibility: Great Neck residents only
Cost: $50 per year
Plot size: 10 feet by 20 feet

Growers must make or bring in their own organic compost.

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HUNTINGTON

Where: Dunlop and Greenlawn roads, 631-351-3186

Eligibility: Huntington residents
Cost: $25 ($15 ages 62 and older)
Plot size: 20-foot-by-30-foot plots at Robert M. Kubecka Memorial Organic Garden; 5-foot-by-20-foot and 4-foot-by-20-foot plots at Clifford Soergel Outreach Garden (vegetable donation only).

"This place is such a diamond in the rough. It is so peaceful coming out here," says longtime gardener Kathleen Kufs, 50. Free seeds and seedlings are available for those growing donation crops at the Outreach Garden. A master gardener is often on-site and some raised beds are handicapped accessible.

NEW SUFFOLK

Where: Foot of Main Street, 631-566-0806, newsuffolkwaterfront.org

Eligibility: Open to all
Cost: Free (donations appreciated)
Plot size: At least 3 feet by 6 feet

Farmer K.K. Haspel of The Farm in Southold will teach participants biodynamic growing methods in raised beds.

PATCHOGUE / BELLPORT

Where: 510 Narragansett Ave., East Patchogue, 631-286-6356

Eligibility: Patchogue and Bellport residents
Cost: Free
Plot size: 10 feet by 4 feet

The space has raised beds - including some that are handicapped accessible. Growers are asked to refrain from planting genetically modified seeds.

RIVERHEAD

Where: Hallockville Museum Farm, 6038 Sound Ave., 631-298-5292, hallockville.com

Eligibility: Open to all
Cost: $50
Plot size: 20 feet by 20 feet

In-ground plots only and growers aren't permitted to plant perennials, trees or bushes.

SOUTHOLD

Where: Charnews Farm, 3005 Youngs Ave. and Hortons Lane, 631-283-3195, peconiclandtrust.org

Eligibility: Open to all
Cost: $50-$100
Plot size: 4-foot-by-12-foot raised beds

"We're trying to teach people to grow eight months a year in a small area," says coordinator Denise Markut. The garden is fenced to protect plants from deer - and the soil is prepared by members of the Peconic Land Trust.

WYANDANCH

Where: 20 N. 14th St. (through Town of Babylon), 631-957-7430

Eligibility: Wyandanch residents
Cost: Free
Plot size: 5 feet by 10 feet, 4 feet by 10 feet and 3 feet by 10 feet

Free seeds and starter plants are available for growers at this 20-plot community garden.