Community Gardens

How to start a community garden.


community garden in the cityForming a group
The first step is to form a planning committee. The group will begin by:

  • Identifying and galvanizing support for the project from interested gardeners and civic leaders.
  • Involving the people who are to benefit from the garden in all phases of the planning process.
  • Organizing a meeting of interested people.
  • Selecting a well-organized garden coordinator.
  • Approaching sponsors, if necessary. Many businesses involved in gardening provide grants and supplies to community gardens.

Getting organized: Once a committee has addressed the initial issues, involve all participants in setting rules, electing officers, and determining dues and their uses. New gardening groups need structure, especially the first year, to make sure work is divided equally and responsibilities are clear.

Topics covered by garden rules may include conditions of membership, assignment of plots, maintenance of common areas, and ways of enforcing the rules. Leave room for rules to grow along with membership.

Finding a Site
Look for a site that is well suited for gardening—lots of sun (with nearby shade for weary gardeners), safe soil (not polluted by former uses), and a water source are all vital. In many locations, security is essential, too, especially during the early stages before the garden has generated neighborhood support. Parking and easy access for the gardeners will help increase participation. Nearby restrooms are also often needed.

Municipal agencies, such as parks commissions and public housing and community development offices, may grant access to garden space. State departments of transportation, agriculture, or housing may also have land to offer. Schools, churches, railroads, nature centers, community colleges, utility companies, senior centers, and community centers are other potential garden space providers.

Vacant lots are very inviting to new community garden groups. The challenge often is ownership of the land. In more than a few instances, community garden groups have devoted their time and resources to cleaning up and improving abandoned properties, only to have long-absent owners reassert their control of the plot after it has been revitalized.