Starting a Community Garden: A how-to guide on the basics of starting a community garden

With the upcoming workshop being held by Wasatch Community Gardens on October 3rd about how to start a community garden (Register Here!), some folks may be wondering the fundamental basics in answering this question. Provided is an overview of the steps and processes of starting out and the essentials to have a successful thriving community garden.

What is a community garden and how does it work?
A community garden is a piece of land shared by friends and neighbors for growing vegetables and flowers, and providing opportunities for positive social interactions and recreation. To have a successful community garden is to create a system for decision-making and responsibility-sharing that works for you and your garden. A governance system that involves all members of the garden and interested community members in maintaining and organizing garden operations will support long-term success.

 
1Step 1: Forming a Planning Committee
Set up a team with committed members of the garden that is manageable that creates a process of shared ownership and responsibility for the success of the garden. This planning committee will be responsible for the initial planning stages, as well as the ongoing coordination and point of contacts for future references and questions.  Photo Credit: Clipart
 
Step 2: Envisioning Stage
2This stage is the developmental stage – the planning committee will come up with visions, goals, and objectives for the project brainstorming ideas and coming up with a solid starting foundation.
Questions to keep in mind are things such as:
  • Who is the garden for?
  • Where should or could the garden be located? Specify which neighborhood will be the focus.
  • What benefit does it bring to the community, what events could be held there, or programs ran?
  • How will the garden be laid out?
    Photo Credit: Brandeis University
 
Step 3: Choosing a site
After the number of parcels has been determined from the envision stage, investigating land options for the garden and finding that ideal piece of land.              

 

3Step 4: Site Assessment Criteria and Selection Process
Now does that piece of land have the potential for a garden? Consider the following key elements:
  • Sunlight & Shade
  • Soil
  • Water Access
  • Tool Box/Shed space
  • Composting area
  • Restrooms
  • Power
  • Number of plots
  • The Neighborhood
  • Vehicle Access & Parking
    Photo Credit: UK Land Development              
Step 5: Acquiring Permission to Use Land for Community Gardens
Find out who owns the land. Once you have this information, you can contact the owners with the project to initiate permission to use the land.

 

4Step 6: Generating and Assessing the Interest of the Community
Outreach to the neighborhood and the community for the new garden.  If there is positive feedback, you may have much easier access to gaining permission to use the land, but if it is not so positive it may be a good idea to search elsewhere.  Photo Credit: Razoo

 

Step 7: Planning the Garden
Define the goals and objectives from the gardens ideal use to determine how the garden should function. Once this is mapped out it is a good idea to have a 1-2 page document on the rules and regulations, and what is expected from the fellow gardeners.
 
5Step 8: Fundraising and Jobs
Now there may be some funds needed rather than just from the fellow gardeners in which fundraising may be a great option – start a budget and determine if this is a good option for you. Assign jobs to people from the committee, or someone new, that is willing to take on more responsibility to maintain the garden – such as a main contact who coordinates and designate plots to new folks, someone that handles the funds such as a treasurer, and a steward who handles repairs and ensures the rules are followed.  Photo Credit: Community First
 
6Step 9: Prepare and develop the site
Take those ideas and thoughts from the envisioning stage and the planning stage to turn them into reality! Make sure you are ready to get your hands dirty.  Photo Credit: Thayne Service & Learning
Step 10: Ongoing planning, new gardeners, & maintaining the site to promote a positive community relationship
Explain how the garden works to new members, to continue the ongoing planning and operations of the gardens with an orientation. Encouraging neighborhood support ensure longevity and maintains the ongoing goals of the garden, along with remaining optimistic to get you through all the bumps that may occur along the road7                                         Photo Credit: Off-Broadway Community Garden
 
Now you are prepared with the basic knowledge of starting your own community garden, we hope that you will come join us October 3rd for our How to Start a Community Garden Workshop – Register Here! If you still have questions or want much more detailed examples before and after, check out “From Neglected Parcels to Community Gardens: A Handbook” – it is full of resources and useful information which can be found here. Good luck and happy gardening!

 

Commentary provided by Trissta Hepting, WCG Outreach Intern

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Our mission is to empower people of all ages and incomes to grow and eat healthy, local, organic food. Become a blog contributor and share creative organic gardening tips, frustrating challenges/exciting successes in the garden, and information about local food! To learn more or sign up, send us an email to felecia@wasatchgardens.org. And make sure to check all our programs and events on our website wasatchgardens.org - You can sign up for our e-newsletter, learn how to join our gardening community, be one of our 1300 volunteers who make our events, programs and gardens possible, attend any of our 50 sustainable food and gardening classes, and support an organization that has served the community for more than 25 years. Sign up for our newsletter by going here: www.wasatchgardens.org/connect/newsletter-signup

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