Starting a community garden is a fantastic way to connect people from all walks of life in the production of healthy food, and to teach the next generation of children where food comes from and how it’s grown. Follow these community garden ideas to establish a successful — and sustainable — community garden.
1. Gather Your Team
Have you ever heard the saying, “No man is an island?” This is especially true when you want to start a community garden. The only way to ensure a manageable workload and long-term success is to gather a team of committed people with diverse talents who would like to contribute to the project. As well as those who want to participate and a local gardening expert (or a passionate home gardener), you’ll need people with skills in administration, social media, carpentry, art, law, nutrition, and everything in between. Once you have a strong core group, you’re ready to begin.
2. Create Some Guidelines
Before you search for land to start a community garden, work with your group to establish rules and guidelines that will govern how the garden will work. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- How will leaders be selected?
- What officers (if any) are needed?
- What will the members’ responsibilities be?
- How will these responsibilities be enforced?
- How will the plots be allocated to members? (consider family size, etc.)
- Who will look after the common areas?
- Where will funding come from? (membership dues, grants, sponsorships, fundraising)
- How will you protect the garden from vandalism?
When you first start a community garden, having these details as informal guidelines is usually sufficient. However, if you later expand and decide to incorporate, you will need to formalize these rules into bylaws.
3. Find a Site and Apply for Permission
You’ve established a group, you’ve written down your community garden ideas, now it’s time to find a site and apply to the city or regional council. Begin by finding out what provisions and associations are available for community garden projects in your area and whether there’s an application form you need to fill out in order to start a community garden. Sometimes, the council will be able to offer some land, or you’ll lease a vacant lot from a private owner. In either case, you will need a site that enjoys at least six hours of sun per day (for vegetables) and that has ready access to water for irrigation.
4. Create a Design
Now that you know where your garden will be, analyze the site thoroughly before working with your team to create a design. Factors that will influence the design include:
- Sun exposure (where and how much?)
- Wind and rainfall patterns
- The condition of the soil
- The location of any underground pipelines and cables
- The location of the plot
- The size of the plot
Before you start a community garden, it’s also wise to invest in a soil test to find out whether the soil is contaminated, as well as the pH and consistency of the soil. Investigating the history of the plot can help you to identify potential contaminants. If you discover that the soil is contaminated, consider building a vertical or above–ground garden that is separated from the ground and filled with compost.
Elements to Include in Your Design
In your design, you should include a storage shed and might also consider including special areas for children and a communal area with seating, shade, and plants for pollinators. Depending on the groups that will participate, you might need dedicated areas for school groups and nursing homes as well as a section for families and individuals.
5. Get to Work!
All of your work has finally paid off and you’re ready to start your community garden. You might need to level the ground at the start and then hold a series of working bees to build garden beds and fences, plant out and furnish the common areas, make compost, and put up signage and a rain-proof community noticeboard. A large sign out the front with the name of the garden will go a long way towards dissuading vandals and raises interest and awareness in the local community.
6. Maintain the Garden
Starting a community garden is a big effort in and of itself. Now, your group will need to keep the garden planted and clean to maintain good relations with your surrounding neighbors. As part of your community garden ideas and rules, be sure to include a clause about reassigning vacant plots, abandoned, or poorly maintained. This will help to keep the space beautiful and productive for everyone.
It’s also a good idea from the beginning to agree on a timeframe for the garden. In general, three years is enough time to establish the project and enjoy a few harvests without locking you into the project forever.
Fruit Growers Supply Can Help
If you’d like to start a community garden, Fruit Growers Supply has a wealth of community garden ideas, tools, products, and resources that can help your project get off the ground. From growing insights to gardening supplies and community connections, let us help you design and install your project for an abundant garden that your community can enjoy for years!