How to Start a Community Garden: 9 Steps to Follow
Some people have the advantage of owning a house with a garden and enjoying some fresh veggies or herbs all year long. Nevertheless, when you live in the city, and your apartment can only host a few herb containers on the balcony, you begin thinking about fresh produce grown with love.
Moreover, many people in urban communities have a hard time finding fresh and healthy food for their families. When it comes to getting some delicious produce, we rarely take the time to think where the food comes from, especially since we are always on the go.
If you are looking to make sure you get a healthy dose of homegrown vitamins, or you keep your family healthy and happy with fresh produce, it is time to learn how to start a community garden. We are here today to show you X steps to take to turn the community garden into a success story.
1. Talk to Interested Parties
If you have neighbors or friends who also want to make some smart lifestyle choices, talk to them about how to start a community garden together. In this meeting, you should establish whether the garden is really wanted or needed. Moreover, this is the time you draft out your plan:
- Is this a vegetable garden, a fruit garden, or both?
- Is this going to be a fully organic garden or not?
- Whom will it involve and whom will it benefit?
Invite neighbors, friends, tenants, and other interested people (including horticultural specialists or NGOs active in such fields) and put up a plan together.
2. Create a Garden Planning Committee
While signing documents and filing paperwork is not exactly something to embrace when you want to build a community garden, it is sometimes necessary. The committee should comprise people who are really committed to the idea and have some experience not only with gardening but also with other fields of expertise you will need and bump into very soon.
The committee members need to tackle some important issues such as legislation, funding, partnerships, building, communication, periods, and unforeseen issues when they appear.
Even if you resent the idea of documents, you should, however, draft one stating the garden rules, the building plan, the resources, etc.:
- How are you going to run things once they are set?
- Who is in charge of maintenance?
- How is harvesting going to happen?
- What about the allocation of crops?
3. Identify Your Resources and Backup
Among the first things you need to establish before anything else is the land and the funding. First, check the zoning codes of your area and city. They are not the same everywhere, so you need people who actually know what they are doing.
You should only claim a piece of land that is zoned for gardening. You can contact some city planners to learn where and how you can claim your land and start building your garden. Knock on horticulturist and agricultural associations’ doors and ask for assistance.
You need to tackle issues like sunlight, pollution, irrigation, soil problems, zoning, and much more. Look for people in your community with skills in gardening, landscaping, agriculture, law, and so on.
4. Bring on a Sponsor
One of the most important things to think about before even deciding on a land to claim is who is going to pay for everything. There are, of course, many self-supporting community gardens. People pay from their own pockets, knowing they will have a return of their investment in the future. However, a sponsor can help you with money, tools, seeds, workforce or know-how.
5. Prep Your Land
If you solved all the legal issues and the zoning problems, (considering the land is not the subject of legal disputes or does not come with all sorts of restrictions), it is time to prep your land from all points of view. First, make sure your community’s interests are protected:
- Sign a proper lease/rent contract.
- Pay for some insurance.
- Check the utility bills and the taxes you will have to pay.
- Make sure no authority will destroy your garden next year due to some legislation loops.
- Make sure no contractor has a building permit transforming your garden into a residential complex in two years and so on.
Moreover, this is the step where you think about other issues besides the fertility of the soil: parking opportunities, accessibility requirements, fencing and security, irrigation, electricity, and so on.
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6. Develop the Site
If you have all documents in order and things run smoothly with local authorities and other interested parties, it is time to do what you always wanted: develop the garden.
You need some organization, so establish volunteer teams to work on the soil, clean it, dethatch it if necessary, aerate, and amend it with healthy solutions for your future veggies, fruits, or flowers to grow in harmony. This is the perfect time to establish how your garden is going to look and what it will work.
If you want to take a more organic approach, consider adding companion plants for some vegetables, nourishing the soil with compost and other healthy materials, introducing pollinators and companion insects and so on.
7. Organize the Garden
When you draft the garden plan, don’t forget to also design plots, pathways in between plots, and technical spaces (storage spaces for tools and substances, a proper space for making compost, a children’s space to play while parents work in the garden or pick what they want for supper, etc.).
Make sure you also plant shrubs and flowers together with crops to promote pollinators and beneficial insects and add bush fences around the garden to promote goodwill with other people, authorities, neighbors, and the city’s aesthetic regulations.
8. Think for the Future
If your lease or rent contract is long-term, you can plan on the long-term as well. This means including children as an essential part of your community and of their education. Children will care less about the size of the harvest or the administrative issues you need to solve. They will care about the process of gardening and the miracle happening before their eyes.
Besides setting a recreational space for them to wait for you while you work or harvest the garden, the little ones may need some gardening space of their own. You will feed them not only fresh produce but love and respect for nature and for being a part of their community.
9. Become a Community
Many people are willing to work together in order to get something done, but this does not qualify as a real community yet. If you were drawn together by a certain need, you still have a few steps to take to become a real community with strong ties.
- Communication and partnership are the first things to consider.
- Make sure all the members enjoying the harvest are informed about everything.
- Make sure you all meet and have some fun time together.
- Keep everybody in the loop by mail, or social media groups.
- Brag together about your garden to attract media coverage and potential future partners, volunteers, sponsors, and help.
- Take part in the garden celebrations.
- Help your neighbors when in need.
- Plan some fun gardening activities with families and children to establish emotional ties and build trust, strength, cooperation, and friendship.
How to Start a Community Garden: The Conclusion
It all begins with some passionate people who really want to solve a problem in their community and are willing to put their money and hard work where their mouths are. Everything else is about hard work, commitment to something greater, and love.
These were our nine steps on how to start a community garden. If you have other ideas, you feel we forgot something, or you just want to tell your story about successful community gardens, we invite you to use the comments section below!