How to Start a Community Garden
A community garden is a great way to get the people around you on the same page about environmental stewardship. And according to some estimates, using food grown in a garden to replace 20 percent of store-bought food can reduce your carbon footprint by more than 60 pounds of CO2 per year. Here’s how to get it done.
1. Find out if your community could benefit. The first step is to make sure your community actually wants or needs a community garden. Reach out to different organizations, families, and schools in your area to determine what kind of garden is best for your community, and assemble a group of people who will help run the garden and keep things organized.
2. Find people to help you. Among those people interested in starting a garden, determine who has what skills (such as landscaping), and what any gaps in knowledge or skill are. Once you know who can do what, you can reach out to others with the skills the group may be lacking.
3. Figure out funding. Like anything, running a community garden costs money. Your group will need to figure out how much it will take to not only start the garden, but keep it running. Many community gardens collect dues from members, but that won’t always be sufficient to cover all the costs while keeping access to the garden affordable. You may need to find a sponsor to help fund the garden, or at least get things going.
4. Figure out a location. One of the most important aspects of planning a new community garden is securing the right spot. Not any old open area will do! You’ll want to choose a location that gets the appropriate amount of sunshine for the plants you plan to grow, and also has access to water and soil that’s suitable for growing. Once the site is selected, your group will need to figure out whether it can be purchased or leased, and if you’ll need insurance. It may be helpful to reach out to city planners to help determine this step.
5. Clear the land. When the site for the garden is secured, it’s time to get to work developing the land! Get a group of people together to clear the site and prepare it for growing. You’ll also want to figure out how the garden will be organized: How big will the individual plots be? How many plots can the space accommodate? Do you want to set aside some space just for kids?
6. Establish rules. To keep the garden running smoothly, the organizing group will need to set up rules and expectations for people who participate in the garden. Get everything in writing beforehand so newcomers to the garden will know what’s needed of them.
7.Build a community. Now it’s time to get growing! Once all of the logistics are in place and the garden is open, community members who join the garden will start planting and caring for their crops. You’ll also want to help foster a sense of community in the garden. Consider creating a Facebook page and/or website for the garden so members can keep in touch and plan events together.
(photo via Getty Images)