A community garden is usually a wide open space available to the community where an individual or group has the opportunity to plant vegetables or flowers, sometimes for an annual fee, depending on how the garden is funded. Many community gardens even offer demonstrations and classes on getting started, gardening tips, and nutrition. Setting up a community garden involves work, but it can be lots of fun and a very rewarding experience.
Finding Community Members With Interest
Before starting a community garden, you need to make sure others in your community are interested. Send out flyers and get others interested to spread the word. Perhaps you can purchase an ad in the local newspaper. You’ll want to talk to everyone from building superintendents to community organizations and gardening societies.
Once you get enough people interested, plan on organizing a meeting. You need to figure out what everyone’s interests are. Some people may want vegetables, while others may only want flowers. If this is the case, you may have to create a community garden that allows both. You will also want to form a planning committee to help complete specific tasks. These are people who should be devoted to the garden and who have time to ensure success. This committee can help find funding, partnerships, construction and organize activities.
Some community gardens are funded by renting plots which are sectioned off to someone in the community. They would pay an annual fee for their piece of the garden and they can plant what they please, as according to garden rules set prior. Seeds and plants are normally provided under this model but soil and water commonly is.
Another option, or something to consider in addition to charging annual fees, is funding from a sponsor. Sponsorships from churches, schools, local businesses or parks departments are often essential in keeping the garden alive. Donations can come in forms of money, seeds and even tools. Your planning committee should be able to help organize and contact people for possible sponsorships.
Choosing Your Land
When choosing a space for the community garden, consider the amount of work that will be needed to get the garden going. If there is a lot of concrete, it could require more work than you would like. You should also consider the surroundings. The garden will need to be able to receive natural sunshine, usually about six hours per day for vegetables. Make sure water will be available as necessary and test the soil for possible pollutants. Some other considerations would be to find out if you can get a lease agreement of at least three or more years and if liability insurance is needed.
Preparing the Land for Use
This all depends on the condition of the land currently in the location you’ve chosen. You may have to break apart concrete or remove large tree stumps for example. For the concrete, you will likely need to rent a jackhammer or if you like hard work, a sledgehammer. If you have stumps in the property, you should consider hiring a tree removal service. If you have a truck, it may be possible to pull the stump out with a tow chain, but be careful not to damage your vehicle or pipes that the stump roots could be wrapped around.
Once the land is clear of debris, you will need to begin preparing the dirt. Pull large weeds out by their roots so they don’t overtake the garden later. Then you will need to rototill the land. You can usually rent a large rototiller from the local hardware store for a decent price. Depending on the amount of land you have, the larger, and more expensive, rototiller you’ll need. Your hardware store will be able to provide with recommendations when you go in.
Once the land is clear and the ground is ready for planting, you will need to decide on the design. Decide on how many plots will be available, how they should be arranged and at what size. Remember to leave space for walkways, so that gardeners can easily reach their plots and provide enough space between areas for tools and composting.
If you want your garden to look great and stay that way, you will need to put some rules into effect. The general rules you create should take into consideration questions such as member dues, how tools are used and shared, monthly meetings, maintenance, products/substances used and other codes of behavior. Put up a sign with the rules so that everyone understands them.
After all of this, you should also think about the purpose of the garden. Do you want your community garden to be a club, or would you rather incorporate as a non-profit organization? Non-profits (501(c)3) can be tax-deductible charitable organizations or you can choose to have a state function status. You can learn more about setting up a non-profit from Nolo.
It sounds like a lot of work and in all actuality, it really is, at least in the beginning. Setting up a community garden can be quite the task, but by setting up a planning committee or board of directors, the job doesn’t have to land entirely on your head. Getting the help of others in your community will make the process run smoothly so that everyone can quickly begin planting and harvesting their crops.
For more helpful gardening and landscaping tips, check out Landscape Connection, a Denver landscaping design and build company. They provide a variety of services from patios and outdoor retreats to fire pits and putting greens.