Children who work in community gardens learn a valuable trade. ATTRIBUTION: Flickr – d-olwen-dee

A community garden is a popular type of collaborative project that helps to harbor a sense of community, increase access to healthy foods, and provide a source of education for both children and adults. If you’d like to give back to your community, consider starting a community garden with help from participants who share in both the maintenance and rewards that come with gardening. Follow this guide to get started.

Enlist Help

One of the main purposes of starting a community garden is to bring people from surrounding neighborhoods together to work on growing food. Each participant will play an important role in digging, planting, watering, and other maintenance tasks. Invite individuals from the area to help out, such as neighbors, family and friends, local community organizations, and horticultural societies. Both children and adults of all ages can help.

Check the Laws

Once you’ve located a site for your community garden, you’ll need to determine who owns the land and what zoning laws apply. If the zoning laws in your area allow for the building of a community garden on your desired site, you’ll also need to make sure that you can potentially build other related structures, such as sheds, greenhouses, etc. Determine if you can get a long-term lease agreement for the land, and if public liability insurance will be needed.

Secure Funding

Funding is essential to ensure that the community garden has everything it needs, from tools and fencing to seeds and plants. Seek out donations, land, and supplies from potential sponsors or funders in your area. Forming partnerships with local people and businesses is an excellent way to gain access to the items needed for your garden. When trying to secure funding, be sure to engage your community by explaining how the introduction of a community garden could possibly serve the needs of the area.

Organize the Project

One of the most difficult aspects of building a community garden is deciding on all the little details. What type of garden will it be (strictly flowers, fruits, vegetables)? Determine a fair strategy for assigning plots, how dues (if any) will be used, and how gardeners will be rewarded for their hard work. It can be helpful to form a planning committee comprised of people who are dedicated to the project and its success.

Settle on a Design

As every community is different, the design of each garden should also differ. Design will depend on the size and location of the site, how many participants volunteered to help, and how much funding has been secured. When designing the garden, ensure that the area can be easily accessed by all, will be protected from vandalism and animals, and has ample room for tool and supply storage. ‘Green’ aspects may also be implemented, such as the setup of rain barrels and compost bins.

Start Growing

Once a solid design has been created, funding secured, and participants readily available, you can begin growing. A community garden should be a gradual process with possibly new participants entering the program to help out. Over time, it may be necessary to revisit your plan and make changes depending on the outcome of the project and feedback from participants and the community.