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How to Organize a Community Garden

Tags: community gardening, urban gardening

Birds love ripe strawberries, and who could blame them. Imagine a bird just flying along and spotting, below, a dessert bar—a long matted row of sweet, juicy berries. Why not stop for a bite! Well, you planted strawberries for your family, and everyone is waiting for them to ripen, that’s why not.

Form a garden club to be in charge

Running the garden day-to-day requires that someone be in charge of the garden, volunteers, and activities. Forming a garden club helps fulfill duties that get the garden off the ground: establishing rules, reviewing applications, and assigning individual plots. A treasurer oversees finances, such as collecting dues or paying bills. If conflicts arise between members, the club can mediate and set rules.

Raise money and other support

Some community gardens seek sponsors such as a church, civic group, business, a city parks department, or individual citizen to raise the money needed to get started. Another idea is a sponsorship drive for x dollars a square foot. Recognize sponsors with signage and invitation to events; thank them publicly and encourage members to patronize any business sponsors. Write thank you notes.

You can also do fundraisers, such as a bake sale, car wash, garage sale, or spaghetti dinner. The amount of money needed depends on the condition of the site, if the garden must rent the space, and incidental expenses (postage, tools, water bills, etc.).

Locate supplies

Whether your garden needs soil, mulch, tools, raised bed timbers you can often find these supplies in the local community. Develop a list of needed supplies. If needed, canvas your contacts and neighborhood merchants for donations. As with sponsors, recognize those who donate.

Clean up the site

To get the site ready for gardening, it may need lots of general clean up. If your garden plot is covered in vegetation, you’ll need to remove it, which could involve anything from a trowel to a piece of heavy equipment. Rent sod cutters and other equipment if you have members who know how to use it.

Make arrangements for trash removal; volunteers can gather trash. Research local garbage ordinances. If the plot is along a trash pick-up route, you might be lucky enough to place garbage on a curb for municipal hauling. Otherwise, schedule some pick-up trucks to haul material to a local dump and plan to pay dump fees.

Schedule regular trash pick-up once the garden is established. Contact your city councilperson for help with that.

Form a board of members for your community garden.
A community garden should have established leadership, such as a board of directors, that meets regularly to discuss topics such as budget and event planning.
Create a sign with rules for your community garden.
It helps to have rules for your community garden posted in an easy-to-see location.

Design the garden

Schedule a meeting to figure how many garden plots you’ll have, how they’ll be assigned, and where you’ll locate gardening creature comforts, like pathways, benches, or tool storage. Don’t forget to include a compost pile in your design. You might also want to incorporate a potting area if your plan includes container gardens.

It’s always wise to plan ornamental plantings along the borders of the garden, especially by neighbors. A beautiful garden develops good will with neighborhood residents, passersby, and city officials.

Set some rules

Encourage garden members to determine rules for the garden. You can find sample rules on the American Community Gardening Association website . (Membership is required to access this part of the site).

Get liability insurance

It’s worth the research to discover what garden liability insurance covers and how to get it. One option is insurance offered by the American Community Gardening Association.

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