How to Start a Community Garden

Community Garden Sites: Location, Location, Location

Make sure the lot you choose has access to a water source.
Make sure the lot you choose has access to a water source.
VEER Cheryl North/Coughlan/ Photonica/ Getty Images

You can secure a site for your community garden by buying or renting it. You may also use land from a land trust, or an organization protecting the property. Participating in a land trust will limit your choice of location and may have a few stipulations, but it saves you from having to rent or buy your land. Some cities are starting to see the benefits of community gardens and now make pieces of property available for the public to use.

It's not as difficult as it sounds to rent or buy land, but you'll want to keep a few things in mind when choosing the location. Ideally, the site you choose should get at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day and be free of pavement. Although you can turn a paved lot into a garden by building raised beds, this takes a lot of work. Finding an area that already has soil and isn't covered with trees, garbage or building materials is best.­

The lot should also be large enough to contain your garden, and it must have access to water. If there isn't a water source, you'll need to contact the local water provider to get a hookup and meter installed.

Above all, the location should be close to everyone involved -- preferably within walking distance and at most no more than a short drive. The shorter the travel time, the more likely people are to stay involved with the garden's mainten­ance.

With these guidelines in mind, walk around your area with a few group members. Look for vacant or abandoned lots to get an idea of where you'd like to set up shop. If you don't know who owns the property, write down the addresses so you can look up ownership records through your local tax assessor's office. You'll then need to approach the owner about either buying or leasing the land.

Often, especially if the land isn't being used for anything else, landowners will be more than willing to lease their land to you for a small fee. Some will treat it as a barter -- you trade free maintenance or fresh-grown produce for the right to use the land. Some owners may worry about being held liable if anyone were injured on their property, in which case you can include a liability waver in the lease. This is a statement explaining that any injuries are no fault of the owner. Everyone involved in the garden would need to sign the waiver.

Once you've secured a site for your garden, the real fun can begin. Continue reading for tips on how to get things growing.