How to Start a Community Garden

Community Garden Steps: Plan. Plant. Play.

A weatherproof message board lets you post important notices and work schedules.
A weatherproof message board lets you post important notices and work schedules.
Tony Anderson/Digital Vision/ Getty Images

Once you've done all the grunt work, it's time to set things in motion. Before you start planting, you and the other participants should sketch out what you envision the garden looking like based on your original plans. Looking at other gardens in the area or clipping pictures from magazines may help you with ideas. However you decide to organize your layout, you will want to include several basic elements.

First, to prevent vandalism or theft, you may want to erect a fence with a lock. Good fences are sturdy and at least 8 feet (2.4 meters) high. Some veteran gardeners also suggest planting strange-looking vegetables like purple cauliflower or white eggplant to deter would-be thieves. Another trick is to plant thorny roses or blackberry bushes along the periphery to keep people out.

Next, designate one area of your garden as the composting area -- otherwise, garden refuse will pile up quickly. You'll probably also want a lockable storage shed for your supplies, benches, a meeting area and a weatherproof message board for posting important notices and work schedules.

Once you've set up the basic infrastructure of the garden, you can get your hands dirty and prepare the soil. You may want test your soil, which you can do by purchasing a kit or by hiring a professional. The test will let you know what nutrients you may need to add to your soil. As any good gardener will tell you, a good garden starts with the soil.

Once you have all of your materials ready, either purchased, donated or already owned, you may want to schedule a groundbreaking day to kick things off. Then, to maintain your hard-won efforts, you'll want to set up a schedule listing upkeep duties. Since your initial organizational meeting is probably ancient history at this point, you may want to have another meeting with everyone in attendance to make any additions or changes to the original charter. Who will be responsible for watering? What about weeding? Whose job will it be to harvest the carrots? You'll need to answer questions like these so there is no confusion about who is responsible for what.

Once you've established your own community garden, it will likely become obvious why there are currently more than 10,000 of them in U.S. cities alone. [source: Parham]. Not only will you benefit, but your entire community and the surrounding environment will as well. You'll enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded people, reap the physical and psychological rewards of regular activity and be blown away by the delicious taste of fresh, homegrown tomatoes.

For more information on community gardens, helpful resources and some sample forms, be sure to look at the links on the following page.

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More Great Links


  • American Community Gardening Association. "Starting a Community Garden." (March 7, 2008)
  • Parham, Susan Wells. "Funding and Other Support." Urban Community Gardens. (March 7, 2008)
  • Surls, Rachel. "Community Garden Start-Up Guide." University of California Cooperative Extension. March 2001. (March 7, 2008).
  • The Trust for Public Land. "Conserving Land for People." 2008. (March 10, 2008)