If you want to start a community garden I’ve got plenty of advice for you below. Don’t know what to do first? Follow my straightforward guide and get your community buzzing in no time.
A community garden can bring lots of benefits to your local area. It can be a place for people to learn about and enjoy gardening and nature. A place to relax and enjoy being outdoors. A place where you can grow your own food with no air miles or queues in supermarkets involved.
It can also brighten up neglected bits of land that need some TLC – and this, in turn, can help to brighten up everyone’s lives in the neighbourhood. I think community gardens are a great idea, and I’ve set out how you can start yours in simple steps below.
Start a Community Garden – What to Do First
Find a Good Location
Have you found the perfect spot to start a community garden? If not, you’ll need to start looking. Talk to your local council to see if they can offer a suitable location. Councils are usually quite keen on community gardens, so this is a good place to start.
Have you seen a patch of ground you think could make a good shared garden? In the UK you can find out who owns it by looking on the government website. Or talk to local people. You’ll need to approach the owner to suggest your idea.
Get Your Neighbours Involved
Talk to as many people as you can about your plans. What would local people like to see in a shared garden? What’s important to them? Do they want to grow their own fruit and veg? Or have a place to sit and relax? Or both? Gather all the ideas from local people together.
Local experts – A community garden should be about sharing ideas and experience too. You might find local gardeners, landscapers or builders who would be happy to lend a hand in the garden designs.
Schools and Businesses
Approach your local schools and tell them your plans. Local businesses might be interested in sponsoring your garden or lending a hand in some way.
Wildlife and Green Groups
Talk to local wildlife groups, gardening clubs and groups of green volunteers too. Councils often run days for volunteers who help with conservation work in their local area, and these volunteers might be interested in gardening as well.
Set up a Volunteer Group
If you don’t have many voluntary groups in your area, set up your own volunteer group for the garden and ask people to join. Social media is a good free way to get the message out to local people. Think about getting the message out on your local community radio station too.
The Location Is Sorted. Now What?
You’ve got permission to start a community garden. Excellent work! What’s next?
Do a Survey of the Garden Site
Take a walk around the site and make a list of what’s there. Are there plants you’d like to keep? What about sheds or paths? If there are trees on the site find out if any of them are protected by preservation orders, and you’ll want to be careful not to destroy any habitats on your site that are important for wildlife. Your local council will have more information on this.
Think about what you can use again on the site and how you can incorporate what’s already there in your design. You might be able to salvage materials and use them differently – wood and bricks, for example.
While you are doing the survey, work out what the orientation of your site is. Get some help from experienced gardeners if this isn’t your strong point. It’s important to work out if it’s north, south, east or west-facing. This will influence what plants you buy and where you put them in the garden.
Draw up a Plan for Your Garden
Once you’ve got a good idea of what people in your community want, you can draw up a simple plan for your garden. Draw a sketch of what you want the garden to look like, and make a note of any building requirements. Think about what you’re allowed to do on the patch of land – talk to the council or owner if in doubt.
This is a good time to pay a visit to other community gardens in your area for inspiration and ideas. By visiting other projects, you may find extra help for your own plans too.
Materials, Labour and Timescale
Write a list of the things you’ll need to start your community garden – materials, plants, tools – and people! It’s a good idea to set out a timeframe alongside this. Be realistic about how long things take and set out when you want things to happen in your plan.
As part of your plan, draw up a budget. Think about how you’ll raise the money for the things you need to buy. As I said above, local businesses might be interested in sponsoring your garden or offering support in kind – in other words, donating materials or help to the project rather than money.
Looking after the Garden Long-term
This is also a good time to think about how you will look after the garden in the future. You might need a rota for volunteers, to share out tasks equally and to make sure someone is always caring for the garden. Once you have built your garden, you need to keep it maintained.
Other Things You Need to Start and Maintain a Community Garden
- Funds/donations – think about how you will fundraise for your garden in the future.
- Support from local people – regular volunteers who are willing and able to help every week is very valuable – you’ll need this sort of support to keep the garden going long-term.
- Insurance – you or your gardening group will need public liability insurance.
- Risk assessments should be drawn up before you carry out work on the site.
As you can see, there are quite a few things to think about when you start a community garden – but as long as you have support and energy from your neighbourhood and local authorities, things can happen in no time. You’ll soon be enjoying the benefits of your hard work. So start your community garden project today.