Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

Starting A Community Garden In 3 Steps

The popularity of community gardens has grown over the past decade in the US perhaps in response to the fledgling economy, at first. The range of benefits that community gardens provide is wide, from providing healthy, low-cost food to poor communities and food deserts, to fostering relationships and reducing crime, to stimulating mental and physical health. Gardens in general also provide green space and a nature getaway which can be rare in big cities. But how do you get started? Starting your own community garden can seem like a difficult task with a lot of hoops to jump through, but you really just need to follow these three easy steps.

Gather Up Support

Your garden will be bound to fail if it doesn’t have a group of committed people who are interested in its success. Get the word out in your community and set up informational meetings. Once you have the interest of community members, you can allocate duties to elected officers who will be in charge of things like finances, fundraising, communication, and organizational management. During meetings is a good time to gather opinions and suggestions about what to grow (food or flowers?), pesticide usage, individual plots (or one big group plot), and so on. This is also the time to discuss and write down garden rules, obtain liability insurance, name the garden, and approach sponsors to provide equipment, water, trash pickup, and more.

Location, Location, Location

In choosing a location, you’ll either buy, rent, or use public land from a land trust. Besides that, keep an eye out for the ideal plot of land while considering the amount of light it gets per day (ideally 6-8 hours), water access, drainage, proximity to the community, and the presence of trash or pavement. Walk around your community and note any potential spots and contact the owner. Be sure to inform them of the benefits of the garden. Ask if the land has been used for any other purpose (you’re looking for signs of contamination), and do a soil test. Check for thatch if the area has grass and see if the soil has a good texture (not too much clay, not too much sand).

Get Planting

Once you have secured the location, make a design of what you want planted where. This is when you can determine whose plots or what crops go where, a location for your compost bin, bulletin board and storage shed, the fence outline, and where any pathways should be constructed. If you want a seperate kid-friendly area, include it. It’s also important to consider accessibility of your garden to wheelchair-bound community members.  Meanwhile, it’s time to clean up the site. This is where your soil test comes in handy- it’ll tell you what your soil is lacking so you can incorporate the proper nutrients..If your site has poor drainage, this is the time to remedy that, not after you’ve planted everything. Invite everyone to a groundbreaking day and set up maintenance duties and schedules. Figure out who’s watering, who’s weeding, and who’s harvesting. As your garden grows, so will the number of volunteers looking to make a difference in their community.

Emily Kaltman writes for The Grass Outlet in Austin, Texas. She enjoys writing about lawn and garden care and spending time outdoors when the weather is nice.

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