STARTING A COMMUNITY GARDEN

This fact sheet is designed to give many different groups the basic information they need to get their gardening project off the ground. These lists are in no way meant to be complete. Each main idea will probably trigger more questions, so an assortment of ways to carry out that idea are presented; pick and choose those that seem to apply to your own situation.

FORM A PLANNING COMMITTEE

CHOOSE A SITE

PREPARE AND DEVELOP THE SITE

HOW SHOULD THE GARDEN BE ORGANIZED?

INSURANCE

It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain leases from landowners without public liability insurance. Garden insurance is a new thing for many insurance carriers and their underwriters are reluctant to cover community gardens. It helps if you know what you want before you start talking to agents. Two tips: you should probably be working with an agent from a firm which deals with many different carriers (so you can get the best policy for your needs) and you will probably have better success with one of the ten largest insurance carriers, rather than smaller ones.

SETTING UP A NEW GARDENING ORGANIZATION

Many garden groups are organized very informally and operate successfully. Leaders "rise to the occasion" to propose ideas and carry out tasks. However, as the work load expands, many groups choose a more formal structure for their organization.

A structured program is a means to an end. It is a conscious, planned effort to create a system so that each person can participate fully and the group can perform effectively. It's vital that the leadership be responsive to the members. Structure will help an organization to last; it will promote trust; it will help your group grow and create new opportunities for leaders to develop.

If your group is new, have several planning meetings to discuss your program and organization. Try out suggestions raised at these meetings and after a few months of operation, you'll be in a better position to develop bylaws or organizational guidelines. A community garden project should be kept simple as possible, whether large or small.

By laws are rules which govern the internal affairs of an organization. They are required when you form a non-profit corporation, but are useful even if your group is a club or a group of neighbors. Many battles are won simply because one side has more pieces of paper to wave than the other. It's helpful to look over bylaws from other similar organizations if you are incorporating. Guidelines and Rules (see TROUBLESHOOTING for examples) are less formal than Bylaws, and are often adequate enough for a garden group that has no intention of incorporating.

ORGANIZATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS:

WHAT GOES INTO FORMAL BYLAWS:

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR COMMUNITY GARDEN

In order to offer a high quality community garden program, good management techniques are essential. Included in this fact sheet are the main ideas to consider in management, along with many different ways to carry them out. Having written rules is very important with older groups as well as new gardens, since they spell out exactly what is expected of a gardener. They also make it much easier to eliminate dead wood should the need arise.

Sample Guidelines and Rules -- Some may be more relevant to vegetable gardens than to com munity flower gardens or parks. Pick and choose what best fits your situation.

TROUBLESHOOTING

CHILDREN'S PLOTS

PEOPLE PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

Angry neighbors and bad gardeners pose problems for a community garden. Usually the two are related. Neighbors complain to municipal governments about messy, unkempt gardens or rowdy behavior; most gardens can ill afford poor relations with neighbors, local politicians or potential sponsors. Therefore, choose bylaws carefully so you have procedures to follow when members fail to keep their plots clean and up to code. A well-organized garden with strong leadership and committed members can overcome almost any obstacle.

RESOURCES

Horticultural information:

Cooperative Extension Service in your county Women's Garden Club
Federation, Men's Garden Clubs, Horticultural Societies, Garden Centers

Seeds:

America the Beautiful Fund, 219 Shoreham Building, Washington D.C.

Bedding plants:

Local nurseries or Vocational-Tech Horticulture Department High school Horticulture classes

Publications Free to ACGA Members
Fact Sheets and articles on the following are available free of charge to ACGA members: