How to start a community garden with minimal space
Posted: August 09, 2016
Categories: Grow Your Own
Reach out from the cosy confines of your own garden paradise and help to create a community garden. You'll be amazed at who it will attract.
Community gardens are fantastic places to meet new people, to pass on skills, and improve your local area. Easy to set up, a community garden will benefit everyone in the local area.
How to start a community garden
You've got a plan, you're bursting with energy – and you have just seen a plot of land that is long neglected and perfect for your community garden project. Find out who owns it. With budget cuts, many councils are struggling to keep all areas up to scratch and a quick delve into the council directory may unearth a potential for you to help them out! Private land may require a bit more investigation but do it, the Internet makes it all easy, and get permission before embarking on your big adventure.
- Get permission before starting anything – land is owned by someone so find out who.
- Start small and grow. People will wait to get involved and like a success.
- Tell everyone about your project.
- Get help from small, large and massive businesses.
- Check out available grants.
- Include everyone.
Money money money
Whatever size of ambition you have, the sad fact of life is that it will need cash. Seeds, tools, plants all cost money so look into any available grants . Start with the council – they are usually all too happy to help out if they are going to benefit from your project. Then of course you need people to be involved (otherwise it is just your garden). Facebook, Twitter and all the other places people social use are essential tools in getting people interested. A good old fashioned sign on a wooden post on site will do wonders for interested parties. Call a meeting – make it friendly - get commitment and be prepared for some people offering hours of input whereas others may have a few minutes a week. Bring everyone on board – it is for the whole community after all. You will be amazed by the diversity of people and their experiences. And what different people want from the garden.
Link – in
Other local groups such as scouts and brownies will already have fantastic links with the community, and don't forget to mention to local businesses what you are up to. Even (even!) massive corporate businesses have local community project budgets – just tell them about your project and ask for help. It may only be a few free bags of coffee grounds to act as a natural slug deterrent, but it helps and promotes what you are trying to achieve. Perhaps a local DIY store may want to donate tools and equipment to get you up and running? Worth asking the local manager (be persistent but never a pain) and don't forget about the voracious local press, TV and radio. All need stories to fill their publications and transmissions – and you could be the next big story.
If there are ten of you and all you can do is a month in spring and the same in autumn then perhaps a long term, slower growing project such as a community orchard is a good idea. If there is a solid base of daily contributions available then veggies, herbs and flower beds will all be possible. There will be essential jobs that will need to be done and not everyone will want to do them all. It's up to you how you want to organise things (just organise things though!) so draw up a rota and see what happens. Chances are all will be covered by a large number of people.
Start small and make it a big success. And then grow. There will be potential community gardeners watching how you get on before they leap in and offer up their services to the community. It's only natural. When they see the differences you and your team make more will get involved. And then the project can get bigger, or, if space is limited, you can move onto another site and make that great as well.
People from every background will get involved, but you need to make the project diverse as well. If all that is 'on offer' is a whole load of rubbish clearing, weeding, sowing and slug watching then I reckon it is doomed to failure (except for the most ardent of gardeners). Have a social area, bake cakes, brew coffee, chat and let people chill out. Once happy, a few more weeds won't be so daunting (and rubbish clearance, weeding and slug watching is a necessity on most sites – get it on that rota!)