3. Bottom-up approach

Just where you start planning for a community garden depends upon the circumstances you are faced with, such as whether you have found a parcel of land and whether you have a group of people willing to put in the work of getting a garden going. The starting point will be different for all of us.

The bottom-up approach, however, calls for persistence, patience and planning.

One thing is for sure—you will find that a little thinking and planning now, rather than rushing in, pays off in the longer run. When the time comes to put your submission for land access to council or some other landholder, they will be more impressed and ready to cooperate with a group that has thought through how they would go about designing and managing a community garden.

Get the numbers

Many community gardens start as a good idea among friends. Otherwise, your first task is to get together a group of interested people.

Stimulate interest in your idea:

  • use social media sites (and here) to let people know of your intention, to ask for volunteers or for help
  • contact the local newspaper and community radio station; issue a press release and contact the editor or, if a radio station, the producer of a suitable program to offer an interview; ask your council if they can help publicise your intentions
  • put up a poster about your plans in the local library, shopping centre, community centre or health food shop
  • do a letterbox drop in your area
  • organise a public meeting to form a community garden planning team.

When the planning team has come together, do a skills audit to discover what talents and abilities are available within the membership.

Decide who will be:

  • treasurer (to manage the funds you will seek)
  • spokesperson (who liaises with the media, landholder and other agencies you will deal with)
  • secretary (who acts as a point of contact, handles correspondence and keeps all the records of meetings and other activities in order).

Collect information

Now that you have stimulated interest in a community garden, it is time to take a look at what other gardeners have done.

Organise a car convoy or, if you already have local government support ask about use of a council mini-bus to tour three or four other community gardens. Be sure that the gardens you plan to visit are different from each other so you get to see different designs and different ways of organising community gardens.

On this fact-finding mission you collect information on:

  • how the gardens started
  • what type of organisational structure they have
  • what they do about public liability insurance
  • where they obtain resources (mulch, compost, seeds etc)
  • their links to local government
  • how they are funded
  • how they make decisions, solve problems and resolve conflict
  • how they pass on skills to new gardeners and improve their own skills.

Discuss what you have learned and use it to make decisions about how you want to organise and manage your community garden.

Planning and starting your community garden by Russ Grayson + Fiona Campbell, 2002

Published in 10 steps for starting a garden

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