4. Let’s start planning

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Ideas for community gardens: Katoomba community gardeners in the Blue Mountains, NSW, built a mudbrick toolshed/ utility building, a pergola to provide a place to sit out of the hot summer sun and a cob oven with mudbrick seats around it. A galvanised iron water tank stores rainwater from the roof for use in the garden and for drinking. Structues like these can be built at workshops to increase gardener skills. They bring social amenity and appropriate technology into a community garden.

Ideas for community gardens: Katoomba community gardeners in the Blue Mountains, NSW, built a mudbrick toolshed/ utility building, a pergola to provide a place to sit out of the hot summer sun and a cob oven with mudbrick seats around it. A galvanised iron water tank stores rainwater from the roof for use in the garden and for drinking. Structues like these can be built at workshops to increase gardener skills. They bring social amenity and appropriate technology into a community garden.

Now that we have seen how other community gardens are run, it’s time for our group to make a start on planning.

The following information should appear in your submission to council or whatever organisation you hope will support your community garden.

What is our purpose?

The first thing to do is to get your group together and work out just why you want a community garden and what you hope to achieve. This is your purpose.

After defining your purpose, work out what will have to be done to achieve it. These points become your objectives, the actual things you will achieve over time.

Purpose statements are always general statements of intent. For instance:

  • to establish and manage a community food garden for the supply of fresh, organically grown food to members
  • to enhance opportunities for social interaction among members
  • to provide new recreational opportunities
  • to provide a low-cost, safe venue where people can cooperate and learn new skills.

Your objectives might look something like:

  • design a community garden to take best advantage of the characteristics of the site
  • construct a community garden to provide individual allotments/shared garden (whatever you choose) to accommodate the number of members presently in the community garden group
  • to manage the garden in an environmentally and socially responsible manner using organic gardening methods
  • to manage the garden through processes which involve the full participation of members.

As you can see, your objectives are activities, things you will do over time. They are 'achievable'—things that your group can do with the resources at you have at hand. You should be able to demonstrate that they have been done.

Adding completion times

If you’re a really focused, determined bunch or people, you may want to put approximate times to accomplishing these objectives. Your objectives may then read something like:

  • design a community garden to take best advantage of the characteristics of the site by (insert a realistic date).

Be careful that you don’t underestimate the time it will take your group to reach an objective—progress can sometimes be surprisingly slow. Failing to meet inappropriate time targets can be discouraging to a group. Make completion dates realistic and be prepared to change them because of delays caused by wet weather, declining participation (fewer people may garden in winter, for instance) and the need to attend to other things of life.

Budget

Work out what you will need to start the garden and the approximate cost of these things;

  • a couple spades
  • a couple garden forks
  • a garden rake
  • a hoe
  • a mattock
  • several trowels
  • a wheelbarrow
  • one or two long garden hoses with adjustable spray trigger fittings.

Buy the best quality tools you can afford as they will last longer.

You might also need to budget for:

  • water supply and taps
  • storage shed
  • seeds
  • perennial plants such as trees and shrubs
  • organic matter such as compost (if needed)
  • path and garden edging materials.

Water rates

Payment of water rates is best taken care of through an annual fee paid by gardeners.

Where gardens are to be built at community centres, the cost of water may be covered by the centre or council.

Add these figures to obtain your start-up budget.

The items on your list, with the possible addition of training, make up our resource or inputs list—the things you need to get your garden going.

Make a timeline

Be generous in estimating how long it will take to get things done. Better to be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you did things than unpleasantly discouraged at how long things are taking.

Break the work of establishing the community garden into chunks:

  • planning chunk—getting together a group of potential community gardeners and identifying your purpose, objectives, budget, timeline, resources needed
  • finding land
  • finding funding
  • design chunk
  • garden construction chunk.

Make a generous estimate of the time you think it would take to do all these things.

For community workers and council staff stimulating interest in community gardening, land and funding may already be available.

After the planning and construction phase the garden moves into a less intensive maintenance stage in which the main activity is gardening rather than construction.

Decisions

Here are a couple important decisions to be made during the planning stage. These are whether the garden will be a shared or allotment garden and whether organic gardening will be the approach used.

Shared gardening or allotments?

Now is the time to decide whether your garden is to be:

  • a shared garden in which people do whatever work is necessary at the time and then share the produce, or
  • an allotment garden, with plots held individually by gardeners who have rights to what they grow as well as full responsibility for their plot.

Plot holders are usually required to put time into maintaining the rest of the garden.

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