Find out who’s interested in participating. Put up posters and use your tenant newsletter to find tenants who might be interested in starting a community garden. Once you’ve identified clusters of interest, you can host a planning meeting.
Plan with your community. Host a planning meeting and invite all tenants in the area to attend. (Use posters, newsletters, email invitations, social media, etc.) At the meeting, you’ll need to:
Choose a garden site. Look for space that gets lots of sunlight and has access to water. The garden site should be located on flat ground, if possible, and accessible for tenants with mobility restrictions. Decide whether to build raised beds, a flat garden, or a mixture of both.
Decide on how to plant. Will the garden be divided into plots, or run as a large community garden? Will there be a common plot or a plot for taller plants? How will harvested vegetables be shared? Will the garden be organic? What kinds of fertilizers will be allowed?
Ask tenants to make a commitment for the growing season. If the garden is divided into plots, ask tenants to make a commitment to care for their plot for the duration of the growing season. Encourage tenants to start with a smaller plot in the first year. Respect for other gardeners should also be encouraged. If the garden is run as a community venture, create a garden schedule to ensure that the garden will be weeded and watered consistently.
Make a list of materials that you’ll need. What kinds of building supplies and equipment will be needed? What about consumables like seeds, soil, mulch, and fertilizers? Can some of these supplies be donated by a garden supply store? Can tenants fundraise to offset costs? Ensure that your focus is long-term: if supplies are donated one year, is there a plan for paying for supplies the next year?
Decide on a build day.
Build the garden together. Ask tenants to recruit friends and family as volunteers. On the build day, your group might: assemble planters, dig out plots, put up dividers or chicken-wire fences, add soil and mulch, build a compost heap, and put up a toolshed.
Plant the garden. This could be done the same day as the garden build. Have a variety of seedlings and packets of seeds available. If possible, ask tenants to bring seeds for plants they’re interested in growing. Encourage sharing. Planting should be done after the danger of frost has passed. If your community has a horticultural association, you could ask some of their members to help advise new gardeners.
Host events and community days in the garden. Garden demos, weeding days, harvest days, and kitchen workshops all help to build capacity and foster community engagement. Consider hosting a container gardening workshop to allow “late joiners” to participate.
After the growing season, evaluate your garden’s progress. What worked well? What didn’t? Ask tenants to come up with ideas they can implement for next year.