How to start a community garden

Summer 2012 Leighlin Parish Community Garden

You’ve looked around and can’t find a community garden in your area but are keen to get involved… what next? How do you go about setting one up?

As with any new project, enthusiasm and commitment is the key. If you have those, and really want to achieve something, then nothing is impossible…. from there on in everything has a way of falling into place.You have bucket loads of enthusiasm, then what?

Who Will Use the Community Garden?

It’s important to think about what you want from the garden…who will be using it? Will it be the active retirement group, young people, the community as a whole or individual groups? Often groups find the funding for a polytunnel and some equipment, try to recruit some individuals to come along and garden, and stall because they have no real plan for it.

What’s Your Vision

Play around with some ideas until you have a vision or a goal. It may change along the way but at least you’ll have something to talk to others about and ideally fire up their enthusiasm too.

Recruit Gardeners

Then you need to recruit some fellow gardeners to help you make your vision a reality.

In Ireland Pride of Place and Tidy Towns competitions are becoming more popular and the individuals working to help their communities look their best often have contacts, resources, and/or knowledge about funding/land that should not be overlooked.

Local council offices usually know who the committee members are and would be a good point of contact if you’re unsure.

A large polytunnel in a community would be a major asset as groups would be able to start seedlings off for their planting schemes to ensure their villages, towns and cities are full of flowers, at a much lower cost than having to buy them all in.

Parish churches may have enthusiastic helpers and/or land so may be worth considering too and from my experience, Family Resource Centres are always willing to help community groups. You could also advertise in a local newspaper (they may run a short story which will cost nothing) or place posters up in shop windows.

Find Some Land

Once you have fellow enthusiastic volunteers the land usually follows. It may be an old scrap of land that’s often used for fly tipping or an unsightly area that’s been overlooked…. in just a few months you can pretty much guarantee that it will be transformed.

Look for Help

And that’s fairly much it. It helps to get an ‘expert’ in to help get you started. Inviting a qualified horticulturalist to come along and help you set up or give a series of gardening classes is invaluable and these can often be found on VEC tutor lists.

The important thing is DON’T GIVE UP…. it may take a while to get going, but once you have a community garden, you won’t regret it.

If you’d like more information on community gardening in Ireland or Northern Ireland, please see the Community Garden Network Group website for details of groups that may be near you, or for regional reps who will be pleased to help you find one.