Community Gardens

How to Start a Community Garden

May 3, 2024

Start Up Essentials for a Community Garden


How to Start a Community Garden

Community gardens are growing in popularity as we become more aware of the precarious nature of our food security, primarily due to the climate emergency. By the same token, learning more about growing food, making friends and enjoying the benefits of spending time outdoors with the wider community of life, make community gardens even more appealing. If you’re wondering how to start a community garden, or where to begin, the following pointers may help.

Find Like-minded People

As with any new project, enthusiasm and commitment are key, you may have those in bucketful’s but you’ll need help or your interest may wane. Community gardens are as much about the cup of tea as the gardening, so the more people the merrier.

Before you start reaching out to friends, neighbours or family, see if there’s a community garden near you who might welcome additional volunteers. Community Gardens Ireland ( has an ever growing map of community gardens across the island.

Following on from that, try:

  • usiny social media, a shout out across local village or town groups or Tidy Towns can help you to establish if there is any interest in your idea.
  • Place a notice in a local post office or community notes section of the local newspaper.
  • Churches and religious organisations often have land and potential volunteers.
  • The Community section of your Local Authority will have a good idea of all the key people in their area, and may be able to link you up.

This may come later, but if you can avoid limiting yourself to serious gardeners only. As with any ‘club’, all kinds of skills will help to ensure your community garden is a success. These might include people good with finances, admin, social media and fundraising. Registering with your local Volunteers Ireland may help you.

Find Some Land

No two community gardens are alike. Some exist purely in alleyways such as the Sallynoggin garden in the heart of Dublin, others might be nestled within a three acre site in Navan, or anything in between. There might be a football or GAA pitch with a spare strip, a Parochial House or Rectory garden, a housing estate green, a Family Resource Centre, village hall or derelict site; all are fair game once you can find the owner and ask permission.

Sallynoggin Community Garden Designed by Dee Sewell Greenside Up

Sallynoggin Community Garden

It’s a good idea to come up with a short term lease agreement for the site. A template can be found and adapted here. It would provide some protection if the land owners require the land back, even if it’s just six months notice, providing you with time to harvest or move crops before the lease comes to an end.
Once you start growing plants, wherever that may be, in just a few months you can guarantee that it will be transformed.

Group Governance

Our tendency is to want to avoid over complicating things with committees and governance structures, but to attract funding and provide some protections within, it’s essential.

Once you’ve gathered volunteers, if you hope to attract funding, it’s important to have a meeting and elect some Officers. Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary roles will be essential to open up bank or credit union accounts. Citizens Advice provides a variety of helpful resources. In some instances about setting up clubs, a Constitution will be required too. Again, a template can be found here.

How to Start a Community GardenA Guide for Design and Implementation of Community Gardens for County Carlow Guide for Design and Implementation of Community Gardens and Allotments for County Carlow was created for the URBACT RU:RBAN initiative and is a very helpful start up guide, containing many tips.

What do you want from your community garden?

Following the governance, discuss your ideas for the community garden. Who will be using it? Will it be the active retirement group, young people, the community as a whole or individual groups? Do you anticipate meeting once a week, every day, evenings, day times, weekends or all of the above?

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 the garden.

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.

It might also be worth coming up with a template of guidelines at the beginning. Conflict can sadly rear its head in any group, family, organisation and workplace. If you have agreed guidelines at the beginning, they may help to head off any awkwardness later. This is a template of guidelines that was produced for a large community garden that could be adapted for a smaller one.

Get Started in the Community Garden – Funding and Tutors

One of the joys of community gardening is that people of all abilities, and none, turn up. You can learn from one another, as well as share the work and all the harvests.

Sometimes it helps to enlist the help of a professional who can provide some horticultural guidance. If you think this might be of help, talk to your local Education Training Board community education department and see if they have anyone who can help you to get started. These are provided free of charge. You could go a step further and speak to the Back to Education department and see if they will run a horticulturally accredited course with your group.

The SICAP department of the Local Development Partnership may be able to help fund some material costs, or a tutor.

The Local Authority Environment and Community departments may also have some pointers or funding opportunities.

Register your club with the local Public Participation Network who will add you to their mailing list and forward on any training or funding opportunities as they arise.

Community Garden Materials and Equipment

You might find the start up essentials for community gardens helpful in putting together a list of equipment and materials you might need to start your community garden.

Hacketstown Biodiversity Garden Design by Dee Sewell

Biodiversity Community Garden Design by Dee Sewell

From gloves to polytunnels, irrigation, seeds and seating, it’s all important but remember, you’re in this for the long haul. Start small and build upon your garden year upon year. Gardens evolve as we create them. Make a plan to keep you on track, or enlist some help in designing your garden.

After that it’s down to getting some soil under your fingernails, rewarding work, and endless tea and cake, assuming you bring it along and share.

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

About Dee Sewell

Dee Sewell has been working with community gardens and allotments in Ireland since 2010, tutoring, consulting, mentoring, volunteering and co-designing many community gardens across Ireland.

She was one of the founding, and committee members, of Community Gardens Ireland, and is an URBACT European mentor for Food and the Circular Economy.

She has found it incredibly rewarding watching community gardens grow in popularity as more people discover their many benefits.

Community gardens have long been recognised by the Transition Towns movement as a gateway into understanding climate awareness and more resilient, sustainable ways of life.

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