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Tips for Starting a Community Garden

Industry-wide, green standards—like responsible use of renewable resources, a focus on indoor and outdoor air quality, and sustainable living practices—are now prioritized in homeowners’ associations (HOAs). By implementing environmental initiatives, HOAs have the opportunity to beautify their communities, save money, and even raise the value of homes.

Starting a community garden is an easy and impactful way for your HOA to go green. To help your community tackle this endeavor, we’ve prepared this guide on how to start a community garden. Read on.

What is a Community Garden?

A community garden is a shared space designated for growing flowers, fruits, or vegetables. Unlike parks or public gardens, residents have the power to select what’s grown in their community garden and how it’s operated. They’re also responsible for designing, creating, and maintaining the garden.

Why Should We Start a Community Garden?

Starting a community garden can strengthen an HOA. Top benefits of community gardens include:

  • Enhanced socialization. As a shared space, a community garden brings residents together under a common interest and offers an opportunity for one-on-one connection.  
  • Increased food accessibility. By providing a way for residents to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, a community garden can combat food insecurity.
  • Decreased environmental impact. The plants that homeowners grow in their community garden will improve the air quality, prevent soil erosion, and create an ecosystem for animals.
  • Improved mental and physical health. Gardening demands time outdoors and some physical exertion, which has health-boosting perks.   
  • Renewed community aesthetic. A beautiful setup of flowers and colorful crops will add to the curb appeal of your community, impressing current and prospective homeowners alike.

How Can We Build a Community Garden?

While rewarding, starting a community garden can be a lengthy process. Here are six steps to building a community garden:

  1.       Get approval from the board.

Like other HOA initiatives, you’ll need to get board approval before you can get your community garden off the ground. Reach out to a board member personally or introduce the idea at your next meeting. Your board will be able to share what is and isn’t allowed and relevant guidelines, rules, and regulations you’re required to abide by. These may include rules on:

  • The location of the community garden
  • What can and cannot be grown within it
  • Limits on water usage or other utilities
  • Expectations for care and upkeep
  1.       Get help from the community.

After you’ve received approval from the board, you’ll have to find community members to help with planning, setting up, and caring for the garden. Gauge interest by talking to neighbors, posting notices around the neighborhood, or making announcements on social media. For those who want to get involved, host a meeting to review the community garden planning process and discuss how to move forward. Consider developing a committee of volunteers committed to the project long-term that can take on responsibilities like:

  • Budgeting for the project without spending too much
  • Working through the development process
  • Identifying a communication channel and frequency of communication
  • Construction requirements and timeframes
  1.       Secure resources and funding.

You’ll need financial and professional assistance to get your community garden idea going. Leverage the knowledge of your committee, get an attorney to review legal forms, connect with local vendors, and seek out sponsors to help you with getting supplies and equipment like:

  • Soil
  • Water
  • Seeds
  • Irrigation systems
  • Composting
  • Fencing
  • Educational events and materials
  1.       Choose the right location.

The designated area for your community garden should get enough sunlight, have the right type of soil, and be suitable for an irrigation system. If you have an area in mind, consider:

  • The size of the garden
  • Its accessibility
  • Proximity to needed resources and other aspects of the community (homes, other amenities, etc.)

Once you have your ideal location, get approval from the appropriate landowners, and obtain legal agreements for the garden and insurance.

  1.       Establish rules & fees.

Rules help everyone understand the limitations and expectations for the project. Rules also prevent issues that could harm development or maintenance. Consider making rules on:

  • Handling excess produce  
  • Weed removal responsibilities and frequency
  • Tool upkeep and ownership
  • Seasonal maintenance and plant selection  
  • Options for chemical usage and organic materials
  • Pets and unsupervised children on the property

In addition to rules, you may need to establish a fee for those involved in the community garden. The money can be used for maintenance, setting up an irrigation system, or purchasing supplies. Make sure any fees and rules are communicated clearly and in compliance with governing documents and laws.

  1.       Plant and maintain.

Now it’s time to bring your community together and prepare for planting. Clear debris, pull weeds, level plots, and turn the soil. With proper maintenance, your garden should grow into one of the most attractive parts of your association in no time.

Keep Going Green

Knowing how to start a community garden isn’t the only way for your association to go green. There’s so much your community can do to take better care of our planet. For additional ideas, download our ebook “8 Easy Ways to Go Green Right Now” to find your next project.