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How to set up a community garden

Community gardens are thriving. Food poverty, pressures on food banks and long allotment waiting lists have led to a growing trend in community gardening. These gardens provide a great place for the community to come together, to share and learn new skills, whilst growing fresh local produce. The gardens also provide a multitude of therapeutic and wellbeing benefits.

Here's how to set up a community garden.


Identify a need

Are there already community gardens in your area? Do an internet search or check the BBC’s online map of community garden projects across the UK (which is no longer being updated). You may find that there are gardens or existing projects you could join forces with.

If you don’t find anything, the next step is to identify who your project is for, who'll work in and/or visit the garden. This could be:

  • young people
  • older people
  • people with specific needs
  • anyone and everyone from the local area.

Speak to these groups or people who work with them to identify their needs and interest in your project.


Find a growing space

There may be lots of unexpected opportunities for growing space in your local area such as:

  • reclaiming disused land
  • gardens on school land
  • woodlands
  • unused land owned by councils or social housing providers
  • allotments.

If you need help finding growing space, try the following.


Choose your land

When choosing your land, think about practical issues such as:

  • access to water
  • electricity
  • space for a shed or storage
  • access
  • length of lease  how long will you be able to use the land for?

If you intend to apply for grants, funders will often want you to have a land agreement for a minimum of five years.


Plan your garden

What will you grow? Flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit? Think about the different areas you'll need in the garden such as:

  • growing space
  • seating areas
  • secure storage
  • wet weather space
  • composting toilet
  • wildlife garden
  • compost bins
  • sensory garden.

Check that your growing space suits the needs of your community. The Federation of City Farm and Community Gardens has a free community growing resources which cover all issues that may arise when starting or developing a community garden. The pack covers key topics such as:

  • setting up a committee
  • health and safety
  • fundraising
  • monitoring and evaluating your project.

Many community gardens start life as an overgrown disused patch of land. It can be a lot of work to clear the space. Jobs like this can be very appealing to company employee volunteer programmes or team building days. Having a physical task with a clear benefit ticks lots of their boxes. Look at the website of big businesses in your area or contact them directly.

The prospect of clearing a plot can be daunting. The Royal Horticultural Society has a ‘Getting Started’ guide. NSALG also has a factsheet on Clearing an overgrown site and get growing.


Write a wish list

Many gardens are set up using donated tools, seeds and equipment. To learn more about how to get goods donated for your community garden read Zurich's guide to resource raising


Find funds

There are a wide range of funders who support community garden projects. The following organisations have lists of funding opportunities for community growing projects.

For help finding more funders read five ways to find sources of funding from Zurich.

To help you get ‘funder ready’, look at the following.


Think income

How could your community garden become self-sustaining? Will the attendees use all of the produce? Or could you sell spare produce at fetes and markets? Could you sell plants, make jams and chutneys? Could you rent space, offer services or recruit paying members?


Consider insurance

You might want to consider arranging insurance for the activities that you run at your community garden. Zurich Insurance can provide cover for community garden projects.

Further information

This guide is based on a Tennyson Insurance blog post from August 2015 written by fundraising consultant Gemma Kingsman.

Tennyson Insurance is now part of Zurich Insurance.


Page last edited Feb 25, 2022 History

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