With the help of Sara Whelan (GIY), who started an urban garden in New Ross, Ireland for the first time in 2014, we have pulled together this guide to show you how you can get your own public urban garden up and running wherever you live. Of course some things might work differently where you live but we hope this can help you get started promoting the joy of growing food in your town.
Step 1: Build your team
Building an urban garden isn’t something you can easily do on your own. You’ll need some help from experienced growers. Around 10 people should be a good group. If you’re not involved in a GIY group or maybe a Slow Food group yourself, find out if there’s a group in your area that might help you with the project. > Find a List of GIY groups here.
- GIY group or other local grower network contacted
- Commitment of 10+ helpers
Step 2: Find the right place and a local supporter
Next you can get in touch with your town council to tell them about the idea. Have a few suggestions for places ready for the meeting but be open to suggestions on what might work.
- List of ideas for good places for the garden
- List of convincing arguments to do the project
- Printed material (sketches of garden, articles about other cities who have done this before, pictures of the flowers you plan to plant)
Step 3: Get prepared and build your supporter network
Once you have the place signed off you can start planning your urban garden project and the events around it in detail. Will you need any money to carry out the project in the way you want? If so, you should send out funding applications, organise a crowdfunding campaign or ask your personal network for donations of seeds and tools.
You might not need money but donations of any kind will help. Use your network to get each person growing one or two of the vegetables from seed. Is there a garden centre in town that would like to be involved, maybe they can give you some small vegetable plants? Is there water supplied close to your garden or will you need to get water from a local business nearby? Make a list of what you need to bring your garden to life and then think about who could help you with each of those things. It might seem daunting to ask for help at first but remember that you’re asking for the whole community and not just for you!
- Make your â€œWhat I needâ€ list: seeds, labels, signs.
- Apply for funding
- Ask local garden centres for help like donations of plants
- Ask friends for help
- Introduce local businesses to the idea and give the the opportunity to contribute
- Collect mail addresses from everyone who expresses interest in the project
Step 4: Prepare Seeding and Promote your Events
If your urban garden project has a fixed start and end-date, there are two events that definitely should be a part of it: One at the time of planting the plants and one for the harvest and to thanking everyone involved for their help. Set your dates and plan what’s needed for the events and for maintenance of the plants in between. Before the seeding you will also need to make sure that everyone is prepared.
- The experienced growers prepare the plants
- Rota plan for the volunteers to water and clean the plants
- People in the area are informed about the event(s)
- Event has been promoted through online channels
- Press has been informed
- Everyone has been invited for the planting.
Step 5: Let it grow
Once you’ve planted, you should let the garden its thing and just grow for a few months. You’ll organise some of your volunteers to help out and keep it all fresh and clean. Don’t worry if people start to nibble at your fruit and veg – that’s what it’s there for! While everyone is helping with that, you’ll have some time to plan the harvest party if you want to do one. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the work you’ve done, say thank you to everyone and promote food growing in the community. Invite the whole community to celebrate with you.
- Everyone’s happy
- Support for the harvest party
- Promotion through online and offline channels
- A few personal ideas for how to make it a special day
See our interview with Sara Whelan to get a full picture of how she started her community garden in 2014.