Community Garden FAQs

What is a community garden?

A common place where two or more people garden together! A community garden can be large or small, people can grow flowers, vegetables, or even animals (such as chickens)!

See What is a Community Garden

How do I learn to garden?
See Digging for the Best Resources

Can I start a community garden even if I don’t know how to garden?
YES! A community garden is comprised of all kinds of people. Often, the person wanting to start a garden may not have specific gardening skills, but they have great organizing skills. A community garden needs someone with a vision, someone who’ll be there to oversee the garden, organize the work, and assign the right volunteer to the right task.

See Digging for the Best Resources for learning opportunities.

How do I find gardeners with experience?
Ask around your neighborhood … you’ll be amazed at the wealth of gardening expertise among your older neighbors. They may not be able to do lots of labor, but they can be an important resource. Also, Master Gardeners are available to provide guidance and advice (they have to provide volunteer hours in the community each year). Contact Marion County Master Gardeners, www.IndyMG.org, at (317) 275-9292 or marionmg@purdue.edu.

See Digging for the Best Resources for more ideas for volunteer help.

Do we have to own land to start a community garden?
No, but you should have reliable access to land. Sources of garden sites include school yards, churches, and abandoned city lots.

See Digging for the Best Resources for land ideas.

What do I need to start a community garden?
Land, water, abundent sun, plants and seeds, neighbors, and someone to lead the effort. (Purdue Extension staff, Ginny Roberts, recommends a three-person steering committee to launch the effort.)

What about bylaws and rules?
Some basic rules or guidelines should be established from the beginning. Examples include recovering produce that has fallen to the ground to donate, mowing weedy plots, and determining if plots will be organic or not.

See Organizing Your Community Garden section on rules and bylaws.

How big should individual plots be?
For new gardeners, discourage sizes larger than 15’ x 15’. When laying out the garden, leave paths wide enough for a wheelbarrow (or a wheelchair).

See Planning Your Community Garden

How much should plots cost to rent?
Prices vary dramatically. Garden organizers should agree on a price that everyone pays, for example, $10 a year for a 10′ x 10′ plot. Gardeners who pay a fee are more inclined to show up and take responsibility for their plot.

Should we test the soil?
Yes. If lead or other contaminants are present, your options include planting a flower garden or constructing raised beds at least eight inches deep. Bioremediation is another option, but it is expensive. Phytoremediation (using plants to remove toxins) is an exciting and new area of study, but for now, flowers or raised beds are your quickest, most economical options.

See Planning Your Community Garden

What about tools?
Determine if gardeners will provide their own tools or if the garden will be home to a lockable storage space for garden-owned tools.

See Planning Your Community Garden

Where do I get plants and seeds?
Whenever possible, buy locally-sourced plants and seeds. Farmers’ Market vendors now sell garden plants alongside produce. Look for Nature’s Crossroads seeds, which are produced in Indiana. Buy seeds from a cooperative such as FedCo, which guarantees that none of their seed is genetically modified. Check out Brambleberry Farm for Indiana-grown perrieniel fruits and nuts.

Sometimes garden centers will donate seeds and plants to Purdue Extension’s Capital City Garden Project.

Where can we get free mulch and manure?
Area tree companies are generally happy to share tree mulch with your garden at no charge. Contact those companies closest to your garden.

See Digging for the Best Resources for free stuff.

How can we raise money for our garden?
Plot rents are a great start. Additionally, community gardeners are invited to work the Red Gold tomato juice stand at the Indiana State Fair. Proceeds earned during your shift go to your garden. Contact Marion County Master Gardeners, www.IndyMG.org, at (317) 275-9292 or marionmg@purdue.edu to be added to the volunteer list.

When should we start?
Anytime … however fall and winter is a great time start because you can begin planning your garden, recruiting volunteers, generating interest among neighbors, and securing your land.

What if neighbors are skeptical?
Be sure to share with them the benefits of a community garden.

  • Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
  • Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
  • Stimulates Social Interaction
  • Encourages Self-Reliance
  • Beautifies Neighborhoods
  • Produces Nutritious Food
  • Reduces Family Food Budgets
  • Conserves Resources
  • Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
  • Reduces Crime
  • Preserves Green Space
  • Creates income opportunities and economic development
  • Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
  • Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

What are planting dates for Central Indiana?
See the Indiana Vegetable Planting Guide or Nature’s Crossroads Planting Chart.

I need some inspiration to get started. Help me out …
Talk to other community gardeners, contact us, visit a community garden, or volunteer with us.

Can I build a compost bin out of pallets?
YES!

See Digging for the Best Resources for free stuff.