Start a New Community Garden

Family picking strawberies at Alemany Farm

The Recreation and Parks Department receives many inquiries about starting a new community garden in the City. It may seem as easy as building a few raised beds on a vacant piece of land, but there is much more to it than meets the eye.

As with any project that establishes a new recreational use (such as play areas, dog runs, basketball courts), a new community garden needs three key ingredients if it is to succeed:

  • Space – Level terrain is ideal for community gardening. A level site typically requires less development and is easier to design for wheelchair access (required to satisfy building code restrictions and the Americans with Disabilities Act). The site must not conflict with other existing recreational uses, should have a water connection nearby, and should not have large trees or be heavily shaded by trees or building structures. Contact the Recreation and Parks Department’s Neighborhood Services Manager responsible for your site’s neighborhood to review the proposed location.
  • Funding – A typical community garden contains raised garden plots, hose bibs, a tool shed, and compost bins. The construction cost will depend on its size and design. As an example, in summer of 2008 a 4,300-square-foot community garden cost about $20 per square foot to build (construction costs only), which included 14 garden plots (two wheelchair-accessible plots), hose bibs, tool shed, compost bins, small greenhouse, and a surface of either decomposed granite or bark mulch. This does not include the cost of securing the perimeter with fencing. Don’t forget to cover soft costs such as those associated with design.
  • Interest – If your garden is to succeed, community interest in participating is essential. A garden may seem like a good idea, but if nobody signs up it will simply lay fallow. Typically, community gardens are in demand in neighborhoods that are densely populated and have a high number of residents who rent, and where backyards are not commonly available. In recent years, however, interest in community gardening has been growing in neighborhoods throughout the city–which should go a long way to help your fundraising efforts!

Think you’ve found an ideal location for a garden, but you’re not sure if there would be enough community interest? Wondering how much it would cost to build the garden and how to fundraise? Consider introducing your proposal at a meeting of a neighborhood community group. Contact a local landscape architect and ask if he or she might donate some time to help plan the garden. Having an illustrative plan for your garden will be useful in preparing a cost estimate, attracting community interest, and fundraising.

Starting a community garden takes time and effort. When you have secured the three essential ingredients and are ready to move on to the next step, please contact the Community Gardens Program Manager, Melinda Stockmann, for more information.