Designing a Garden

Consider the purpose/vision

Two women talking at a community gathering

There are about as many good reasons for having a community garden as there are gardeners. For some, it’s a chance to meet their neighbors; others are excited about learning to garden; some gardeners want to create a safe place for kids to be.

Your group of gardeners doesn’t have to agree on just one reason, but a discussion should be held about what the purpose (or purposes) of the garden are, as this will help with many of the design decisions. A garden whose purpose is to maximize the amount of fresh food delivered to the food bank will look very different from a garden designed to foster community interaction. Getting clarification early on in the process is a good idea to minimize conflict.

Individual versus communal

One of the primary organizing factors in community gardens is the distinction between individual plots and communal areas. Individual plots are areas that gardeners rent to do with as they choose, and many choose to grow food for home consumption, with excess given to food banks. Many gardens have at least a portion of their garden in individual plots, some are entirely that way. Other gardens are designed to have a portion of the space cared for by the entire community. That is, the group works together to maintain the communal plot and shares in the benefits.

Here is a list of examples of communal plots:

A group of people watching a demonstration in a garden

  • Herb garden
  • Flower garden
  • Orchard
  • Native plant garden
  • Gathering place
  • Children’s garden
  • Children’s play area
  • Demonstration garden
  • Whatever else you like!

Importance of shared space

Why plan a communal space in a garden? This type of space can be very important to the development of a sense of community within and around the garden. Research has shown that levels of social capital tend to be higher in gardens that reserve some area for communal space. And the space can be used for many different activities: gardening for donation, planting of demonstration gardens, and classes or community events.

Visit other gardens to get inspired

Community gardens are incredibly diverse! Before you build yours, visit a few others in the neighborhood to get an idea of the different options you have.


Next...Building a garden