Plant a community garden

Edible bus stop in Stockwell.

Community gardens are a great way of creating a focal point for your neighbourhood. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from parks to roof gardens to flowerbeds on city pavements.

You will need

  • A group of keen and reasonably fit volunteers
  • An empty space with a good mixture of light and shade
  • Permission to use the space
  • Access to a mains water supply for your plants, so they won’t die and your volunteers won’t have to carry endless buckets of water half a mile every day
  • Public liability insurance (for visitors)
  • Employer’s liability insurance (for any employees or volunteers)
  • Lots of ideas, drawings, magazine clippings to inspire everyone. Add water if you fancy a go at making it in papier-mâché
  • Unwanted outdoor furniture
  • A collection of tools (forks, spades, trowels, secateurs, gloves)
  • Somewhere to keep the tools — and possibly somewhere to plug a kettle in too
  • Professional advice — if your plans are ambitious and involve construction or significant amounts of landscaping, you might want to seek outside help

Community gardens are about people not just plants, it’s a chance to be creative and make a space that everyone can use. It could be a place for barbecues and picnics, a place for kids to play, everyone to exercise, or just somewhere to sit and chat.

Most community gardens are built on derelict or abandoned land, so creating one doesn't involve buying land, but simply having permission to use it.


Assemble your development team

Agree on the purpose for the garden, is it for food growing or is it a space for people to relax in, or a bit of both? Remember — unlike allotments, community gardens are not legally protected. If you’re worried about that, make it as portable as possible.

Find a location

Find a location if you haven’t already. Most people start with the location in a ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ sort of way. You don’t need loads of space — you don’t even need grass. If you haven't got much space, consider creating an Edible Bus Stop.

Make sure it’s accessible

If everyone can’t use it then it’s not for everyone — and that’s not in the spirit of the whole venture.

Ask people what they’d want

What would they want to use a community garden for — if people feel like they’ve got a stake in it, then they’re more likely to help look after it. If you've already got access to the plot, then this is the ideal place to hold an event to gauge opinion and collect ideas.

Ask for permission

Get permission — preferably in writing from the landowner.

Invite people in

Invite people in, once the garden is ready. Plan some events to get people into the garden — barbecues, picnics and fetes will help bring it alive.

Think about funding

You may not need any funding to get started, but longer term it could come in handy if you want to make your garden extraordinary.

Read an inspiring story

See how Helen Buckingham got her idea for a community garden up and running.