Beyond the Garden Bed: Garden Relations
Tending Community Relations in the Garden
Issue: People do not know one another and there
is no sense of being a group of gardeners.
- start using name tags (first name only) at the
garden bed registration / sign-up event and every meeting
- set a goal that every gardener who joins will know the name of
3 other gardeners within 2 weeks. This can be done by
matching up gardeners with Watering Buddies or having them be part
of an garden operations group as soon as they join the
garden. Do the same for people joining the garden after the
registration signup. Start those connections and
introductions right away and keep it as an ongoing
- Make spring cleanup day a meet, greet and launch the
garden together day - attendance, nametags, good humour,
refreshments required! Use a "icebreaker" style activity to
mix people up while doing the spring cleanup tasks so that they are
teaming up with people they have not met before. Results:
conversation, laughter and a cleaned up garden space!
- Garden Team: make a point of getting to know a little
about your garden bed renters' gardening life so you learn
what their interests are. This enables you to understand what
kind of volunteering invitation will be attractive and catch their
interest. Then invite them personally to take a specific
role. The power of the personal invitation is the singlemost
important factor in a person getting involved in any activity.
1. Finding enough gardeners and growing
participation beyond the same core group.
2. Culture of garden is more like an allotment garden
where. Gardeners do not interact, are uninvolved, and
unaware of the additional value of a community garden. People
are focused exclusively on individual gardening goals and complain
they aren't receiving food crop harvests equal to the garden bed
- Start with social events in the community hall
such as: Pesto making, potlucks with a humorous theme, family
events where children are welcome, seed or plant swaps...
- Ask each Garden Team member to introduce 2
gardeners to 2 other gardeners they have not met before. Keep
it simple and achievable such as a half hour of coffee and
conversation. Do this over a series of fall / winter
- Identify a garden workshop topic that members
want to learn and explore. Co-host a talk with the Calgary
- Engage groups of garden members by their special
interest. For example, present a sample of
family-friendly garden activities that non-gardening parents can do
with their kids from
Gardening with Children.
- Host a garden education event on "Low
Maintenance Gardening" or "Growing Food in Small Places", soil
health, seed saving, bugs and insects etc. Ask specific
garden members who have been uninvolved to help with one element of
the event. Keep it simple and straightforward such as sharing
event info with friends, neighbours or co-workers, checking in
people at the door, taking in and accounting for pay-at-the-door
cash, setup / takedown of chairs, bringing contribution for the
refreshments (juice, cookies).
Calgary Horticultural Society has a Speakers
Bureau where an experienced gardener will come and do a 20
minute talk for free. Contact Colleen at email@example.com
- Partner up with Permaculture Guild Calgary members to see if
they would run a permaculture design course in
your community hall.
- Examine if the goals for your community garden involve claiming
back a grassed area for a permaculture project and
the first step can be a sheet mulching party.
- Check to see if there is a permaculture blitz
planned in or near your neighbourhood. Invite a
group of gardeners to participate.
- Edit the garden guidelines to make
participation on a garden team a requirement of garden
- Change the name to one that refers to people
and not a location eg. Gardeners of Springbank Hills, McClure
Fellowship of Gardeners.
- New Gardener Welcome: Make a Buddy system a
requirement of renting a garden space. All new garden members
are matched with returning garden member. Introduce them to
their Buddy Gardener and refer them the Calgary Horticultural
Society's Community Garden Resource Network (CGRN) sessions
on learning how to garden.
Issue: Vacant garden beds
- Start communicating about available beds as soon as you can in
the January / February / March community
- Reach out to neighbouring communities that don't have a garden
and invite them to join by placing a listing in their April
- Contact CGRN to let them know about available vacant beds so
that nearby community gardens with waiting lists can re-direct
people to join your garden.
- Sow cover crops that renew the soil in vacant beds such as
field peas, Dutch clover, barley, and buckwheat. Let the soil
in those beds rest for the season. In the meantime, focus on
building a sense of common purpose within the garden.
- Sow root crops for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank such as
potatoes, onions and beets. Avoid carrots because they
will be more vulnerable to produce thieves.
- Advertise Social Gardening and name the group
garden beds so that people with specific interests can join
one. For example, have group gardening beds named the
Coffee Lovers' Garden Bed
Bike Riders' Garden Bed Bed
Wine Drinkers' Garden Bed
Card Players' Garden Bed
Chess Players' Garden Bed
Soccer Moms' Garden Bed
Issue: Imbalance of participation in overall
- Be alert to garden members who may be doing too much
and burning out. Prevent disillusionment by opening
the conversation with them regarding burn-out. Invite them to
collaborate with you to match up all currently active gardeners
with an assistant from the new garden members.
- Contact garden members and ask if they have
concerns about volunteering. Identify if they are uneasy
because they do not know what to do.
- Gardeners' Mailbox: set up weatherproof
mailbox for comments and suggestions. This is also a
place where gardeners can place extra seeds or hang a bag for extra
produce for giving away to community members walking by the
- Connect with people around saving money by sharing
seeds. Create a pool for leftover seeds and have an
informal seed swap event.
- Option for apathetic gardeners is to donate an
extra monthly amount if they are not able to meet the requirement
for garden team participation, group garden maintenance etc.
Note: Some garden teams have tried this and not had success in
engaging the unengaged gardener.
- Set up and make known a clearer framework of
participation so that people know and see in the
gardener's agreement that they will be joining a specific team
responsible for an aspect of garden operations.
- Consider a gardening interest group for the entire
neighbourhood in order to make friends with residential
backyard or balcony gardeners.
- Survey gardeners at the end of the
season. Ask garden bed renters what worked, what
didn't and what they would like to help make happen in the
Sample harvest celebration survey
Issue: Finding it difficult to get people
- Use smaller group model for garden operations.
A Team Lead meets with his/her 3-5 team members. Team Lead
then keeps in touch with other team leads and garden team
executive. At garden bed sign-up (or before spring clean-up date)
people choose a role and meet with the other people on that team
- If your garden does not place people on an garden operations
team at registration, then standardize the volunteer hours
requirement so that gardeners are discouraged from "shopping
around" from garden to garden in order to find a garden where they
can avoid helping to maintain the entire site. (Hey, we are
all kinda lazy by nature, right?)
- Create connections with groups and
organizations that can help with heavy garden labour such
as Calgary Attendance Centre work crews, students on
internships, church youth groups looking for a project, Youth Core
volunteers, and non-profit societies assisting people in
Next Topic: Community Relations