Here is an exercise to do with a garden team
or group of gardeners who are just getting to know each
other. It is an easy introduction to informal group
learning through discussion. You can also use it for a
gardening group that needs to cultivate a group-oriented community
Ask the gardeners to go through the exercize together before you
start discussions around the following questions:
- How to manage succession and turnover in garden team
- How to renew, refresh, rebuild a positive community-oriented
- How to work with garden team members with a wide variety of
personalities and styles.
Building a team approach:
- Identify, respect and use the different talents garden members
have while bringing them together as a series of interconnected
- Do this before garden registration so that there is a list of
teams and their roles for people to join.
- Personally invite people from the group of returning gardeners
to act as a team lead.
- Every Team Lead role has an Assistant who
helps. These assistants are from the garden
membership. The personal invitation is the most influential
action for engaging people in the garden.
- One team of these teams is the admin team. This team is
composed of people who are not intimidated by a little paperwork,
planning and procedure. They are not averse to financial
activities such as budgeting and bookkeeping, report writing,
terms of reference and looking ahead for the future of
the garden. Five people are asked to join this team and they
decide amongst themselves the roles they will assume for the
- Ask 12 people who enjoy hands-on gardening activities to
join the Operations Garden Team.
- Divide the 12 people into 6 teams of two team
leads. Each pair of team leads has additional 2 to 8
gardeners on their team.
- Ask 2 to 6 garden members who prefer hands-on garden
activities to join each of these task-oriented team. These
are Garden Operations Teams. Everyone joining the garden joins a
team. Set up a minimum of 5 garden operations teams and 1 admin
- Each team gathers with the team leads by a specified
date and defines clearly what they will do for the
- Share this with the rest of the teams and
discuss. People are more likely to participate if they can
see immediately that they are not going to have too large a
responsibility and can learn from others how to do the tasks to be
- Take Communication, for instance. One
team of two shares the responsibility to communicate twice a month
with the 5 garden admin executive members and the community
association (if the garden is on public land) or the landowner (if
the garden in on private land). The additional 2 to 8
team members each take one aspect of garden
communication. (monthly community newsletter
article, welcoming and connecting new garden members with existing
members, maintaining the garden blog or web page content,
communicating key dates for meetings and group gardening days like
Spring Cleanup by email to gardeners and so on).
- The Admin Team and the Operations Team Leads work on the
5 year garden path plan of sustainability during the fall and
early winter. Identify the costs of garden maintenance such
as water, repairs, footpath renewal, bed expansion, and shared
gardens. Review the Garden Guidelines and membership
- Communication with gardeners can take place by texting,
email, Facebook, or Doodle
Polls to set up meeting dates. Call people
who do not use a computer. The Communications Team
- Decision-making is best carried out by voting and
recording the majority decision made in brief meeting
minutes. If a garden group uses consensus
decision-making only it will at some point prove difficult to make
- Use a framework of
garden guidelines for the consequences of abandoning a
garden bed and missing planting deadlines. Make it clear to
all garden members what the accepted practices are. Then when
a person loses their garden bed due to neglect it is due to the
garden operations and not a decision influenced by personal
Garden Team Culture Monthly Exercise at Admin Team and
Operations Team meetings to renew collaborative
relationships. If face-to-face meetings are difficult to
arrange, find out if the group is willing to do the group exercize
- When new garden team leads struggle with a sense of community,
start the discussion with the Garden Operations Social Team to
build in garden projects and garden celebrations to bring garden
members together for enjoyment.
- Consider having one person on the admin team be a
meeting facilitator. This is someone who can see
when a large group meeting needs to take a vote on a hard decision,
clarify misunderstandings, store an idea that requires more
discussion by a smaller group at another date in order to stay on
topic, move forward the meeting agenda to keep meetings to one hour
and so on. This can be anyone on the admin team. Offer
a free garden bed if have trouble filling garden team leadership
positions and you have a waiting list
- Make the organizational framework simple and the
responsibilities distributed amongst all gardeners so that
everyone does a little to maintain the garden and the focus is on
getting out there and growing plants!
Leadership Succession and Involvement:
- Publish a timeline of when things need to happen
- Emphasize that to have a bed in the garden people need to have
a role in the operation of the garden.
- Have an Open House Social in connection with the community
association meeting to provide updates and enlist support.
- Get a group together to go on community garden visits.
- Send out an updated Garden Agreement and encourage people to
complete it even if they are not planting this season.
- Take the time and make the effort to establish personal
relationships amongst the gardeners.
- Talk to people in the neighbourhood as you meet them.
- Set up a sign advertising the garden's web page and contact
- Ask people to sign up for Mayor Nenshi's "3 Things for
- Make up buttons or fridge magnets that say "I support the
- Have an event at the garden site such as an Easter Egg Hunt or
- Make up business cards and hand them out everywhere.
- Arrange 1 garden bed on the garden site and plant it up
beautifully for visual impact.
- Get the community garden onto a Jane's Walk usually held the
first week of May.
- Canvas the neighbourhood with a clipboard list of expertise
needed in the garden.
- Meet with Propellus (formerly Volunteer Calgary) to develop a
- Create a "Timeraiser" where people bid on pieces of donated art
whre the bids are "time to be donated" not dollars.
For Garden Leaders who are feeling "burnt
- Keep coming to the Kitchen Table Talk meetings and other
community gardening events to meet other gardeners and get
- "Fake It Until You Make It" and keep your eyes and ears open to
see and hear the good stuff that is happening in the community
- Don't take things too seriously. Remember it's not our
- Create your own gardening support network.
- Go to garden parties and enjoy yourself!
Next Topic: Water