WSU Whatcom County Extension

Community First! Gardens

Community First! Gardens Project



Starting a Community Garden?

Starting a community garden is a complex project, with many things to think about. To get started, your group should consider the following:

1. Is there sufficient demand for a community garden in your neighborhood? Experience indicates that a “critical mass” of ten families is necessary to maintain a community garden.

2. Is there leadership capacity in your neighborhood for developing a community garden? A group of three to five people who are committed to taking a leadership role in developing a garden in your neighborhood is essential. These people will form a committee to work in partnership with the CF!G Coordinator to create a plan for garden development, which might include garden design, an operational plan and a budget.

3. What general rules will govern the maintenance and use of your garden? Many models are available; one of the most successful is Seattle’s Pea Patch program ( You can also look to Bellingham Parks and Recreation’s Community Gardening guidelines (this is not available online; you can get a copy from the Parks and Recreation office at Cornwall Park, or from Becky Curtis, CF!G Coordinator). Another excellent resource is the American Community Garden Association’s website (

4. How will the garden operate in conjunction with the neighborhood association, if there is such a body?

5. What are your ideas for building a garden? Some things to consider are:

a. Where and how to acquire materials for structures (fencing, raised beds, tool shed, bulletin board, compost bins, etc.), tools, garden materials (soil, seeds), etc.

b. How will the actual work of building the garden be accomplished, and who will do the work?

6. Do you have a potential garden site, for which your group has evaluated the following (you can request a map of publicly owned lands in your neighborhood from the city; also look to churches and privately owned vacant or under-used lots):

a. Sun exposure: does it receive at least six hours of sunlight each day?

b. Location: is the site accessible and convenient to the neighborhood by bus, foot or personal vehicle? Is it on a relatively quiet street, protected from traffic?

c. Who owns the land? Don’t assume that public land is the best option for a community garden; more gardens on public land are lost than on private land. If it is public, which agency owns it, and how is it zoned? If it’s privately owned, is the owner agreeable to a lease of at least three years? What is the site’s current and past use?

d. Who are the neighbors? It is ideal if the site is observable by nearby residents, which adds to the security of the site. Are the neighbors agreeable to the idea of a community garden?

e. Is there water? If not, what are the possibilities for irrigating a garden?

7. Consider other possible sources for funding/sponsorship, and some ideas for group fundraising. For example, one community gardening group in another region raised money by selling square inches of garden for $5.00. The names of those supporters were listed on a plaque at the garden site, along with an expression of thanks. See Links page for fundraising ideas.

For information about how a partnership with CF!G can help in the development of new or existing gardens, see the Apply for Partnership page.


Contact Information

For more information, contact Becky Curtis, CF!G Coordinator, at:

WSU Whatcom County Extension, 1000 N. Forest Street, Suite 201, Bellingham, WA 98225, 360-676-6736, Contact Us