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Community Gardens: Garden Rules

Written by Chris Zdorovtsov (former SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist).

It is necessary to have a clear set of rules or guidelines established for community garden participants. Every garden and community is different, so local organizers will want to establish rules that work best for their program.

When developing your garden’s rules or guidelines include a range of perspectives, from the leadership team to the landowner to the gardeners. Address areas of health and safety, procedures and respectfulness. If possible allow for continued suggestions during an annual review process.

Gardeners should sign-off that they have read the guidelines during the application process.

A statement such as ‘Failure to maintain your plot and follow guidelines will result in forfeiting your plot the following season,’ will indicate the consequence of not following through.

  1. Always investigate why the rules are being broken. For example if the plot is not being maintained maybe it is due to unforeseen health reasons or maybe it’s a new gardener who is struggling. With support these types of issues may be resolved. Garden mentors or a participant waiting list might be useful in these situations.
  2. Sometimes gardeners may have disagreement as they have different standards and values related to gardening. Some gardeners feel their soil should be spotless of weeds; some disagree with the use of chemicals. As this is a shared space, members should understand there needs to be some flexibility. However always refer back to the guidelines to determine if a rule has been broken.
  3. Avoid letting unkempt plots to become an eyesore in the neighborhood. This could lead to angry neighbors who may complain to the municipal government which jeopardizes the garden’s existence. Have a clear process for monitoring plots and encouraging that they are kept up to code. However if the user fails to communicate and fails to follow the guidelines, have a process for offering warnings and documenting the issue, such as by taking a photo.

For more details on rule development see the Garden & Yard page.

Related Terms

Community Garden