Community Garden FAQ

What is a community garden all about?
We are groups of individuals and families of diverse backgrounds who choose to garden together. We welcome people of all cultures, speaking all languages, making any kind of income, with little or a lot of gardening experience. Each household gets a garden plot to tend and contributes some volunteer hours to help run the garden.  Gardeners collect fees, maintain paths, mow, hold meetings, elect chairs, and divide all tasks among us. Most gardens have no paid staff people, so we all pitch in by volunteering for different tasks.

How big are plots?
Plot size is usually around 400 square feet. Half-plots and other sizes are available as well in some gardens.

How many plots can I get?
It depends on how many gardeners sign up for plots. Most gardens should have room for everyone to have at least one. You may request additional plots, and the garden registration volunteers will honor your request as space allows. Returning gardeners may request to keep the plot(s) they gardened the previous year. Do keep in mind that many gardens have waiting lists for new gardeners. Some gardens have long waits before you are able to get a plot, limit the number of plots you can have, or the number of years you can work a plot. Find contact information for the registrar or garden coordinator at the garden/s you are interested in by visiting our Find a Garden Near You page.

What do I get when I sign up?
Each garden has its own features and personality, but all will provide:

  • A plot for your use during the season.
  • Use of a few shared common tools, and sometimes access to free seeds and plants.
  • Access to water.
  • A supportive environment for learning about gardening and meeting neighbors!

How much does it cost?
Payment for plots is usually based on a sliding scale, set to be affordable for everyone while still collecting enough money in your garden bank account to pay for tools, hoses, water, etc. The number of people in your household and your income determine how much you will pay for a plot. The cost can range from $10 to $65 per plot per year.

What extra things will I need to purchase?
Some gardens invite gardeners to buy bales of straw or hay for mulch at wholesale cost or loads of compost during Spring Registration events. Check with garden leaders for details. While some free seeds or seedlings may be available, most gardeners will have to invest some money in the plants they will grow. You may also choose to purchase trellising or fencing materials, row cover, compost, or a hose or watering can if hoses are not provided. While gardens often take some investment, think about the future savings on your grocery bill!

Are the gardens organic?
Most area gardens do not allow non-organic or chemical pesticides (insect spray, Sevin Dust). No herbicides (like Round-Up) are ever allowed in the gardens. Compost is sometimes provided, and organic fertilizers are encouraged. If you are unsure about a particular product, contact the garden coordinator for the garden you are interested in to find out if you can use it.  UW Extension Master Gardeners can help your garden schedule a workshop on organic pest control and make individual recommendations.

What about people who have never gardened before?
One of the greatest benefits of community gardening is learning from experience and from other gardeners. We  many resources to help people who are just getting started on our For Gardeners page. Some gardens pair new gardeners with more experienced ones. Workshops are offered periodically by Master Gardener Volunteers and at Troy Gardens.  The Master Gardener Plant Health Advisory Hotline can give you plenty of suggestions for managing a healthy and productive garden. The most important thing is to ask for help and suggestions from your fellow gardeners. It’s a lot of fun! Experienced gardeners are usually quite glad to share their knowledge and skills with gardening novices. Flatter experienced gardeners with your questions! Also, check out the public library for hundreds of books on how to garden. We particularly recommend the “Wisconsin Garden Guide” written by Madison resident Jerry Minnich.

How much time does it take?
Gardening is fun, but it’s also hard work. You have to weed, harvest, and maintain your plot. If you are going to be out of town for an extended period, you’ll have to arrange for someone to tend your plot. Gardening also demands more time at different points in the season than others. If you don’t think you can tend to your plot twice a week, consider sharing with someone else.

Once I have a plot, what do I have to do?
Be a good neighbor by following the rules and maintaining your plot.
Perform the required hours of voluntary-service for your garden.
Enjoy your garden and your community of gardeners!

What about theft?
All gardens experience the risk of at least a little theft or vandalism. Gardeners have found that theft diminished with signs and outreach to neighbors to tell them about the garden and invite them to get plots. Fences can also help. If you are experiencing problems with theft or vandalism, please contact your garden coordinator to make them aware of the issue and help brainstorm strategies for resolving the problem.

Are the gardens tilled?
Every garden is different, some all or partially composed of no-till and tilled plots. Mention if you have a preference when you inquire about a new garden or sign up at your garden’s Spring Registration.

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