Starting a New Garden

There are many different ways of building community around a garden, so the first step in starting a garden is to think about what sort of gardening project you are interested in developing. Additionally, it can also be more useful to get involved with and help an existing garden rather than starting your own project, whatever type of garden you were thinking of. The links below can help you get connected with a gardening project or start your own.

Pantry Gardens: These gardens generally are gardened by a group, with most of the production donated to food pantries or other community projects. Produce is sometimes shared among the workers at the garden. To get involved with the pantry garden system, the best place to start is connecting with the Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens.

Edible Landscaping: This involves planting of perennial plants with an edible harvest in public spaces, to be harvested by the general public. Within the City of Madison, you are permitted to plant edible crops in your own yard or the terrace between your sidewalk and the road – see more here. To plant edible perennial species on city-owned land, you can go to this link to find out more information about locations and permissions. The permitting process usually takes 2-3 months.

School Gardens: These are gardens at schools, early care and education centers, community centers, and after school sites. They exist to complement the education and nutrition of children at the school. They are usually managed by school teachers or staff, but often need volunteers from the community. To learn about starting a garden, resources for an existing garden, or connecting with other school gardens, visit the Wisconsin School Garden Network.

Plot-based Gardens: These are community gardens where individuals and households rent small plots each year, doing most of the work themselves and using the harvest for their own household. This is the main type of garden supported by the Dane County Gardens Network. They are managed by a committed group of gardeners, often with support of a local community organization. Information about what is involved in starting a garden can be found here. If you are interested in starting a community garden near you, contact and we will try to connect you with other interested groups and resources. However, a first step should be to see if there are community gardens near you that need support.

Often, these gardens can exist together, with their functions complementing each other. As you think about a new garden project, think about including components from different garden types into your design.

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