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So you want to start a Community Garden? July 13, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

So you’d like to start a Community Garden?  Notes from Fort Macleod’s Community Garden – submitted by Ronda Reach, Fort Macleod

In the fall of 2007 a small group of community members, came together to jointly build a community garden in Fort Macleod.  We may have been slightly naive in the beginning to think it would be all about just the physical aspect of starting a garden.  How hard could it be?  Get some dirt, plant some seeds, water them and voila!  Well, it didn’t happen quite that way.

The initial conversations were very exciting.  We discussed gardening collectively, learning from others and sharing ideas – just the camaraderie of it all kept us focused.  The talk got around and before long there were six of us who were very interested to see such a project come together. 

First question was where?  We sought out a few places.  To make sure the garden was accessible and transportation was not a barrier to participation, a spot within a residential area was chosen.
We approached the municipality to ask for permission to build the project there.  It was a ‘utility right of way area’ and already designated as ‘public’. It just so happened there was another community group talking of building a new playground in the same location.  Both the Community Garden group and the Playground group worked collaboratively in developing their projects as there was space enough for both projects.  Everyone involved felt they were a perfect compliment to each other. 

The Community Garden did however meet with some opposition from adjacent neighbours who didn’t want to have ‘more traffic’ in their area.  More communication with area residents prior to the earth movers doing their job to help us construct the sight would have been helpful.  From the neighbours’ point of view, the quiet abandoned space behind their property was changing and they wanted to be better informed.  From the Community Garden’s side of things it was a win win situation.  We couldn’t understand their opposition to the project.

We applied for funding, which didn’t happen overnight.  So for the first growing season, after much support from the municipality in developing the site along with a lot of volunteered services and donated supplies and equipment, we did get a garden planted in our 0.7 acre site.  We worked hard to encourage new gardeners.  We promoted the Community Garden as an open and inclusive community project.  We grew a strong core of gardeners who met regularly and organized work bees to get the garden started.  This past spring brought out more new gardeners and things are a sproutin’, despite an unseasonably cool and wet spring here in the south. 

A few of the most important things we learned from the initial planning and development phase for the community garden were:
– Strong partnerships within the community are key;  such as with community leaders, media, municipal administration, schools
– Communication is critical; among the gardeners and with the community itself
– Keep the site well maintained from the onset.  This will help to keep possible detractors of the project from criticizing what you are working to achieve

What we hadn’t foreseen was the strong sense of community that came through working together, from the initial planning to our first harvest.  Being involved with the garden and seeing it grow has been a very fulfilling experience.  (Below is a photo of extra potatoes donated to the local food bank)



1. Heather - July 13, 2010

Great story Ronda…thanks for sharing. You’ll have to share your potato growing tips with me sometime.

2. mamazee - July 15, 2010

We are also starting a community garden – we’ve got an all new board, but we are really building on the hard work of the boards previous to us who had assembled two large greenhouses from KinderMorgan as well as a lot of donations from local businesses.

Right now we have our site leveled, and half of the boxes built for the greenhouses, and are hoping to have our grand opening September 10th. Our first full growing season will be next spring, but we’re hoping to have a little bit of growing happening this summer!

We are loving this blog and the ideas here and the inspiration to keep reaching out and building more reciprocity and relationships with other members – it’s incredible how much knowledge and good spirit there is in a relatively small town, and touching to be a part of something like this!

Check out our blog at

3. John Zylstra - July 20, 2010

Greenhouses can be very useful and interesting, but the biggest impediment is often cost. And they need watering all the time. I have a 28 by 16 foot greenhouse that cost about $400 or 500 in materials, made of wood frame 2×4 with 6ml poly to cover. the poly must be strapped on every single 2×4 with a thin strip of plywood to keep poly from flapping and tearing. I put pressure treated on bottom board, and a cement footing could be used. From experience I expect the poly to last at least five years, maybe eight or ten if the greenhouse is not in a windy place. The poly is the least costly part of the greenhouse. Openings must be available for ventilation in the hotter parts of summer.

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