In the event there is not already a garden in place. This is not a build it and they will come scenario. There must be a specific purpose or need for the garden to fill. Look for existing community groups, parks, churches, schools, low income housing or existing community garden areas.
Early in the planning process it is imperative to communicate with all the program areas of UWEX that will be involved. It will take effort from all programs to have a successful multilevel programming. It is up to the individual program leads to decide if they are available to offer up services dedicated to this project. There may be other obligations that need to be considered.
Relationships matter. Funding partners, community foundations, committees, educators, gardeners, and even program participants when possible. Even the janitor in the school needs to know what is going on so they can plan around the program. Keep lines of communication open as the program progresses. Use social media and press releases to raise community awareness of your initiative.
Check with local municipalities on regulations and ordinances surrounding your garden project site. Check with school administrators about your school district’s policies on volunteers (including liability waivers). Some school districts, for example, require a separate volunteer application for the district’s insurance program.
Finding an appropriate location for a garden that is easily accessible to program participants and ready to plant is not always easy. Know the background of the land to be used. Do the necessary soil testing at least six weeks before planting. You may need to install raised beds to control soil quality and this is an added expense you may not have planned for.
Consider what size is best suited for the purpose. Container gardens can be a great alternative when space is an issue. Determine a safe water source. Consider the age of the audience, is it handicap accessible, kid friendly? Consider wildlife; will there need to be fencing to keep them from contaminating and foraging?
Your community partners may prove to be your greatest resource. Keep a contact list noting their available resources. Use the GardenWIse and Master Gardener website resources. Once you have identified what is needed, make a list of where and how it will be procured as well as the cost. See the project analysis sheet provided.
What types of produce fit into the garden, and into the programming? Are they culturally relevant to the audience, will they eat them? Will you use seeds or transplants? Check with local food pantries on their needs. Have a sketch of the garden area available. Keep a planting log, a template is supplied in forms.
Plan a time when you can come together to get the garden planted or work on special projects. Have Master Gardeners on hand for advice or meet with participants ahead of time to plan. Advertise the work day and send out reminders. List what will be supplied and what workers will need to bring.Fill out a planting log sheet. Take pictures!
Include program participants to aid in setting realistic rules and behavior expectations. Remind participants that workers and volunteers must also follow rules themselves. People then know what is expected of them and the reasoning behind the rules. Be sure to share the rules in writing or post at the garden site.
Have clear volunteer position descriptions, a template is provided under forms. Be sensitive to the needs of educators who have planned lesson dates and times. They may need a particular vegetable to harvest or cannot have a muddy garden area with young children. Determine who will care for the garden over the summer. Use a shared calendar if possible to alleviate these issues.
The gardening season is long to accommodate multiple programs. Beginning and end of school year, summer program, youth group, YMCA or Boys and Girls Club that could take part of that time? Are there neighbors nearby that are interested in helping out? Will the school maintenance crew be able to assist? Will Master Gardener be assigned to hold educational events during this time?
Have a plan for a safe harvest of the produce. It is important to keep a harvest log for food safety and reporting, template provided under forms. Weights can be determined by a bathroom scale, hanging buckets from a fish scale or using the charts provided. It is a program goal that excess goes to local food pantries or soup kitchens, confirm best time for drop off or pick up. Designate how the produce is to be transported. Communicate what is being donated so that fact sheets and recipes can be supplied for ease of use.
Celebrate the successes of the program. Hold a harvest party. Invite stakeholders. Use this time to collect comments on what worked and what can be improved for next year. Evaluate the strengths and barriers to long-term sustainability of programming. Make a list of what needs to be done to put the garden to bed such as cleaning and storing tools.