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Friday, July 2, 2010

Community Garden Rules

For a Community Garden to operate successfully the gardeners should have a written set of rules that everyone agrees to follow. This is no easy task. Devising a set of rules that takes into account all possible circumstances may be impossible so having a mechanism for updating or adding rules that is also fair and equitable is very important. The rules shouldn't be a a "NO" list or a series of "DON'TS" but a document that is positive and gives a rationale for why a rule is included. The example below from Madison Wisconsin is such a document. Note that fun and safety are mentioned at the beginning. How to resolve conflicts is clearly stated as well as how to get information and needed materials like compost. There are some "NO" rules - herbicides, pesticides, dogs, selling produce, cars - mostly at the end. As well as a few "DON'TS" like stealing, planting tall things that will shade your neighbors plot or vines that get out of control and invade others plots as well as a short list of plants that should not be grown in the garden. These are things that need to be spelled out because lets face it, for many people, if something is not specifically outlawed, to them it is allowed. Each garden will have some very specific rules because of the location or size of the garden or because of regulations or stipulations by the landowner or municipality. Creating the rules initially can be time consuming and argument provoking but going through the process at the beginning will avoid later conflict. It helps to have something to start with, so the Community Garden Rules below are a good place to start.

Community Garden Rules
Rev 12/1/05

Below are some of the rules created at Madison gardens, which should be fine-tuned to suit your garden. Clear rules help because it is better to have people mad at the rules than mad at the coordinators!

q The garden should be a safe place for the community, children, and other gardeners. Do not bring anything that will compromise the safety of the garden.

q Ensuring enjoyable gardening experience for all of the garden community is the primary goal of these rules and responsibilities. For this reason, observe the rules of the garden, and be a good neighbor.

q The garden’s executive committee or steering committee has the duty of enforcing rules and making decisions for the garden between annual meetings of all gardeners. They have authority to resolve conflicts, including refusing a plot to a gardener or dismissing a current gardener.

q Please check the bulletin board for a map showing where your plot is, as well as information concerning the garden - problems, classes, information, notices. Feel free to post information you have and leave messages for other gardeners there.

q Teach your children to respect others’ plots and not to waste water.

q Unresolved issues or disputes between gardeners will be referred to the coordinators or garden board.

q Each person must apply each year for a plot but returning gardeners will be given first preference and permitted to keep the same plot if they wish. The number of plots per gardener may be limited according to demand.

q You are responsible for your own plot and ______ hours of volunteer work (contributing to the upkeep of the whole garden.)

q If you are unable to care for your plot for a time because of illness or vacation, ask a fellow gardener or the coordinator for help with weeding and harvesting.

q Generally visit your plot at least once each week.

q If you decide not to use your plot, please contact the registrar so it may be reassigned to someone on the waiting list. If there is no evidence of activity at your plot by June 1st, it will be reassigned. There are no refunds on plot fees paid.

q If your plot is overgrown with weeds, you will receive a warning. After one week of no action, your plot may be mowed and reassigned.

q Biodegradable mulch such as compost, leaves, straw, and hay are encouraged. Carpet mulch is not allowed. Remove any non organic mulch by closing day. No wood chips as mulch. They do not biodegrade quickly. Black plastic is allowed, but must be removed at the end of the season.

q Please do not plant mint, catnip, Jerusalem artichokes, comfrey or raspberries.

q Keep tall plants such as corn or sunflowers at the center of your plot so they do not shade your neighbors plants.

q Keep vines and visitors out of neighboring plots.

q If you have a surplus of vegetables or fruits, please contact a nearby food pantry to donate. CAC can give you a list of pantries.

q Do not pick from your neighbor’s garden even if you think they have neglected their plot.

q The garden is not available for commercial use; don’t sell your produce.

q Keep plot boundaries weeded and trash-free. lf you are on a pathway, you are responsible to care for 1/2 of the pathway between you and your neighbor. Keep plot edges and fencing free of weeds that will go to seed. Don't put rocks and sticks in paths. Take them to the rock-and-stick area.

q Compost made from leaves should be available at your garden. You can also go and pick up the same excellent compost, free in small quantities and $10 for a pickup truck load. Get all the details on the Dane County compost hotline at 267-1502. Weeds and diseased plants should be put in plant refuse piles – not on the compost pile.

q If you use the garden’s tools, please return them to the storage area when done.

q Plant refuse piles are set up for weeds and diseased plants. Please use these designated areas. No trash in the piles, please. Please do not add kitchen scraps to the plant refuse piles because they are likely to draw animals.

q Pack your trash back home to dispose of properly.

q Stakes that mark your plot’s corners and have your plot number and name must be left in place all season.

q Never use any herbicides (weedkillers), and pesticides are discouraged and prohibited at many community gardens. Keep pest-control products and containers away from children. Dane County Extension at 224-3700 can give safe pest-control advice.

q No pets in the garden.

q Do not drive into the garden area.


From City Farmer


From Los Angeles

From Greensboro, NC

From Boston

From Johns Creek, GA

From Coupeville, WA

From Austin, TX

From Kilauea, HI

From NYC

Of course since it is NYC there are By Laws, an Events Policy, Plot Assignment rules and Plot Holder rules!!

The samples above are from individual gardens and from municipalities large and small from all areas of the country. There are many examples to choose from depending on your needs.


  1. Trees in my communial garden are to high keeping out light and makes my bungalow always cold