Creating a Community Garden on a Vacant Lot

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Are you interested in transforming a vacant lot into a community garden? First, find out how the site has been used in the past. This will help you identify potential risks. For example, if it had an old house with lead paint and plumbing, you may want to check for lead in the soil before you build a garden. There are several things to consider:

  1. Use the links below to identify which types of contaminants may be present, how to have the soil tested, and what steps you can use to protect your gardeners. Visit “Check your Dirt ” for information specific to your garden.

  2. Remove any solid waste including old cars, broken glass, used needles, and other trash dumped on site.

  3. Remove weeds and invasive plants from the site.

  4. Nurture soil health and improve fertility by adding compost and planting cover crops.

David Kent-CC-BY-NC-ND

Start small and plant cover crops on the rest of the lot. This will make it easy to expand when you are ready. One of the most common and most damaging mistakes community garden leaders make is taking on too much, too fast. Gardeners are burned out by endless weeding and hard work. Start small, have a flourishing, beautiful, happy garden that people want to be part of. Increase the size as you have the resources and interest to joyfully support the additional load.

Build a team of gardeners and garden supporters to foster the development of the garden.

Follow the links below for more detailed advice. The first three have to do with managing soils. The next two are community gardening resources. The last one is to the American Community Gardening Association.


Written By

Lucy Bradley, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDr. Lucy BradleyExtension Specialist (Consumer & Community Horticulture) & Professor Call Dr. Lucy Email Dr. Lucy Horticultural Science
NC State Extension, NC State University
Posted on Dec 23, 2021
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