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NC State Extension


Community Food Garden Design

Collard Greens and Common Ground: A North Carolina Community Food Gardening Handbook has an entire chapter dedicated to Food Garden Design. It covers how to decide what goes in the garden, draw the garden plan, elements of garden design, and pictures of community gardens throughout North Carolina.

A Step-by-Step Method

We suggest adapting a simple, three-step process for garden design:

  1. Decide what goes in the garden. Everyone with a stake in the garden discusses and makes suggestions about the elements and general structure of the garden. List your choices and priorities.
  2. Determine the site layout. Next, go out to the site and walk around. Discuss where different elements might go. For instance, where will the front gate and entrance be? Where can you put a compost area? Where will you need a water tap? Take pictures.
  3. Draw the garden plan. Recruit someone with visual design skills and experience to transform the team’s ideas into clear scale drawings that accurately show the garden’s actual layout on the site.

Community Food Garden Design Questions

  • How many gardeners will be able to participate in the garden?
  • Will the garden use native soil or build raised beds? If both strategies will be used, how much space will be devoted to each option?
  • How big will each plot or planter be? Will there be a choice of sizes or a single size? How will plots or raised beds be laid out on the site?
  • For cooperative gardens, how will the food gardening area be laid out?
  • How wide will different kinds of paths be? Will they be mulched, mowed, graveled, paved, or left as dirt?
  • Will the whole garden be organic? If not, will there be a designated area set aside for organic gardening? Where and how large will it be?
  • Where will water come from? Where should the water spigots go, and how many are needed? How many hoses are needed and how long should they be? Will you need watering cans?
  • Where’s the best gathering area? What kind of seating will be available? Is there shade? Is there enough space for meetings and social events?
  • Where will people be able to wash their hands and go to the toilet?
  • Does the garden need a fence? If so, what kind and what type of gates will it have?
  • Will there be a shed for storing tools and supplies? Where will it go? What will the shed look like? Will a shed require a special zoning permit?
  • How will the garden handle compost-making and soil stewardship? Where will the composting area be? Will it be a shared pile or individual bins?
  • How can bulk materials, stakes, and other supplies be stored and concealed from view?
  • Will ornamental flower beds be created? Where should they go?
  • Will there be joint growing projects, such as berries or large-space crops, such as sweet corn?
  • Will art have a place in the garden? What kinds?
  • What will the garden look like to the public, particularly the garden’s entrance?

excerpt from Food Garden Design, in Collard Greens and Common Ground: A North Carolina Community Food Gardening Handbook

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