When groups start a community garden, they often wonder “what are some typical costs that we might run into when we start this garden?” One of the top items that come to the top of the list is always water. You have to have a source of water to have a successful community garden. That might mean tapping into an existing water line, having some water lines run to your site, or perhaps even drilling a well on your site to have a water well there. With that you’ll often have an associated water bill. That bill might be covered by the hosting organization, or by the local government. And you might have some electricity costs that go with that, as well.
Another major expense is preparing the site initially. Often, a garden goes into a bare plot of ground. It often has existing weeds that you need to eliminate. You have to go in and take care of that vegetation the summer before you get started. So many gardens fail because they don’t go to the effort of having good soil preparation in the beginning. And then the next year those gardeners are fighting weeds all summer. So, if you can get that garden well taken care of before the gardening season, that’s a great help. You’ll need to go in and spray weeds, till them under, spray again, and till them under again. Then, in the spring you’ll have another tilling that you’ll need to do, as well as staking out individual plots for the group.
Some other expenses that you’ll incur are regular maintenance of your site. It could be mowing some paths to keep them clean, mulching the paths and keeping the common areas clean. These are just some ongoing regular maintenance expenses just to keep the area nice and tidy and functional for your group.
You may want some infrastructure. You may need a shed to store your tools. You might have a wheelbarrow, some rototillers, and a lawnmower for those lawn-mowing duties. So, you may need some infrastructure, fencing, water lines, and common area features such as picnic benches or a barbeque grill. And for some of the gardens that are larger, or are in a more remote location where they don’t have access to a bathroom facility, you may need to rent a portable toilet to have onsite for the gardeners.
One thing you may need to consider for your garden is some liability insurance. Often the hosting organization will help to take care of that, and you’ll go under their umbrella with that insurance. And then you’ll probably have some meeting expenses. You may want to have some social events such as pot-lucks, you may have postage that you incur, or some copying expenses. In the initial phases, you may want to have an attorney look over some of your constitution by-laws, and some of those agreements. So, there are a few expenses like that which are one-time expenses that you wouldn’t have every year.
As you’re developing a budget for the year, remember to include those major areas that we’ve discussed: the water, water bills, maintenance, infrastructure, tools, and other items. You can start a community garden, and maintain and sustain a community garden on a fairly reasonable budget.
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension Youth Gardening Specialist, 4-H Youth Development. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.