How to create a gardening group

Last updated: 23 August, 2021

Gardening groups are great because they: 

  • encourage people to learn new skills 

  • help improve mental wellbeing and promote being outdoors  

  • encourage the growth of fresh local produce at a time when food banks are struggling with demand 

What you need

  • Tools (forks, spades, trowels, secateurs, gloves)

  • Wheelbarrow 

  • A secure place to keep tools 

  • Access to a water supply 

  • A space with a mixture of light and shade 

  • Permission to use the space 

  • Public liability insurance 

  • A design for your garden (could just be a rough drawing) 

  • Plants, flowers or seeds for growing vegetables 

  • Access to toilets 

With the climate emergency going on I'd never recommend people use mains water to water their plants. We should be talking water butts and watering cans, drip irrigators and water conservation methods.

Isabel SwiftLemon Balm, Leeds

Setting up the group

1Find out if there are any other gardening groups in your area

Explore groups on Co-operate and ask around. You might find there are other groups you can join up with.    

2Ask people if they’d like to help

Start with your friends, then do a call out on social media or put some posters up in your community. 

3Organise a meeting to discuss next steps

Get everyone who’s interested together in a local space (like a pub garden or the local park). 

4Work out whether you want to create a community garden or garden in lots of different places

Setting up a community garden in one place is easier because you only need to ask once for permission to use the space. 

5Ask the community about the kind of garden they’d like

The community will use the garden you create so make sure they’re involved from the start. Use an online survey or a social media poll. 

6Decide what kind of garden you’ll create

Based on your survey results, decide whether you’ll create a garden with vegetables, flowers and plants, or a combination. 

7Ask for support from other groups and local businesses

Get advice on finding support from local businesses and community groups

8Get insurance

You can get public liability insurance from most insurers. This will cover your legal liability from accidental damage or injury. It also includes damage or injury to a member of the public or their property.  

I'd suggest people look at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) 'Greening Grey Britain' scheme, and the federation of city farms and community gardens who have great info on public liability for small groups.

Isabel SwiftLemon Balm, Leeds

Choosing a space

1Find a suitable space for your garden

Look at: 

  • woodlands 

  • allotments 

  • school land 

  • derelict land 

2Do a soil test and check how much of the space is in light or shade

Find out if your soil type is clay, sand, silt, loam, peat or chalk. This will help you choose the right plants for your garden. 

3Ask permission from the local landowner

Contact your local council to find out who owns the land at gov.uk/find-local-council.  

4Do a risk assessment of the space

Use the Health and Safety Executive’s risk assessment template

5Clear the garden of weeds and rubbish

Get your gardening group to wear protective gloves.  

6Look at gardening magazines for inspiration

Ask your volunteers to find designs that inspire them. This will help you create your own design sketches. 

7Take photos at different stages

You’ll be able to see all the progress your gardening group has made. You can use these photographs to share in the community and let them know how you’re getting on.  

8Create an indoor space

It’s important to have somewhere to go when the weather isn’t great. Think about getting a shed or greenhouse. 

I must admit we have done a lot of guerrilla gardening. Clearing spaces and putting in plants without permission. If it improves the area, we believe nobody will complain. But relationships with local councillors are invaluable as they have influence to get things done and grant permission to garden on council owned land.

Linda StanleyBeeston in Bloom

When your garden is ready 

1Hold an open day for people in the community

Invite people to come and see your garden. Have a BBQ or picnic depending on what time of year it is. Make sure some of your volunteers are there to chat about what you’ve done. 

2Share your story

Celebrate your success with others in the community. Share your story and we’ll include it on Co-operate.

Make it for everyone 

  • choose a space with wheelchair access 

  • create a garden with ramps, wide paths and raised beds 

  • provide people with special tools and equipment if they are needed. Livingmadeeasy.org.uk can help you with tools and advice 

  • consider introducing different elements to your garden like sculptures and craft. This will encourage more young people and children to get involved 

  • create a dedicated space for children and young people. Make sure you fence off the area for safety and have no water features or poisonous plants 

  • learn how you can make it easier for people who are blind or partially sighted to get involved by visiting the Royal Institute of the Blind’s (RNIB) website 

Look for other local groups near you who run gardening groups and see if they will let you borrow their equipment for your first one or join with the other groups to create a tool sharing library.

Shelly Quinton-HulmeFriends of Victoria Park

Useful websites

  • Incredible Edible Network

    Their vision is to create kind, confident and connected communities through the power of food.

  • Good to Grow

    The Good to Grow Network is all about getting people involved in their local community garden.

Share your story

Do you have a story about how your community has come together to support each other?

We'd love to share your story on our website to encourage other people to get or offer support.

Share your story

Find things to do and groups that support your community