Living Close to Nature


Monica Rakowski

How to Start a Community Garden

Last year, the KP came together to build a community garden at the Red Barn, our local youth center. About 30 people, including quite a few kids, showed up to build raised beds and a fence, shovel dirt and put plants in the ground. It was pretty incredible to watch our community accomplish something so big.

Since then, the staff and kids at the Red Barn have taken care of their garden and eaten their harvest for afterschool snacks. They get many benefits from gardening: exercise, improved mood and a connection to nature. Plus it gets them off their phones.

Wouldn't it be amazing to have gardens like this throughout our community? What if our schools, food banks, parks and churches all had their own gardens? Gardens make each organization, and our community, more self-sufficient. They feed us fruits and veggies that taste better and are more nutritious than those found at a grocery store.

Karole Johnson's charity, Seeds of Grace (, organized and fundraised for the Red Barn garden. She has a few helpful tips for anyone who feels the call to plant another garden here on the KP.

Find your location. First things first, you need to find the right spot for your garden. Talk to organizations that might be willing to give you space. Schools, food banks, parks, churches and community centers are great places to start. Be sure that your garden has easy access to water and plenty of sunshine.

Involve the community. The thing every community garden needs most is people. People must build, care for and harvest the garden. Chances are that volunteers will come forward once you've found a location, especially in our community where people jump at the chance to help their neighbors.

Don't just leave it to chance, though. You'll want to advertise your project. Get the paper to write a story about the garden. Put up fliers on community bulletin boards. Talk to local businesses. Use social media for all it's worth, especially our very active Key Peninsula Facebook groups.

You'll also want to put leadership into place. Find leaders who are organized, but not control freaks. You want people in charge who are team players and can get people excited.

Be creative about fundraising. Karole says to estimate that each garden will cost around $2,000. You'll need things like soil, fertilizers, wood for raised beds, fencing and, of course, the plants. Ask local businesses for help with money and supplies. You'll be surprised by their generosity. Have a bake sale. Start a GoFundMe account. Make crafts to sell at holiday and spring craft bazaars. Call up Seeds of Grace to see if they can help.

Community gardens are an important trend in our society and I urge you to participate. If you don't feel up to starting one, at least head over to the Red Barn to see if they could use a hand.

Monica Rakowski owns KP Indoor Garden Store in Key Center and blogs at