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Community Gardens

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This guide links to resources that: help people successfully start and manage community gardens; inform governments on how they can encourage gardens; and guide organizations on permanently protecting gardens.


Community gardens are community-managed open spaces used by community members for growing food, flowers, or other plants. They offer numerous benefits, including reliable access to healthy food, nature-based stormwater management, and strengthened ties between community members.

This guide provides links to resources that can help people successfully start and manage community gardens, as well as resources that provide information about how governments and organizations can encourage and protect gardens. Find these and other resources in the Community Gardens topic at

Starting and Managing a Garden

The following resources provide information about starting and managing a successful garden, including finding land, securing funding, attracting gardeners, and dealing with legal issues.

How to Organize a Community Garden

Community Gardening Toolkit

Collard Greens and Common Ground: A Community Food Gardening Handbook

Ground Rules: A Legal Toolkit for Community Gardens

A Guide for Making Community Gardens Accessible for All Members

Sample community gardeners’ welcome packet

Sample community garden forms

Community garden funding opportunities

Encouraging and Protecting Community Gardens

The following resources explain how local governments can encourage community gardens through zoning, planning, and other methods, and how governments and organizations can protect community gardens permanently by acquiring land or conservation easements.

Community Gardening Policy Reference Guide 

Establishing Land-Use Protections for Community Gardens

Cultivating Community Gardens: The Role of Local Government in Creating Healthy, Livable Neighborhoods

Community Gardening Organizations

These organizations have significant experience with community gardens. Visit their websites to learn more about their community garden initiatives and to find gardening resources.

American Community Gardening Association

Grow Pittsburgh

Neighborhood Gardens Trust

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

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Physical spaces, including community gardens, can often, without intention, exclude members of the population. Through promoting the principles of Universal Design this guide is intended to offer gardeners assistance on how to make their gardens more accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
Thorough guide emphasizing practical information beginners or veteran gardeners alike can use to help make their community garden a success. This publication is not an academic study—it purposely focuses on specific, practical, and applicable suggestions to create successful solutions for any commu…
This comprehensive guide provides a road map for how local laws and policies can impact local gardening efforts. It also addresses practical issues such as how to find and evaluate potential garden sites, design and manage gardens, and handle liability issues.
This guide is intended to be a resource for gardeners, garden organizers, Extension staff, and other agency professionals who want to start a new community garden, enhance an existing garden or help community members start and manage their own community garden.
Barriers, such as liability expenses, code restrictions, and a lack of resources, which often make it difficult for communities to establish or maintain gardens in their neighborhoods, can be overcome with local government engagement. This fact sheet offers case studies, best management practices, …
Local government leaders are in a unique position to promote healthy eating and active living in their communities by supporting community gardens. Community gardens can improve nutrition, physical activity, community engagement, safety, and economic vitality for a neighborhood and its residents an…
This toolkit was developed to provide legal resources for establishing community gardens on vacant or underutilized parcels of land. It includes a model community garden lease, a model gardener's agreement, and model garden rules. The toolkit describes the rights and responsibilities of the landown…
Guide explains different types of community gardens and the steps necessary to start and effectively maintain a garden. Appendix includes sample bylaws, budget worksheet, and gardener application.
This guide links to resources that: help people successfully start and manage community gardens; inform governments on how they can encourage gardens; and guide organizations on permanently protecting gardens. (Print version of guide)


Nate Lotze compiled this guide.

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association produced this guide with support from the William Penn Foundation, the Colcom Foundation, and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.


Nothing contained in this document is intended to be relied upon as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. The material presented is generally provided in the context of Pennsylvania law and, depending on the subject, may have more or less applicability elsewhere. There is no guarantee that it is up to date or error free.