Toolshed Tips: Garden Communications

By Libby Weiland

Your May Tip: Before the season’s in full swing at your garden, make sure there are systems in place for communicating information, ideas, and concerns with and among those involved with the garden (i.e. gardeners, volunteers, teachers, students). To assess your garden’s communications, start with some basic questions:

  • How does your group relay announcements, scheduling, and other valuable information to those involved with the garden?
  • How do those involved with the garden communicate their needs and ideas to the organizing group?
  • How do members of your garden community communicate with each other to express concerns, share ideas, and help each other out?

Once you’ve answered the above questions, you should end up with a list of communication methods you use in your garden. Review your list. Are these methods effective and appropriate for your group? Are those involved with the garden receiving valuable information about the garden? Are you receiving their input and feedback? Are they communicating with each other in a healthy, effective way? Brainstorm ideas for strengthening communications at your garden. Here are a few ideas to potentially get you thinking in new directions:

  • Online communication tools—There are some wonderful online communication tools available; however, before pursuing them, you’ll want to find out if your garden community has the computer access and savvy needed to use them. Besides the trusty email, a few tools that have proven useful for garden groups include:
    • Facebook Groups or Google+: share latest photos, updates, educational tips, and stay in touch outside of the garden
    • Google Drive or Dropbox: share and store important garden documents for your group; great for working on projects together
    • Sign-up Genius or Doodle: for scheduling and organizing people around projects; Sign-up Genius for larger projects and Doodle for scheduling with a smaller group.
  • Surveys and evaluations—for soliciting more formal feedback and input from those involved with the garden. These can be paper print-outs or online versions. One of the best user-friendly online survey tools is Survey Monkey: For support in designing your questions or developing evaluation activities that will get you the information you’re looking for, here are a few favorite links:
  • In the garden communication tools— With busy summer schedules, most garden groups have had to come up with creative ways to communicate when they can’t all be at the garden at once. Some useful communication tools commonly found in gardens: bulletin board—post announcements, schedules, maps; white board—write notes, communicate ideas; and garden journal—take notes for all to see about what happened when and exciting or concerning sightings in the garden. A variation on the theme: mailbox—leave a note, lost-and-found items, or anonymous feedback.
  • In the garden, face-to-face—And last, but most certainly not least, never underestimate the value of spending time together in the garden. Some of the most fruitful conversations happen across garden beds, while weeding or planting together. Take the time to relax and play together too. A pick-up soccer game or a garden potluck can do wonders for morale, building relationships that make people more comfortable with sharing ideas and concerns with each other. At a garden potluck, go the extra step and give people the opportunity to speak about “one thing they’re most excited about” and “one thing they feel could be improved” about the garden this year.
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