Starting a Garden Project: On a Budget

When building your budget for starting a community garden–or really any garden project for that matter–take a moment to consider some creative and engaging routes for seeking materials and support.

Double the Value: donated materials and in-kind support

Not to underestimate the value of actual funds to support your project, but engaging your community by seeking donated materials and in-kind support not only produces the resources you need, but encourages personal buy-in and a deeper level of support for your project into the future.

  • What resources are already available in your community?  Asset mapping is a great way to identify opportunities and resources available in your community before seeking them elsewhere.  From skill-sharing to tool-sharing, recognizing the resources in your community can be a gift for everyone! This worksheet will help you get started: Asset Mapping
  • Make a wish list. Keep an ongoing list of items and in-kind support your garden needs. Host this list on your website or in your newsletter, post in your local Front Porch Forum or on social media. Even post the list as a flyer at your garden or local community center, library, etc.
  • Start a “crowd resourcing” project. An excellent platform for this is ioby–includes online tools and staff support.
  • Approach local businesses, particularly for expensive equipment such as shovels, wheelbarrows, and garden forks or for items such as seeds and starts.

Upcycle: re-purpose materials & harness on-site resources

The materials you need for your project may already be at your fingertips–you may just need to get creative!

  • Look online–sites abound for finding old materials and supplies that can become new-to-you. Freecycle is a good website to visit to see if anyone is giving items away or looking for items you might have in your community.
  • Visit your local recycling or ReSource center for used building materials. A word of caution: If seeking materials for raised beds make sure they are untreated and won’t leach any harmful substances on your edible plants! Also, avoid any items with lots of rusty nails and other hazardous elements.
  • Collect rainwater using rain barrels to water your garden.  No need to use expensive kits—check out this quick 9-step tutorial for making a rain barrel out of a garbage can.
  • Make your own compost.
    • You can even use recycled materials to build your bins. Here’s a simple design. Contact your local stores to see if they are giving away any wooden pallets.
    • For more composting resources visit our Community Composting page.
  • Use items that can be found in or around your garden!
    • When planting vine crops use a bordering chain link fence or build a trellis using sticks and twine. This video has some creative ideas: 4 Simple Trellises\
    • For more out-of-the box ideas check out Pintrest DIY garden projects!

Share with your neighbors

  • Tools: Does everyone on your block need a tool shed full of gardening equipment?  Think of the tools that can be easily shared and share the cost as well, such as a rototiller, long-handled tools, etc. Some towns have community tool sheds with tools that can be checked out at no cost.  If you live in the Burlington area, Fletcher Free Library has tools you can check out with your library card!
  • Seeds: Plan a seed swap at the beginning of the season to share last season’s leftover seeds. Here’s an article on how to pull off a successful seed swap event. Also, check out resources on how to save seeds at our Growing in the Garden page.
  • Plants: Same idea goes for swapping divided perennial plants and extra vegetable seedlings.

Seek funding

Focus your fundraising energy on seeking money for materials and other resources that are more difficult to obtain through the above methods (e.g. coordinator or educator stipends, row cover, greenhouse).

  • Write a grant proposal. An up-to-date list of garden-related grants and fundraising opportunities can be found on VCGN’s website: Garden Grants
  • Put on a fundraising event. Get creative, make it fun, stay relevant, and decide–Is this a “fundraiser” or a “friend-raiser”?

For more tips and tools on starting a new garden project visit our Start a Garden page.

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