Starting a Community Garden in Forsyth County

Community Gardening Coordinator
Updated September 2020.

Community Gardens

Do you want to join with your neighbors to grow healthy food, create and tend a green space, and bring people together? Then this page is for you! Forsyth Community Gardening (FCG) receives dozens of inquiries about starting new gardens every month. We created this page to help new groups assess their resources and needs, and take important first steps toward starting or revitalizing a garden.

As you Get Started...

Patience, patience! Plan to spend time building community support, inviting input into garden organization and design, and securing land and resources. Allow at least six months from the time you begin organizing to the time you build and plant your garden.

Community Gardens

Consider partnering with exisiting gardens. Before beginning a new garden, email the Community Garden Coordinator, Cameron at or call the office at 336-703-2853 so that we can help find a garden to partner with you. Many gardens need more members, and may be happy to welcome additional gardeners and programming you hope to do. In turn, you would benefit from established infrastructure and connections with experienced gardeners. On the other hand, if there aren't accessible gardens near you, or if you have a large group of committed gardeners, starting a new community garden may be the best option.

"Participate in FCG’s Mentor Program!" You can learn more and sign up to receive information about the next Mentor training on our Programs page.

Step 1: Form a Leadership Team

A community garden is, first and foremost, a community of people! Nurturing this community takes time and effort. For this reason, Forsyth Community Gardening encourages garden organizers to focus first on engaging members and understanding their interests and gifts.

Start by talking with friends, neighbors, and local associations to identify people who are interested. You can adapt FCG’s Community Garden Interest Survey or School Garden Volunteer Interest Survey to identify potential participants' skills, availability, and learning needs with respect to gardening. Both of these surveys are also available in Spanish: For community gardens, use the Sondeo de Interés para un Huerto (Jardín) Comunitario. For school gardens, use the Sondeo de Interés para ser un/a Voluntario/a con el Huerto (Jardín) Escolar.

When you have at least 5-10 people committed to the garden, organize an initial meeting to determine the feasibility of a garden and – if you decide to move forward – plan next steps. See the University of Missouri’s Community Gardening Toolkit (p. 10) for a list of questions that should be addressed at an initial meeting.

Step 2: Find a Good Site and Secure Tenure (permission to use the land)

As you assess potential sites, use FCG’s Community Garden Intake Questionnaire to think through site selection and tenure considerations. Here are some tips:

Community Gardens

Locate a suitable garden site. A community garden site should:

  • Be easily accessible for intended gardeners (within their neighborhood, or located on the land of an organization they visit frequently, such as a faith community)
  • Be relatively flat
  • Get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight in spring, summer, and fall
  • Have access to water
  • Have soil that is free of contaminants such as heavy metals (or be suitable for constructing raised beds with imported soil)

Identify the site owner and obtain written permission to use the land (a lease).

Inquire with the City of Winston-Salem if you need to apply for a Special Use Permit.

  • Permits are required for most gardens in the City of Winston-Salem not located on the same lot as the gardener's house. Review the Planning Department’s Urban Agriculture website to learn about the permitting process and for appropriate contact information.
  • If needed, complete the application and prepare the required site plan and evidence for the hearing (for example, garden rules and gardener agreement forms showing that your group is committed to maintaining the site well – see Step #3!)

Step 3: Organize the Garden

Discussions about garden organization will occupy several meetings. Here are some key tasks:

Craft a garden mission statement to clarify your goals for the garden, and guide garden design and activities.

Decide how the garden will be managed. Will it be an allotment garden (members have their own plots), a communal garden (members plant and maintain the garden together and share the harvest), or some combination of these two models?

  • If you create an allotment garden: Develop a plot-holder’s agreement, in which each members commits to follow the guidelines, contribute to maintaining common areas, and serve on a committee that benefits the whole garden. FCG has a sample Plot-Holder’s Agreement you can adapt for your garden.
  • If you create a communal garden: Develop a schedule of workdays and ongoing garden maintenance and harvesting. A common structure for communal gardens includes:
    • Monthly workdays to accomplish larger tasks such as bed-building and repair, soil preparation, and planting. These also offer opportunities for fellowship and education.
    • Community Gardens
    • In between workdays, individuals or families may sign up for a week of garden maintenance, such as watering, pruning and trellising plants, checking for insects and diseases, and harvesting. A poster or whiteboard can be used for sign-ups (as in the photo at right), or you may utilize an online tool such as SignUp Genuis. Either way, experienced gardeners should orient volunteers to gardening tasks. Some gardens have a notebook of general guidelines and information (e.g., guides to weeds, insect pests, when to harvest specific crops, etc.), supplemented by weekly email updates on season-specific tasks.

    Develop leadership roles, committees, and garden guidelines appropriate to your garden’s goals, activities, and management style. See FCG’s sample Garden Organization and Rules for ideas.

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    Step 4: Design, Prepare, and Plant the Garden

    Make a site map and design the garden through a participatory process. Invite broad input on what garden members would like to see in terms of plantings, paths, and infrastructure (such as toolsheds or compost bins), and map these onto the site plan. The resource Accessible and Inclusive Gardens has good information on designing your garden to include people of all physical abilities.

    Identify and secure resources to prepare and plant the garden. This will include services (such as initial tilling of a new site), equipment (things you just need on Build Day, and could borrow), and materials (things that will stay in the garden, like lumber, hardware, and soil for raised beds).

    Organize work crews, then host work parties to clean up and plant the site!

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    Step 5: Sustainable Horticulture and Active Programming

    Once the garden is established, this is only the beginning! To keep your garden productive and vibrant, strive to learn and use sustainable horticultural practices, and maintain active programs that bring people together.

    Sustainable Horticutral Practices:

    Community Gardens

    Active Programming: To make the most of your community garden, be sure to plan and hold collaborative workdays, educational workshops, and other events (such as arts and cultural programs, or social gatherings). Here are a few resources to get you started:

  • Steps to a Successful Garden Workday has great advice on planning workdays that are fun, productive, and engage people of all ages.
  • Youth & School Garden Resources is a compilation of links to garden-based curricula. Gardens associated with schools and after-school children’s programs will find many ideas for fun and educational activities!

Further Resources

Explore these more comprehensive community garden resources for guidance and ideas on creating and sustaining your garden: