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Garden Layout

There are many elements to consider when planning your garden. Click through the sections below to learn more.

Individual Plots and Communal Spaces

It's not an either/or-- you can have some indivdual AND communal areas within the same garden. Some claim a hybrid model works the best! 


Individual plots allow each gardener to plant exactly what they want in their own space.

Suggestions for allotment setups:

• Encourage gardeners to come at a designated time each week to build a sense of community.

• Develop a support system for plot holders who struggle to maintain their area due to sickness, family circumstances, etc.

• Create workgroups or rotating tasks for plot holders to help maintain the communal areas of the garden, such as the shed, paths, compost, entryway, etc.

• If it's not happening naturally, arrange informal tours and invite gardeners to showcase their plot to other gardeners.

Sample gardener agreements:

• Waite Park

• Merriam Station 


Communal gardens are not split into individual plots. Everyone shares in the work and the harvest of the same garden space. This method of organization instills a sense of cooperation and community among gardeners that is hard to replicate when everyone tends only to their own space.

Suggestions for communal setups (based on FairShare Farm):

• As a group, decide upon a few regular workdays throughout the week. For example, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday morning. Depending on the size of the group and the size of the garden, attending only one shift per week may be enough to care for the space.

• Establish a core leadership team. At least one leader should attend each shift to help coordinate tasks and host the group.

• Create a system for gardeners to communicate, like a binder in the toolshed. At the beginning of each session, gardeners sign in, look at what work was done last time, assess what needs to be done this time, and split up the tasks. Gardeners also record the harvest and any additional notes.

• Depending on the day's taks, or if new gardeners have questions, someone may lead a brief skill-share (i.e. weed identification) before work starts.

• Determine what should be harvested and share the bounty in whatever way works best for the group.

Sample gardener agreements:

• FairShare Farm, a communal community garden in Minneapolis

In or Above the Ground

There are so many options for gardens, no matter where you plan to grow! Consider gardening above ground if soil quality is poor, for increased accessibility, or if you are a renter and aren't able to dig up a yard.

Plots in GroundIn-Ground

  • Be sure to get your soil tested before planting directly in the ground!
  • Mulching pathways between beds helps prevent weeds.
  • In general, in-ground gardens need less water than containers.

Wooden Raised BedRaised Beds

Tomatoes in ContainersContainers

  • You may be able to find free containers to repurpose for gardening. Try your local cafes and restaurants to see if they have unwanted plastic 5-gallon buckets. Check garage sales or free piles for old garden pots. Try something like a blue recycling tub, an old coffee cans, burlap sacks, or other containers you can find. Just make sure you can drill or poke holes in the bottome for drainage.
  • The Gardening Matters Guide to Container Gardening: An introductory guide to the basics, including: containers, soil, sunlight, watering/drainage, fertilizer, and plants. 
  • Container Gardening Infographic: This graphic, from, focuses on which vegetables to plant and how to care for your container garden.

Strawbale GardenStrawbale Gardens


Designing inclusive gardens is very important so that everyone can participate. Take into account these recommendations for community gardens from the Americans with Disabilities Act:

Wheelchair Garden

  • Raised beds: 4 feet wide or less. Install at least one "table" bed that is 24-30'' tall.
  • Aisles and walkways: At least 3 feet between each garden bed so gardeners in wheelchairs can easily maneuver (plus wheelbarrows and lawn mowers).
  • Seating: Throughout the garden and along the accessible route to garden. In the shade, if possible! Seat height should be within 16-24 inches above the ground.
  • Slope: If the route to the garden slopes more than 5% (1 foot of vertical rise for every 20 feet of horizontal run), consider installing a ramp.

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