kids in gardenTo get started, gather support of people who share a similar goal and purpose for a garden. This typically includes neighbors, friends, relatives, school programs, churches or nonprofit organizations. Garden purposes vary from starting a donation garden to donate to a local pantry, to growing organic food for your family, to establishing a learning zone for school-aged children.  There are many gardens with many missions. It is important to address each individual’s goals for the garden and make sure there everyone can respect those goals. For example, if one interested gardener plans to use chemicals, make sure the others aren’t interested in a chemical-free garden. Differing garden goals can be solved in a number of ways, but most importantly, they should be addressed before planting.

Then identify the land you want to garden. This might be at a church, school, or in your backyard. In Kalamazoo, a possibility is to “adopt-a-lot” from the Kalamazoo County Land Bank to start a garden. If you are interested in “adopting” a garden site, visit or call 269-216-9681

It helps to have one or two people managing the overall effort; communicating a schedule if necessary, determining what resources are needed and how to obtain them, and providing a contact for existing and potential gardeners.

The Basics:

  • building raised beds

    The basic 3 ingredients are sun, soil and water. Pick a spot, with at least 6 hours of sun, access to water, and that is fairly level. If you are going to garden in the existing soil, you may want to have the soil tested to determine if it has a good “balance” for gardening. You can obtain a soil test kit from the Kalamazoo County MSU Extension service.

  • Gather materials. You’ll need some basic gardening tools, plants and seeds, and some means of watering the garden.
  • Plan the garden space. Sketch out the basic shape and size of the overall garden and determine the size and number of individual beds and/or the layout of the garden. Consider how much space each plant will need to grow to maturity, and whether it grows up or out.
  • Cultivate the soil. You will need prepare the soil for gardening. If you’ll be planting directly in ground that’s never been a garden before, you’ll want to dig out whatever might be growing there currently, and remove any rocks and stones. Regardless if you are planting in the existing soil or if you have brought in soil to fill raised beds, you’ll want to turn the soil over and break up clumps.
  • Plant the garden. If you are new to gardening, you’ll want to find a basic gardening resource to help you determine when and how to plant your seeds and starts. There are many experienced gardeners in Kalamazoo and we may be able to help you connect to someone who can give you some guidance.
  • Care for the garden all season. Water and weed as needed and watch for insects and other pests who might be damaging your plants.
  • Harvest and enjoy the bounty!

Common Ground offers classes and support to help you get started. See the “Resources” area of this site for a class schedule and more information on the type of resources we can provide you with.