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Edited on

14 December 2020
Read time: 3 minutes

In recent years urban gardening has come to constitute a practice that responds to many needs of communities as it is capable of promoting a sense of community, stimulating social cohesion, experimenting with innovative production and management models for public spaces and strengthening urban ecosystems through increasing urban biodiversity and fighting climate change.

1 First steps:

  • The physical space of the urban garden: consider the implication of the urban planning area from the first moment for the initial layout of the land and for future extensions,
  • Municipal areas involved: consider collaboration between different departments (environment, education….) ,
  • Determine the time that the land is given to citizens to cultivate the urban garden, according to national legislation,
  • Think of a Governance Model: it will be necessary to establish if the urban garden will be managed by an association in collaboration with the City Administration, if it will be managed by the City Administration etc. The best results have been obtained when an association manages the garden in combination with City Regulations that establish rights and duties. The governance model, as well as rights and duties, criteria for the allocation of plots, management of proposals for improvements and repairs, installation of hives and all the necessary information must be included in the City Regulations on Urban Gardens (City Regulation of the City of Rome),
  • This governance model is supported by a local working group that would participate in the process from the beginning,
  • The convenience of having the professional figure of the Gardeniser: this figure plays an important role in the governance model. The Gardeniser should be one person from the community urban garden (or several, depending on the size of the garden). He/she can operate on a voluntary basis or under a conract. In any case, the figure of the Voluntary Gardeniser must exist. This professional figure must be included in the Regulations for the running of the garden,
  • The interaction of the garden community with society must be considered. This interaction can take place through events open to the neighborhood, dissemination actions ...
  • These are urban gardens for selfconsumption. In other words, the products cannot be sold except to finance improvements or actions promoted by the garden community,
  • The governance model will reflect whether it is an urban garden with individual cultivation spaces or the land and its crops are for the community,
  • The Regulations must include the criteria for the selection of users, bearing in mind that the scoring system and the choice of criteria can be a powerful social policy tool,
  • The urban garden activity must include training in organic farming throughout the year, not just initial training. Furthermore, training can be extended to any other topic suggested by the local working group,
  • We must consider the possibility of holding training workshops on community management,
  • It is necessary to consider the implementation of dissemination actions at local, national and international level of the entire process of creation and subsequent development of the urban garden,
  • It should be assessed whether the initiative of a community urban garden can be accompanied by an initiative to promote school urban gardens or if any relationship can be established between them,
  • It is also possible to contemplate the interaction between community urban gardens and any other horticultural initiative (conservation of indigenous seeds, gardens in hospitals, in nursing homes, citizen associations, etc.),
  • Since the beginning of the process special attention must be paid to the dissemination and communication actions related to news and achievements of the process, both internally and externally.      


2 Technical issues of the urban garden: 

  • The orientation of the land intended for the urban garden should not represent an impediment to the development of the crops,
  • A possible option is to surround the urban garden with a green landscaped transition area between the urban network and the garden itself,
  • The distribution of the cultivation plots does not necessarily have to be a grid. It would be interesting to look for other types of distribution that favour socialization,
  • The design of the urban garden, its spaces, its distribution, its accessibility, its infrastructure etc must see the participation of the user community and must be guided by professionals in organic agriculture and green space design,
  • The cultivation system must follow the criteria of organic farming,
  • The garden must have shady areas with tables and benches to allow socialization and events open to citizens,
  • If possible, having a kitchen would be a good idea, 
  • It is necessary to consider the use of tools: collective or individual and their storage. In the event that gardeners use machinery to carry out tillage work or maintenance of the common areas (motor hoes, brush cutters, lawn mowers ...), safety must be ensured to avoid accidents,
  • It is necessary to consider the installation of a composter, establish who is in charge of its management and make sure that rats don’t nest inside the composter,
  • Water supply must be taken into consideration. One possibility is to have a running water supply and irrigate using an exudative or drip irrigation system. This system has minimal water consumption and maximum irrigation efficiency. In addition, evenly distributed taps to hook hoses are necessary in the urban garden. The periodic analysis (every two years, for example) of the water quality constitutes an important indicator of the health of the land and gives important information regarding the edibility of the plants grown for this purpose. It can also suggest a rotation in the use of the land. In case of critical issues, the land can still be used for ornamental crops,
  • In the climatic conditions of Barranquilla, in which a large number of trees and fruit climbers thrive, it would be appropriate to contemplate spaces and adequate infrastructure for this type of plantations in the design of the urban garden,  
  • Regarding access and pathways, accessibility standards must be respected,
  • It is necessary to consider the adaptation of the pathways between the individual plots to the transit of wheelchairs for the disabled. It has been proven that by raising the level of the pathway and enlarging it adequately, it is also possible for people on wheelchairs and with mobility impairments to take care of their plants.
  • It is advisable to have a public toilet,
  • The urban garden is conceived as an ecosystem, formed by the soil, the climate, the temporary vegetation (seasonal crops), the permanent vegetation throughout the year (perennial crops and aromatic plants) and the fauna,
  • The conditions of the cultivated soil will have an influence on the yield of the crops, so it is important to determine their agricultural characteristics (texture, structure, pH, water holding capacity, presence of toxic chemical agents, etc.) and proceed accordingly.


3 Experience in the RU:RBAN partner cities:

-  In the creation of urban gardens, the use of participatory processes to decide the location and characteristics of the new urban gardens was considered a key element to involve users. It is important that citizens are part of the process from the beginning and they are the ones who point out the locations, or at least the areas of the city with greater demand,

- Spaces to implement the urban gardens: In most of the RU:RBAN partner cities, the first urban gardens were implemented on undeveloped municipal land, or in underutilized areas of some more or less extensive public parks. We also have an initiative for the transfer of private farmland, which belongs to individuals who were not exploiting it and agreed to assign its use to an association,

- Measures for the start-up: the City Administration prepares the land and the accesses, installs irrigation taps connected to the municipal water network and divides the land into individual plots. Common areas and a shared tool shed must be activated. Workshops are organized to train users in organic farming as well as group revitalization workshops to enable users to form an organized community,

- Maintenance: users are responsible for the maintenance of their plot and the tool shed. Pathways and accesses are maintained by the company hired to maintain the city's parks and gardens.