Management Practice Guide


This best practice management guide outlines a range of considerations for setting up and running a community garden within the City of Ryde. The intention of this guide will help community groups setting up a new garden organise and manage themselves and their garden in an accountable and transparent manner. The matters outlined in this guide may be incorporated and expanded on in a more holistic Garden Management Plan that a group may prepare to operate a community garden.


Initially, in the planning phase of a garden, interested members of the community may form a working group.  The working group would typically require a garden leader, secretary, treasurer and public officer. Other structures are possible depending on the number of garden members.  A variety of skills and abilities that can contribute to the development and implementation of a community garden is important for sharing the work.  Experience with document preparation, people management, finance and regulatory compliance, plant propagation and growing are examples of skills that would be useful in setting up a garden group.

A shared vision and purpose for the group is essential for success.  Also important is the open sharing of ideas and agreed decision making to ensure all opinions are part of the process.

Over time the group’s governance procedures may evolve  to suit their needs.  Consideration should be given to preparing a management plan that codifies the way the group makes decisions.  Matters such as membership, organisation structure, frequency of meetings, voting rights and decision-making procedures would be described in the management plan. Policy statements on matters such as membership, personal conduct, events, training and development, alcohol and drug use and health and safety may need to be prepared.


Details about the garden membership need to be agreed and implemented to promote the long-term viability of the garden.  Matters that may be determined are the maximum number of members, the need for a membership fee, member prerequisites to joining and a signed membership agreement.  A procedure for the termination of a membership in certain circumstances may be appropriate.

Code of Conduct

The community garden group will require a code of conduct to ensure that behaviour in the community garden is of a high standard.  This will help groups to resolve issues or conflict whenever they arise.  A code of conduct will work in concert with other policies of the group to ensure that all members and the public feel safe in and around the garden.


Public liability insurance policy should be considered to protect the group’s interests. In the event of a mishap the insurance safeguards the members and the broader community. The garden group should also make enquiries with the owner of the land about any specific insurance requirements.

The group may also consider insuring their garden structures (eg fence, compost bins) and tools against theft and damage.

Health and Safety

The group should have clear guidelines for managing health and safety of members and visitors on site. It is a necessity to mitigate health and safety risks for members and the community using the garden. Membership inductions alongside the provision of protective equipment is a good starting point to ensure that any risk is minimised.  Additionally, it is important to decide how the site and associated equipment is secured and accessed.

A risk assessment to manage and forecast problems, issues and risks and processes should be in place which prevent major consequences from happening.  If prevention is not possible, the risk assessment will have accounted for this and aimed to minimise any hazard. This will ensure that members are healthy, safe, make appropriate decisions and respect the garden and its equipment.

Equipment and tools

The garden group will need to consider the scale and complexity of the garden construction and the need for the purchase of equipment and tools for work in the garden.  The design of the garden will influence the type of tools and equipment that are required.  A procedure for the purchase of tools and equipment for the garden will need to be determined.


Ensuring that the garden is secure and not posing a risk to the public when not in use by garden members is important.  Rules on the storage of tools and equipment should be prepared and implemented.  Materials that may blow off or wash off the site during an extreme weather event also need securing.

Any security lighting and cameras installed to prevent theft should avoid nuisance light spill and surveillance of the properties of neighbours.

Amenity maintenance

Your garden group should aim to increase or maintain the amenity of the existing environment.  The following matters should be part of your management policies and plans:

  • Ensuring that your garden is not visually offensive to the community by ensuring proper equipment storage and regular garden bed maintenance
  • Positioning any odorous substances and materials away from public facing areas and neighbours
  • Minimise noise effects by limiting the use of noisy tools and events to appropriate times of the day
  • Disposing of all waste properly and in accordance with the procedures detailed in the Waste Minimisation and Management Plan submitted with your development application.


Funding can be critical for the long-term success of any community garden project.  The goals of a garden group should be self-management and long-term financial sustainability. Think about whether your group will pay an annual fee or can source sponsorship from local businesses for materials and equipment.  More financial independence may also increase the feeling of empowerment and security as participants manage more aspects of the community gardens themselves.  Regardless, community grants and funding opportunities arise periodically from Council and State government which can be a good avenue to fund new gardens and ongoing improvements.

Annual review

To determine the success and impacts of your community garden, it may be worth undertaking an annual review.  This step can help facilitate team reflection, accountability and improve any processes in place that may be negatively impacting your garden.  It is important to analyse the outcomes of your garden to help recognise the challenges, strengths and weaknesses and see if any adjustments are needed for the future.

A review is also an opportunity to assess your financial position and put in place actions to maintain and improve the viability of the group over the next year.

Record Keeping

Ensuring that the garden group keeps good records of all its activities and decisions is important.  Openness and transparency for the garden’s operation over matters such as membership criteria, fees and charges, purchase of equipment and materials, insurance will ensure that it operates in an equitable manner over the long term.


Many examples of community gardens may be found on-line.  A search will uncover many different management models and ideas for creating viable community gardens.  Have a look at these resources to inform your approach to setting up a new community garden.