Planning Garden Events
Garden events provide a great way for your garden group to enjoy all the hard work that has gone into the garden and remember that gardening is also about having fun! They also provide an opportunity for you to introduce your garden to the greater community, to gather support for your efforts, and to recruit new gardeners for your project.
This page will get you started planning events in your garden, providing tips on how to build a season-specific events calendar, how to prepare for a successful event, how to get the word out about your next event, and how to build on and learn from your successes. Get out and celebrate!
Building an Events Calendar
Because gardening is an outdoor event, many garden groups plan their events around the seasons. Download a Rebel Calendar (PDF) to help get you started with planning your gardening year; try passing out the calendar to group members during meetings, and ask everyone to fill in a few events ideas. You could review the calendars at your next meeting and come up with a month-by-month plan for the year. Here are a few ideas for seasonal garden events; if you live in a southern state, this calendar may have to be re-arranged a bit!
- Planting Party
- Start of Spring Opening Day Party
- Seed/Seedling Swapping Party
- Gardening Classes on planting and bed preparation
- Garden Tours
- Awards Day for plot design, project design, etc
- Cookouts and Picnics
- Gardening Classes on garden projects and building garden structures
- Harvest Party
- Garden Concert
- Halloween events like face painting, trick-or-treat, etc
- Food Storage Gatherings - get everyone together to freeze or can produce, or to create jams, jellies, or pickles
- Garden Classes on harvest, storage, and winterizing techniques
- Looking Ahead meetings to plan for next year
- Summer in Winter dinners, where everyone brings food they stored from the harvest
- Garden Classes on garden design, plant selection, crop rotation, and companion planting
Because a successful event takes a great deal of planning and organization, here are a few things you may want to consider when planning your next event.
If you are planning a big event, get started early. Even if it seems like you have plenty of time, unexpected complications can set you behind schedule.
Work as a Team
Don't let one person take on a big event all alone. Assign tasks to members of your group and have one person act as the "manager" who keeps track of what everyone is doing and ensures that everything gets done.
Talk with your Neighbors
Neighbors can be great supporters. A big event may disrupt your neighbors, so make sure that if there are businesses or homes nearby you tell people what you are planning. Make sure you let them know you respect their needs - ask them if there is anything you can do to make the event less disruptive, and make sure to invite them too! It may be worth talking to them after the event to see if there is anything you can do better next time.
Plan for Transportation
If you are holding a big event with guests, it is important to consider how people will get there, and, if they drive, where everyone will park. If you are in a neighborhood, it may be polite to let your neighbors know that parking may be difficult for them that day. If there are nearby businesses, approach them to see if you may be able to use their parking lot for the day. To reduce the amount of cars showing up at your event, arrange for carpooling in advance!
Plan for Access
Consider everyone's needs when planning an event, and consider how someone with limited mobility would access the site. This will be particularly important if the event is an outdoor one.
Provide for Children
For attendees that bring children, they will be grateful if you provide activities, games, or a play area. If you are expecting a big crowd, it may be beneficial to have one member of your group to manage children's activities at the event: this person could approach parents with children when they arrive to let them know about any activities or play areas, and offer to provide them with any help they may need during the event.
Yes, it COULD rain...
It is always a good idea to have a rain plan, even if the forecast predicts sunny weather for the day of the event.
Manage any Waste
Even if you are not serving food or drinks at an event, you should have a plan to deal with any waste. Provide bins for recyclables, garbage, and items you can add to your compost bin!
Set up Early
Even if you schedule an event at noon, you may have people showing up at 11:30. Set up early so that people that come ahead of time will know they have come to the right place. This may include posting signs outside the garden directing people where to park, enter, etc.
Prepare to Stay Late
Just like there are people who will show up early, there will be people who may want to stay late. Unless you want to end your event at the exact scheduled time, sign one or two people to "late duty" to make sure that even the latecomers will feel welcome in your garden.
Getting the Word Out
Planning a garden event is like planning a party; there is always that question "what if no one shows up?" Getting the word out is critical to making sure you have good attendance at your garden event, particularly if you are inviting the public and not just fellow gardeners. Here are a few strategies for getting the word out:
- Publish an annual or monthly newsletter that contains a calendar of garden events
- Conduct monthly meetings
- Create a phone tree to remind people of events
- Build an e-mail list serve; you could also include non-gardeners on your list of contacts
- Post a rainproof board in the garden to announce upcoming events
- Post fliers and posters at local schools, businesses, and libraries
- Pass fliers out to your neighbors
- Ask other gardening and youth organizations if they have additional outlets you could advertise your event in
- Formally invite "important" guests - use events to drum up support. At a school garden, try inviting teachers, parents, and the principal; at neighborhood gardens invite the neighborhood association; at job-training gardens invite city officials and business leaders. Events are your time to shine!
Learn From your Success
Learning from your successes (or failures) is one of the best ways to plan for a better event next time. Evaluate the event as a group, and write down a list of things that went well and a list of things that need to be improved upon next time. Do not let too much time pass between the event and your evaluation of it; it is easy for people to forget details over time.
If you hosted a large event with a lot of guests, try to get their feedback on the event as well. It can be useful to gain the perspective of someone who was only there for the event, and was not part of the planning process. This can be accomplished by passing out surveys at the start or end of the event, or by mailing surveys to people after the event. You can also gather informal feedback from people during the event by asking them directly how they feel the event is, or if they have any suggestions for future improvements. Many people like giving their opinion, and it is important that you let them know you want their honest evaluation (good or bad!)