Gardens Rules & Policies


Annual Membership & Plot Use Period
Annual membership and plot use period begins with registration each year and ends, if not renewed, the first week of the following March. Plot sizes and shapes vary (from 15’ by 15’ to 16’ by 17’) but average about 280 sq ft. Returning gardeners in good standing can sometimes apply for a limited number of second plots which may be assigned for 2 years, depending on demand for 1st plots by new gardeners.

Fees & Second Plot Policy
The yearly membership fee is $15 and the plot use fee is $25 for each plot worked by the same person or household. If there are vacant plots after May 31st, it may be possible to obtain use of a 2nd plot on a seasonal basis (non-renewable). To be eligible, a gardener must be current on their work contribution and their 1st plot must be fully planted and well managed. Persons on the New Gardener Wait List are given priority access to available plots so that the Gardens remain accessible to as many households in the Ithaca community as possible. Returning gardeners in good standing can apply for a limited number of second plots which may be assigned for 2 years, depending on demand for 1st plots by new gardeners.

Work Contribution
Members must work at least 4 hours per season per assigned plot for the upkeep of the Ithaca Community Gardens or pay $15 per hour not worked, and attend at least one member meeting, board meeting, social gathering or educational event per season. The Gardens only exist because we all work together to make them what they are! Click here for more details.

Plots may be used for ordinary flower and vegetable gardening. Perennial crops such as asparagus, raspberries, and strawberries are permitted, but no trees or tall shrubs may be planted.

Plot Maintenance
Keep it clean and green! You must begin turning over the soil in your plot by May 1. You are responsible for preparing the soil and keeping it healthy. Project Growing Hope provides some manure-compost mix and wood-bark mulch each year. You can bring more on your own. You are expected to keep your plot neat and free of weeds and debris. Arrange for a friend to care for your plot if you go on vacation. Plots that are untended by May 31, or are overgrown with weeds later, may be mowed or given to another gardener.

Fences and Trellises
A short fence, no more than 36 inches high, is acceptable around the edge of a plot if you keep the path next to it mowed/trimmed short or mulched with wood chips. Interior trellises are allowed, but they must not shade neighbor’s plantings or block access to the paths or main fence around the gardens. Keep at least 1 ft inside plot. If leaving the Gardens, please remove trellises, tomato cages and other foreign materials.

 Path Maintenance
Do not pile rocks, weeds or other debris in the paths, or raise or lower the soil level right next to the path. Keep it clear so the mowers can do their job! Also be sure that your gardening activities are not shrinking the paths adjacent to your plot—they must be wide enough for the mower to pass by. And do not toss things over the fence, we mow and maintain that area carefully to keep woodchucks away.

Please use water wisely as it is one of our biggest expenses and rates increase each year. Report (or fix) leakages right away: notify, or call a board member (if you don’t know a board member’s personal phone, ask around, or leave a message at 607-216-8770). Containers, watering cans, and a water push-cart are provided for hand-watering. To conserve water:

  • add organic matter to the soil to increase water holding capacity
  • mulch well with leaves, woodchips, hay etc.
  • water the roots rather than the top of the plants
  • water in the evening or morning to reduce evaporation
  • check the weather report before watering – don’t water if rain is predicted.

Tools belonging to the Gardens are marked “Community Gardens” or “PGH.” Never remove them from the garden site—they are all we have! Clean and replace tools and wheelbarrows back into the sheds. Lock the shed before you go and spin the combination wheels. Don’t assume other gardeners are using the tool shed—always ask before leaving it open!

Take out any trash you generate at the garden. We have no trash service on-site.

Plant Debris, Garden-Generated Compost, and Manure-Compost Mix
Place all excess plant materials in the compost piles. Shake dirt off plant roots. Only material generated at the Gardens may go into the compost. Large woody materials are collected separately and taken to Solid Waste, and rocks go into designated rock piles. There is an abundance of mature compost in the bins for use by all gardeners, please take as much as you want and use it in your plot. The supply of manure-compost mix from Cornell is limited, however; please don’t take more than your share.

Plastic and Mulch
Plastic mulch is not allowed, since it adds plastic fragments to the soil. You may use floating row covers, but you must remove them at the end of the growing season, before they deteriorate. Project Growing Hope provides wood-bark mulch; please don’t use more than your share. You can provide your own mulch as well.

Fertilizer and Pesticides
Some manure and compost is provided; please do not take more than your share. The Gardens are organic, so do not use “chemical” fertilizers, sewage sludge or non-organic pesticides. If in doubt, ask if you can use a particular item on your plot.

Email, Email List (, Mailings and Bulletin Boards
Keep informed about garden news and events. Read messages on our email list, our mailings and the bulletin board on each tool shed. Watch them for garden news and important dates. All new gardeners with email addresses are automatically signed up to the email list. Feel free to post appropriate gardening announcements. Paper mailings are expensive and kept to a minimum!

Please report any potentially dangerous conditions to one of the Gardens leaders. You agree to not hold the Gardens or the City of Ithaca liable for injuries to you or your guests while on Community Gardens property.

Other Plots
Please be considerate of your gardening neighbors. Do not take plants or produce from their plots, and don’t allow your weeds or plants to invade their space.

Illegal Activities
Do not engage in illegal activities while on Community Gardens property. Failure to comply with this and other Project Growing Hope policies may result in the loss of your plot.

Membership & Plot Renewals
We will send you membership renewal instructions every February, with a deadline in early March. If you want to keep your plot next year, it’s your responsibility to get the form back to us on time.