Introduction for New Gardeners

Project Grow wants to encourage people to garden and have productive and successful gardens. Many new gardeners do not know how to start or what to expect. This page explains some of what to expect and provides links to helpful resources. 

If you have suggestions for other items to include here, please send them to .

Project Grow tills all annual plots, and water and large tools are provided. It is up to the gardener to supply seeds, plants and their favorite hand tools. Some other expenses may be involved. These include:

  • Straw or marsh hay for mulch.  Mulching your garden is highly recommended because MULCH IS RECOMMENDED AS IT KEEPS WEEDS DOWN AND RETAINS MOISTURE IN THE SOIL.  There is free leaf mulch offered at the Platt site but you need to load it into bags and take it to your garden. 
  • Soil amendments. All gardens benefit from regular addition of organic matter, such as compost or manures., to improve the soil. 
  1. The cheapest source of compost is the city of Ann Arbor where free compost is available to city residents on Saturdays from xxx to yyy. You need to load and haul this compost yourself, using your own tools and containers.. Consult the city websitefor details. .Another option is to go in with other gardeners at your site and have several yards delivered to your site. Typical cost is $20 per yard for the compost and a $60 delivery fee for 4 yards. When evaluating this cost, remember a yard is 27 cubic feet of compost. 
  2. Many area horse farms may have manure available for free if you come and haul it.  if you do, make sure the manure is aged. Fresh manure is too "hot" for plants.
  3. Most expensive is bagged compost, topsoil and manure from Lowe's or Home Depot.
  • Fencing - Matthaei is permanently fenced. Gardeners at Hunt, Greenview and West Park put up and take down annual fences around the entire site. Gardeners at those sites are expected to help put up and take down the fence and pay for annual replacement and repair costs. If you are interested in one of those sites, please contact the site coordinator for details. Plots at most sites need to be fenced and this is the responsibility of the gardener. 

Other Suggestions for New Gardeners

  • Annual vs Perennial Sites - We do not recommend perennial sites for people with no gardening experience. Perennial plots are not tilled and may require extensive soil preparation before you can get started.
  • Plan Ahead - The community gardening experience is different from working in a home garden. At home, you can run inside for seeds, sunscreen, gloves, water to drink, bags for picking and so on. At a community garden, you need to bring everything you might need with you. 
  • Distance Matters! - The easier it is for you to get to your garden site, the more frequently you will visit. The more often you visit, the more likely you will keep up with watering, weeding, and harvesting. Keeping up with all these things will make your gardening experience less stressful and more enjoyable. 
  • Time Required - Many new gardeners underestimate the amount of time it takes to maintain a garden. Discovery beds are small enough to only require an hour or so a week. All community garden plots require a minimum of one visit per week, preferably more. If you can only make it once a week, you should plan on spending a few hours there to take care of weeding, watering, thinning, harvesting...there is always more to do in the garden than there is time to do it!
  • Planning - Here is a listing of what to plant when.