Shaylene Brock from Pomona State School in Queensland, the 2013 Community Garden of the Year, shares her top 10 tips:

1. Decide on the type of garden you want to create and its purpose

“In my case, I wanted to build something that stimulated the kids’ senses, but I also wanted to link it to children’s mental health, as children who are happy and content learn better.”

2. Consider who will be the primary user of the garden

“The garden at Pomona State School was virtually designed as an outdoor classroom. It’s a supervised area, due to health and safety regulations. However, I think by restricting access, it also makes it more of a special area.”

3. Check for any legislation or regulations you may have to meet

“We had to really follow guidelines in conjunction with education procedures and policies. There were lots of things that we had to consider – even the angle of the pavers on the edge of the walkways. It’s ongoing, too, because things change with the weather conditions.”

4. Budget and funding: Can you access donations of materials and money? Or are there grants available?

“There was no funding available, so we approached the P&C about doing a sausage sizzle every week to raise the money. I also started collecting things. We just thought, ‘We’ll do what we can with what we can find.'”

5. Design: Make it stimulating, inviting and practical

“I was trying to work out how to link the garden with the social/emotional stuff and I was given a children’s book, which had specific things in the garden named after a feeling and a sense. So, when I built the logs, for example, I linked them to the emotion of the ups and downs in life.”

6. Do you have access to water and space for recycling or compost? 

“We were really lucky that three water tanks had already been put into the school, so we had access to water. And with the recycling, one of the teacher’s classes was doing a project on worm farms, so we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to put a worm farm in the garden?’ That gave us an area to recycle that organic material.”

7. Is there suitable infrastructure to provide shelter and storage?

“Always look at what you have available first. We were really lucky because we installed a sink by accessing the pipes that were already there. We’d saved the sink from a classroom refurbishment, and we use it for potting up, preparation and washing of edible produce.”

8. Construction materials: Consider their life expectancy and ongoing maintenance

“The whole way through we tried to avoid using timber, as it’s often treated. So we looked at using metal, concrete, masonry products – anything we could use that would have a long life expectancy. I wasn’t afraid to approach people and ask if they’ll donate something – whether it’s time or materials.”

9. Plant selection: What suits your climatic conditions and soil quality? 

“We had the longest, driest summer we’d ever seen, and some of the plants we thought would cope really well in the heat, didn’t. Our paper daisies really struggled – they just don’t like the humidity here.”

10. Involve as many people as possible

“We tried to involve the children wherever we could possibly could, whether it was moving sand or mulch, or helping to plant plants. I think, particularly with kids, unless they’ve been involved, they don’t always feel a connection.”