Southwest Community Gardens Bylaws

The mission of the Southwest Community Gardens at Lansburgh Park is to provide opportunities for gardening practice, gardening education, and community-building to residents of the District of Columbia.


  1. Partner with neighborhood civic, educational, and governmental organizations to develop a community garden space in Lansburgh Park.
  2. Encourage community building through the garden.
  3. Demonstrate environmental stewardship and hands-on enjoyment of the natural world.
  4. Provide educational opportunities for garden members and other residents related to gardening, food and nutrition, organic practices, and other topics as identified by the community.
  5. Contribute to the active and engaged use of Lansburgh Park as a valuable community resource.

This document sets out the bylaws that govern the operation of the Southwest Community Gardens (the Garden), located at 1098 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024.  All gardeners are required to abide by these bylaws.  Their intent is to ensure a positive, safe, and productive growing environment for the people and plants of the area.  By signing the Southwest Community Gardens Gardener’s Agreement, you acknowledge that you have read and understand these bylaws and that you agree to comply with them.

             1.  Membership and Dues

a)      Dues of $30 per year per plot (if this poses a financial hardship for you, please contact a committee member) are required and must be paid by January 1 of each year, unless otherwise specified by the Garden Committee.

b)      The Garden will reserve at least 4 plots for people who need reduced rates or free work program plots.  The reduced rates or contractual work hours for free plots will be determined based on individual circumstances.

c)      The Garden accepts cash or checks only – no credit cards.  Check should be made out to:  Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (write Southwest Community Gardens on the memo line). There will be a fee for returned checks and the plot will go to the next individual on the waiting list.

d)      All dues are non refundable.

e)      Your dues provide you with plot rental, access to the Garden and all communal areas and include use of the Garden’s water source, for a period of one year.  The Garden does not guarantee a water source if reasons beyond the control of the Garden prevent provision of a water source.

f)       Gardeners are requested to notify the Garden committee by December 1 if they do, or do not, wish to renew their plot rental for the following season.

g)      Any member may resign from the Garden by notifying the Garden Committee. However, such resignation shall not relieve the member of the obligation to pay any fees or other indebtedness previously accrued and unpaid.

             2.  Plot Assignment

a)      There are a total of 34 planting beds in the garden.  Twenty-two (22) standard plots and 2 wheelchair-accessible pedestal beds are available for individuals.  Ten plots will be shared by the communal Garden Crew.

b)      Initial plot assignments will be based upon a lottery.  All efforts will be made to reach out to the broader community to ensure that all community members have the opportunity to be assigned a plot.

c)      Once the plot holder has signed the community garden agreement and has paid his/her dues, he/she will be assigned a plot number.  All plot assignments, after the initial plot distribution, are done on a first-come, first-served basis or, if the Garden is full, on an as-available basis.

d)      Groups and organizations may have group plots, but MUST assign an individual as the primary contact and responsible party for the plot. Ex. Church groups, Girl Scouts

e)      Members may designate up to two family members or friends (“the assigns”) to participate in the maintenance of his/her plot.  Through signature of the member to the Gardener’s Agreement, his/her designees also agree to comply with these principles.  “Assigns” refer to individuals who work on the plot in the absence of the primary plot holder; plot holders are welcome to bring other friends and family members to help in the plot, provided plot holder is present.

f)       Membership and plot assignment may be renewed indefinitely as long as a member is in good standing.  This includes payment of dues and annual signing of the garden agreement.  If a member moves out of the priority residency area they may keep their plot until the end of the current growing season.  However future renewals may only occur if there are no priority residents on the waiting list.

g)      Priority for plot assignment is given to residents of the Southwest Waterfront area of the District of Columbia. The boundaries are defined as Independence Avenue to the north, South Capitol Street to the east, the Anacostia River to the south, and the Potomac River to the west. Residents of other areas of the District of Columbia may be assigned a plot provided that no Southwest residents are waiting for plots. They must relinquish these plots at the end of the year if a local resident is on the waiting list.

h)      Plots that become available for any reason will be assigned to the next person on the waiting list. Plots may not be passed directly from one plot holder to another but may only be assigned through the waiting list.   The one exception to this rule is bona fide groups who may designate a new primary contact person and continue their group membership.

i)        If the assignment is made between January 1 and July 1 the new member must pay full year dues. If the assignment is made after July 1 the new member shall pay 50% of full-year dues.

             3.  Important Dates for the Season

a)      The Garden is open all year round to members.

b)      There will be at least two official, garden-wide cleanups each year – one in the fall on or about October 15 (weather permitting) and one in the spring on or about April 15 (weather permitting).  Each year keys or a combination code will be given out to new gardeners at the Spring garden cleanup; all gardeners are expected to participate in both of these cleanups.

c)      All gardeners are expected to have their plots cleaned, weeded and planted by May 15.  Because unused plots are homes for weeds and other potential problems for the rest of the garden – not to mention wasted opportunity – any gardener whose plot is not planted by May 15th will receive a warning by postal mail, e-mail and telephone.  After two warnings at least one week apart, if the gardener has not responded, the plot will be revoked and reassigned.

             4.  Maintaining Your Plot

a)      All plots must be kept weeded and maintained during the growing season.  Gardeners are responsible for weeding their own plots and the adjacent pathways.  Gardeners are specifically expected to weed the pathways to the south and west of their own plot, but will maintain all of the pathways around their plot when needed.

b)      All gardeners are expected to address diseased/infested plants IMMEDIATELY.  If the problem cannot be contained with organic garden methods, the diseased or infested plant should be removed from the garden.  Diseased and infested plant materials should NEVER be placed in compost or left anywhere in the Garden.

c)      Pathways around plots should be kept neat, weed free, and clear of all debris and tools for the safety of all gardeners and the beauty of the garden.

d)      All gardeners are expected to keep their plots harvested and free of overripe or rotting vegetation; this prevents pests, disease, and vermin.

e)      If you are unable to harvest your plot for any reason, you should place a flag in your plot as a signal to other gardeners that they may harvest it for their own use.

             5.  Using Water Responsibly

a)      Plots include access to the Garden’s water source.  All gardeners are expected to use water in a responsible manner.  Water should be used only to water plots and clean gardening implements.  Use of the water source for non-gardening use is not permitted.

b)      No standing water is permitted on the Garden premises. This means gardeners must keep their plots free of any receptacles that can catch and hold water.

             6.  When You Are Away

a)      If you go on vacation during the growing season, please make arrangements with other gardeners and/or with a friend (an “assign”) to water and weed your plot while you are away.   If the person tending your plot is not another gardener or one of your “assigns”, let the Garden Committee know that person’s name in advance – this is for the safety of all gardeners.

b)      If you or your designees plan to be away longer than a month, you should contact the Garden Committee so that arrangements can be made to maintain your plot in your absence.  The Garden Committee may require you to relinquish your plot in the event of multiple and/or extended absences.

c)      If you fail to maintain your plot, the Garden Committee will make two attempts to contact you.  Failure to respond to the second attempt may result in your plot and privileges being revoked and your plot being reassigned.

             7.  Restricted Plants and Other Materials

a)      The Garden prohibits planting any of the following in individual plots: trees, ivy, kudzu, bamboo or any plant with a mature height greater than 5’ that would shade adjacent plots and any illegal substance.

b)      All invasive plants, including but not limited to, mint, morning glories, vinca vine, and certain begonias, are expected to be contained in a responsible manner, to avoid having them take over pathways or interfering with other plots and communal areas. For example, you can plant mint if it is in its own separate pot in your own plot.

c)      Fertilizers and other soil amendments are permitted provided they conform to the Garden’s organic requirements.  If you are uncertain about whether or not a substance is organic, contact the Garden Committee before using it.  (Please see Section 8 for more information on organic guidelines.)

d)      The Garden allows only untreated wood and non-toxic materials to be used in plots and in communal areas.

e)      Gardeners can use non plant materials and decorations provided they do not contain toxic materials or other materials that could potentially leach into and negatively alter the soil.

             8.  Pest, Rat and Disease Control

a)      The Garden is an organic garden. This means ONLY ORGANIC gardening methods may be used – this includes weed and pest control. CHECK WITH THE GARDEN COMMITTEE BEFORE USING ANY SUBSTANCE IF YOU ARE UNCERTAIN AS TO WHETHER IT IS ORGANIC!

b)      Plants with diseases or pests that cannot be addressed through organic means will be pulled by a member of the Garden Committee, destroyed and placed in the trash. Before pulling any such plant, the Garden Committee will make every reasonable effort to contact the gardener affected.

c)      Use of non-organic materials or chemicals will result in immediate termination of your plot and privileges, without reconsideration.

             9.  Children

a)      Children 16 or under are not allowed in the garden unless accompanied by an adult.

b)      Gardeners bringing children 16 and under to the Garden are responsible for supervising those children while they are on the premises.

             10.  Pets

a)      Pets are not allowed in the garden.

             11.  Tools

a)      At this time, all gardeners are expected to bring their own small hand tools to the Garden.   The Garden provides a storage area for gardeners’ tools, but is not responsible for any tools or other personal property left in the Garden or the storage area.

b)      If available, Gardeners may use the Garden’s communal tools.  Gardeners must clean, return and safely lock up the tools when they are finished.   The Garden is not responsible for tools or any other items left in the Garden.

             12.  Security

a)       The front gates of the Garden must be kept locked at all times for the safety of all gardeners and the security of the garden’s resources.

b)      A combination lock is used on the front gate. New members will be given the combination at the first spring garden cleanup if one has not already been provided. You are expected to keep the combination secure and are not to share it with anyone outside of the Garden. The combination may be changed as needed based on turnover and security needs.

c)      Gardeners have access to the Garden at any time. However, the Garden Committee strongly recommends using the garden during daylight hours, using a buddy system when arriving or departing after dusk or early in the morning, and carrying a cell phone with you when you visit the Garden if possible.

d)      Suspicious or illegal activity should be reported immediately to the authorities and the Garden Committee should also be notified.

e)      Failure to maintain these security measures could result in revocation of your plot and privileges, without reconsideration.

13.  Theft and Vandalism

a)      Theft and vandalism are fairly common in community gardens.  Gardeners should report any theft or vandalism immediately to authorities and to the Garden Committee.

b)      All gardeners should help with repairs and replanting as needed if the Garden or any gardeners’ plots are damaged by theft or vandalism.

c)      If your plot is damaged by theft or vandalism, contact the Garden Committee to inquire whether assistance is available to help you with repairing and replanting.

d)      The Garden is not responsible for damage to your plot or any items stored in the secured area in the event of theft or vandalism or acts of nature.

14.  Trash and Compost

a)      Trash containers will be provided and emptied by the District.

b)      The Garden will maintain a compost pile for gardeners’ use.  Only vegetative matter from the garden should be placed in the compost pile. If you need help deciding whether something may go in the compost, contact the Garden Committee.  This is important for rat control.

c)      Diseased or infested plants should be removed from the garden immediately, and should NEVER be placed in the compost pile.

d)      Gardeners are allowed to help themselves to compost in amounts equal to that needed for their plots.

15.  General Behavior

a)      All gardeners are expected to behave in a courteous and considerate manner toward both fellow gardeners and the surrounding community.

b)      Smoking is not permitted in the Garden.

c)      Noise levels must be reasonable (no radios), and all gardeners must observe the noise ordinances in place for the District’s residential neighborhoods.

d)      You may bring your bike inside the garden for safekeeping while you are gardening, but no bike riding is permitted in the garden itself.

             16.  Communication

a)      Addresses and numbers to contact the Garden Committee will be posted in the Garden if possible.

b)      The Garden Committee will keep gardeners informed via email, meetings, the Garden listserv and the bulletin board located in the Garden.  Phone and postal mail will be used as necessary.

c)      Gardeners may use email, meetings, the Garden’s website, the bulletin board in the Garden, and phone or postal mail to communicate with the Garden Committee.  Please contact the Garden Committee in writing when appropriate, or as noted in these Bylaws or the Gardener’s Agreement.  Email is preferred when appropriate.

d)      If you need to notify the Garden in writing of a situation, use email if possible.  If email is not available, contact the Garden Committee members via telephone or postal mail.

e)      The Garden Committee reserves the right to remove material it deems inappropriate and offensive from the bulletin board or any other venue related to the Garden.

17.  Group Participation And Common Areas

a)      All gardeners are expected to participate in the ongoing upkeep and daily maintenance of the Garden.  This includes watering and weeding of the common areas, picking up trash throughout the Garden, and pitching in to help other gardeners during absences or following thefts or vandalism. Garden members are expected to volunteer 2 hours per month towards general upkeep, cleaning and maintenance of common areas.

b)      Common areas are defined as ALL areas not defined as an individual assigned plot, and include the pathways, gates, fences, sheds, entryway, and fence plantings.  Garden members are responsible for upkeep of common areas, but the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is responsible for maintenance of the physical infrastructure of the Garden.  (See Rule 22.)

c)      Occasionally the Garden Committee may ask gardeners to sign up for specific tasks, community projects, and maintenance efforts as needed.

d)      All gardeners are expected to participate both of the two seasonal clean up days, and at least one other community-oriented event sponsored by the Garden.

e)      Gardeners are expected to attend meetings of the Garden when possible.  All gardeners are expected to attend at least one meeting per year.  In the event that a membership vote is held at a meeting, all gardeners are expected to abide by the outcomes regardless of whether or not they attended the meeting.

18.  Failure To Abide By The ByLaws

a)      The Garden is located on public property owned and maintained by the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation.  Gardeners are bound by DC Parks and Recreation rules and DC law at all times.

b)      The following are grounds for immediate termination of plot use: any action that endangers or jeopardizes the safety of other gardeners; any action that deliberately or through negligence damages the Garden itself, its assets, or the property of other Gardeners; the use of toxic chemicals or non organic pesticides or herbicides; possession of firearms, possession of an illegal substance, or any other illegal activity.  In these events, the gardener’s plot and privileges are revoked immediately; no warning is required and no reinstatement considered.

c)      Failing to abide by other rules (e.g., watering, weeding, guests, etc.) will result in a warning.  If the problem is not corrected or addressed after two warnings, the gardener’s plot and privileges will be revoked.

d)      The Garden Committee will make every reasonable attempt to contact the gardener.  Notification of loss of privileges will occur in writing via certified postal mail.

e)      Gardeners will have one week to respond to a warning before a second warning is issued, and one week to respond to a second warning before further action is taken.

19.  Interpretation, Enforcement, Disputes and Grievances

a)      The Garden Committee shall resolve all disputes as to the interpretation of these bylaws in its reasonable discretion.

b)      The Garden Committee shall enforce these bylaws and shall have discretion to enforce or waive any rule on a case-by-case basis.  No Gardener or any other individual shall have the right to enforce or waive any rule.

c)      Gardeners agree to submit grievances regarding other gardeners and Garden policy to the Garden Committee for consideration and review.  Gardeners agree to abide by the decisions of the Garden Committee following its review of the grievance.

d)      Efforts to settle grievances outside of the Garden Committee review or failure to abide by the Garden Committee’s decisions may result revocation of your plot and your privileges.

e)      The Garden Committee will conduct all votes of the membership.

20.  Release and Indemnification

a)      The Garden is a permissive occupant of the land upon which the Garden is located.  The DC Department of Parks and Recreation, may revoke this permission at any time without notice or compensation.  Gardeners release any future claims arising as a result of the loss of access to the Garden or the plants located therein.

b)      Gardeners agree to use the Garden at the Gardeners’ own risk, and further agree to defend, hold harmless and indemnify the Southwest Community Gardens, the Garden Committee, the Garden’s officers, volunteers or assigns, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, and the city of the District of Columbia, from any cost, liability, damage, loss, or claim that occurs in now or in the future relating to or arising out of participation in and use of the Garden by Gardeners, their family members, guests, or assigns. Gardeners further acknowledge full responsibility for Gardeners’ own actions and the actions of Gardeners’ family members, guests or assigns at all times.

             21.  Garden Committee

a)      The Garden Committee shall consist of three elected members, a President, Secretary, and Treasurer.  Committee member terms shall be for three years.  No committee member will serve on the committee, in any position, for more than two consecutive terms.

b)      When there is an opening on the Committee, any Committee or Garden member in good standing may seek the position.  Committee members will be elected by majority vote of the Garden Membership in attendance at a Garden Meeting.

c)      Committee member may be removed for misconduct or neglect of duty by a three quarter majority of the Garden Members.  A quorum of half of the Garden membership must be present for the vote to take place.  In the event of resignation of a Committee Member, or his/her removal from office, the Garden Committee shall appoint a success to serve until the following election meeting and shall schedule an election within 60 days.

d)      Garden Committee members may keep their assigned plot through the completion of their service on the Committee, even if there are individuals on the waiting list.

22.  Garden Maintenance Groups Responsibilities:  Expect work to take two hours a month, with the bulk heavily skewed towards early spring, late summer, and fall.

a)      Ground Maintenance: Mowing and weeding of all common areas, maintenance and inventory of all necessary equipment,  including gas.

b)      Pruning and Plant Maintenance: All necessary duties involving the pruning, watering and mulching of all fruit and specialty trees in the garden. Experienced and knowledgeable pruners only!

c)      CommunityArea: Cleaning and maintenance of the community area

d)      Perimeter and Garden Trash: Maintenance of the inside and outside perimeter of the garden. Maintaining the new garden trashcans and setting trash out for pick-up.

e)      Compost: Responsibilities include creating all-weather signs detailing composting rules, building compost bins (light carpentry work), mulching plants with tools or gas powered-mulcher, building  compost piles with yard waste and leaves and turning piles on a monthly basis.

23.  Orchard

a)      The Garden will investigate planting an orchard along the perimeter of the Garden or in other areas of the Park.   If so, the Southwest Community Gardens Bylaws will also apply to the orchard space and maintenance.  All efforts will be made to select trees that require minimal maintenance and sprays.  However, occasional (non-organic) spraying may be necessary and is permitted, in accordance with District Laws and Ordinances.

b)      An Orchard Committee will be established to establish best practices and allocation of fruit.

Last revision: 11/2/2013

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