It has long been known that gardening is good for people. The act of tending to plants is soothing, cathartic and incredibly beneficial to the human spirit. Aside from the benefits of the work involved, the resulting fruits, flowers or vegetables foster a deep sense of pride and accomplishment in all of those involved. As neighborhood and community gardens take root in cities and towns all over the United States, many businesses are implementing gardens in the workplace, with incredibly positive results.
Workplace gardens are proven to create a sense of community and pride amongst employees. Office workers use their teamwork and cooperation skills and foster and strengthen an office-wide commitment to healthier living. Additionally, rather than consuming their harvests, many companies’ employees have elected to donate fruits and vegetables to local homeless shelters or other organizations, establishing a community minded spirit.
As is the case with any group task, organization is important from the beginning. Appoint a leader to oversee the project, preferably someone with gardening experience. However, as is the case with any new, large scale task or project, hiring a consultant can be the perfect way to assure your team has all of the necessary resources and information. To presenters can speak on a variety of inspirational topics, which will foster teamwork amidst your workforce that will only grow in the office garden.
Once the plan has been set in motion, the first task is to designate a place for the garden. Ideally your garden will be on company property. A roof or yard area is perfect, but a container garden can be utilized in an office with minimal space. For those workplaces with inadequate or no outdoor space, a nearby community or neighborhood garden may offer plots for lease, allowing employees to plant, tend and harvest on breaks or weekends.
After the location has been assessed and determined, the group needs to decide what will be planted and what materials are needed to facilitate the growth and care of the plants. Once those things are accomplished, it is important to designate a specific day for all of the planting to take place, as it is best for all of the seeds or seedlings to go into the ground at the same time. The various plots should be labelled as well, so each team member knows what is growing where.
As the day-to-day plant care routine begins, establish a list of tasks that all of the employees can take part in. Watering, weeding, pest control and fertilizing schedules can be distributed to each team member, allowing for a combined effort in the division of the work. Task an employee with the implementation of weekly growth charts, and consider a regular photo update on the company’s Facebook page or website. This will allow other employees and customers or clients to keep up with the garden’s progress.
Harvest the Benefits
As the growing season progresses and your team has a tangible example of their gardening skills in the form of flowering or fruiting plants, a final discussion needs to take place regarding the upcoming harvest. As mentioned before, many of those with workplace gardens donate their harvests, but that might not be appropriate in all cases. Perhaps members of the garden team would like to take their share of the harvest home or hold a potluck for the whole office to enjoy. Regardless of the final decision, the end result will be fulfilling.
Once the harvest is over, steps need to be taken to prepare the plot for winter. Carefully removing the plants or tilling them under the soil is necessary before the ground freezes. A good layer of mulch and straw can be added, which adds nutrients to the soil and allows for a healthy and fertile garden in the coming spring.
While all of this can sound a bit daunting, it’s important to remember that the benefits of a workplace garden far outweigh the challenges. From organic teamwork exercises to increased organizational skills, your office morale will grow in ways that are unforced and increasingly enjoyable. Once the harvest is secured, the return on the work investment is immediately apparent, and your employees can begin to plan the next growing season.
About the Author: Lauren James is a community organizer who works for a nonprofit agency. She recommends using Leading Authorities speakers bureau to find a speaker who will help your employees work like a team.