GETTING STARTED – How to bring TLTP to your neighbourhood!

So you’ve decided to become a champion for TLTP in your neighbourhood. That’s awesome!

We’re going to take you through the process of getting started step by step.

We want you to know that we are here for you right through this process. We’ve provided a bunch of links throughout the text so that you can find other more helpful information right here on our website!

Step 1 – Talk to your neighbours

This is the most important step and for some, it may be the toughest challenge to overcome, but YOU CAN DO THIS!

We’ve developed a series of dialogues to help you talk to your neighbours and get them on board.

We’ve found most people to be very receptive to the idea of creating a communal space in their neighbourhood. Why? Quite simply it’s because most people use things like lemons and herbs frequently when they cook. People like the idea of having a nearby place they can go to collect herbs as and when they need them. It sure beats paying $4 for a tiny packet at the supermarket. And its as fresh as it gets! So remember that when you start telling people about the project.

So, how do you talk to your neighbours?

Make life easier for yourself! Talk to the neighbours that you do know first! Then find out the names of others they know in the street. Who are they closest to? Those are the people you should try next. Even better, get them to talk to the neighbours they know!

If you do have to cold call upon the neighbours that you aren’t familiar with, know this: Any barriers that might exist, when random strangers knock on someone’s door, are easily broken when people hear that you are a neighbour. Most people would be inclined to think that if you are a neighbour, you probably have a valid reason for knocking on their door. So be quick to tell them you are a local! “Hi there, my name is Jodi, I just live a few doors down at …”

Want to really capture their attention? Drop a few names! If they know these people you’ll capture their attention “I’ve teamed up with a couple of other residents, John and Millie at #9, Casey and Andrew at #15”…

Step 2 – Get the troops together

Organise a little gathering to get everyone in one place at one time. We have found that food is a great way to connect people so, why not organise a little lunch..
Things that work well:
– Plate to share – everyone bring a plate of something to share
– Mixed Bag Lunch – Create a list of things that are required to feed your group of people and give everyone the chance to select an item(s) from the list. i.e Bread – Jane, OJ – Bill, Cheese – Jerry… Everyone pops the food on the table and you all make up your own sandwiches/plates.

When you are all together – its a good idea to find out what kind of space would suit the people of your neighbourhood. Think about the following questions:
– What kind of site will you look for?
– Will it be big or small?
– What kinds of things would people like to see in that space? Trees (shade), herbs, flowers, fruits, indigenous plants, habitat for     wildlife i.e. insect hotels etc.
– What kind of Herbs do the people in your neighbourhood actually use? How often do they use those herbs?
– What kind of park bench will you have?

Do a skills audit! You just never know what kinds of amazing skills people might have! One thing we all know for sure is: “if you don’t ask, you don’t get!”. Right?! So ask your neighbours to write down a couple of things they are particularly good at. Tell them that its OK if the things they are good at don’t seem particularly relevant to creating a great space just write them down! You might stumble across an acrobat or someone who breathes fire! Sure, those skills might not help you in establishing your site, but that would certainly make for some good entertainment at a picnic lunch in your new space!
Make a game of it! Match the skill to the neighbour – see if you really can judge a book by its cover.

Step 3 – Find an appropriate site

Take a look around your neighbourhood and decide where the most appropriate site is for your community. Remember; this project is about community so, the most appropriate site may not be in the naturestrip or verge outside YOUR house! It may be in the reserve or park down the street, or perhaps one of the neighbours will be happy to open up their front yard to the community! Just know that there will be an appropriate place, you just need to think broadly and be flexible!

Step 4 – Talk to your council

Introducing yourself to the people who can make or break your site is a great idea!

We highly recommend that you do a bit of research and find the contact details of:
ALL of your local councilors! You can find the details of ALL of your local councilors on your council’s website. The other details you can find by calling your local council office or, simply go to a council meeting and chat to them there!
– Council CEO
– Head of City Infrastructure
– Head of Parks
– Horticulture Manager
– Environment Department Co-ordinator

Send a letter – email is best these days!.

Tell them:
– Who you are (as a group i.e. we are the residents of High Street, Melbourne).
– About the project
– Why you have all decided to come together and create this space.
– What you have achieved so far.
– Your plan
– Where your ideal site is located
– That you have some alternatives, should your ideal site not be appropriate.
– That you would love to be able to work with council to make this site a feature in the landscape.

We promise that if you do this, you will have a much easier time! However, you should bear in mind that if, when telling your council about TLTP and your plans, you talk less about your needs and wants and more about the benefits to the broader community, you will do far better. Remember that council’s represent the whole community, and as such, they like to know that helping you wont disadvantage other people 😉

Step 5 – Plan your site

Head out and take some before shots! It will be great to look back at these once your site is finished.

Based on the feedback you got at your community picnic, carefully consider which are the key elements that your community needs/wants.

Weigh that against the amount of room that you have available – remember that you should allow enough room for each plant to grow to its mature size. Many people make the mistake of over-planting and having too many different things. For instance, with herbs its better to have bigger clusters of a smaller number of plants that people actually use because:
a. it looks better
b. it is much easier for people to know what they are picking – just because you know your thyme from your sage doesn’t meant that everyone else does.
c. it allows the plants to survive without being picked bare!

Where will you put things like plants, benches, sculpture etc. This is where a volunteer designer comes in really handy! Put a call out – is there a local landscape designer who would be willing to help you put your design together? Let them know that you are a community group and that you will happily credit their work in your social media streams, particularly if you make it into your local paper. It’s a great help to you and it can be very good exposure for them – especially if your site is featured by TLTP!

DIAL BEFORE YOU DIG! Always.

It is always possible that there may be water, gas, electrical and sewage services right below your site and this could present several problems:
a. Digging in a particular part of your site may present an unacceptable risk to your community. In which case you will need to plan around those services.
b. It may mean that your site is in fact not suitable, in which case, you’ll need to find an alternative site.

 

Step 6 – Plan your soil prep and planting days

We have learned the hard way – if you don’t get the soil right WAY before you think about planting out, you could be setting yourself up for a disaster!

Whatever you do, don’t rush! Your site and your community will always be there. Take your time to prepare and do it well.

Ask yourself:
– What kind of time frame will you be working to?
– What time of year is the best for planting? Whenever that is, prepare your site at least 2-3 months in advance.
– Is summer the best time to plant? Not if you live in the southern hemisphere! You want to plant out your site at a time when there will be a good amount of mild weather and that most amazing of elements – rain!
– What kinds of materials will you need? Compost, mulch etc.
– How much will it cost and how will you raise the funds? Are your neighbours happy to chip in; or
– Can your council help? Many council’s have community grants that can help you on your way. Some councils will also happily provide free mulch to community projects. Your Parks or Horticulture Managers at your local council are the best people to talk to you about this.

The best advice we can give you is: plan your dates well in advance! The more notice you give your community, the more helpers you’ll have on the day. Think about giving them a “Save The Date” card and reminding them the week before. If you’re tech savvy, why not get your community on an email list or private Facebook Group to keep them up to date.

Step 7 – Plan your planting day

You need to round up as many helpers as possible so that you can get through the things that need to be done AND have fun!

Give everyone as much notice as you can.

What kinds of jobs will there be on the day? Make a list and have someone on hand when the day comes to delegate jobs out to the troops.
When will materials arrive? It is always good practice to have materials delivered the day before any working bees. That way you can be sure to start on time and everyone can work on their allocated jobs.
What will you eat and drink?
How will you unwind after the big day?

Step 8 – Show it off!

Celebrate! You deserve it!

Invite all of those important people that you contacted back in step 4. Invite them to come down to your celebration. Tell them that you want them to be able to enjoy the amazing space your community built together. Make sure you include pictures of what the site looked like before, the neighbours working hard at your site prep and planting days and what the site looks like now.

Invite the local newspaper – they are always looking for great community stories.

Have a party! Make sure that everyone in your neighbourhood gets involved.

Pin your site! You will have noticed that we have provided a pin map on our website. Pin you site to this and make sure you add a great photo. This is important because here may be neighbours nearby who didn’t know about the project and who might be really inspired by it. Help them locate your site!

Share it with us! Share pictures of your site on Instagram using the hashtag #TLTP. You can find us @thelemontreeproject

Tweet us! @lemontreeprojec – Tell us where you are and show off that awesome site! Don’t forget… #TLTP

We’d love to hear the story of your site so that we can feature you on our blog. Write to us via the contact form on this website. If you can write your own article, even better!

Important things to note:
Don’t bite off more than you can chew! True story – you’ll only make things more challenging for yourself and your community if you go too big too quick! You’re more likely to get your council offside if you don’t do it well and that can be bad news for everyone!

We know from experience that when you start out small with a view to growing gradually over time you have more success in terms of the plants surviving and growing well and in gaining people’s trust in your ability to do a good job.

We have had the best experience in dealing with councils when we went to them with a clear plan for the future. Councils want to know that you have a plan to work to.  If you are thinking about taking on a big project, definitely break it down into manageable stages.

FACT: If your site looks messy, unloved and neglected you are going to upset people.

Looks are everything here so we strongly encourage you to aim to make your site look beautiful.

People love to spend time in beautiful places. Need we say any more?

Most important – Have fun!

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