Gardener Playbook

Purpose: The purpose of this document is to reinforce our mission as a donation garden, communicate expectations for our volunteer gardeners, and expand further on the details of the Adopt-a-Plot Agreement. It applies to volunteer gardeners across all of our gardens. Each garden is unique and has further guidelines specific to that garden. Please see those in the last section of this document.

Organizational Structure: The Coppell Community Garden Corporation was established in 1998 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to oversee two community gardens in the city. The Farmers Market joined the non-profit in 2003 and we expanded with a third garden in 2017. The volunteer organization is a grassroots effort to cultivate a healthy community and make a difference in the lives that are touched. In 2015, the name of the non-profit was changed to the Coppell Sustainable Food Organization to better reflect the two organizations that it oversees.

Our board of directors consists of a President, Past President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Garden Chair, Farmers Market Manager, Farmers Market Representative, Member-at-Large, City Liaison, Coppell ISD Liaison, Metrocrest Services Liaison, and Youth Delegate(s). The names of the current individuals serving in these roles are available on our website at, under Our Roots, About Us. The gardens are directly represented on the board by the Garden Chair. Please see organizational charts at the end of this document.

Each of the gardens has a Garden Manager who is responsible for the overall operation of the garden. They are supported by various Garden Leaders who provide leadership on any given Saturday. Among other duties specific to each garden, the Garden Leader is responsible for seeing that each Saturday morning the weekly harvest is gathered, weighed, recorded, and ready for pick-up which will then be delivered and distributed by our partners at Metrocrest Services. There is an additional leadership position of Youth Volunteer Coordinator, although it is not currently filled at all the gardens.

Gardener Responsibilities per the Adopt-a-Plot Agreement:

[Items in bold below are verbatim from the current Adopt-a-Plot Agreement; non-bold text is for clarification; italicized text indicates most recent changes/updates.]

  1. Fully plant their plot with fruits and vegetables throughout the year. No tall or climbing ornamentals/perennials are to be grown in the plots. Fall plot care will consist of planting winter hardy vegetables, and/or a suitable cover crop, and/or a top dressing of compost or leaves to protect the soil. Gardeners not wanting to garden in the fall may offer their plot to be fostered (provided a foster gardener is available) but must continue to complete their work assignments.
      1. Our Share the Harvest program’s goal is to donate as much healthy, organic food as we can to those in need throughout the year.
      2. We are able to garden and produce food year-round with four major planting cycles in late winter, spring, summer, and fall. Late winter planting in all plots must begin during the month of February.
      3. A planting guide is provided to each gardener with Metrocrest’s requested vegetables, optimum planting times, proper spacing, and approximate days to harvest. Gardeners are strongly encouraged to only grow produce from this planting guide.
      4. Seeds and individual transplants are provided to gardeners at a reduced rate of $.50 throughout the year. Multi-pack transplants are available for $1.00. Onion and potato starter plants are provided free to gardeners for late winter planting. Both seeds and plants are for use at the gardens only.
      5. Prohibited ornamentals and/or perennials include, but are not limited to sunflowers, cannas, rosemary, mint, jasmine, and morning glory. When in doubt, the Garden Manager should be consulted and make the decision.
      6. Large tools are available at each garden for all to use and must not be removed from the garden. These large tools should be cleaned before they are returned to the shed; this prevents rusting and lengthens the life of the tool. Each gardener should bring their own hand tools such as a trowel, pruners, scissors, weeder, and gloves. Hand tools at the garden are for the use of community volunteers who may be there to assist. Respect other gardener’s belongings; usually, items left in or near the plot means they belong to that gardener. Plant supports, stakes, fencing material, hoses and hose nozzles are not provided by the garden, however they may be available if they were previously donated.
      7. Keep safety a priority. Hoses should not present a trip hazard in main pathways.  Large tools must not be left on the ground which creates a trip hazard.  A First Aid kit is located in the shed for small injuries.  Children are encouraged to participate but must be supervised. No smoking is allowed in the garden.  Pets should be left at home or in vehicles.
      8. Gardeners not wishing to plant winter hardy vegetables in the fall must notify the Garden Manager by September 1st and do either 1. or 2. below:
        1. Clean out all non-viable crops and temporarily release their plot to a foster gardener (if one is available) for fall planting by September 15th.
        2. Clean out all non-viable crops and plant a suitable cover crop and/or a top dressing of compost or leaves on all or any open portion of the plot to protect and enrich the soil by October 1st.
        3. Non-viable crops are defined as any summer thriving crop, to include, but is not limited to tomatoes, okra, eggplant, and peppers. When in doubt, the Garden Manager should be consulted and shall make the decision to determine what, if anything, should be retained.
        4. The gardener’s work assignments during this period are still required to be completed by the gardener.
        5. If the gardener wishes to continue gardening in the following year, they will reassume responsibility for their plot on February 1st after completing their new Adopt-a-Plot Agreement.
    1. Donate at least 80% of their produce to the Metrocrest food pantry.
      1. Gardeners are strongly encouraged to grow only the produce desired by Metrocrest which is listed on the provided planting guide.
      2. If a gardener chooses to plant a non-recommended crop for their own use, it should take up no more than 20% of the plot space. Additionally, its growth must not be such that it drastically shields space and sun from the remaining crops. Any concerns should be brought to the attention of the Garden Manager for a decision.
    1. Harvest their produce. Respect the efforts of other gardeners and not harvest from their plots without permission.
      1. Gardeners should only harvest from their own plot unless instructed otherwise by the Garden Manager and/or Garden Leader responsible for that day’s harvest.
      2. Gardeners may request that their plot is never harvested without their permission. The request is to be made in an email to the Garden Manager, who in turn will notify the Garden Leaders and place the name and plot number on the Do Not Harvest list.
        1. Repeated failure to harvest produce prior to its spoilage may result in a revocation of this request. Any concerns should be brought to the attention of the Garden Manager for a decision.
    1. If unable to be at the garden to harvest on a Saturday, the gardener will contact the Garden Leader to give permission and instructions about what can be harvested.
      1. Our Share the Harvest program’s goal is to donate as much healthy, organic produce as we can to those in need. This requires everyone be at the garden on Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. to harvest their plot.
      2. If the gardener is not able to be there on any given Saturday, it is the gardener’s responsibility to arrange a substitute to be at the garden by 9:00 a.m. to complete their harvest.
      3. If no substitute is found, the gardener may notify the Garden Leader by 6:00 p.m. the day prior to the harvest and may make specific requests of what is to be harvested.
      4. If the gardener or their substitute is not at the garden by 9:30 a.m., and the Garden Leader has not been notified otherwise, and the plot is not on the Do Not Harvest list, the plot will be harvested at the discretion of the Garden Leader or Garden Manager. Depending on availability of time and tasks, this may or may not result in the plot being harvested.
    1. Water as necessary, being responsible for watering method and conservation.
      1. It is the responsibility of each gardener to water their plot regularly to ensure the successful germination of seeds and the health of their plants. If not available to do so, they must arrange for a backup. If the arrangement is for an extended period of time, such as during a vacation, gardener must notify the Garden Manager in advance.
      2. Each garden may have different guidelines as to the use of soaker hoses, timers, and the sharing of hoses across multiple plots. Gardeners are expected to adhere to those guidelines as provided by the Garden Manager and/or Garden Leader.
      3. Water conservation is important and gardeners should be mindful about not overwatering. Hoses not connected to timers must be turned off at the faucet before leaving the garden.
    1. Weed their plot AND the pathway around their plot.
      1. This is an ongoing task and must be completed by all gardeners on a timely basis. Every attempt should be made to remove the weed(s) by the root. Youth volunteers may be available to assist on a Saturday, but do not relieve the gardener’s obligation to complete this task.
      2. Weeds must be disposed of properly (as designated by each Garden Manager and/or Garden Leader) and not added to compost piles.
      3. Plants must be grown in plots and not grown in the pathways.
      4. Perennial flowering plants are grown in borders at each garden for both aesthetics and to attract pollinators. Ornamental flowering plants in plots are strongly discouraged so as to maximize space to grow produce. If planted, they must be kept to only a small portion of the plot.
    1. Chop soft tissue, non-diseased plants for composting to recycle as a valuable source of nitrogen to keep the garden beds healthy. Woody trunks and/or roots are to be disposed of in the designated containers.
      1. Each garden may have different processes as to how their compost piles are managed. Gardeners must adhere to those guidelines as provided by the Garden Manager and/or Garden Leader.
    1. Learn and use only organic gardening methods.
      1. Selected organic garden amendments are provided at the gardens. These are only to be used at the garden and should never be removed.
      2. Use of non-organic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizer is prohibited.
      3. If supply is low on any given product, please notify the appropriate Garden Leader and/or Garden Manager.
    1. Participate in the community work assignments to maintain the garden.
      1. Each garden may have different guidelines as to what, how, and when weekly work assignments are completed. It is the gardener’s responsibility to adhere to those guidelines.
      2. If unavailable on an assigned date, the gardener is responsible to arrange for a substitute and notify the appropriate people based on the guidelines of each garden.
      3. Failure to show up for a work assignment will be noted and may contribute to a formal written warning. See note below under General Guidelines 4.
    1. Email Communication – Check email at least weekly and read all garden messages.
      1. The Gardener Contact List is for garden use only and not for selling, soliciting, politicking, etc. It is inappropriate to send negative, derogatory or insensitive emails; doing so can be grounds for a written warning or plot revocation. Differences/grievances should be addressed in person.
    1. Register and complete a background check with the City of Coppell.
    1. Record volunteer hours at least monthly on
      1. All family members who work at the garden may report volunteer hours. They can be added cumulatively to the MyVolunteer website by the gardener or added manually to the youth volunteer sign-in sheet.
      2. Any youth family member who wants to work and get organization specific sign-off for their community service hours must be at the garden at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday and receive their assigned work, if any, from the Youth Volunteer Coordinator or Garden Leader. The Youth Volunteer Coordinator or Garden Leader will then sign off on whatever paperwork is provided to them for verification.

General Guidelines:

      1. The Coppell Community Garden Chair and designated Garden Managers at each garden oversee the gardens. The Garden Managers and/or their designated Garden Leader(s) will assign plots, assist new gardeners, report maintenance issues, check supplies, ensure community work assignments are being done, check garden plots for compliance with agreement terms, and be available to resolve problems. The Garden Managers meet periodically; meetings are open to all gardeners.
      2. Gardeners may adopt only one plot. The maximum number of plots assigned to one family or group is one plot or the number of plots assigned the prior year (and only if all plots were maintained and productive the prior year). Gardeners may be offered the opportunity to foster a plot until such time as a new gardener adopts the plot.
      3. If for any reason (health, issues, work, etc.) you cannot maintain your plot, proactively inform your Garden Manager to determine the best course of action.
      4. Gardeners must adhere to the terms stated above to continue to garden their adopted plot(s). The Garden Manager will contact the gardener and work to resolve non-compliance within a specified time. If the issue remains after two written warnings, the plot may be revoked at the discretion of the Garden Manager.
      5. If for some reason you have a grievance with others, first attempt to resolve the issue with the other person. Our community is a dynamic and diverse group of individuals so good communication is important. The appropriate sequence of dialog to help resolve any issue would be gardener to gardener, gardener to Garden Leader, gardener to Garden Manager, gardener to Committee Chair, gardener to Board President.
      6. Community volunteers (youth and adult) may be available at the gardens from time to time and are managed by the Youth Volunteer Coordinator (if available), the Garden Leader, and/or the gardener who made the request for the assistance.
      7. Each new gardener will pay a one-time processing fee to the Coppell Community Garden when they are assigned to their plot. The fee is $10 for Coppell residents and $20 for non-Coppell residents and is collected by the Garden Manager and given to the Board Treasurer.

Garden Specific Guidelines

Ground Delivery Garden

      1. Timers are allowed.
      2. Drip irrigation is encouraged.
      3. Mowed areas must be kept free of debris, tools, hoses, etc. for the landscaper to mow the grass.
      4. Vining plants are to be kept in the plot and not allowed to grow onto nearby trees/shrubs; this shades and kills them.
      5. Gardeners are responsible for weeding in and around their plot and the pathways: Plots 1 – 32 – weed south side to middle of main aisle and the west (Denton Tap Rd side) pathway, Plots 33 – 59 – weed north side to middle of main aisle and west pathway, Plots 60 – 69 – weed north side to end of plots 33 – 59 or orchard border and west end.
      1. All gardens are a haven for rats. Gardeners must actively participate in trying to reduce our produce destruction by using bait stations or rat traps which are available at the garden.
      2. Tomato/pepper cages must be stored in the plot or at home, not behind the shed.
      3. A clearance of 4 feet must be maintained from the brick fence on the east side of the garden, as this is the property of the homeowner.

Helping Hands Garden

      1. No timers are to be used (due to soil compaction/drainage issues).
      2. A plot is dedicated to herbs, so gardeners are strongly encouraged not to grow herbs in their plot.
      3. If an assigned plot borders the perennial garden or the east/west borders, it is that gardener’s responsibility to keep that border free of weeds.

Old Town Garden

      1. Timers are allowed but runoff affecting pathways or other plots is not allowed.
      2. Drip irrigation is encouraged.
      3. Mowed areas must be kept free of debris, tools, hoses, etc. for the city to mow the grass.
      4. Gardeners are responsible for weeding their plot and surrounding pathways on all sides.
      5. All gardens are a haven for rats. Gardeners must actively participate in trying to reduce our produce destruction by using bait stations or rat traps which are available at the garden.
      6. Tomato/pepper cages must be stored in the plot or at home, not behind the shed.

Coppell Sustainable Food Organization Structure


Past President
Vice President
Coppell Community Garden Chair
Farmer’s Market Representative
Farmer’s Market Manager
City Liaison
Coppell ISD Liaison
Metrocrest Services Liaison
Youth Delegate(s)

Coppell Community Garden Committee

Coppell Community Garden Chair
Ground Delivery Garden Manager
Helping Hands Garden Manager
Old Town Garden Manager

Coppell Community Garden
(each garden)

Garden Manager
Garden Leaders
Youth Volunteer Leader (if designated)

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