Garden Bylaws

Down to Earth Garden
(formerly the Children’s Garden)

Date Ratified with Amendment to the Garden Name: July 1, 2020

A. Name and Location

The name of the garden is Down to Earth Garden (formerly the Children’s Garden). The garden is located at 194 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009, entrance at 546 East 12th Street, cross streets: 12th Street and Avenue B, southwest corner. For the purposes of this document, the garden will be referred to as “the Garden.”

B. Mission

The purpose of the garden is to provide a working model for recycling organic matter, including food waste, that improves and sustains the garden environment from microbes to plants, from insects to birds; therefore, to also provide the community a 24-hour drop-off site for food scraps and other organic matter (plant and potting matter) and make the compost, as well as other materials when available (soil, mulch), for people to take with them; and to provide a place for anyone interested in learning and volunteering in our garden activities, including for schools and after school activities/clubs to be able to bring their students to plant, harvest their plantings, and/or do composting activities.

C. Membership

C.1. Eligibility

The Garden does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, gender, age, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, or religion.

You must be at least 18 years of age to join as an individual.

C.2. Process for Joining

Contact our Garden Coordinator or attend and sign up at one of our garden meetings.

Complete a total of 20 volunteer hours over the course of 1 year.

Attend at least 3 garden meetings.

Attend a new member orientation.

Fill out a membership application.

Participate in at least 1 garden activity for approximately 3 months total, more or less, over each year.

There is currently no membership dues.

C.3. Membership Levels

This garden currently only has one membership level.

C.4. Garden Plots

C.4.A. Communal Plots

This garden offers members access to communal garden plots.

Rights of communal plot members:

  • Participate in crop planning (i.e. the decision about what to plant)
  • Tend to the plot(s) – planting, weeding, trellising/staking
  • Enter the garden at any time to tend to the plot(s)
  • Harvest from the plot(s) to take home
  • Access to communal tools
  • Access to compost, soil, lumber etc., produced by the Garden, donated to the Garden, or supplied to the Garden by GreenThumb.

Responsibilities of communal plot members:

  • If the plot is left unattended: As a communal plot and with the understanding of all involved that it’s a communal area, since it is likely looked after by more than 1 garden member, if areas of the communal plot are left unattended to a visually noticeable degree, then others may do some or more amount of tending to those areas.
  • As best as possible, those who manage certain plants in a communal area should either put signs/labels and/or inform all others regarding type of plant, whether others can water them or not, and any additional notes (e.g., “Do not clear away this plant—let it dry out completely as is in order to harvest its seeds at its maturest level.”)

How are the communal plots managed? Who decides what to plant?

The garden coordinator is the main person through which everyone can communicate the management of communal areas, who then communicates with others who may be involved or may request feedback from every garden member.

Who has access to the food crops that are grown in communal plot(s)?

It depends on whether the individual or group (e.g., school kids’ project) has a specific purpose to what they’re growing; the garden coordinator would then notify others, as well as, make sure that signs are placed appropriately.

C.4.B. Individual Plots

This garden currently does not offer members individual/family garden plots. Instead, certain areas of the communal plots and raised beds may be designated, from time to time, to either individuals, groups, group projects, or school projects, including after-school activities.

C.5. Meetings

The garden holds general meetings as needed.

Any member of the public can attend a general meeting.

A minimum number of members, 50%+1, are required if there is going to be a vote of any kind.

Announcements about upcoming meetings are shared:

  • At the previous meeting.
  • On the garden’s email list.
  • On the garden fence.
  • On the garden’s website.

Notes from the meetings are shared:

  • On the garden’s email list;
  • On the garden’s website.

C.6. Process of Revoking Membership

The Garden reserves the right to deny or revoke membership to any person or people

whose behavior is deemed:

In violation of the Garden rules, bylaws, and/or GreenThumb License Agreement

In violation of city, state, and/or federal law

Disruptive to the causes of the garden

Destructive to or theft of the garden property, plants, tools, furniture, plots, and amenities

Disruptive or abusive of the peace and wellbeing of the garden, its members, and/or the public: verbal altercations, hate speech, sexual harassment, etc.

Unauthorized changing of the Garden lock.

Revocation of membership for any of these violations occurs through this process:

  • A series of warnings or membership probation: Attempts will be made with at least two direct face-to-face communications; if cannot be resolved, then a possible outside arbitrator may be brought in; membership probation may be imposed for 3 months to 1 year where access to the garden (keys, change of code) is taken away, but where they may be allowed to visit the garden during that time at the decision of the general membership; expulsion may occur if problems and violations persists or returns beyond that probation period.
  • The gardener is notified through these method(s): by both direct email (not through the garden’s email) and face-to-face.
  • The gardener has this much time to respond: two weeks.
  • The decision is made by the general membership at a general meeting or special meeting depending on timing with a quorum of 2/3rds of the membership.
  • Membership may be reinstated if after 1 year/season, the member may approach the general garden membership and if approved, be on a probationary status for at least 3 months.

D. Garden Governance

D.1. Garden Leadership

The Garden is governed by one Garden Coordinator.

Expectations and responsibilities:

The garden coordinator is responsible for communicating any significant changes or issues with the garden, new or updates to garden projects (including grants, new structures, etc.), and when there are changes/updates to what’s going on with certain sections of the garden (communal areas, trees/tree pits, compost related, etc.); the garden coordinator is also responsible with coordinating with gardeners on various activities, including garden workdays, open hours, watering, and garden projects and events.

The Garden Coordinator is selected through:

  • Elections held as needed.
  • A nominee must receive 50%+1 of the vote to be approved, even if unopposed.
  • Any member in good standing can nominate themself or another member in good standing.
  • A minimum/quorum of 50%+1 members must participate in the vote.
  • Members may vote via email or proxy (a signed statement authorizing someone at the meeting to vote on behalf of a member who can’t make the meeting).

For the purposes of this document, the garden’s governing body or person is referred to as “Garden Leadership.”

D.2. Meetings with the Garden Leadership

Any one or more garden members can meet with the Garden Leadership as described in section D.1. outside of regular/membership/general meetings.

Meetings with the Garden’s Leadership are organized as follows:

Meetings occur as needed.

Any other member in good standing can attend a Garden Leadership meeting.

Announcements about upcoming meetings are shared:

  • At the previous meeting.
  • On the garden’s email list.
  • On the garden fence.
  • On the garden’s website.

Notes from the meetings are shared:

  • On the garden’s email list.
  • On the garden’s website.

D.3. Garden Committees

This Garden currently has no garden committee.

E. Decision-Making

Garden LeadershipGeneral Membership
Approve new members1
Approve new projects in the garden1
Approve event proposals11
Revoke membership privileges21
Assign plots
Approve purchases using garden funds11
Approve emergency expenses
Vote members into the Garden Leadership1
Prune trees/shrubs11
Amend the bylaws21

The decisions outlined in the table above are made by:

  • Vote (51% or majority)
  • Or, by the garden coordinator with discussions with other garden members and by notifying the membership via the garden’s group email. Any feedback may determine a change or adjustment or may necessitate a meeting of the membership for discussion and/or vote.

F. Conflicts and Disputes

Disagreements are inevitable. The Garden handles conflicts and disputes as follows:

  • Consult the garden rules and bylaws for an answer, and ensure that the subject of the dispute does not break any city, state, or federal laws.
  • Conflicting parties must resolve the conflict amongst themselves.
  • If a garden member or volunteer accuses another member of misconduct, they should have proof in the form of another witness, photos, video, etc. Should they not have proof, the Garden Leadership will maintain a record of the incident(s).
  • If conflicting parties cannot resolve the conflict, the disagreement must be brought to the attention of the Garden Leadership. The Garden Leadership will work to resolve the conflict and will maintain a record of the incident(s).
  • If the conflicting parties cannot resolve the conflict, the disagreement must be brought to a free mediation service (please see the “Conflict Resolution” chapter of the GreenThumb Gardener’s Handbook).

G. Finances

G.1. Account

The Garden has a fiscal sponsor who holds the garden’s funds: El Sol Brillante community garden (522 E 12th St).

G.2. Purchasing Proposals

Any garden member can propose the purchase of a particular item.

Garden funds may not be used for personal items.

If the requested purchase is over $100, the decision must go to the general membership.

G.3. Reimbursements

Gardeners may use their own money for approved purchases and get reimbursed.

All purchases must have a receipt to be kept with the garden’s financial records.

G.4. Reporting

Financial records will be shared with members upon request.

G.5. Fundraising    

Any person can bring up a grant opportunity to the general membership and/or Garden Leadership.

Any garden member can participate in the grant application process.

Garden members may propose fundraising ideas (markets, yard sales, events, grants, online fundraisers, etc.) to the Garden Leadership.

Grant funds are stored with the Garden’s fiscal sponsor.

H. Amending the Bylaws

Garden members may propose changes to the bylaws as follows:

  • At any membership meeting.
  • To the Garden Leadership.
  • Over email to the garden membership.

Changes to the bylaws will be announced to the garden membership:

  • Over email.
  • A new copy of the bylaws will be distributed to all members.

I. Garden Rules

This section lists the rules that the Garden asks all members and visitors to follow:

  1. Do not weed without knowing what the plant is nor prune plants or trees without having first talked to another garden member or the garden coordinator. Light tree pruning requires supervision by someone who has, or unless you have, at least a Citizens Pruner Permit; pruning of large branches, or what’s beyond the scope of what a Citizen Pruner is allowed to do, would be done by GreenThumb/Parks Dept.
  2. All organic matter, including leaves, branches, vines, plant matter in general, and weeds***, as well, are to be kept for mulch/ground cover or for composting purposes.
  3. ***Note. Certain weeds are beneficial and may be companion plants to other desirable plants. Some weeds are edible, others provide food for birds, and others attract desirable insects. Please ask other gardeners before pulling weeds in the garden.
  4. Any new vine growth along the wall with the mural may be immediately removed (do not cut or damage the main vine of the Boston Ivy which covers the wall above the mural).
  5. Any pruned materials (from inside the garden or from the outside of the fence) should be cut into smaller pieces so they break down quicker and do not pose a trip hazard if placed on the ground as ground cover/mulch.
  6. Broken tree branches may be brought in to be cut/mulched.
  7. Avoid having bare soil on the ground. Have the ground covered with mulch or plant matter (leaves, plant cuttings, wood chips, etc.) in order to prevent drying and creating a dusty situation or a muddy situation when it rains. A moist soil, especially under a ground cover/mulch, maintains soil life (microbes, worms, and insects which also helps to attract and feed birds).
  8. Practice rat management, including looking for rat holes and collapsing it using a shovel or filling it with gravel, if available; also, keep areas around the shed and compost bins clear in order to easily walk around them and keep rats from burrowing there.
  9. Watering. Touch base with the garden coordinator, especially if watering large sections or the entire garden.
  10. This garden uses the bokashi method of composting, therefore, we can treat all food waste, including meat, bones, etc. raw or cooked; this widens our ability to use and treat all local organic matter back to enriching the soil.
  11. Since we are a public food scraps drop-off site, please stay informed regarding this either by asking the garden coordinator, any garden member that may know about it or drop-off volunteer, or by visiting the garden’s website.
  12. Harvesting may be done if it’s clear that it is or going overripe, but in any case, please consult with another garden member or garden coordinator or if you know who has planted or is managing those plants or fruit trees.
  13. Pick up any trash within and around the garden’s sidewalk area—litter picker(s) and garbage bags (or use any available pail) are in the shed; place all trash in the trash can by the corner (avoid keeping trash bags in the garden).
  14. Whenever a garden member is present, the garden is to be open to the public.
  15. The garden may be kept open (with both gates open and secured to the fence), as long as the shed is locked and the garden member is close by (using a nearby restroom, at a nearby garden, etc.), but not after dark.
  16. Remember to take breaks, relax, hydrate, and enjoy the garden.

J. Agreement and Gardener Signatures

Establishing bylaws should be a collective process, one that allows a garden group to develop a shared sense of responsibility and stewardship. Garden members can sign and date below to indicate their involvement in these processes and support for the resulting bylaws. Subsequent members should sign and date below to indicate that they have read and agree to uphold a group’s bylaws.


(Separate attachment, “Bylaws Ratification via Email Per Garden Member”)