Purdue University PURDUE EXTENSION
Marion County

We transform lives and livelihoods through research-based education
About Us
Left Menu
Local Links
County Location
Skip Navigation LinksMarion County CES

Urban/Community Gardening

Do you want to come back to this page quickly, go to: http://IndyUrbanGarden.org

Community Garden Establishment

Steps to Getting Started

Community Gardens Offer Rewards: Tips on Getting Started (Extension.org)

10 Steps to Starting a Community Garden (ACGA)

Community Garden Start-Up Resources (ACGA)

For specific questions on starting a community garden in the Indianapolis area, send an e-mail to: Info@IndyUrbanGarden.org.

Soil Testing: pH & Nutrients

Collecting Soil Samples for Testing (Purdue publication HO-71)

Soil Testing Labs

Safety Information

Reusing Potentially Contaminated Landscapes: Growing Gardens in Urban Soils (EPA)

Food Safety for School and Community Gardens (NC Extension)

Soil Testing: Heavy Metals (Lead)

Anyone who has a garden in an urban environment should test the soil for lead. Lead can be toxic at high concentrations. Contamination can occur from lead-based paint that chipped off old buildings (prior to 1978) and lead from auto emissions along busy streets. Lead is not presently used in paint and gasoline to any degree, but once lead has been deposited, it does not move much through the soil and can persist for a long time. If you live within the I-465 Interstate loop, test your soil for lead.

Lead Testing in Marion County

Free soil testing for lead is available from: Safe Urban Gardening Initiative, c/o Dr. Gabriel Filippelli, Department of Earth Sciences, IUPUI, 723 W. Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202.  Consult the Garden Safe Garden Well publication (linke below) for information on collecting a sample.

Residents of Marion County can also obtain free soil testing for lead by contacting the Marion County Health Department (317-221-2117).

Lead Testing outside Marion County: Out-of-county residents should contact their own county health department. Consult local government information for a telephone number. If needed, your Purdue County Extension office can direct you to the proper contact information. Professional soil testing labs can also test your soil for lead.

Lead Levels in Indianapolis

Garden Safe Garden Well (Department of Earth Sciences, IUPUI)

Lead in the Home Garden and Urban Soil Environment (University of Minnesota)

Lead Information (ISDH)

Lead in Paint, Dust and Soil (EPA)

Testing Your Home for Lead in Paint, Dust and Soil

Underground Utility Lines

Locate underground utility lines before digging. Common Ground Alliance provides a free marking of the utilities. Just call 811. For more information, go to: http://www.call811.com/.

Community Garden Plots  

Marion County Urban/Community Gardens Map and List (Fall 2012)

Indianapolis Urban/Community Gardens Map and List (To view only the urban/community garden locations at the above Food Coalition of Central Indiana (FCCI) webstite, only mark the Urban Gardens checkbox.)

Mayor's Garden Plots - 2400 Tibbs Ave - Tilling is provided by Indy Parks but gardeners must supply their own plants and water.  Users are not allowed to install any permanent structures or trellises. For more information, call 327-7418. Source: Indy Parks

Additional information on community garden plots will be provided later.  If you know about other garden plots in the Indianapolis area that are available to the public, please contact the webmaster.

For available land through the City of Indianapolis Urban Gardening Program, contact the Office of Sustainability at: urbangardens@indy.gov.

Garden Information

Growing Vegetables

The 10 most popular vegetables to grow, according to the National Gardening Association, are (in order): tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, beans, carrots, summer squash, onions, hot peppers, lettuce and peas.

For a list of vegetables adapted to growing in Indiana, click here.

Home Gardener's Guide (Purdue publication HO-32)

Indiana Vegetable Planting Calendar (Purdue publication HO-186)

Tomatoes (Purdue publication HO-26)

Additional Vegetable Publications (Purdue)

Purdue Master Gardener Vegetable Encyclopedia (Purdue)

Growing Herbs (Purdue publication HO-28)

Managing Insects in the Home Vegetable Garden (Purdue publication E-21)

Common Diseases in the Home Garden (University of Missouri)

Watch Your Garden Grow: A Guide to Growing, Storing and Preparing Vegetables (University of Illinois)

Organic Vegetable Production (Purdue publication ID-316)

If you are just starting a community garden, it might be best not to construct permanent raised beds the first year. However, there are advantages to raised beds. If you do not have enough space in your garden plot, you can also consider growing vegetables in containers at home if you have a location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. The links below will provide more information on these topics.

Container and Raised Bed Gardening (Purdue publication HO-200)

Making a Raised Bed Garden (video) (National Gardening Association)

Growing Vegetables in Pots (Kansas State University)

Fertilizer Product Safety

Heavy Metals in Fertilizers (Minnesota Department of Heath)

Fertilizer Product Registration Database (OR Dept. of Agriculture)

Fertilizer Product Database (WA Department of Agriculture)

Heavy Metals in Fertilizers Used in Organic Production (OMRI)

Heavy Metal in Fertilizers: Considerations for Setting Regulations in Oregon (OR Dept. of Ag)

Estimating Risk from Contaminants Contained in Agricultural Fertilizers (EPA)

Garden Resources

Compost, Manure and Mulch

Free compost to improve your soil is available through the City of Indianapolis Leaf Collection Program. You can pick up the compost at the Southside Landfill, 2577 S. Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46221. This self-service operation is available 24 hours a day from 7:00am on Monday through 7:00pm on Saturday (closed Sunday). Call (317) 247-6808 if more information is needed.

Begin to make your own compost to add to your garden each year. The links below provide more information on the subject.

Managing Yard Wastes: Clippings and Compost (Purdue publication ID-182)

Household Composting: Methods and Uses for Compost (Purdue publication HENV-103)

Household Composting with Worms (Purdue publication HENV-104)

Manure may be available from area horse stables for a small fee. To avoid possible introduction of weed seed into the garden, select well-composted manure. To reduce health concerns, it is best if non-composted manure is not added to the food garden directly (compost thoroughly prior to any introduction). However, if applied to the garden, it should be worked into the soil in the fall for spring planting. This does not apply to commercial composted manures - they can be applied in the spring.

Wood chips are often available through utility companies. Quality is variable but the wood chips are usually suitable for pathways between plots. For current availability, call the Indianapolis Power & Light Company at (317) 261-8128.

Free/Low Cost Seeds

America the Beautiful Fund


Do you know of any free plant exchanges?  Please let us know.

Help for Garden Questions and Problems

In the Indianapolis area, contact the Master Gardener AnswerLine. Call (317) 275-9292 or e-mail: marionmg@purdue.edu.

If the problem cannot be solved via phone or e-mail, bring a sample of the plant or pest problem to the Purdue Extension-Marion County office.

For other counties in Indiana, contact your local Purdue County Extension office.

For lawn and garden information in other states, contact your nearest County Extension office.

Impact of Gardening

The Impact of Home and Community Gardening in America (National Gardening Association, 2009)

Benefits of Community Gardens (ACGA)

Older Gardeners Meet Physical Activity Recommendation through Gardening (HortTechnology, ASHS)

Website Links for Community Gardeners

Note: Not all of the information in the links at the following websites is necessarily recommended by Purdue Extension.

American Community Gardening Association

Indy Tilth

Plant a Row for the Hungry Program (Garden Writers Association)

National Gardening Association
Note: Some of the pest control recommendations given at this website are NOT recommended for Indiana and/or are illegal in the state of Indiana.

Demonstration Gardens

Purdue Extension-Marion County Demonstration Garden

Page Created 03/2009 - Updated 9/2013