Community Gardens on City-Owned Vacant Lots


Permit Applications Now Available for the 2024 Growing Season (March 1st-December 15th) for City-Owned Vacant Lots

The City of Rochester is proud to support neighbors in transforming vacant lots into bountiful community gardens. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a truly green – green thumb, the City has an abundance of free resources to help you transform a vacant lot into a beautiful garden. 

City Garden Permits

This year we are requiring all (all) persons interested in obtaining a garden permit for 2024 (past and new/potential/interested) to attend an orientation.  Topics range from reviewing new changes to the permit document, , how the permit guidelines apply to garden/landscape features and gardening events coming up for the 2024 growing season. Attendance is mandatory for getting a permit this year.  Email Diane Powell or call 585-428-6807 to setup an appointment.

If you want to garden on a City-owned vacant lot, you will have to complete an annual (1-Year) Garden Permit application here. For questions about completing an application, email Diane Powell (link) or call 585-428-6807.

Note: For organizations that have successfully completed three growing seasons on a City owned vacant lot, the City offers a 5-Year Garden Permit. Eligible groups can complete that application here. 

City Garden Permit Resources

There are a number of City resources available to help support community members who garden on city-owned lots:

  • Selecting a City Vacant Lot: Finding a lot has been made much easier with the City’s GIS map applications and can give you a thorough overview of what’s available to pull a permit for. Check out these instructions to guide you. If you need further assistance, email Diane Powell or call 585-428-6807.
  • Water Credit Program: The City Water Bureau will apply a credit to the water account of a neighbor who supplies water to a community garden. For more information about this program, email Justin Johnson, Manager of Water Distribution.
  • Compost and Mulch Deliveries: •Compost and Mulch Deliveries: The City is able to provide limited free delivery of compost and mulch. To schedule a delivery to a City owned vacant lot, email Diane Powell or call 428-6807. All deliveries must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance and are subject to availability.
    Special note: Neither the compost nor the mulch are food grade. They can be used on flower beds or around trees (that do not produce food) but do not order for the purpose of using in a food garden, around berry bushes, etc.
  • Garden Related Events:  These events are open to the public, not just those holding a permit for a City owned lot.  They are exciting, current and immediately applicable.  Check them out! 
    • Community Plant Swap and Giveaway, Friday, May 31st, 5-7:00 pm at the Rochester Public Market. This event is open only to those who grow in community spaces or have a City issued garden permit. Each garden will receive two free flats of plants, and you are welcome to bring and take plants to swap as well. Important: You may bring seedlings started in fresh potting soil, cuttings from indoor or outdoor plants and divisions to share but please make sure anything dug out of the ground is cleaned of any soil to not risk spreading jumping worms. We will be sharing bare root plants and seedlings only. To register, email Stephanie Benway.
  • Flower City Flourishing Garden Contest 2024: The garden contest for 2024 is on and we want to see what you do! Judging will take place between July 22nd through 26th; only community gardens will be judged. Residential, business and professionally designed &/or maintained gardens will not be considered. If you have a permit for a City-owned lot/right-of-way or oversee a pantry or community garden on private land, you are eligible to register. Start prepping now to submit your garden for the contest. Registration for the contest will close at 5 pm on Thursday, July 18th. Applications can be found here and must be printed out and either mailed to Garden Permits, City Hall, Rm 223B, 30 Church St, Rochester, NY 14614 or emailed to Call 585-428-6807 with questions. Winners will be announced at the Garden Permit Reception on Wednesday, September 18th in the City Hall Atrium. All are welcome to attend.

Community Resources & Partners

For information about designing a garden, accessing additional garden resources, and connecting with garden volunteers, visit Taproot Collective or email Nathaniel Mich, Executive Director of Taproot Collective.

For information about soil testing, garden pest identification and more, email Cornell Cooperative Extension-Monroe County Master Gardener’s Helpline or call 753-2555.

Blocks In Bloom is a beautification program established by Cornell Cooperative Extension-Monroe County for lower-resourced neighborhoods; a minimum of six homes must be pulled in to participate. For information, email Ashly Piedmont at Cornell Cooperative Extension.

SouthEast Area Coalition (SEAC) operates a Tool Shed at 1255 University Ave. For more information email SEAC  or call  271-TOOL (8665).

Public Library Resources

The Rochester Central Library and City Branch Libraries offer gardening books and periodicals that you can borrow with your library card. Gardening programs are offered in the spring, summer, and fall. For more information about our gardening programs, visit the Rochester Public Library Program Calendar. For more information, email Renée Kendrot at Central Library: Science, History, and Social Sciences Department.