Spin-Farming, which promotes small-plot farming, offers pointers to help urban growers negotiate with neighborhood homeowners.
Calendar: Identify start and end dates when you (the grower) will use the home-owner’s yard for growing. (Include soil prep in early spring and cleanup in fall.)
Rent or Barter: Specify what the home-owner wants in return for gardening the land: A weekly supply of vegetables? Cash? Land maintenance?
Appearance: Commit to keeping the plot neat and weeded.
Crops: Discuss what vegetables are best suited for a particular yard and explain that you may have a variety of crops growing at once.
Growing Practices: Specify that you’ll use all organic methods.
Access: Clarify how you’ll gain access to the yard.
Work Schedule: Agree upon times when you’ll work in the yard. Ask for leeway if schedules change, and offer to give advance notice.
Underground Cables or Pipes: If you plan to operate a rototiller, have the homeowner investigate what’s underneath the plot.
Equipment: Notify the homeowner that most work will be done with hand tools (hoes, shovels, wheel hoes, seeders) rather than noisy power tools or heavy equipment.
Water: Stipulate that you’ll use the homeowner’s water and commit to using it wisely. You might offer to pay the difference between the usual bill and any increase attributed to the garden.
Close of Season: Agree that at the end of each season you’ll leave the plot tilled and leveled.