The day before
• The garden owners and members of your group should do a dry run the day before to make sure there are no loose paving stones, sharp branches or other hazards that need attention, and that parking arrangements are in place. Make sure to inform neighbours about your event.
• Give each garden owner an information sheet, reminding them of what to expect on tour day. Try to persuade them to be on site-visitors enjoy talking to the gardeners.
• Write up guidelines for volunteers, too: what to do about gate sales and what's involved in cleanup, for example.
The big day
• Identify each garden on the tour with a prominent sign, some balloons or other easy-to-spot device. Make sure the identification is the same for all gardens.
• Each garden should have one main volunteer who takes the tickets and greets people, a second to make sure no one enters the home or walks away with prize-winning plants (unlikely) and a third for backup. Someone should count people touring by the hour to determine peak times-useful if this is to be an annual event.
• One person should continually circulate throughout all gardens during the tour so he or she has an overall view of how the tour is going and can troubleshoot if necessary.
• Be firm about closing time. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or about six hours, should be long enough.
• Hold a get-together at the end of the day so that you can get volunteer feedback while events are still fresh in everyone's minds.
• Be sure to send thank-you notes to the garden owners, volunteers, merchants and anyone else who participated.
• Enough organizing for the moment? There's one more thing. If the proceeds of your tour are going to a designated charity, set up a time to hand over a cheque within a week following the event and invite local media. This reinforces that the event was for a good cause, in addition to being a fun day out. It's good publicity, too.
To share garden tour planning tips-and stories about how you resolved any last-minute challenges-go to our online forum.