Administrative Guide to SOG

1. Reasons for this Guide

  • To assist SOG employees, contractors, and volunteers who offer seniors the opportunity to garden organically with food plants and the flowers that support them.
  • To inform the chapter steering committee of the rational and administrative practices.
  • To provide a template which may interest other groups wishing to offer SOG in their communities.

2. Benefits of a Gardening Program for Seniors

  • Improved diets with access to fresh organic produce through home and community gardens.
  • Awareness of the nutritional value of vegetables, fruits, and herbs and their interaction with various common medications.
  • Gentle out-door exercise by gardening with tools and gardens adapted to their abilities.
  • Safe access to workshops, articles, videos, and gardening advice on-line, or in person.
  • Socially inclusive and healthy community relationships through gardening and horticultural therapy, the company of other senior gardeners, and the sharing of garden produce and experiences.
  • Positive communication and reduced cultural barriers through language interpreters.
  • Participation in decision making through the establishment of gardeners’ committees to address conflict resolution and garden problems.
  • Mental stimulation in the non-growing season book club and workshops.
  • Awareness of organic gardening and its relationship to human and environmental health.
  • A measure of food security at home.

3. Requirements for Ottawa’s Senior Organic Gardening Program

  • COG Ottawa Chapter Steering Committee, affiliated with COG National.
  • SOG Director – a volunteer and member of the above Steering Committee.
  • SOG Program manager/garden coach – working closely with and reporting weekly to the Director.
  • Garden Helper- if needed by the Garden Coach, at the discretion of the Director.
  • Optional, at the discretion of the Director: A Financial Advisor & Tracker as needed.
  • Gardening volunteers and/or donors.
  • COG OSO Treasurer with support of both the SOG Director and Manager.
  • Operating funds for the full-time program manager, an optional part time garden helper, special presenters, starter kits, and consumable garden materials.

4. SOG Gardening activities with seniors individually or in groups

  • Site assessments and suggestions for the best type of gardening for seniors in different settings (e.g., container gardening is often best for seniors with small spaces and limited budgets).
  • Planning meetings in early spring with the manager or garden helper, concerning containers, potting mix, compost, seeds and/or seedlings, and water.
  • Garden coaching through timely information, workshops, or demonstrations on planting, watering, fertilizing, garden maintenance (e.g., weeding, mulching, problem solving), harvesting, storing, and seed saving by regular garden visits by Garden Coach, and/or Garden Helper to identify problems & suggest action.
  • Harvest celebrations involving families supported by the Garden Coach and/or Garden Helper.
  • Informal feedback sessions with options for negative feedback to be provided privately and/or in writing.
  • Access to supporting organic oriented resources (e.g., COG OSO website, articles on gardening, local gardening websites).
  • SOG programs start with small groups of seniors gardening in portable containers only (porch, balcony, terrace, deck, patio), and provide gardening advice and short hands-on workshops (in person if safe, or zoom demonstration workshops) with seeds and/or seedlings. SOG does not offer indoor seed starts or in-ground garden work.

5. Fundraising

  • File local community grant applications.
  • File provincial grant applications for special projects, perhaps partnering with other charities or community groups.
  • Launch campaigns for individual and group donations, donations in memory, and donations in honour in conjunction with COG National with options for designated donations and donation receipts via the COG OSO website.
  • Assess small charges for SOG services depending on ability to pay.
  • Organize sales of organic seeds, baked goods, crafts, or actual garden produce.

Caution: communicate with all levels of the COG organization before finalizing grant

Applying for SOG Program funding by a National Charity

  • Ensure the National charity is registered with a CRA number, and have the grant application submitted by the charity’s Executive Director.
  • Prepare the grant application in good time for the National Charity to submit the application.
  • Have the National Charity submit the final report.
  • Pay careful attention to the administrative charges of the charity in the budget. There will be limits on the amount allowed by the granter.

6. Administration of the SOG Program

  • Create Bi-annual Strategic Plans & Budgets for both growing & non-growing seasons.
  • Obtain a signed Memorandum of Understanding Agreement (MOU) for each location,
  • Retain all essential documents:
    • Job descriptions at all levels of SOG
    • Strategic Planning, Financial budgets, and Reports.
    • Staff payment schedules.
    • Orientation Protocols.
    • Recruiting, reference checks, and police checks.
    • Signed Memoranda of Understanding for each location.
    • Visuals of SOG celebrations.
    • Notes of appreciation.
    • Templates for contracts, job descriptions, volunteer applications, & referencechecks.

7. Job descriptions

COG National

  • Provides oversight and representation as the only legal entity of COGOSO.

COG OSO Steering committee

  • Adds community status, acceptability, and dependability.
  • Oversees SOG program and activities.
  • Represents SOG in the business and public community.
  • Offers troubleshooting advice.
  • Establishes charitable status needed to apply for grant funding.

SOG Director

  • Supervise all SOG activities and budgets, define seasonal expenditures, report to the
    steering committee.
  • Develop vision statements & strategic planning of the SOG program twice annually for A) growing season program and B) non-growing season program in collaboration with the SOG Manager with feedback from the SOG Advisory Group.
  • Coordinate action plans for A and B above with the SOG Manager.
  • Carry out communications with COG OSO Steering Committee, SOG Manager & Advisory Group & COG National re grant applications.
  • Develop a culture of Celebration and Appreciation.
  • Consult the SOG Advisory Group for feedback on plans, programs, and evaluations.
  • Monitor grant opportunities.
  • Explore, consult, and develop a sustainable funding model independent of grants.
  • Build a strong Leadership Team to further SOG’s financial stability and community relevance as time permits.
  • Explore community partners with mutual goals and clear expectations to enhance financial savings and program cooperation.
  • Raise funds through projects such as Organic Seed Sales, COG Library, Campaigns for donors and sponsors, and Annual SOG Symposia.

SOG Manager/Garden Coach, a full time or part time experienced organic gardener and good communicator

  • Carry out the Action Plans for growing season and non-growing season including
    recruiting new SOG participants.
  • Participate in the development of the SOG Annual Strategic Plans.
  • Communicate with SOG participants in a timely fashion.
  • Communicate with the Director on a weekly basis to ensure program effectiveness.
  • Communicate with COG National Accounting Department in a timely fashion.
  • Ensure volunteers are effective and have a satisfactory experience.
  • Sign and return completed contracts in a timely fashion.
  • Find senior’s groups, local donations, and special presenters in collaboration with the SOG director.
  • Provide gardening presentations and workshops in-person and/or via zoom.
  • Arrange a symposium to offer organic gardening knowledge and skills, and to raise funds.
  • Manage the winter programs of horticultural therapy, book club (if there is interest), and/or other stimulating activities to engage seniors.

Optional Garden helper (part time)

  • Purchase, transport, and delivery of seeds, seedlings, containers, soil, and compost to individual gardens or to client organizations who would arrange for either delivery or pick up.
  • Offer garden visits for problem solving and assistance to gardeners.

SOG Advisory Group

  • Offer feedback on SOG strategic plans and program activities.
  • Offer suggestions for reaching seniors groups and new program activities.

Optional Professional Grant Writer in collaboration with SOG Director and Manager.

  • Advise on the choice of grants.
  • Write applications for local, provincial, national, and private foundation grants.

Web designer/manager in collaboration with the SOG director and manager

  • Create and manage the website.
  • Post SOG news, videos, zooms, PowerPoints, articles, SOG Guidelines, and resources.

8. Safety & Privacy protocols

  • Safe in-person workshops and deliveries with proper timings, contactless drop off, sanitizing, masking, and distancing.
  • SOG Team orientation sessions in all aspects of safety for gardeners, staff and volunteers.
  • Safe gardening experiences with the correct tools, safe ways to garden, information on edible plants interacting with medications, and the handling of noxious weeds.
  • Signed privacy waivers for photos or zooms.
  • Photos respecting individual privacy (e.g., no addresses, no contact information).

9. Recruitment of Employees, Contractors and Volunteers

  • Responsible and fair processes in hiring a manager and/or garden helper, and in recruiting volunteers. Clear expectations & terms of employment, fair selections based on qualifications, experience, suitable personal and character qualities, references checking with questions about care for seniors and awareness of all forms of senior abuse, requirement for City of Ottawa Police Checks for the Vulnerable sector, contracts with National Charity HQ.
  • Clear Advertisements of job opportunities with full job descriptions, remuneration, timetables, and contact information for questions.
  • Interviews for all credible candidates in a private location.
  • Careful screening of references, City of Ottawa Police checks, questions re-senior care & forms of senior abuse.
  • Timely decisions by the interview panel advising all candidates.

Suggested Interview Questions

  • What sparked your interest to apply for this Senior Organic Gardener position? Specify.
  • Please describe your interest and your experiences in gardening?
  • Have you had experience involving seniors?
  • What communication skills have you developed (e.g., speaking, writing, interviewing, discussing, chairing)?
  •  What are your favorite ways of communicating (e.g., e-mails, blogs, social media, …)?Tell us about your experiences.
  • Please describe your administrative skills and share your experience in administration.
  • What work hours are you able to provide? Do you have time limitations? Do you have a vehicle and access to storage space for tools and materials?
  • Would you be able to collect photographs and video clips for reports and documents along with signed privacy wavers?
  • Requirements: References for work and character; Police Check, and a CV or Resume.
  • Negotiations: Full or part time; salary, contract or hourly wage; Job orientation.

10. Essential feedback from all participants

  • Solicit feedback from all participants, contractors and volunteers via written surveys, emails, oral comments, or informal meetings.
  • Suggest agendas for feedback sessions and creative ideas to elicit comments.
  • Encourage negative views to be expressed privately or in writing.

11. Celebrations and Appreciations

  • Suggest celebrations at harvest time, and the conclusions of the Book Club.
  • Suggest options for funding, catering by gardeners or others, and managing the event.
  • Consider inviting all participants, their families and friends, and occasionally representatives of granting organizations, local politicians, and donors of food.
  • Offer appreciation verbally and in writing.
  • Collect anonymous samples of appreciation.
  • Advise all staff and volunteers of the expressions of appreciation which apply to them.
  • Respect for staff and volunteers: payment on time, timely communications, and consideration for the needs of all.

12. Appendix

Senior Organic Gardeners (SOG) Strategic Plan 2021-22

SOG offers opportunities to seniors to engage in organic food gardening and the flowers that support them, to benefit from active, safe and interesting gardening experiences, positive exercise, mental stimulation, and healthy, inclusive social interactions with SOG leaders, fellow gardeners and their families.


Enhance the quality of life and health of seniors through active participation in organic gardening for nutritious food and enjoyment of feelings of belonging among fellow-gardeners and of sharing food with family and friends.

Program Objectives

  • Engage seniors in Community Housing locations (Model 1), in seniors’ organizations and in their own homes gathering in community centres; (Model 2) to garden vegetables, herbs and edible flowers organically to fit their desires & their needs for food, exercise, learning about gardening, interacting with fellow gardeners and experiencing joy and hope through growing and sharing food;
  • Ensure positive communications among gardeners and leaders using Language Interpreters and conflict resolution as needed.
  • Develop participation in decision making on issues relating to the gardens through Gardeners’ Committees ensuring the continuation of the gardens when SOG moves on after 3 years.
  • Increase seniors’ awareness of the significance of organic growing and its relationship to their own physical and mental health and the health of their families, communities and the planet.

Organizational Objectives

  • Build a Leadership Team to further support and develop the Senior Organic Gardeners Program.
  • Further develop the SOG Advisory Group in the planning and review processes.
  • Further develop Model 1 delivering Train-the-Trainer Workshops to Community Housing personnel so gardeners become autonomous & independent of SOG. Connecting gardeners and gardeners’ groups to volunteer organic gardeners who could continue to offer gardening advice.
  • Develop a Pilot Project for Model 2 for seniors in their own homes by engaging them in Gardening Workshops located in Community Centres and Aging in Place locations around the City of Ottawa.

Strategies for the SOG program

  • Provide seeds, soil, grow lights, pots, containers or boxbeds for seniors to grow favorite vegetables, herbs & edible flowers outdoors and indoors.
  • Provide workshops and demonstrations on all gardening knowledge and skills.
  • Provide opportunities for sharing gardening information and experiences.
  • Build awareness of opportunities to reduce food costs, increase physical exercise.
  • Build social inclusion & healthy relationships through gardening & food related activities.
  • Improve relationships among gardeners with conflict resolution segments in workshops, with language interpreters for workshops and conversations.
  • Develop organizational and leadership skills among seniors in the Gardening Committees.

Future Considerations for SOG Program Development

  • Emphasize working with seniors in Community Groups- Seek out seniors in low-income lodgings, Indigenous and Metis housing locations and/or vulnerable populations for possible interest in a gardening program.
  • Seek out seniors in low-income lodgings, indigenous & Metis housing.
  • Initiate gardening support among isolated seniors in rural areas.
  • Refine SOG support of isolated seniors within the community.
  • Partner with technology assistance groups like Nerds-on-Site to recommend safely to seniors needing technology help; negotiate a modest discount for seniors.
  • Expand delivery of Train-the-Trainer Workshops to Community Housing personnel for
    sustainability of the gardens.
  • Develop a Pilot Project among seniors in rural areas for possible organic food and edible
    flower gardening.
  • Assess the Pilot Project with individual seniors facing isolation or living alone in their
    homes (Model 2).

Memorandum of Understanding Agreement (MOU) for each location

This signed document is to ensure clear agreements between SOG and each of its seniors’ locations, and provides for contingencies of various natures. Copy to Seniors’ location & SOG.

SOG Reference Check

Volunteer Application Form

Permission to Use Photographs

People featured at a public event usually expect to be photographed. If there is any hesitation, this form should be used. Always request Parents’ permission when children are being photographed. Seniors or their families should be invited to give permission in writing.

Interview Questionnaire for SOG Director or Manager

  1. What sparked your interest to apply for this Senior Organic Gardener position? Specify.
  2. Please describe your interest and your experiences in gardening?
  3. Have you had experience involving seniors?
  4. What communication skills have you developed (e.g., speaking, writing, interviewing, discussing, chairing)?
  5. What are your favorite ways of communicating (e.g., e-mails, blogs, social media, …)? Tell us about your experiences.
  6. Please describe your administrative skills and share your experience in administration.
  7. What work hours are you able to provide? Do you have time limitations? Do you have a vehicle and access to storage space for tools and materials?
  8. Would you be able to collect photographs and video clips for reports and documents along with signed privacy wavers?
  9. Requirements: References for work and character; Police Check, and a CV or Resume.
  10. Negotiations: Full or part time; salary, contract or hourly wage; Orientation.

Contract For SOG Manager / Gardening Coach

SOG Invoice

13. Reference Section

Horticultural therapy may benefit seniors, children, prison inmates, & rehabilitation patients — Amber Kayed, SOG, 2013

Mental (Barnicle, Heliker, Jarrott, Kerrigan, Kingsley, Kwack, McDowell, Relf, Sommerfeld, Train, Wang): Increases life satisfaction, self-esteem, pride & self-worth, optimism, self-sufficiency, psychological well-being; decreases feelings of loss and stress. Encourages development & growth, continuous learning, spiritual & healing benefits, new experiences. Accommodates & improves a variety of mental impairments in old age & dementia.

Physical (Gigliotti, Heliker, Jarrott, Kingsley, Kwak; Park, Sommerfeld, Train; Wang, Woolcott): Improves physical impairments of old age &/or dementia. Increases active engagement, physical exercise, higher physical functioning, hand strength & pinch force; engages fine & gross motor skills & hand-eye coordination; lowers body pain, blood pressure, headaches, & physical stress. Stimulates senses; reduces costs; increases consumption of fruits & veg; environmentally sustainable, & cost-effective.

Social (Atchley, Gigliotti, Heliker, Jarrott, Kerrigan, Kingsley, Train, Wang): Sense of usefulness & achievement; work substitute; develops relationships; creative, self-expression, volunteer opportunities, community engagement, intergenerational, caregiving, specific role in the community, & knowledge sharing.

Support Suggestions

  • Links to websites for organic gardening information, workshops, demos, and articles  (e.g., SOG Seasonal Resources, Just Food website, SOG YouTube articles & workshops, recorded symposia, etc.).
  • Planning resources: plant identification, weed identification, garden tools, Ottawa garden planning (zone 5A), square foot spacing, calendar, garden mapping, and rotation.
  • Non-growing season activities: SOG book club, indoor horticultural therapy activities (e.g., indoor gardening, bespoke zoom presentations, cooking produce and herbs, or an artistic project (e.g., pressed leaves, flowers).

Want to help SOG?

Through the support of our donors, we reach out to hundreds of seniors in the Ottawa region.

Thank you to everyone who support us! Merci Beaucoup!