Publishing the prospectus, housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said the government wants plans to come forward to support an unspecified number of garden communities that would "deliver significant housing and economic growth".
The prospectus says that government will prioritise proposals for garden towns of more than 10,000 homes, but would also consider bids for garden villages providing upwards of 1,500 units.
"Proposals can be for a discrete new settlement or take the form of transformational development of an existing settlement, both in nature and in scale", it says.
The document outlines a three-month application process and lists a series of criteria against which bids will be judged. Successful garden community proposals will be announced in the new year, the government said.
"This prospectus does not prescribe a single template for a garden community," it says. "Each garden community we choose to assist will have its own clear and distinct sense of identity."
However, the document says that proposals will be expected to meet criteria including the provision of affordable housing and a mix of housing tenures, promotion of sustainable transport options and future-proofed design to anticipate climate change and technology such as driverless cars.
Bidders are also asked to provide information on delivery models and timescales, infrastructure requirements, potential to capture land value and access to finance.
On land value capture, the document says that bidders should demonstrate "credible" outline proposals on how to "help fund the long-term delivery and management of the garden community".
Successful bids will receive packages of support which could include loans and investment, advice and development corporation status.
The government said it is already supporting 23 garden community proposals with the potential to deliver more than 200,000 homes by 2050.
Last year’s Autumn Budget contained plans to support five new garden towns. Regulations which allow councils to set up locally led development corporations to develop garden towns and villages came into force last month.
Brokenshire said: "This plan is about the government working with councils and developers to get great homes in keeping with beautiful areas in England.
"We want to help local authorities build strong and vibrant communities where people want to live, work and raise families.
"Our garden communities programme already has the potential to provide over 200,000 new homes by 2050, and we want to go further."