There’s a lot children can learn from planning, planting and growing their own gardens, and many schools across the nation are capitalizing on this and creating their own school gardens. If you’d like to get a school garden program started at your school, here are some tips and tools to help you get it up and growing in no time.
These tips explain the basics of starting your own garden program.
- Get a committee together. This will help you get the ideas, support and information you need to get your garden project going.
- Find funding. Starting a garden isn’t always cheap but there are numerous sources of funding to help you. Seek out grants and local donors for assistance.
- Define the purpose and objectives of your garden. There are many reasons to make a school garden: some want to grow food, others bring in wildlife, so define the purpose of your project beforehand so you’ll know where to start and what kind of plants you’ll need.
- Figure out activities for students. The purpose of the garden is to teach students, so prepare some lessons beforehand.
- Create a year-round plan. Your garden isn’t a school-year only investment. You’ll need to figure out what to do with it during vacations as well.
- Choose a site. Finding a great site for your garden will be essential to your success, so choose wisely.
- Create a garden design. If you’re not a garden design pro yourself, reach out to others for help in creating a great garden design.
- Add to your garden bit by bit. You don’t have to fill out your garden entirely at once. Adding to it bit by bit can be a fun, and less expensive way to get started.
- Involve parents. Letting parents in on the project can help get you support and ensure that children get help at home understanding what they’ve learned in the garden.
- Get kids excited. Finally, you’ll want to make sure the students themselves are excited about the prospect of the garden. After all, they’re who you’re doing it for.
Check out these resources for help building, getting inspired and planning your garden.
- USDA School Garden Bulletin Board: Here, the USDA provides information about school gardens across the US, information about gardens in the past and great lesson plans for educators.
- NWF Schoolyard Habitats: Want to build a garden that attracts wildlife? This instructional guide from the National Wildlife Federation can help.
- The Edible Schoolyard: As one of the longest running and most successful school gardens, this California garden can inspire you to create a great garden of your own.
- Aggie Horticulture for Kids: Check out this site for guidance starting a school garden from Texas A&M.
- USC School Garden: This site is home to a great collection of resources from the USC-San Diego.
- Let’s Get Growing: Here you’ll find everything you need to help kids get started on creating their very own gardens.
- Green Teacher: Read this magazine to learn ways you can support sustainability in your classroom.
- Junior Master Gardener: This site is an excellent place to find tools to help support young gardeners.
These organizations offer some inspiration and guidance on starting a garden.
- Real School Gardens: This organization is focused on helping elementary schools build, design and educate with gardens.
- Farm to School: Give your kids a better understanding of where their food comes from with help from this group.
- Urban Harvest: You might not live where this organization does its work, but you can find some great ideas and support on their site.
- KidsGardening.org: Supported by the National Gardener’s Association, this site is full of resources for aspiring school gardeners.
- School Garden Wizard: Need help planning and planting your garden? Try out this site’s resources.
- Children’s Garden Network: With the help of this organization, you can learn how to build and fund your own school garden.
- World Food Garden: This organization dedicates itself to supporting small gardens around the world.
- The Learning Garden: Here, you’ll find help creating an educational garden.
Learn more about a wide variety of school garden-related topics through these articles.
- Start an Edible School Garden Today: Learn how to start a produce producing garden with the help of this article.
- The School Garden Debate: To Weep or Reap?: This article is a great defense of school gardens and well worth reading.
- How to Start a Garden Checklist: Here, you’ll find a checklist for things you’ll need to do for your school garden.
- The Benefits of a School Garden: Learn the many benefits of having a school garden here.
- History of Youth Gardens: This article gives a short overview of the history of school gardens.
- Making Compost In School: Your garden will do better with a little compost. Learn how to make it here.
- Vermicomposting: Take your composting to the next level with this worm-based composting system.
- School garden teaching students life lessons: See how this school garden is impacting students in this article from Maine.
- Starting a School Garden: Get some helpful advice in starting a school garden here.
- What are Some Good Plants to Grow With Children?: Use this article as a guide to some plants that are best to help children grow.
- Top Tips for Setting Up a School Garden: Learn the essentials of setting up a school garden here.
- Holiday Planning for the School Garden: This article will explain how to plan for your school garden in the months while you’re away from regular classes.
Read through these blogs for some great ideas and information on gardening.
- Garden ABCs: This blog is home to success stories, tools, and teaching tools for school gardens.
- Garden-Based Learning Blog: Based out of Cornell, this blog will help you learn more about educators running gardens.
- Gardening With Children.co.uk: Get tips and tools for school gardens on this UK blog.
- Life and Learning in a School Garden: See just what is going on with this school’s garden project here.
- Little Green Fingers: This blog is all about how to get children interested in gardening.
- School Garden Weekly: Get regular posts on instructional activities for school gardens through this site.
- Today’s Garden Ideas: Here you’ll find some great general ideas for gardening.
- Savvy Gardening: Learn more about gardening as a whole from this great instructional blog.
- Urban Veggie Garden Blog: If your school garden is to focus on growing vegetables, this blog can be a great resource.
- Plant Talk: Written by the New York Botanical Garden, this site will help you learn more about plants, eating food, and garden design.
Looking for some funding for your garden? Consider one of these sources.
- School Garden Co: You can raise money for your school garden through selling these products.
- Adopt a School Garden Program: Here, the National Gardening Association offers schools a chance to find a sponsor for their garden.
- Healthy Sprouts Award: Gardens working to educate children about nutrition and hunger can apply for this award.
- Captain Planet Grant: If your project focuses on environmental issues, consider asking for funding from this project.
- Lowe’s Outdoor Classroom Grant Project: The home improvement store Lowe’s offers help for schools teaching science outdoors, with rewards of up to $5000.
- Youth Garden Grants: Sponsored by The Home Depot and The Garden Club, this grant will help you start a child-centered garden.
- America the Beautiful Fund: Get free seeds for your garden project through this fund.
- American Honda Foundation: Honda offers support for school gardens, and other projects, through this foundation.
- Box Tops 4 Education: Ask your community to save box tops to help you raise money through this program.
- Fruit Tree Planting Foundation: Get support from this foundation to get some fruit trees planted at your school.
Lessons and Ideas
Here you’ll find an excellent collection of lessons and projects to try with your students.
- NEEF School Garden Curricula: The National Environmental Education Week program offers these great lessons for grades K-12.
- Edible Schoolyard Lessons and Recipes: Try out these lessons from the Edible Schoolyard. They can help teach your students about growing and cooking food.
- NGA Classroom Projects Library: Here, the National Garden Association offers some great classroom projects that involve plants.
- USC San Diego Learning and Activities: This site offers some great ways to get your students involved in the garden project.
- The Great Plant Escape: Check out this site for a fun and interactive lesson for your students that will teach them about plant life.
- Cornell Garden-Based Learning: Get short, stand-alone activities as well as ideas for longer projects on this site.
- School Garden Potpourri of Ideas: If you’re looking for a simple list of ideas on how to use your school garden, this site has a great one.
- Going on a bug safari in your school garden: Send your students out to search for bugs with this fun activity.
- Project WILD Curriculum and Resources: Engage your students with wildlife using the lessons found here.
- Granny’s Garden Lesson Plans: This program shares its lessons on plants, insects and the natural world on their site.
- CSGN Curriculum: The California School Garden Network posts a wide range of gardening lessons here.
- WEGarden Teacher Resources: On this site, you’ll get access to the resources this DC-based project uses to teach students about plants.
Learning the Ropes
Consider these tips when you’re new to school gardening.
- Start small. You don’t have to create a gigantic garden to help students learn from it. Start small and work your way up so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Anytime you’re starting something new you’re bound to have a few growing pains.
- Read all you can. The only ways to get better at gardening are to learn from experience and to read all you can on the subject.
- Get in touch with other school garden programs. They’ll be able to share their experience with you and help you with issues you might not know how to tackle.
- Ask for help. There’s no reason you have to do it all on your own. Ask for help from other teachers, parents and friends.
- Reach out to the community. There are likely many businesses and individuals who’ll want to help you out.
- Keep it simple. You don’t have to have a garden that does everything. Keep it simple.
- Use trial and error. Don’t know how a certain variety of plant will do? Try it out. You’ll never learn until you try.
- Consider edible plants. That way, students can reap the rewards of their efforts and learn about healthy eating at the same time.
- Have an alternate plan. If something doesn’t go as you originally planned it, make sure you have a backup plan to ensure things still run smoothly.
Gardening Information and Reference
If you need to look up some information about plants and gardening, these sources are excellent resources.
- GreenWeb’s Gardening Glossary: Here you’ll find an excellent collection of articles all about plants and gardening topics.
- National Gardening Association: This organization in a great resource for those looking to find information about plants, pests, weeds, and building a garden.
- Gardener’s Supply Company: Look to this company to find some great supplies for a school garden.
- Life Lab Resources for Planting and Maintaining Your School Garden: LifeLab offers a wide range of books, links and other resources to help you learn to plant a school garden here.
- Producepedia: If you’re going to be growing food, find information about pretty much every kind out there.
- Dave’s Garden: Whether you’re a new or expert gardener, you’ll find guides, information and help aplenty here.
- Gardenology: Look up any plant you’re curious about here through a great garden wiki.
- Garden Guides: From garden design to learning about pesky bugs, you’ll find help here.
- My Garden Guide: Get some helpful advice on building your garden from this site.
- New Gardener: If you’re new to the whole gardening experience, find great articles for beginners here.
Add these books to your library to learn more about starting, running and finding success with your garden.
- How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers:This resource is a must-have for those hoping to start a school garden as it lays out all the essentials you’ll need to get the job done right.
- Steps to a Bountiful Kids’ Garden: Get this guide from the NGA on how to get support and run a successful school garden.
- Ten Years of Education at the Edible Schoolyard: Learn from the experience of the Edible Schoolyard in this informative book.
- Children’s Gardens – A Field Guide for Teachers, Parents, and Volunteers ublished by the University of California, this book will teach you the basics of working with children on garden projects.
- Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting:This book will teach you how to make the most of even the small space you have to grow you garden.
- Our Generous Garden:In this book, you’ll find an excellent resource for school gardens, including helpful illustrations and photos as well.
- Expert Urban Gardener: This free guide will help you learn to garden better even if your school is located in an urban space.
- The Growing Classroom: Garden-Based Science:Learn how to maximize the lessons of your school garden with this book.
- Garden Projects for the Classroom & Special Learning Programs:Get some great ideas on how to educate your students through the outdoor classroom from this book.
- Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children:This book can be a great introduction for your students to the wonderful world of gardening.