from the Community Food Security Coalition
Determine what the garden’s purpose will be
What is your school’s motivation to start a school garden? Will there be concrete educational goals for students’ time spent in the garden? Will the garden be a space used to foster life, communication and team skills among students? How will the garden produce be used?
Create a garden steering core
Determine who will be the central organizing body for your garden. Teachers will most likely be the catalyst for the school garden program, but other perspectives are very important, such as maintenance staff, administrators, students, parents and community members.
Select the best site for the garden
You will need 8 hours of sun, access to water and good soil. If your soil is too compacted or if there are roots obstructing your garden, you can always build raised garden beds and import soil. You should also conduct a soil test before planting in order to ensure there are no heavy metals in your soil.
Plan how to integrate students’ input into the garden design process
Think through ways to use math, art and science to encourage your students to plan the garden out. Talking about the garden in the classroom with students before it is planted is an essential part of developing a sense of buy-in and ownership among students.
Create a design, planting calendar and year-round maintenance plan
Once you have determined where to locate the garden and have gotten design input from students, create your planting plan using an LSU agriculture planting calendar that lets you know when to plant what. You will need to think through how long it will take until things are ready to be planted as well as who will maintain the garden when students are not in school
Cultivate the soil and build the garden
You might need to use volunteers to help you break ground and build beds, but involve students as much as possible with the development of the garden to increase their sense of ownership over the space. The key to a successful garden is healthy soil, so don’t try to rush through the time it will take to develop strong, healthy soil.
Determine the best way to engage students in the garden
It can be challenging to maintain focus in the garden with a large group of students, so you may need to experiment with different approaches for engaging students in the garden space. Each student can be given a space to cultivate or they can work together managing the entire garden space. Smaller groups might be easier to engage. There are many existing resources for connecting the garden with academic benchmarks.