WV School Garden Toolkit

written for and by west virginia school gardeners

School Garden Planning Sheet

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.

2 thoughts on “School Garden Planning Sheet

  1. I would love more information on specifics of planting a school garden – what do they recommend in particular for the different purposes of a school garden? For example, if it’s educational about different types of foods, plant a lot of different types of vegetables (and in what layout is should we do it in?). However, I did like how it brought up a lot of problems that may occur – such as, how to stay focused while having students out in the garden. I hadn’t even thought about how that might be an issue.

  2. I love that each section provides a general overview of each topic. However, I wonder if each subheading on this page could link to another page with more detail on each since each has the potential to go much further into depth and detail… My biggest concern with my year of service is that it is just that; one year of service. Building on the idea of a garden steering core, I wonder if and at what point each garden or group of school gardens will need a plan for long term sustainability, what does this look like and does it involve hiring a garden coordinator? (Maybe you’ve covered this elsewhere and I haven’t gotten to it yet?!)

    On student involvement: What I’ve been reading over and over again is that students need to be involved in the very early stages of planning : students can sense when a garden has been planned by their own vs. adults… “Plan how to integrate students’ input…” describes this as a stage where students can use what they’ve learned in math, art, and science : I’m glad this was mentioned; it’s important! In asking students to design their garden space they need to use their critical thinking skills to determine not only how they’d like the garden to look aesthetically but where they plan to plant each species is ideal for plant growth. This is of particular concern for myself and my students as we try to figure out where to plant in the greenhouse (i.e. how tall will tomato plants grow? If we plant them near the walls of the greenhouse will they block some sunlight from other plants?)

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