The Dirt on Creating a School Garden: Steps to Get Started

School gardens provide students with hands-on learning experiences, and teach them valuable life skills such as responsibility, teamwork, and environmental awareness. If you’re interested in starting a school garden, this will help you get started.

1. Create A Vision For the Garden 

The purpose of your school garden will determine the scope of the project. Are you looking to provide fresh produce for the school cafeteria? Do you want to teach students about sustainable agriculture? Or do you simply want to provide a space for students to learn and connect with nature? You can start small, with a few raised beds or container gardens, or aim for a larger plot – but knowing what you want to achieve will help you think through who should be using the garden and how often, and who you’ll need to consult with to bring your garden to life for things like seeds, tools, and even scheduling.

2. Assess Your Resources with a Committee

Once you’ve got a clear idea and some passion to spread, discuss the idea with the school administration, teachers, and even parent volunteers about the project’s feasibility. They can help you think through what the garden will look like, how it could operate, and gauge interest from students. It may be informal at first and become official once you’ve assessed if you have the available space, budget, time, and staff capacity to determine the scope of your project. This helps prevent overwhelm for any one educator and ensures they have the support to follow through on the project. The USDA also offers information on how to find resources and build partnerships.

3. Begin the Official Layout

Once the committee has agreed upon expectations, choose an area with access to obvious resources like sunlight, good soil, water, and drainage. Also, consider that the garden is accessible to students and teachers, protected from animals, away from heavy traffic, and has room to grow as more classes may become interested in the experience. The committee may want to check if your state requires regulations if your plans require any ambitious greenhouses, shady structures, a composting area, or even a simple tool shed.

Part of the fun can be collaborating on the design, asking students to research low-maintenance plants they want to grow, brainstorming themes for their garden, or for the younger students, just sketching out their dream school garden.

4. Include Everyone In the Build

Let the entire school participate to feel a community-wide sense of accomplishment, ownership, and excitement! There’s going to be a lot of maintenance from watering, weeding, fertilizing, etc., so engaging everyone early on can make garden-related activities feel more rewarding as time goes on.

Remember, school gardens grow more than just plants or food. They cultivate healthy habits that will stick with students beyond their formative years. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive guide, but we hope this has planted a seed of inspiration for how you can get started on the journey. Happy gardening!