It goes without saying that you're going to have to jump through quite a few hoops to get your school garden up and running. But with a little planning, you should be able to answer everyone's questions and get the approval you need in no time. Here's what you need to know to start planning.
1. Where on the school grounds do you want to start the garden?
Take a look around and figure out where you could start the garden. The site will need to get plenty of sun and have easy access to the classrooms, without impeding the flow of traffic in the area. Ideally, you also want to pick a site that will not flood and will be easy to water when necessary. How big do you want the garden to be? Do you want to start with a few raised beds or dig up a large plot to be shared by many classrooms? These are the questions you need to mull over before you go any further.
2. When do you want to start?
Do you want to plant the garden this spring or summer? You need to act quickly to assemble the funds, volunteers and supplies. Another idea is to start your planning now in the hopes of starting a fall garden at the beginning of the next school year.
3. Who will volunteer to help?
Put together a list of names and contact information for adults, teachers and other school staff who are interested in helping with the garden. While you're at it, ask folks to identify the days and times that they might be willing to help as well as the tasks that they would be willing to do. Will there be time and access for the students to pitch in? When and how will that work?
4. How much your garden supplies will cost?
Before you start asking for funds, you need to know exactly how much you will need. Consider not only costs for plants and seeds, but also gardening tools, watering hoses, fertilizer or compost bins, and other miscellaneous supplies.
5. Who will pay for the gardening supplies?
This is the million dollar question and the big one that school officials will want answered before they give you the stamp of approval. More than likely, this money is not going to come from the school's already over-strapped budget. So you will need to get some funding sponsorship from families or local businesses. Be sure to ask local garden supply stories and greenhouses that may be interested in donating materials in exchange for a little low-cost advertising. There are also school garden grants available that your school may be eligible for.
Once you make your plan and get approval from the appropriate school officials, you can really get down to planning your school garden. This school garden toolkit from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Program has lots of great info about choosing plants and incorporating school gardens into classroom activities. Also be sure to check out Garden ABCs and the Edible School Yard.
Below, check out a video of our very own Farmer D installing an edible garden at an elementary school: