How to Start a School Garden

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How to Start a School Garden
School gardens are effective learning tools to help
Is installing fencing necessary? Sketch out
educate our children in the preservation and
plan for entire area including: beds for
protection of a healthy environment and clean
annual crops of vegetables and flowers;
watershed. To further that end, the following
theme gardens for butterfly and larval plants,
condensed checklist has been compiled to assist
medicinal and culinary herbs, teas, edible
educators, administrators, parents and community
flowers; orchard area; permanent areas to
volunteers in setting up a school or youth garden.
include native plants and berry patches
(habitats for birds, insects, snakes, frogs,
For more information, contact Cathy Sinclair at
UCCE Marin Master Gardeners, 499-4227, or e-
mail at [email protected]
Be sure to include composting and worm
bins, tool shed, benches, shaded outdoor
classroom. If necessary, divide into phases
as funds and energy permit.
Make sure paths are wheelchair accessible,
Include administration, teachers, parents and
36" wide.
students in the planning process.
Define specific talents and expertise of each
member of the Committee and support group,
list specific needs/wants and have individuals
commit to those areas.
Organic planting mix for raised planters
(multiply bed length times width times depth
Establish a projects list, realistic time-line for
in feet; divide by 27 to get number of cubic
completion of tasks and specific objectives for
yards of soil needed). Soil amendments for
students in the garden. Visit successful school
in-ground planting (add 4 to 6 inches of
gardens to get ideas and ask questions.
compost to well dug soil and mix with exist-
ing soil).
Hardware cloth (1/4-inch wire mesh) to line
raised beds where gophers are a problem.
A good site is easily accessible, receives direct
sunshine for 6 to 7 hours daily, clear of trees
Wood chips or other materials for garden
and roots, with good water drainage. Check for
paths (most tree companies are glad to
proximity of water source.
donate chips).
Call PG&E and school district for existence and
Irrigation components and controllers (can
location of underground utilities.
use simple, non-electrical timers, or battery-
operated controllers, costing $20-$30 and
$40-$50 respectively).
Seeds and plants.
START SMALL. Develop general feel of gar-
Suggested Tool List (minimum): Small trowels,
den ... will there be individual class beds, theme
one per student; watering cans; 3-4 shovels; 3-
gardens, tool shed, green house?
4 turning forks; wheelbarrow; small buckets; 1-
2 hoes; 1-2 rakes; plant labels are a good art
project; hoses and gentle spray nozzles.
EECoM’s Marin Food System’s Project
Contact: Leah Smith Phone: 415-663-1338 Email: [email protected]

Determine start-up and maintenance costs, and what funds are immediately available. Is there a
system established with the school regarding accounting? Determine who will keep track of the bud-
Make list of needed items and a list of possible local resources; PTA, parents, local vendors.
Obtain list of grant proposals; determine who will research, write and facilitate the grant.
Schedule and publicize community work days, with rain dates if necessary; follow up with phone tree.
Have students make posters to put around school with work dates.
For building projects, identify an experienced carpenter or builder in the group to organize workers.
Identify those with plumbing, electrical and irrigation knowledge and skills. Ask volunteers to bring
needed tools including saws, hammers, post hole digger, wheelbarrows, shovels, spades, pickaxes,
digging bars, and spading forks (depending on tasks being done).
Remove any unwanted current vegetation from the garden site. If there are native plants that will
need to be moved, call Marin Master Gardeners’ School Garden Coordinator at 499-4227. DO NOT
of any kind to kill weeds. They are toxic not only to weeds, but to our watersheds
and our children!
If gopher control needed, install 1/4" hardware cloth 12 inches deep for in-ground planting, or use
raised planters with 1/4" hardware cloth on bottom. If planting directly in ground, turn over soil to a
depth of 18", adding 4" to 6" of soil amendments as needed (based on soil type). If constructing
raised planters, fill with organic planting mix.
Install drip irrigation system and controller. Spread wood chips or other material on garden paths.
Build fence and gate; install sign.
Contact UCCE Marin Master Gardener office at 499-4227 for advice on appropriate plants, planting
schedules, seed and seedling sources, etc.
Make sure that the students are involved in each step of the process whenever possible!