The most important feature of a new garden site is how much sun it gets. Although wonderful gardens using shade plants can be created in places with very little light, many plants will not thrive in shade. This is especially true of fruit trees and vegetables, which need plenty of sun.
Soil type varies widely in Sonoma County, but any soil can be improved for gardening by adding compost. Clay can be lightened with compost, and sandy soil can be improved to hold more water. If you’re planning to grow food plants, make sure that the new garden site soil doesn’t have pollutants in it from past dumping of toxic materials.
Water should be easily available and an automatic irrigation system needs electricity. A common cause of garden failure is that the garden takes too much time to water, especially in the summer. An automated irrigation system will free up volunteer time for other things. If you do not have an automated system yet check out our WATERWISE School Garden program that provides design, funding and installation help!
Security can be a concern in school gardens. Garden plants are not often vandalized, but equipment, like tool sheds and garden structures, can be damaged or stolen. It’s useful to have a fence to keep dogs and cats out of the garden as much as possible, to protect plants and for hygiene reasons. If your school is in a rural area you will probably need a deer fence. What will the garden be used for? You can create support for the garden by finding out what other people would like to use it for and plan for these uses. There might be an amazingly wide range of visions. Some possibilities are:
Growing food to teach about nutrition and promote interest in healthy foods.
Supporting classroom lessons: Many teachers use the garden for hands-on teaching or as a peaceful place to read, write or have class discussions.
Habitat: There is often interest in creating habitat areas – mostly for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. Planting local native plants will help to give students a sense of place for the region in which they live.
Beauty: Everyone on the school site appreciates a beautiful garden. The garden can be planted to provide flowers and greenery for decorating classrooms.
Meeting Place: A school garden can become the heart of the campus. Tables or maybe a shade structures can help serve this purpose. Gardens can be used for school or class parties and events, award ceremonies, meetings, drama presentations or storytelling.
Food Recycling: A cafeteria recycling program can send compost scraps out to the garden.
Playground: A sandbox or a play place for preschool age children will make it easier for parent volunteers with younger children to contribute to the garden. Add a hand pump, a digging spot with buried treasures, a willow hut and a fairy garden for the imagination to roam!
After school or lunchtime activities, like gardening or cooking clubs, can take place in the garden
Ideas for you garden space:
Luther Burbank Garden
GETTING STARTED: A GUIDE FOR STARTING A SCHOOL GARDEN-The Life Lab Science Program distilled their years of world-wide school garden experience into a concise 50-page guide that asks and answers most questions you need to consider for creating an outdoor classroom garden. Download Getting Started (1.8MB) Download Getting Started En Espanol Comenzando (5.2MB)