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What steps are involved in starting a new a school garden?


Getting a garden started in an urban area poses additional challenges, but you should find this generic checklist helpful:

Question details

I am working with a seventh grade class in New York City. We would like to make a garden in front of our school.Getting a

Hi! Congratulations on deciding to start a school garden. And being in the city, you actually should have some good resources. Besides the link listed in the other response, check what your school, and district has in place. I am sure there are some corporate sponsers that may be working with your school. If not,  check with your local botanical or horticultural society. The  Brookyln Botanical gardens  might have programs. In Philadelphia, for schools in low income areas, we had the Green City Youth program, through the Pennsylvania Horticulture society. This has lost funding, like so many other positive things for kids ( they never run out of money for tests though),but I am sure that you can find some help. Do not be afraid of asking local garden centers for donations- especially the box stores like Lowes and Home Depot. Try and stay organic if at all possible- from seed on up, but especially do not use chemicals or pesticides in a school garden. It actually may be illegal. Get permission slips for all students!! The slips should outline what tools they will be working with, getting medical emergency info and contacts. It is especially necessary to know if the child has allergies or asthma. Parents must agree that their children can work with the hand tools. No one under 18 can use power tools, unless it is a vocational  (career tech now) setting, and part of a particular vocational program, say horticulture or culinary. Start small. and remember you have to think about the summer. So you need to have some kind of plan in place. I suggest back up plans too, as I found a lot of volunteers suddenly disappear. It is not always their fault, but you should have a good plan. Mulching to cut down on weeding and watering needs, is always good, if you have the funds. If you are planning on starting your own seeds- think about things that will be useable before the end of the year and things that will welcome the students back in the fall. You might direct seed some hardy crops like lettuce or peas. Dill, parsley and cilantro are nice for early herbs. Basil go in towards the end of the school year. If it likes where it is growing, it may even survive without being cut back during the Summer. I usually found a Summer school teacher that was willing to take at least cutting and using the herbs on! One item I had great success with was the Cherokee purple tomato. It did well with a little mulch and got almost no care during the Summer. It produced tomatoes until frost, perfect for culinary program. That was also the most ideal location I had to work with as a teacher. It was in a courtyard, Southern exposure, wind protection, no access except throught the school building, and I could watch kids as they worked from my classroom. I was working with high school kids, I would not recommend this arrangementt with younger students, nor with a large group. In those cases, everyone either goes to the garden, or stays in the classroom. We had rodent problems (as do 99% of the Philly schools), so raising seeds can be a challenge in most classrooms. If this is a problem, I would suggest either sticking to plants, start seeds at home, or maybe have students start them at home after a class demo. NEVER USE MIRCLE GRO!!MICE LOVE IT!!!!  I hope this helps. Please let me know what else you need. I will see if I can help. Susan
What a fine summary, Susan! Thank you for sharing from your experience! Since you mention rodent problems, please describe more about what you experienced & what you did about it. There's nothing like first-hand experience from a capable person of good will. Since KGI is read across the US & in many countries your solutions & workarounds for "challenges" will be helpful in a lot of places.
You've covered this subject well.  Experience is certainly a great teacher.  When we started a school garden, about 1992, there was a lot of enthusiasm in the school, as well as volunteers.  We had classes from Master Gardeners, Master Composters, and the Regional Urban Forester.  The students loved it.  Most of the work was completed in one week end with great fun had by all.  As the project progressed, many teachers held regular classes in the garden, which was a refreshing break from the regular classroom.  The only problem we had was watering the garden.  A hose had to be stretched almost 100 yards to reach the area.  This was too much for elementary school students to handle, and the custodians were overworked anyway.  For a while some high school students worked off disciplinary probations by watering the garden.  The garden, gazebo, and reflection area were enjoyed by all. After 6 years a reconstruction project was done at the school and the garden was displaced.  It was never completely redone.  My duties took me away from the garden, and the crush of mandated state tests strapped the teachers and left little time to attend the garden.  In my opinion,  the garden was more helpful to the students than the batteries of tests.  A good teacher knows the curriculum and how to teach the students, adding life skills along the way. I don't know if the school has a garden today.  I retired 8 years ago, but haven't been back to that school. Stay natural, David
On the rodent problems. What I mentioned in my first comment pretty much coverd how we could cope with the mice explosion in our schools. I also used 100% essential peppermint oil on cotton balls and on counter tops in the culinary suite to discourage them, but they were clearly in control. The problem is  that the only approved rodent control in schools is those horrible sticky traps which most mice learn to avoid, and they usually  only get a few babies that die a cruel death. I wish they would take one Summer, close down the schools and really try and get the problem under control, but that too, is not as important as money for testing. And most administrators will deny the problem even exists. That is why I mentioned either buying plants or having students, after a class demo, start the seeds at home. The adults with experience or space could do the same. I also saw ( and did not get a chance to read) on the Cheap Gardener site, lite boxes for starting seeds made out of Christmas lights and aluminum. That might work. Mice do not like aluminum, but they will chew it if they want what is in it enough! This might be a solution to in school problems with seed starting and mice. My first year with a large garden project,we had a grant and got a beautiful grow light system for two classes. One faired a little better than the other - maybe because it was on a higher floor and not near the cafeteria, but the one on the first floor never got a plant to even it's first leaves before the mice ate them. Sorry I could not be more helpful in this. Other than every classroom should have it's own cat! Green Blessings, Susan
Thanks Susan- very interesting! Sounds like the cafeteria had some "under the counter" customers. Maybe they could have used a vermicomposting station instead of food waste accumulation. 



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