A school garden is an excellent way to get kids interested in gardening. There are so many benefits to creating a school garden. For one, it encourages kids to learn about science and nature. And it teaches them life morals such as responsibility, patience and teamwork.
It’s also a great way to improve a kid’s diet and, it fosters community and school relationships.
If your school is looking to start a garden and you do not know how, here are some tips that will help:
Inspect Your Available Space
First, you want to find out if your school has the right space to set up the garden. Depending on how much space your school has, you could have places like old garden allotments, courtyards and parking lots available to you.
If you really want to get the community involved (1), you can consider places like the church, the city park, or the retirement home.
While inspecting your available space, make sure that whatever space you choose is one where:
- The teachers, parents, and kids can easily access.
- Has plenty of sunlight and a clean, dependable water source.
- Has the potential for expansion.
After you do that, organising a committee is also a good idea. It should ideally be filled with students and teachers who’ve got green thumbs.As this will also give them a huge sense of involvement.
Get as many people as you can, parents, teachers, students and people in the community who would like to help. Find out what resource and knowledge they have and how it can be channelled into the garden.
Determine Your Goal
Obviously, the purpose of the school garden is to educate the kids and get them interested in nature. However, before you start, it’s best to determine your exact goal for the garden. This will help determine how to design it and what to plant in it.
For instance, is your goal to:
- Encourage kids to eat healthier.
- Create a therapeutic space for the kids. Gardening can be very therapeutic for children.
- Grow healthy foods for the school’s cafeteria. This is perfect if the school is trying to cut down on junk food. The children can also take some vegetables and fruits home after harvesting.
- Reduce waste generated in school. This would require a great compost system.
Examine the Soil
Even if the space you’ve chosen has sunlight and a dependable water source, you’d still need healthy soil to make your garden work; its essential.
To examine the soil, take a sample of it and send it to a soil testing lab. They will check it for lead poisoning, industrial contamination, PH and nutrients. If the soil is devoid of these things, the test can tell you what nutrients you need to add to the soil. The soil quality is essential for the growth of the plants.
Another thing to consider is if the site is safe. By safe, check if the site is secure from animals and other pests. Determine if the site you’ve chosen is one you can easily fence to deter animals and mischievous kids from coming in.
If the soil in the site is not great, you can consider raised beds.
Create a Design
The best way would be to get a garden or landscape designer to handle the designs. But, seeing as most school gardens are built on a budget, that is not the most affordable way. So, get your committee involved.
Everyone should pitch a design and decide on the best one to move forward with. The children should especially be involved in this, encourage to them pitch their designs. You never know, you may have a genius garden designer on your hands.
Alternatively, you can talk to other schools who have successfully established a school garden and ask them for advice with whom or how they designed their garden. Some things to consider when designing a garden:
- The sitting or gathering area for the kids to learn.
- The composting area.
- The washing and cleaning area.
- The storage area for storing tools, chemicals, manure and seeds.
- Any special features like a bug hotel or bird house.
Choose your Plants
Here, you want to select the best and safest plants for the garden. This is a school garden, so safety is primary. The plants you choose should be easy to grow, but also fun.
It’d take a while for some kids to get excited about the garden, but a garden with the promise of fun and exotic plants like, say, a purple carrot will have the children excited. You can also choose a fun or scientific theme, and plant around it.
While choosing plants that will grow quickly within the school year, choose the kinds that will take a while to grow too. The point of this is to teach the children patience and show them not all plants grow at the same time.
When the children harvest the quick plants within the school year, it will make them eager to wait for the plants that take longer to grow. It will also keep them committed.
Build Your Garden
The important thing about building this garden is the children have to fully take part. If it’s done for them, they will not really connect to it. Get the children to take part in every way, and in the part they can’t, have them watch and learn. Having the kids build the garden will give them a sense of accomplishment and pride. It will make them even more eager to plant.
After you are building and planting, remember that it important to plan for the next planting season and get major decisions out of the way. Also, to prepare for the next planting season, you could ask the committee or the kids to ask their parents to donate things like garden tools and safety tools for the kids. This is a good idea if the school budget is not what it should be.
In conclusion, the best way to get children fully invested in the garden is to tie it to their academics. This will be a big incentive for kids who aren’t interested.
- Community Garden – Link