Steps for Starting a School Garden - From Arcadia Farms
1. Sharing your vision with your administrator(s). The school leadership should be the first stop when starting a new school garden. As the garden matures, they will be your biggest supporters. Take time to build this relationship from the beginning.
2. Survey teachers' interest. It is very important to know what teachers care about and how they might use the garden. It is often useful to ask: “How will a school garden support your teaching” or “What would you like to see in our school garden that will make it easier for you to teach?”
3. Form a student group. Whether it’s your class or an afterschool club, they should be involved in as many decisions as possible from the beginning of the design process.
4. Convene an Advisory Board. The steering team to makes sure that tasks are divided up and the skills of the community are best utilized. This team should be diverse, consisting of: students, staff, parents, teachers, community members, food staff, and administrators.
5. Make a garden plan. Consider:
SPACE: Measure your space. Draft a scaled drawing that can be used throughout the design process. Check to see that there is no competition from trees and roots for water, soil and sun.
SOIL: Test the soil for heavy metals including arsenic and lead. We recommend using UMass for soil tests. More information can be found here: http://www.umass.edu/soiltest. Lead levels must not exceed 300 ppm, and arsenic levels may not exceed 20 ppm. You only need to test your soil once every three years.
SUN: Monitor the space to ensure it has 8 hours of direct sun for fruiting crops like tomatoes and peppers and 6 hours for leaf crops like lettuce and greens and herbs.
WATER: Make sure you have an accessible and convenient water source. Assess the drainage. Avoid damp spots and steep spots. If drainage is not good, use raised beds.
SKILLS: Build the knowledge and skills you need to create a productive school garden. Check out Arcadia’s Get Growing! Workshops to learn more about planning and designing your garden, composting, and more.
*Materials provided by Arcadia: Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture: Adapted from Checklist for Starting (and using) a School Garden by DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education. For more information, download this How to Start a School Garden Toolkit.
As the local face of the national wellness movement, Real Food for Kids is committed to working in collaborative ways to increase the quantities of healthy foods in Fairfax County Public Schools and supporting programs that educate our students and their families on making healthier lifestyle choices.
Real Food For Kids is committed to working in collaboration with our partners to increase the quantities of healthful foods in our school systems, developing and delivering programs that educate our students and their families on making healthier lifestyle choices, and ensuring access to real whole foods for all school children.
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