Choosing a Site
Finding a site for your garden—a DO or DIE decision! With the school support behind you, you can now begin to finalize the garden design. Every garden has certain minimum requirements that must be present in order for it to grow.
Water—close, easy access to a water source is essential. The water must be a potable water source—NO RECLAIMED WATER. Reclaimed water is not safe for consumption or handling by students. The water source must be nearby because it will be used almost daily. You do not want students to be dragging hoses across the schoolyard everyday.
Sunlight—a minimum of six hours of DIRECT SUNLIGHT a day is necessary to grow most vegetables and flowers. Check potential sites throughout the day and anticipate seasonal changes in the sun’s location. Watch out for shading by nearby trees, buildings, hills, etc.
Access—the site should be close to classrooms and easily accessible. If the garden is too far away, it will be difficult to get and keep teachers involved in the garden.
Size and type of garden—what type of garden fits your site, budget and person–power?
Soil quality and safety—if you plan an in–ground garden, be sure you have healthy soil.
- What was previously in this location? Watch out for potential toxins from prior dumping, asphalt and herbicides.
- Are there signs of life in the soil currently? Weeds and bugs are good!
- Good drainage—no flooding or standing water to suffocate your plants.
- Use a soil test to confirm the soil is safe and determine how to improve its viability—home versions are available at many nurseries or online.
Garden bed design—if you build planter boxes, be sure you use sturdy products that will hold up (recycled plastic lumber or redwood or cedar) and beware of products that leach toxins (no pressure–treated wood or old railroad ties).
Soil quality and safety—you will need to purchase or prepare a well–amended potting soil. Have your local nursery or landscape professional advise you on a good soil mix for your area. Avoid all soil and amendments that contain potentially toxic byproducts, such as sewage sludge.
Type of containers—many great options are out there—be creative and try to reuse or recycle! Old wine barrels or nursery tree boxes can be great and cheap. Beware of leaching containers (containers lined with tar or treated woods are toxic to plants and people).
Size of site—can the site fit your garden plan? Do you have plenty of room for students to work, walkways between plantings, areas to sit for group discussions, compost and tool storage?
Security—be sure the site is located in an area that will discourage vandalism, and minimize damage from playground havoc, dogs and foot traffic—consider a fence to create a sense of place.
Permanence—will the site remain available in the foreseeable future? Or, is your garden design easy to relocate if a permanent site is not available?