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How to Create a School Garden in Nine Easy Steps

Assemble a Garden Team

  • Invite teachers, administrators, building services staff, parents, students, and community partners to participate.
  • As a group, complete the Garden Goals Worksheet  

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Select a Site

Follow these MCPS guidelines:

  • Select a site near a functioning, outdoor water source.
  • Choose an easy-to-access and safe site for students.
  • Avoid planting the garden near outside air intakes.
  • The garden site cannot impact paving, sidewalks, or utilities.
  • The garden site cannot impede fire drill exit routes.
  • Consider future construction plans for the school site. Check with school principal.

For help with site selection:

Contact one of the agencies suggested in the Partner Organizations. They will help you choose the best site for your garden based on considerations such as water sources, sunlight, etc.

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Choose a Garden Template

The following 4 foot by 8 foot garden templates and plant lists have been approved by Montgomery County Public Schools:

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Obtain Approval

Complete and submit the following three items to the Director of MCPS Department of Facilities Management. The more complete your form and attachments are, the shorter your project evaluation time will be.

  • Facility Project Request Form 
  • School site plan with proposed garden location marked (Your school principal can acquire the site plan.)
  • Garden template and plant list (from this website)

Important note about timeline: Submit your request to MCPS Department of Facilities Management between September 15 and March 31 for fastest turn around (about six weeks). Requests received after April 1 will not be reviewed until September 15 because summer projects take precedence over new requests.

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Secure Funding

Use the Budget for Garden Template (Excel Spreadsheet) for planning purposes. Amend the budget to suit your particular garden project.

Links to possible sources of funding:

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Purchase Supplies

Plants

Pick your shopping list:

Local Nurseries

Pick your nursery:

Many local nurseries have experience with school gardens and native plants. Ask for a school discount! Search online for nurseries near you.

Call a local nursery one month ahead to order plants for the school garden. You can fax or e-mail pre-orders and arrange for pick up or delivery.

Soil and Mulch

Soil quality is essential to the success of your garden. By building raised garden beds, you can ensure good quality soil and compost. Each garden shopping list includes the amounts and types of soil and mulch you will need. Your local nursery can provide these materials.

Raised Beds

Construct raised beds using kits or a combination of raised bed corners and lumber. Search web sites or your local home improvement center for raised bed garden supplies. Some sample products can be found at:

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Plant your Garden

Tips for making Planting Day a Success  

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Use your Garden

Gardens are an interdisciplinary learning experience. Use your garden as an outdoor classroom for observation and experimentation. Garden activities support MCPS and MSDE science and social studies grade level learning indicators for living things, life cycles, predator/prey relationships, and the interaction of humans and the environment. Use garden lessons to integrate concepts in mathematics by having students determine the size, area and perimeter of garden beds; calculate construction and planting budgets; and graph and chart the growth rate of plants.

Lesson Links

The MCPS archives and on-line curriculum are good sources of lessons that can be used successfully in garden classrooms. Lessons from MCPS partner GreenKids are correlated to MCPS curriculum as well.

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Maintain your Garden

Time Requirements

  • One hour per week watering
  • One hour per month weeding
  • One hour per season pruning

Volunteer Requirements

Decide who is willing to head the maintenance committee. Possible sources of volunteers include:

  • PTA members
  • Teachers
  • Community Members

Maintenance Requirements

Water

  • Your garden will need to be watered at least one inch every week for the first growing season. Continue this watering schedule throughout the summer.

Weed

  • Your garden will be needed at least once a month during growing season.

Maintenance Examples

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