Sustain a successful school food garden
Edible school garden programs are vital components of robust farm-to-school initiatives. Serving both youth and educators, they build awareness of food production, grow an appreciation for local food systems, and integrate high-quality agricultural and nutritional learning experiences directly into the curriculum.
Seeds of Success Toolkit
The Seeds of Success Toolkit compiles a wealth of knowledge from school gardeners across the country to provide the necessary resources to initiate and sustain a successful school food garden.
Below you will find answers to the who, what, where, why, when, and how behind developing a youth garden program so you can feel confident in your planning and implementation. You can download the Toolkit in its entirety or as individual chapters.
Also on this resource page, you can download a digital copy of Growing Food to help integrate your school food garden programming into your classroom curriculum. Created by expert nutrition educators with funding from the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Teachers College Columbia University, Growing Food provides a collection of 20 lesson plans with engaging experiences for students to learn science through the study of food systems and garden activities.
Chapter 1: Introduction to School Food Gardens
This introductory chapter is designed to provide an overview of youth and school food garden programs. It offers answers to these questions:
- Why garden with kids?
- What is a youth garden? What is a youth garden program?
- Where can you plant a school food garden?
Chapter 2: Steps to Starting a School Food Garden Program
The key to a successful garden is to ensure it is part of a well-planned youth garden program. In this chapter, we provide you with an overview of the important planning steps, including:
- Develop a Support Network
- Craft Goals to Guide Design of Your Garden and Garden Program
- Identify Needs
- Obtain Supplies and Recruit Volunteers
- Plan and Manage Installation
- Organize Maintenance of the Garden
- Sustain Enthusiasm and Support for the Garden Program
At the end of this chapter are worksheets for each step to help guide you through the planning process. By the end of this chapter, you should be able to answer these questions:
- Whom should we involve in our school food garden?
- How do we plan a sustainable school food garden program?
Chapter 3: Funding Your School Food Garden
Funding is one of the most commonly cited challenges for both new and established school food garden programs. In this chapter, you’ll find ideas and tips for funding your school food garden. By the end of this chapter, you should be able to answer these questions:
- What do I need to do before beginning my funding search?
- What are some common sources for funding and donations to support my school food garden
Chapter 4: School Food Garden Planning and Design
Establishing a strong school food garden program is an important part of creating a sustainable youth garden, but certainly not the only component needed for success. Your garden design is another crucial step in the planning process. A well-designed garden maximizes the space available and creates the optimal conditions for your plants to thrive. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the design process for an outdoor garden and answer these questions:
- What is the best location for your garden?
- What components should be included in the garden design?
- What are some common themes for youth gardens?
Chapter 5: Preparing for Gardening
With planning in place, you are ready to focus on the “hows” of the garden. In this chapter, you will find answers to these questions:
- How do we prepare the soil for planting?
- How do we choose what to grow?
- When should we plant?
Chapter 6: Planting and Maintaining the Garden
What a great reward to see the happy faces of kids digging into the soil after the hard work involved with organizing the garden program! We offer some basic instructions for planting both seeds and transplants, followed by basic care techniques and pest control.
Continuing with the presentation of the “hows,” in this Chapter, we will answer the questions:
- How do we plant our garden?
- Once planted, how do we keep the garden growing well?
Chapter 7: Garden Safety and Harvest
Educators have seen how growing and harvesting produce in a youth garden helps young gardeners develop a deep relationship with food. What better way to further solidify and celebrate that relationship than by allowing students to prepare and taste it themselves? We begin this Chapter with recommendations to make sure planting days are fun for all. Next, we offer safety tips for harvesting produce from your youth garden. Finally, we wrap-up the chapter with practical ideas for cooking demonstrations and tasting activities.
This chapter will answer these questions:
- What considerations should be made to maintain safety in the garden?
- What food safety practices do we need to follow to bring in a healthy harvest?
- How can we use the harvest from our garden to improve student nutritional attitudes and behaviors?
The Toolkit’s Appendix offers the following in depth resources:
- Indoor Seed Starting and Transplanting Table
- Identifying Common Garden Pests
- Cool-Season Vegetable Gardening Guide
- Indoor Gardening Guide
Expand your learning
To dig deeper into some of the topics presented in the Toolkit, KidsGardening also produced a series of webinars on the topics of:
- STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) in the School Food Garden
- Teaching for Sustainability
- Culturally Inclusive Garden-based Learning
- Funding Your School Garden
View archives of the full webinars or take advantage of the highlight clips to the right.
Connect for additional support
Connect with other educators and garden volunteers in the Kids Garden Community. The Kids Garden Community is a free online community supporting individuals, families, and organizations with the skills, tools, and connections to garden with kids. It’s your place to ask questions, make connections, access resources, learn from each other, and stay inspired. Together we will create change for our kids, communities, and the planet.
Join us to:
- Connect with other educators teaching in school food gardens
- Get support from experienced peer garden educators
- Share your expertise in growing a school garden
- Find vetted school food garden and farm-to-school resources to support your growing and teaching adventures
Good luck with your school food garden journey! We look forward to connecting with you!
The Seeds to Success Toolkit was created with funding assistance from a 2021 USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant. KidsGardening wishes to thank the USDA for their continued efforts to inspire and support edible school garden programming.