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
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.
Choose a Garden Template
The following 4 foot by 8 foot garden templates and plant lists have been approved by Montgomery County Public Schools:
- View Habitat Garden (Shade) Template | View Shopping List
- View Habitat Garden (Sun) Template | View Shopping List
- View Butterfly Garden (Sun) Template | View Shopping List
- View Senses Garden (Sun) Template | View Shopping List
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.
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:
- Chesapeake Bay Trust
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- Washington Post Grants in Education
- MCPS Educational Foundation, Inc.
- Captain Planet Foundation
- Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation (toolbox for education)
- National Gardening Association
- Toyota Tapestry Grants
- Keep Montgomery County Beautiful – Montgomery County Department of Transportation
- Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection
Pick your shopping list:
- Shopping List for Butterfly Garden
- Shopping List for Senses Garden
- Shopping List for Native Plant Habitat Garden (Shade)
- Shopping List for Native Plant Habitat Garden (Sun)
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.
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:
Plant your Garden
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.
Lessons from MCPS partner GreenKids are correlated to MCPS curriculum.
Maintain your Garden
- One hour per week watering
- One hour per month weeding
- One hour per season pruning
Decide who is willing to head the maintenance committee. Possible sources of volunteers include:
- PTA members
- Community Members
- 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.
- Your garden will be needed at least once a month during growing season.