In early 2014 DF2S garden coordinators were asked by the district to define an ideal Davis school garden. Here is what we came up with.
An ideal elementary edibles garden
Select a location with a southern or full sun exposure, and with protection from prevailing Davis north winds.
Provide vehicle access for soil and equipment delivery.
Clear stubborn perennial weeds to prevent future years of weed battles. Here in Davis we struggle with Bermuda grass and nutsedge from former lawns that were transformed into gardens.
Create or purchase good quality soil with ample organic matter.
Check for adequate drainage control from surrounding buildings and paving to avoid flooding of gardens and paths.
Incorporate art and a pleasing design so that the garden space is appealing year round. A good plan can make your garden multi-functional. All classes can contribute student-created art design elements.
Informative and decorative signs add interest and help educate.
Slightly narrower 3 x 8 ft garden boxes allow younger students to reach the center of the box. If box sizes are standardized among schools, supplies and accessories for boxes are easier to share.
Number garden boxes for easy identification.
Create covers for boxes to suppress weeds and make boxes more attractive when not in use.
Provide at least one box per gardening classroom. Construct garden boxes close to classrooms that will use them–within 1 minute walking time is ideal.
Paths should be at least 4 ft wide to accommodate groups of children.
Provide automatic irrigation to garden areas.
Provide access to electrical outlets.
Equip a secure, walk in tool and equipment storage shed (e.g. “Tuff shed” type) close to garden areas. Stock it with tools and supplies for gardening classes. Have enough tools for at least one typical class size. Have a bulletin board where you can leave notes for classes.
Provide access to a nearby table/work surface with seating for 15 so students can listen to short presentations, look at show and tell items or complete garden or art activities.
Provide a central information board for posting garden maps, lessons, schedules, garden information, etc.
Plan to erect 4-6 ft fencing if needed to protect garden areas.
Provide a 10 x 20 ft area for a composting center with well-made composters that will exclude unwanted wildlife. Many of our sites use the “biostack” type stacking composter that used to be made by Smith and Hawken. This unit appears unavailable at present.
A nice add-on is a small greenhouse for starting plants.
If you have the space, create a 25 x 25 ft area for an orchard. Our school district has an approved list of fruit trees for use in schools.
Ideal secondary edibles garden
The following additions and modifications were suggested for junior and senior high school gardens:
Create a flexible irrigation configuration to match changing cultivation areas. Provide multiple irrigation sources such as pipes, hose bibs, and flexible drip irrigation systems.
Protect the automatic irrigation control from vandalism.
Provide larger seating/work areas for 30 students.
A full-size greenhouse is useful for secondary school programs especially if they have an agriculture or horticulture curriculum.
Other ideal landscaped garden areas (e.g. herb garden, native plant garden, butterfly garden, etc.)
A perennial weed-free site with good soil, good drainage, and access to vehicles for delivery of garden supplies.
If possible, create a large area (e.g. at least 25 x 50 ft) so a class of 35 students can comfortably work in the garden all together.
Provide 4 foot wide pathways, ADA accessible. Decomposed granite is a relatively inexpensive path material.
Benches or other garden seating.
Special items for large scale school garden/farm projects
Fuel locker, large, secure storage area for heavy equipment.
Tractor and implements.
District rototillers and or cultivators to be shared among schools.