AN IDEAL SCHOOL GARDEN

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:
 
Characteristics of an ideal elementary edible garden
  • Receives full sun exposure and protection from prevailing Davis north winds.
  • Accessible for soil and equipment delivery.
  • Planting beds contain quality soil with ample organic matter.
  • Adequate drainage. Runoff from from surrounding buildings and paving controlled to avoid flooding of gardens and paths.
  • Presence of 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 to 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.
  • Garden boxes numbered for easy identification by volunteers and students.
  • Implement a management plan for stubborn perennial weeds. Here in Davis we struggle with Bermuda grass and nutsedge from former lawns that were transformed into gardens.
  • Boxes have covers to suppress weeds and make boxes more attractive when not in use.
  • Presence of at least one box per gardening classroom.
  • Construct garden boxes close to classrooms that will use them–within 1 minute walking time is ideal.
  • Designed with accessibility in mind both for ADA guidelines and to accommodate groups of children.
  • Functional automatic irrigation to garden areas.
  • Access to electrical outlets.
  • A secure, walk-in tstorage shed (e.g. “Tuff shed” type) close to garden areas for class tools and supplies.
  • Enough tools for at least one typical class size. Have a bulletin board where you can leave notes for classes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • A flexible irrigation configuration to match changing cultivation areas.  
  • Multiple irrigation sources such as pipes, hose bibs, and flexible drip irrigation systems.
  • Protection for the automatic irrigation control from vandalism.
  • Aarger 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, 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.
  • 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.
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