Once a school garden is established, one of the biggest challenges is keeping the garden going. These resources provide ideas on developing partnerships with different groups, tips on maintaining gardens when school is not in session, and other shared thoughts from individuals and groups that have gardens ongoing for a number of years.
- California School Garden Network
The School Garden Wizard's guide on sustainability and evaluation.
- National Center for Home Food Preservation
University of Georgia factsheets on canning, jams and jellies, freezing, drying, pickling and vinegars, and other miscellaneous topics.
- Setting Up and Running a School Garden
A comprehensive guide on setting up, maintaining, and utilizing a school garden; information for student, school and community levels; provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Challenges and Solutions - Based on a teacher focus group
According to teachers, by far the biggest concern of both starting and sustaining a school garden is the time commitment. Often the garden is both extra time at work for the teacher and classroom time taken away from state mandated curriculum. The key is to delegate responsibilities and make classes in the garden multi-purpose! Here are some specific strategies to ensure the garden does not drain your preparation or instruction time.
Optimizing Class Time
Teachers have requested this website relate the school garden to Georgia math and language arts standards, and we have answered! All lesson plans you find on the site under “Curriculum” are aligned with Common Core Georgia Performance Standards. ELA, Math, Social Studies, and Science lesson plans are available for downloading. Now class garden time can always cover a standard!
Note: Charter schools also allow for a separate horticulture course. Take advantage of this opportunity to highlight the school garden in a school-sanctioned and sponsored curriculum.
Optimizing Teachers' Time
Perhaps the most recurring piece of advice from garden teachers is you must get outside help! This is especially important for the sustainability of the school garden program. Strategies that have worked for other Georgia gardening teachers include:
- Hiring a part-time staff member to care for the garden 10 hours per week
- Partnering with another school or program to have volunteers come mentor or teach. Potential volunteers include:
- Local high school classes or community service organizations
- Advanced scholars or gifted program students
- Agricultural or horticultural programs such as 4-H & Master Gardeners
- Establishing an after-school club (run by a different teacher!) to help maintain, further develop, and encourage additional student enthusiasm for the garden.
Lack of Gardening Experience
Although horticultural knowledge and experience are definitely helpful, they are not essential to start or sustain a school garden. Again, bringing in outside help to teach and/or maintain the garden will considerably lessen your load as lead garden teacher. Other things that have worked for Georgia teachers are to:
- Utilize the expertise of science teachers.
- Establish the garden before making connections to the curriculum.
In addition, this site recommends several horticultural sources to help you grow plants in Georgia. If that feels like a lot to pour through, contact your local Master Gardeners or County Extension for help! These are really great resources to take advantage of.
Lack of Parental Support
Don't despair! You may not have much help and support from parents/ guardians upfront, but as the program grows and becomes dear to the students, the garden will catch on with the parents, too. Building up the garden culture at school, for example, by maximizing student exposure to the garden (see #1 on "Tips from Teachers" for specific ideas), is perhaps the quickest way to hook students, thereby stimulating parent interest, as well.
The most direct way to parental support if your school does not have a strong PTA is through your students. Efforts to make the school garden part of home life serve to share the importance of the garden with the family, as well as to reinforce the garden culture for students in a different setting. Sending home seedlings, produce, and garden newsletters, and assigning homework related to the school garden are good ways to expose parents to the project from the comfort of their homes.
While waiting for parents to get on board, try looking for support in other places. These are some ideas other school garden teachers have said they want to try out for garnering outside support:
- Consider sister school partnerships
- Grandparent group to help support
- Team up with churches
- Team up with non-traditional organizations from high schools such as Beta Club, Key Club, NHS
- Community activist groups (e.g. ACT)
Money Spent Out of Pocket
A very legitimate concern, but with the endless grant and fundraiser possibilities, certainly manageable. Of course, it does take time to apply for grants and organize fundraisers, but these are tasks that could be delegated to or even shared between volunteers, fellow teachers, administrators, and community officials. See the “Fund and Material Procurement” section for specific suggestions.
Fund and Material Procurement
Please visit our Grant Opportunities page for information on grants that are available for School Garden programs, and for information on how to obtain such grants.
The Self-Funding Garden
Read about other examples of schools that have implemented similar stands for more ideas:
Ideas from Other Organizations
The following organizations offer additional creative, relatively easy garden-related ideas to raise money:
- Whole Kids Foundation
- Edible Schoolyard
- Annie's Homegrown Fundraiser
Green Fundraising Ideas
For "green" fundraising ideas, visit:
Funding your garden could be as simple as asking for donations from local businesses and already established school sponsors. Nurseries, hardware, and home improvement stores are great places to start asking for garden supplies. Grocery stores could be willing to donate healthy food items for class cooking demonstrations. If these businesses are not willing or able to outright donate items, don't be shy about asking for a discounted rate! For monetary donations, the possibilities are endless. Places to start are restaurants and ecologically minded businesses. Let all potential sponsors know their time in the garden would also be appreciated as volunteers, if they were so inclined. Advertising your donors' names and contribution around the garden and the school offers incentive for them to continue their generosity in future years!