Starting and Maintaining Gardens

Steps to Growing a Successful School Garden (LSU AgCenter)
This resource guide is an outline of the things you should be aware of when starting a school garden. No two school gardens are alike. Your school garden will be unique, based upon many things such as student population, age, and needs; garden space available; time constraint; and required coursework.

Starting Your School Garden (NC State Extension)
Beginner’s guide to getting started on growing a plan to build and sustain a school garden. From crafting a school garden team to managing volunteers, learn best practices to set your school up for success.

Grow a Garden Classroom (KCHealthyKids)
This toolkit serves as a comprehensive guide to school gardening. Use this toolkit to launch a garden program, learn what resources are available to schools, and receive free lesson plans and classroom activities to use in the classroom garden.

Webinar: Institutional School Garden Programming (National Farm to School Network and School Garden Support Organization Network)
This hour-long webinar features district-run school garden program directors from small, medium and large school districts sharing their experiences and expertise in launching and maintaining district-run garden programs.

A Guide for Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms (Life Lab Science Program)
This guide serves as a thorough introduction to garden-based education and school gardening. It contains the following sections: The Joy of Gardening, Getting Started, Selecting the Site, Preparing the Garden Site, Meeting the Challenge, Keeping Your Garden in the Public Eye, and Understanding Nature’s Cycles.

School Garden Checklist (USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative)
This checklist offers a simple, easy-to-read guide on what needs to be considered when setting up a school garden. It contains the following sections: Evaluate Your Available Space, Finding Resources, Making Partnerships, Checking Soil Health, Design Challenge, Plant Palette, and Build and Use Your Garden.

Getting Started & Tending Your Garden (UGA Extension)
This website offers guides for starting and tending to a school garden. It includes information about how to start a school garden, different types of gardens such as raised beds vs. in-ground beds, what materials are needed, what to plant and when, irrigation techniques, weed management, and more.

Gardens for Learning  (Collective School Garden Network)
This publication is a free-to-download ten-chapter work that offers a comprehensive guide for planning, enacting, and maintaining a school garden. The chapters are: Introduction to School Gardens, Planning Your School Garden, Linking Gardens to School Curriculum, Promoting Healthy Living, Designing Your School Garden, Finding Supplies and Funding Your Garden, Planting Your School Garden, Maintaining Your School Garden, Sustaining Your Garden, and Working with Volunteers.

Resources for Building a School Garden (The Nature Conservancy)
This website hosts a compilation of videos that explain how to start a school garden as well as information about garden-related topics such as pollinators, carbon footprint, and soil. The videos are in four parts: Planning, Building, Caring, and Common Fears related to gardening.

Getting Started: Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Guide (Georgia Organics and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning)
The purpose of this guide is to cover the most important components of Farm to ECE and give you a few tips to get started. It includes topics such as: how to get started; the basics: gardening, cooking and tasting with young children; finding and procuring local food for your child care program; and engaging parents and community members.

Creating Childcare Center Production Gardens (NC State Extension)
This publication focuses on developing fruit and vegetable production gardens in the Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) of child care centers. Included are basic garden design and layout to help child care centers get started in year-round gardening activities.

Garden and Food Safety

Food Safety Tips for School Gardens (USDA, National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi)
This guide shares best practices for safely using produce from a school garden. It includes the following topics: Site Selection, Materials, and Water Use; Chemical and Fertilizer Use; Compost and Manure Use; Growing and Harvesting Produce; and Using School Garden Produce in Your School Meals Program.

Safety in Community Gardens (NC State Extension)
A FAQ for preventing COVID-19 in community gardens.

School Garden Food Safety Guidelines (University of Arizona Extension)
This is a guide for food safety in school gardens. It discusses general hygiene guidelines; water, soil, and pest control usage; animal intrusions; harvesting techniques; garden security; and more.

Louisiana School Pesticide Law The legislature finds that the exposure of school children to pesticides poses known and, as of yet, unknown risks to their health and well-being. Providing controls on the application of these pesticides will help to ensure the safety and well-being of children in the state.

Garden Add-Ons

Composting in Childcare Center Gardens (NC State Extension)
This publication is a how-to guide for starting a garden-related standard compost bin in a child care center Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE). Included is guidance on design, construction, and management of compost bins as well as curriculum connections.

Vermicomposting in Childcare Center Gardens (NC State Extension)
This publication is a how-to guide for starting a garden-related vermicomposting bin in a child care center Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) or indoors. Included is guidance on design, construction, and management of vermicomposting bins as well as curriculum connections.

Farm to Institution

The Significance of Farm to Early Care and Education in the Context of COVID-19 (National Farm to School Network and Association of State Public Health Nutritionists)
As always, farm to ECE is a tool to meet the goals, vision, and values of an ECE. Included here are reasons farm to ECE is even more relevant during a pandemic and a post-pandemic world in supporting providers in meeting the needs of children and families. This information can provide talking points and help you connect to interested providers, families, communities, and stakeholders to help build or rebuild farm to ECE initiatives and activities.

Benefits of Farm to School Fact Sheet (National Farm to School Network)
A Snapshot from the National Farm to School Network on the benefits of farm to school activity, including economic development, public health, education, environment, and community engagement.

Garden to Cafeteria Toolkit (Whole Kids Foundation)
The toolkit builds off the successes and safety protocols of five school districts across the United States to provide templates and a step-by-step process to help District Food Services develop their own protocols. It is developed based on the successes of the following school districts: Austin Independent School District, Chicago Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, and San Diego Unified School District.

Native Farm to School Resource Guide (First Nations Development Institute)
The Native Farm-to-School Resource Guide was developed by identifying existing Native and non-Native farm to school programs and analyzing best practices, lessons learned, biggest challenges, and case study examples of programs that achieved high-level impact and long-term sustainability. The result is a process guide for planning Native farm to school programs as well as a guide for tribal officials to engage their leadership and create buy-in for the farm to school process.

Webinar: Farm to School – Cafeteria, Classroom, Community (School Nutrition Association & National Farm to School Network)
Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers through the core elements of farm to school — local food procurement, school gardens, and food and agriculture education. This Webinar Wednesday session hosted by the School Nutrition Association offers an overview of farm to school, including why it matters and how it supports the goals of child nutrition programs, promoting successes, and evaluating your activities. Speakers include Helen Dombalis and Alena Paisono from the National Farm to School Network. Viewers are provided tips and tools for implementing successful farm to school activities. (1 hour, 14 minutes)

Organics in Farm to School (National Farm to School Network)
Many schools across the country are applying organic principles to the three core elements of farm to school — local food procurement, school gardens, and food and agriculture education — in a number of ways. This fact sheet shares keys to success for integrating organics in farm to school practices and highlights three case studies of school districts finding success with organic practices.

Conversation Guide for Farmer/Producer and Distributor/Food Service (Jersey Fresh Farm to School)
This guide provides questions to consider when forming a relationship with a school to sell your produce. These considerations relate to issues that a food service director might ask and can also assist a grower or distributor with identification of key issues important to food service staff in schools, child care settings, and summer feeding sites. The guide also includes tips and considerations for hosting an on-farm school field trip.

Webinar: Farm to School in Early Care and Education Settings – Farm to CACFP (USDA FNS)
Co-hosted by USDA FNS’s Team Nutrition initiative and the Office of Community Food Systems, this hour-long webinar focuses on how local foods and nutrition and food education can be incorporated in CACFP settings.