The garden committee will be most successful in starting a garden with a plan in place. During this combined group effort, think about as many aspects of the garden as possible to guide your decisions. Outlined in this chapter are four steps for the garden committee to follow.
Here are the key steps to follow when planning a garden:
Designing the Garden
Choosing Your Crops
Have the entire garden committee present when discussing a vision for the garden. This will provide everyone with an opportunity to share their input and ideas for their goals of the garden. At the initial garden committee meeting, start with an open group discussion of the following questions:
Why does everyone want a garden?
Some of the benefits include helping establish better eating habits, learning how to grow food and building community relationships. Realize that many people may have different reasons for wanting to participate in this garden, which will add diversity and flexibility to the committee.
What will the garden look like?
There are different types of garden options and what can be planted. Think about the location and scale of the garden, how many people will be involved, what types of plants the committee wants to grow and how much the garden will produce.
How much time, energy and money do you want to invest in this garden?
Setting realistic expectations about your resources will help guide decision making about the garden. It is always a good idea to start small; keep in mind there is always room to grow!
Here are some additional things to consider when setting goals:
- How can you expand beyond just a garden?
- What experiences and activities do you hope to incorporate into the classroom?
- What role will the community play in the garden?
- Who are you growing the produce for?
- What other community partners will the garden support?
- How will the garden impact the children’s attitudes and decisions toward healthy food choices?
- How can you raise awareness about getting food from the farm to the table?
Designing the Garden
The design phase is a creative part of the garden planning process which allows for a unique garden to be created based on the individual contributions of the garden committee. Their contributions will help them remain active and engaged once the garden is established. When searching for ideas, some places to look are other preschools/schools, botanical gardens, magazines, garden shows and online resources. Include the ideas of children in the design phase; their imagination will drive their interest in participation. To keep the garden design on track, reference the shared vision and goals previously set. It is important to conduct an initial assessment before beginning the design process. The assessment should include an inspection and evaluation of the growing and environmental conditions of potential areas. Table 1 has criteria to consider when designing the garden site.
After the location has been selected, start creating a list of what will be included in the garden. Listed below in Table 2 are components typically found in a garden. After the assessment, decide where to locate the garden and which components to feature in the garden. After an initial tour, start creating a garden component inventory of infrastructure and landscape features. This will help the committee determine what to include in the garden.
Table 1 Table 2
Choosing which garden bed to use is important when selecting the type of garden, and this will depend on the available resources and interests of the garden committee. Below are descriptions to help you decide which garden bed is the best fit for your location.
The table below lists commonly used supplies for each type of garden.
As a part of the planning process, the garden committee should create a preliminary budget. This is an important step for the committee to take when deciding what is possible with the available garden funds.
The following table is a sample budget of items typically needed for a garden. This may not be a complete list of everything needed to plan a complete budget; use this table as a guide.
Choosing Your Crops
There are many things to consider when choosing your crops:
- What will you grow and how much?
- When do crops need to be planted?
- Do the children have favorite fruits and vegetables?
- What is easy to grow?
Some plants are easier to grow while others are less expensive. The table below will help you select what to plant based on your garden plan.
EASY TO GROW CROPS
COST CUTTING CROPS
Determine what can be grown during each of the four seasons. Due to the climate zones in South Carolina, there are many fruits and vegetables that grow year round. Vegetables can be divided into cool and warm season crops. Clemson Extension’s Home & Garden Information Center can help guide you to what grows best throughout the year in your area.
This chart provides guidance on what types of plants grow best together. For example, planting basil next to tomatoes help to protect tomatoes from worms and spider mites. Other combinations are included in this chart.
To maintain rich soil, it is recommended to rotate crops. This technique, known as crop rotation, is a method in which plantings are cycled season after season. The figure below shows a basic pattern to follow.
Please note: Follow the planting guides for your region to ensure a successful crop.