Answering these key questions will set the tone for your school’s garden space. Some of the questions you see here are repeated from previous sections.

What is my purpose?
  • What are your educational goals and teaching objectives for the garden?
  • What do you want to use the garden for in terms of teaching? How will this guide what physical features you need?

What is my style?
  • What style works for your school’s culture and the neighborhood context?
  • Is it fitting to have a naturalistic landscape with prairie and woodland native plants, or would a more traditional garden be more suitable?
  • If you like the look of more formal landscapes, is there a group of people willing to maintain that look?

What kind of maintenance is involved?
How much maintenance will you be able to realistically provide for the garden? Ask the school garden committee what they are willing to do, and think about recruiting interested neighbors (look for the nice gardens in the community!) and parents who may be willing to help as garden volunteers. This is where inclusiveness in the planning process can really pay off!

Example: Naturalistic styles need less maintenance, and formal styles need more. If there is turf grass included, it will require periodic mowing and regular watering and weeding. If there are annual fruits and vegetables, there will be more intensive watering needs during the summer.

Tip: Involve those kids! Kids can be great weeders and waterers, and often welcome the chance to prove themselves as caretakers. Caring for a garden is a great way for kids to practice and develop personal skills such as responsibility, cooperation, leadership, and sensitivity.

What is my budget?
Although you should think big, ultimately, the budget can be a limiting factor for most school garden projects. As you plan your garden design, start keeping a list of possible materials and their respective quantities so that you can develop a reasonable construction estimate. Visit a landscape supply business and learn the cost of various materials.

Example: Mulch makes good and relatively inexpensive pathways as opposed to brick or other paving, which can be very expensive and may require professional installation. Simple raised beds made from cedar timbers will be slightly more costly than pressure-treated lumber, but it is usually worth it to know you are not using any questionable chemicals around children or food crops.