Garden Maintenance Plan
School gardens are a popular tool used by many schools to promote healthful eating, teach nutrition lessons, and promote physical fitness by getting kids outside and active. Summer can be a challenging time for some schools that have school gardens. With schools closed for the summer, the question remains: who will maintain the garden? Who will harvest the vegetables? Without the watchful eyes of parents, students, and school staff on a daily basis, will vandalism occur?
These are all important considerations. With careful planning before school lets out, many of these questions can be addressed.
A critical first step to ensure your school garden is maintained and remains healthy and vibrant for when students return in the fall is to develop a partnership with students, families, and community members. A shared effort will ensure ownership and longevity of the program. Second, developing a summer maintenance plan will help ensure the success of your project, help deter vandalism, and provide opportunities for teaching about foods, nutrition and healthy eating.
Typical summer tasks include:
- Watering, pruning, weeding, planting
- Plant and wildlife monitoring
- Mowing around garden area
- Making repairs, repaint, or stain supplementary structures as needed such as benches, garden signage, etc.
- Conducting safety inspections of site and equipment
- If appropriate, maintaining greenhouse or supply area
- Maintaining and taking inventory of tools and equipment
- Coordinating projects/events in garden area
- Coordinate a volunteer work party before the end of the year to assign volunteers for the summer schedule
- Designate a “Head Gardener” or two to led/co-lead summer garden maintenance
- At least two people on the garden team should coordinate the plan but one should be the lead
- If your site is very large, consider dividing it up and assigning smaller sections so maintenance is not overwhelming
- Design a detailed schedule of duties and assignments that list what tasks need to be done, when, and by whom. Everyone involved should get a copy
- Make a distribute a contact list
- Recruit alternates for each week and include contact information in case of schedule changes
- Solicit help from teachers, students, maintenance staff, and volunteers
- Include the head of maintenance staff in the planning meetings. Develop a list of people that can be used as consultants for garden questions (Extension Master Gardeners, local nursery, local experts, etc.)
- Hold work days, natures nights, or special events that are fun functions for students and families
- Keep a camera handy to take pictures to document changes in the garden, the harvest, or vandalism that needs to be reported
- Report trouble spots, disease, or damage (contact Master Gardener to review)
- Keep hose, garden tools, and other equipment in a safe place
- Create a map of the site with plantings identified or have pictures of plants
Other Considerations for Summer Maintenance
Assign Families One Week to Maintain the Garden Site. Several schools have implemented successful summer maintenance schedules by assigning families and students one week during the summer to maintain the garden. Phone calls, letters home to parents asking for their support, and sign-up at your next parent/teacher meetings are good ways to let families know how they can help.