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Creating an Edible Garden at Your School

Step 1: Assemble a Team

Your team will work together to plan, create, and use the garden you create.


  • Who should be included? Successful teams represent the different groups that may use or be impacted by the garden. Recommended team members include students, teachers, administrators, custodians, parents, volunteers, and other community members.

  • What should our team do? Brainstorm and discuss ideas and goals for your garden.

Step 2: Plan and Design

Once your team has discussed ideas and goals for your garden, it’s time to start planning and designing.


  • Conduct an audit/site survey of school grounds.  Look at characteristics such as sunlight, water flow and drainage, accessibility, and how surrounding areas are being used. These assessments are critical in choosing a location for your garden and the types of plants and other garden elements that will thrive in your chosen location. Make sure a water spigot is located nearby.


    Eco-Schools Sustainable Food Audit

    USFWS Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide - Field Notes for Site Survey


    Your garden must be at least four feet away from an air intake.  It is recommended that your garden be in an accessible area.

  • Conduct a soil test of the possible locations you identify. A soil test will determine the pH and nutrient levels in your soil and allow recommendations to be made to correct any issues. If you are planting in raised beds where you are adding your own soil, a soil test is not necessary. Soil test kits cost $10 and are available at any Fairfax County Public Library. Follow the kit instructions to complete your testing before sending the kit to Virginia Tech’s Soil Testing Lab.

  • Create an action plan and design for your garden based on your goals and the results of your audit/site survey.

    • Find sample action plans, designs, and plant lists here.
    • Certain garden supplies must be purchased from a list of FCPS-approved garden items. Find options for approved rain barrels, benches, picnic tables, raised beds, and compost bins here.
    • In your plans, make sure to allocate enough time and effort towards garden preparation tasks such as weeding, leveling soil, assembling raised beds, and making signage.
    • Your action plan must include an action plan outlining the long-term care of the garden (5+ years).

Step 3: Get Site Approval

Once you have a location selected for your garden, you will need to get site approval. It is a good idea to have multiple possible locations to propose.


  • Submit a DC-407 to get your garden site approved by Facilities. Someone in your front office is trained to use the DC-407 system. Include Get2Green, the proposed location, funding source, and a point of contact in the description field.

    • Example: Get2Green project. Want 3 raised beds installed. PTA is paying for them. Only seeking site approval so we can implement our project. Proposed location is in the grassy area near the building between doors 7 and 8. Point of contact for project is Captain Planet Please let us know if this location is okay.

  • Call Miss Utility. Before you dig, call Miss Utility to ensure no utility lines are buried in your proposed site.

  • FCPS Utility Check.  Put in a FCPS work order to get your site checked for FCPS utility lines.


Step 4: Funding

habitat Survey

You have your garden design - now it’s time to fund it.


  • Create a budget for plants, tools, seating, labor costs, signs, and other materials.

    • Find sample budgets here.

  • Grants are one of the best ways to fund your garden. Find a grant writing guide, templates, and info on finding grant opportunities in the Funding/Grants Resource Folder.

  • Fundraisers and donations can also be successful in raising funding for your garden.


Step 5: Purchase Supplies

You have your design, approval, and budget. It’s time to buy everything you need to bring your garden to life.


  • You can buy seeds at a garden center near you or from online retailers.

  • Signs – Consider placing a larger educational sign about your garden along with signs identifying what you’re growing.  This will help you remember and learn to identify different species.  If you are not using raised beds for your garden, consider a sign designating the area as a no-mow zone.  You can make your own plant markers or purchase signs through:

    • Smart Garden SignsSmart Garden Signs has pre-designed signs for a variety of edible plants.  You can also create your own custom signs.
  • Remember: Certain garden items must be purchased from the approved items list! If your plan includes rain barrels, benches, picnic tables, raised beds, or compost bins - make sure you’re buying an item on this list.


Step 6: Plant!

Plant garden

Get your location ready and prepare to put plants in the ground!


  • Read Get2Green’s Planting Day Tips to help you host a successful planting day.
  • Guide on suggested planting times for edible gardens
  • Prepare your site for planting (eliminating weeds, preparing soil, etc.)
  • Recruit volunteers – advertise in your school newsletter and social media. Create a Signup Genius form to schedule volunteers.  Consider reaching out to other schools in your pyramid to offer the opportunity to students for service learning.


Step 7:  Maintenance

Your garden isn’t finished when the plants are in the ground. Maintaining your garden is important to keeping it healthy and beautiful for years to come.


  • Maintenance resources can be found in the Edible Garden Maintenance Resource Folder.

  • If you have a rain barrel, you need to winterize it before the first freeze.  See the rain barrel fact sheet and how to winterize your rain barrel for more information.

  • Use volunteers to help maintain your garden.  Have a garden cleanup day and invite the school community to help.  Reach out to nearby businesses and places of worship for volunteers.  Contact scout troops for assistance.

  • Having families adopt the garden for one week over the summer helps to ensure plants don’t wither in the summer heat.  You can make online volunteer sign-up forms at sites such as SignUp Genius to allow families to choose a week to adopt the garden.

Step 8: Use your garden

So much hard work has gone into your garden - don’t forget to take the time to use it and enjoy it. It’s an outdoor classroom space!


Step 9: Harvest

edible garden harvest

Your team worked hard - enjoy the fruits of your labor!


  • Use food from your garden in the school cafeteria!  Food and Nutrition Services has worked with the Fairfax County Health Department to develop procedures for schools that would like to use produce from their edible gardens in the cafeteria. The FCPS Garden Safety Checklist will guide you on steps to take as you are planning or working in your garden. The Garden to Cafeteria Plan is where you’ll fill in the details about your specific garden program. Once the FCPS Garden Safety Checklist and Garden to Cafeteria Plan have been completed, please submit them to Christie St. Pierre, FNS Farm to School Specialist ( Contact Christie with any questions about the program!


  • Find resources on when to harvest and what to do with your harvest in the Edible Garden Resource Folder.