“Even if I knew tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is now. Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree.” -Anonymous



Like just about every other Rebel Gardeners project, the first step to building a garden is to get permission from the principal. Once the idea is endorsed, scouting potential outdoor locations is the next step. Here are factors to consider:

  1. Access to water
  2. Exposure to light
  3. Proximity to storage- either an outdoor shed or indoor classroom or closet easily accessible from the garden
  4. Proximity to existing school activities (a garden in the middle of the recess field is not ideal)
Ultimately the Principal and Building Engineer will approve a spot. If you don’t have the space or ability to build raised beds, container gardens built with 5-gallon buckets or smaller flowerpots is a great place to start.
Raised Beds
Beyond a container garden, the simplest garden structures to build are raised beds. By bringing in fresh soil and raising it above the ground, the plants receive an ideal environment to thrive with good nutrients and drainage. This way schools in urban areas also don’t need to worry about potentially dangerous chemicals that might be present in the ground.

To design the garden, the Rebel Gardeners are dispatched with yard sticks to survey the area, drawing the space to scale on graph paper. Next comes the placement of the beds, which should be in an area receiving at least 6 hours of sun each day. This can be determined by observing the shadow of a shovel stuck vertically into the ground at various points of the day, and keeping track of when it’s shaded by nearby structures (buildings, trees, etc).

With this knowledge, the Rebel Gardeners work in groups to design the layout of the beds, deliberating on the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. The whole group decides on the final design, and once complete prepares a pitch to the Principal and Building Engineer. After taking their feedback into consideration, the final step is obtaining the buy-in from the school community. Draft up a one page document that includes the garden goals, maintenance plan, and design sketch, with space asking for suggestions, concerns, and interest in use. Hand deliver these sheets to every adult who works in the school. This will foster school wide buy-in for the project, and also helps you identify those individuals most interested in deeper engagement.

Trip 2 to the Eastwick Garden

The procurement of supplies and tools for the garden build requires a partnership strategy. Start local- a lumbar yards should donate and deliver the wood and screws, a garden supply store will donate the shovels, trowels, rakes, and hoses, and a nearby farm should do the same for the soil (ask for 50/50 compost topsoil mix). The Building Engineers should have the drills, just make sure you have the bit you need for the screws. If the drills are battery powered, fully charged batteries are essential (and a few spares recommended).

Raised Beds