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Creating a School Garden with California Native Plants

Pollinator Meadow in the Nature Gardens Spring



In this teacher guide, you will learn the steps to creating a school garden with California native plants. 


  • Paper, journal, or notebook
  • Drawing/writing utensils
  • Garden site
  • Map of site


  1. Select a theme for the garden.
  2. Decide how the garden will be used.
  3. Survey the site or take stock. Ideally, obtain a map of the site showing building locations and perimeter, sunset zone and microclimates, soil type and soil testing, wind and sun exposure, water supply, existing vegetation, existing paths, utility lines, plot size, ease of access from classroom, for deliveries, etc. If you have a say in the garden's location, broaden the survey to include all possible sites on the property.
  4. Other design considerations: How much maintenance will be provided (a critical question that will affect plant selection)? How near/far is the water supply? Can a new system be installed? Do you need a gathering space with seating, tables, or shade? Do you need to create new pathways? Consider maximizing wildlife habitat and providing year-round food, shelter, and water. 
  5. Make a sketch of the proposed garden.
  6. Prepare the site. Remove turf (identify what kind first, then choose the appropriate method), get rid of weeds (identify what kind first, then choose best removal option), consider grading (do you want a level area, terraced beds, raised beds, a berm?), amend the soil (add organic matter if site was formerly a parking lot, covered with concrete or asphalt, or the soil test recommends it), lay out and install new paths, and install a new irrigation system.
  7. Planting! Fall or winter are the best time of the year to start planting. Cool temperatures are ideal. Consider spacing and provide ample room for plants to grow to their full potential. Do you know if animals (like gophers, rabbits, squirrels, deer, ants) visit your location? Think about the sizes of holes, plant placement, and mulch type.
  8. Follow-up care. During the "establishment" period, proper watering is most critical. For the longer term care, replenish mulch, prune, water, manage pests, and fertilize your garden.