10 Tips for Topping off Soil with Students

Though we fill them to the brim on Kick Off Day, soil levels decrease as Learning Gardens age from natural compaction and normal garden activities like harvesting and weeding. Big Green can provide soil to top off the beds every couple of years, but it is usually up to our school partners to carry out the activity of refilling the beds. Here are some tips on how to include students in the process. 


  1. Calculate how many bags to put in each bed. *For most Learning Gardens, we will provide about 4 bags for each of the larger beds and 2-3 bags for the small beds. Use your own judgement to adjust that amount as needed if soil levels are noticeably different bed to bed. 
  2. Remove the annual plants from the garden, especially stems and stalks. 
  3. DO NOT pull your perennial herbs, you can fill in the soil around these plants.
  4. Strawberries can be dug up and re-planted, or covered over with soil. They’re pretty resilient and will usually grow back through the new soil layer. 
  5. Stack appropriate number of bags next to or inside garden beds.
  6. Depending on the size of your group, assign 1-3 students to each garden bed and recruit 1-2 additional adults to help open bags.
  7. Have a trash bin ready in the Learning Garden to collect the empty soil bags.
  8. Demonstrate to the whole group how an adult will cut open one end of the bag while students hold the other. Once opened, students will lift up their end of the bag, aiming toward the center while the adult or another student pulls the open lip of the bag toward the center to keep the soil in the bed.
  9. Let the students break up the chunks, even out the soil, and gently lift any irrigation tubes to the surface. 
  10. Take this opportunity to do a Soil Investigation with your group.