This garden guide will provide you with tips, tools, and helpful templates to prepare, plan, and plant your garden. You’ll learn:


âś… Garden planning checklist and tools
🔑 Key tips for preparing your garden
🌱 How to host a planting day at your school
đź’§Watering and other important after planting day tips

Plan for your Planting Day


    • Determine who will participate. Will the garden get planted with four classes? Six classes? A garden club? Decide who will help get your Learning Garden ready to grow again.


  • Select a strategy for organizing classrooms. There are two main strategies for organizing a planting day: The Garden Team and/or volunteers lead the planting day or teachers lead their own classroom in planting:


STRATEGY A: Garden Team or Volunteer Led Planting Day

      • Your School Garden Team reaches out to volunteers to assist with the Planting Day.
      • During the planting day, your Garden Team and volunteers coordinate how each classroom participates, and ensure the Learning Garden is fully planted.

STRATEGY B: Teacher-Led Plantings

      • Garden Teams train participating teachers on the gardening and outdoor classroom skills they will need to plant successfully with their classrooms.
      •  It is encouraged that volunteers and para-professionals be included to assist classrooms in the planting day to provide extra hands or to split students into small groups.
    • Create a watering schedule. Use this Creating Your Watering Schedule to create a watering schedule for your Garden Team to use throughout the growing season.


    • Share gardening activities with participating classrooms. Check out our Big Green activities you can do with your students prior to your planting day, Planting Strings, or as a side activity during your planting day, Seeds by Feel. Big Green has a variety of activities that can be found on our website in the Garden Skills section.


  • Make sure your garden beds are labeled (use if classes will be planting on their own). Rather than having teachers navigate to the section of the Learning Garden they should work on their own, clearly label each bed with the crops that should be planted there, and communicate with each teacher what bed they will be planting in. This will avoid any potential confusion and it will instill confidence in participating teachers.

Preparing your Learning Garden for the Planting Day

    • Remove old plants. Look at your Learning Garden and remove any out-of-season, dead, diseased, or pest-ridden plants. Locate the best place to dispose of the plants you remove. If you have a compost system at your school, consider adding the removed plants to your compost, but be sure to put diseased or pest-ridden plants in the trash.


  • Top off with soil or compost. Over time, the level of soil in your Learning Garden beds will begin to fall as organic matter decomposes and soil settles. If you have soil or compost to add to the beds, you can mix it into the top layer of the soil either before your planting day or have the students help at the beginning of the planting event.


How to Host a Planting Day

    • Stick to your schedule. If you’ve mapped it out well ahead of time, it should be clear which classes are planting what crops in each area of your Learning Garden. Keep your planning documents handy during the event.


    • Plant your Learning Garden. This is the fun part! Plant your garden with seeds and seedlings for the growing season. Check out the YouTube videos and guides provided by Big Green if you’re unsure of how to plant something.


    • Talking points.  If you’re looking for more ideas of topics to discuss with your students, check out our Learning Garden Talking Points to help you think about relevant topics to discuss with your students while they’re out in the garden.


    • Water your Learning Garden. Make sure all the new seeds and seedlings get plenty of water after getting planted. Your students can help by using the Little Rainclouds Activity or by making Upcycled Watering Cans.


    • Mark each crop. Making crop markers and updating your garden map helps you keep track of what is growing in each garden bed. Try recruiting an art class ahead of time to make colorful garden markers for each crop. Use this Create Your Crop Labels document for inspiration. Remember, if classrooms will be planting on their own, you may want to label the beds ahead of time to ensure teachers plant in the correct location.


  • Have Fun! This one is easy. Make sure that both you and all students helping have a fun time in your Learning Garden! It should be a memorable and educational experience for everyone.

How to Plant Seeds and Seedlings

Planting is a great activity to do with students since it involves observation, communication, and teamwork! Here are the basics of planting seeds:

    • Loosen the top layer of the soil in the garden beds. This can be easily done with your hands by gently tickling the soil. You can also use garden trowels and gloves!
    • Make planting rows. Use the side of your hand to dig long rows for your seeds in the soil. Align your rows under a drip irrigation system if you have it.
    • Decide which seeds you will precision plant, and which seeds you will broadcast. What’s the difference? Let’s find out:
      • Do your seeds need space to grow? Peas, romaine lettuce, carrots, beets, and radish plants need space, which means they’re great to plant using precision planting. This gives them room to spread tall or wide or grow deep underground. Read the back of the seed packet to learn spacing recommendations for your seeds, which are usually 1-2 inches apart, and anywhere from ÂĽ inch to 1 inch down into the soil.
      • Broadcast planting is a great method for seeds that can grow closer together. Leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, and spinach can be planted closer together, and you can harvest baby leaves to eat as they grow. Broadcasting seeds is easy! You simply sprinkle the seeds throughout your planting row, and then lightly with the palm of your hand, spread some soil over the top of the seeds.
      • Don’t forget to gently cover up your seeds with soil after you precision plant or broadcast seeds.

People often plant a mix of seeds and seedlings! Here’s how to plant seedlings:

  • Make a hole that is about the size of the root ball.

  • Remove the seedling from its plastic container. Be careful not to touch the leaves of the plant, and try your best to gently hold the stem, or just catch the root ball when you release it from the container or pot.

  • Gently place seedlings in the ground, gently holding the stem if you need to keep the seedling upright.

  • Gently fill the dirt with soil. Make sure all the spaces where the root ball was planted are covered in soil and spread soil only until you reach the very top of the root ball. DO NOT pack the soil down as this might damage the roots of the plant.


Watering 101

The three primary methods for watering your garden are:

    • Topwater by hand, using a hose and spray nozzle. Managed by one person at a time. Top watering is important at least every other day for the first 2 weeks after you plant seeds to make sure all the seeds get watered.
    • Topwater with students, using the Upcycled Watering Can Activity or Little Raincloud Activity. This Involves up to one full class at the same time.
    • Drip irrigation. Many school garden beds have a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation works best when the plants have started developing roots, and can absorb water more easily from the soil.

You can find all of our watering tips and resources here.

After the Planting Day

    • Use your watering schedule. Take care of your garden, check for pests, water every day, and eventually harvest all the edible goodies growing in your garden!


    • Track the growth and germination of your planting day.  Keep close tabs on the Learning Garden after you plant it. You can expect seeds to germinate one and two weeks after planting.