At Organic Gardening, we've provided support and information to many school groups planning to start a garden, including six of our 2008 WaterWorks gardens. Along the way, we've learned a few strategies and tips that might be useful to you when starting a school garden.
Get support from both administration and staff. Enthusiastic parents can get administration approval to create a garden, but you need the teachers' commitment to using the garden and the maintenance staff's logistical support. Some will embrace the garden, but others are likely to see it as another demand on their busy days. Tell them about the project and its benefits to the school, then listen and respond to their concerns.
Provide a curriculum. Make it easy on the teachers to incorporate the garden into their lesson plans by giving them a curriculum. You can find project ideas and more from the National Gardening Association and the Edible Schoolyard Project.
Plan for the long term. Take the time when you start to think about what the garden will be like in five or even 10 years. As their children get older, parents cycle out of the school. Ask yourself, who will be responsible for the garden as the original group of supporters move on?
Start small. Plan for a few beds with room to expand, rather than trying to build the ultimate garden at first. This gives everyone involved time to "test drive" the garden and make sure it's manageable before it gets too big.