School garden start-up tool list

One of the most important steps in starting a school garden is creating a budget. Some of the most crucial tools to budget for are garden tools.

December 20, 2017 - Author: , Michigan State University

One of the most important steps in starting a school garden is creating a budget. Some of the most crucial tools to budget for are garden tools. How many tools are necessary to get started? What type of tools are best suited for children in a school garden setting? Which tools are the most durable and best for educational purposes? The following list is a good starting point for those establishing a new school garden:


  • Hand trowels
  • Garden hose
  • 1 small wheelbarrow
  • Gloves
  • 4 Shovels w/pointed spade
  • 4 Rakes
  • Box of popsicle sticks for plant/row markers
  • 5-10 permanent fine point markers for making plant/row markers
  • Clipboards

At least 30-40 hand trowels (or one for each student in a class and teaching staff) are needed for important planting and weeding activities. The heavy plastic trowels resist bending better than the metal ones.

Only one small wheelbarrow is needed for beginning school gardens. A small wheelbarrow is better for encouraging student use than a big one. Filling up the wheelbarrow only three-quarters to half-way is also a good damage prevention measure when self-sufficient students (especially younger or inexperienced ones) want to operate the cart themselves.

Small, child size gloves are helpful for protecting young hands from the potential hazards in the soil. They also reduce the “ick” factor for those averse to getting their hands dirty. Thirty to forty child-size pairs for each student in a class and four to five pairs of adult sized for the teaching staff and volunteers are adequate.

Three to four pointed spade shovels are sufficient for school gardens. Have both three to four smaller child size shovels and one to two adult size. Even though there may be enough work in the garden for more shovels, you rarely want more than three students using a shovel at one time for safety reasons.

Popsicle sticks are often the least expensive and easiest to find source of plant markers. You will need some permanent markers to make them, but you should only distribute those only two to three at a time as they have a tendency to disappear.

Last but certainly not least you should have at least one clipboard and pencil for each student in a class (30-40) and for all adult staff. Most content based activities in the garden will involve writing or drawing, and clipboards make that easy, and enjoyable

These tools are the bare minimum to get your school garden started – so get growing! 

Tags: community, community food systems, community gardening, early childhood development, environmental & outdoor education, healthy youth, msu extension, nutrition

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