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Now that your students have mapped their schoolyard and built their background knowledge about the Barnegat Bay watershed, soil and water resources, pollinators and wildlife, and native plants…

It’s time to design and install your
Jersey-Friendly garden or landscape project!

Project Action A: Determine the purpose and functionality of your Jersey-Friendly garden. 

A Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden can serve as an outdoor classroom to support teaching and learning. It can provide environmental or ecological functionality to the school grounds. For example, a rain garden can channel rainwater from rooftops into plantings, infiltrate the soil, reduce runoff, and recharge the aquifer. A pollinator garden can attract and support threatened and endangered species, such as Monarch butterflies, or other important and beneficial insects. Birds and wildlife attracted to the garden can lend themselves to important biology and ecology lessons. Plantings can enhance schoolyard aesthetics by adding color, texture, and scent. 

Big or small, a Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden can offer many benefits to students and teachers, as well as the environment. Guide your students in a discussion about why you want to install a garden at your school. What is your garden’s intended purpose and function?

What features would the students like to include in the garden? Examples include: 

  • Outdoor teaching and learning space,
  • Rain garden,
  • Pollinator or wildlife garden,
  • Sensory garden,
  • Edible garden, 
  • Ecological landscaping (e.g., stormwater management, flood mitigation, erosion control).

Watch this webinar on Planning a Jersey Friendly School Yard

Your garden’s purpose and function will help you determine its location and design.

Resources for Project Action A

Project Action B: Find inspiration for your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden.

Need some inspiration to decide how to design your own Schoolyard garden? Visit Jersey-Friendly Yards Success Stories where you can browse gardens and landscapes virtually, or take a class trip to local gardens

One of the best places to find inspiration is your own backyard!

Many of Ocean County’s schools are located in some of the most unique natural areas in the country. Take your students on a walk around your own schoolyard or nearby neighborhood or park, and explore the plants and wildlife that live in your school community. 

Invite a park naturalist to join you. Ocean County Parks and Recreation offers a “Borrow a Naturalist” program for schools. Naturalist Chris Claus will provide a nature walk at your school, answer questions, and share lesson and activity ideas. Email Chris at cclaus@co.ocean.nj.us or call him at 732-506-5122.

For Project Action B, have your students create a collection of sketches, photos, or images of gardens or landscapes you and your students find inspiring. 

Resources for Project Action B

Project Action C: Develop a plan for your Jersey-Friendly garden project.

Now that your students have identified the purpose and functionality of your garden and looked at examples for inspiration, it’s time to plan your Jersey-Friendly garden. The Jersey-Friendly Yards School Program coordinators are always available to assist you with the process of planning your garden. Don’t hesitate to contact us.

1) Determine your garden’s location and size, and prepare a sketch of the project area.

First, pinpoint the location on your Schoolyard map (which your students created for Action 1C in Step 1: Plan Before You Plant) where you want to install your Jersey-Friendly garden. Next, have your students prepare a separate sketch of your garden project area. Show natural and man-made features on your new project sketch (e.g., existing trees, shrubs, and other vegetation as well as any nearby buildings, driveways, or parking lots). Add the information your students have already collected about the light and soil conditions at that location.

Call before you dig! Call 811 to have all underground electrical wires, gas lines, and pipelines identified by the appropriate utility, so you know where not to dig. Indicate these “no dig” areas on your Jersey-Friendly garden project sketch.

2) Select appropriate plants for your garden using the Jersey-Friendly Yards Plant Database.

Have your students use the JFY Plant Database search filters to find plants that match the purpose of your garden and the growing conditions at the project site. Native plants are the best choice for easy maintenance and wildlife habitat – try to select at least 70% New Jersey native species for your garden.

Before starting your plant search, you need to know the light and soil conditions at your project site. Narrow your search to native plants by selecting “Yes” for the Native Plants Only filter. Other search filters you may find useful include plant types, bloom times, wildlife you wish to attract, drought tolerance, salt tolerance, and resistance to deer browse. 

Use the list generated from your search of the database as a starting point for your final selection of plants. By registering on the JFY Plant Database page, you and your students can create and print a list of the plants you decide to include in your garden.

3) Create a garden design and add it to your project sketch.

Using the size and shape of your garden site as a guide, decide which species on your Plant List will go where and approximately how many of each. Keep in mind the height and width of plants at maturity when developing your plan. Leave enough space for plants to grow to their mature size, and consider if taller plants may shade shorter ones. Include in the design the location of any pathways or other features, such as benches or wildlife stations, that are part of the garden plan. Add a “key” that lists the plants and use symbols or colors to show their planned locations in the garden.

Display your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden sketch prominently in your classroom. For the duration of this project, you and your students will continue to refer to your sketch and add information.

Resources for Project Action C

Project Action D: Prepare the site and develop a maintenance plan.

Is your project site ready to plant? Assess whether any site preparation is required (e.g., weeding, removal of lawn, removal of invasive plants), and how it can be accomplished. Talk to your school’s grounds crew and/or municipal Department of Public Works (DPW) about assisting with site preparation. Note any site preparation tasks needed on your project sketch, and arrange for them to be completed before the date scheduled for planting the garden. 

Develop a plan for how the garden will be maintained after installation (e.g., periodic watering until plant roots are established, weeding as needed). Discuss a maintenance plan with your school’s grounds crew before the garden is planted.  

Project Action E: Procure plants and other materials needed for your garden project.

Now that you have a plan, it’s time to gather the materials you need for the project and get ready to install the garden. 

Use the Jersey-Friendly Yards Where to Buy Native Plants page to find local and online nurseries that supply native plants. Check on the availability of the plant species you selected for your garden; nurseries can recommend alternatives for any not available. 

When ordering your plants, provide the scientific names to avoid any confusion, since common names are often used for more than one species. Try to time your order so plants arrive as close as possible to your scheduled planting date.  

Determine if you need other materials, such as compost or mulch, for your garden. Compost builds soil structure and provides a steady source of nutrients to plants. Applying mulch after planting can help conserve soil moisture and reduce the need to water and weed your new garden. Check with your municipal Department of Public Works and/or your county Recycling Center about the availability of free compost or mulch for your garden.

Need funding to purchase plants and other materials for the garden? Apply for the Jersey-Friendly Yards Funding Opportunity for Schools and look for other grant opportunities. Some nurseries may be willing to donate plants. These organizations periodically offer funding opportunities for schoolyard projects. 

Contact the Jersey-Friendly Yards School Program coordinators for up-to-date information about potential funding sources.

Resources for Project Action E

Project Action F: Install your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden project.

The day has come when you and your students will install your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden or landscape project. Be sure to contact the Jersey-Friendly Yards team; we will be happy to assist you with the installation of your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden or landscape project. Make it a schoolwide event! Get help from your school community.

  • Contact the Jersey-Friendly Yards team,
  • Invite other classes to help,
  •  Invite parents to volunteer their time and equipment,
  • Obtain photo release forms from students, parents, and volunteers, and
  • Take lots of photos – before, during, and after installation of your project.

Ready to Submit Documentation for your Jersey-Friendly Yards garden or landscape project?  

Upload the Required Documentation to Your Custom Link.

When you enrolled, you received a custom link from us for your action item uploads.

What to Submit

  • Written statement of the purpose and functionality of your Jersey-Friendly Yards garden project. (Action A)
  • Collection of sketches, photos, or images of gardens or landscapes that inspired your students’ Jersey-Friendly Yards garden project. (Action B)
  • Photo of your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard garden project sketch. (Action C)
  • List of the search filter selections entered into the JFY Plant Database. (Action C)
  • List of the plants, including scientific names, saved to your printable JFY Plant List as a result of your search on the JFY database search. (Action C)
  • Plan for site preparation before installation of the garden and maintenance afterwards. (Action D)
  • Final list of plants, including scientific names, purchased or donated for your garden project and the sources of the plants. (Action E)
  • List of any other project materials donated or purchased for the project and sources. (Action E)
  • Photos of your JFY garden project site before, during, and after installation. (Action F)