Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

2014 California School Garden Survey

Take the California School Garden SurveyMay 28, 2014 Press Release – Survey Says… School Gardens Thriving in California – Results from the California School Garden Survey.

Life Lab, in collaboration with the California School Garden Network, conducted the California School Garden Survey to gain insights into the factors that help school gardens to function effectively, the resources that are needed to sustain them, and how they are utilized. The 2014 California School Garden Survey received 552 completed responses from schools across the state of California, an increase from 496 completed responses received for the 2011 California School Garden Survey, which was also conducted by Life Lab. On the 2014 survey, 86% of respondents had school garden programs, while 14% did not have school gardens. In comparison, on the 2012 survey, 91% of respondents had school gardens, while 9% of respondents did not have school gardens. 

View a full report of data for all survey questions

View all survey questions in a Word document.

Identifying Information

The vast majority of survey respondents were teachers.

View full report of data for Identifying Information

School Information

The survey found that of the schools that reported having gardens, 77% were schools in urban or suburban neighborhoods, and 91% of the schools were classified as public schools. In addition, the majority of schools responding to the survey reported serving Kindergarten through 5th grade.

View full report of data for School Information

Garden Site Information

The majority of school gardens were started 5-10 years ago. Notably, 10.5% of the school gardens responding to the survey were started within the last year. Many of the school gardens surveyed reported growing a wide variety of plants including vegetables, herbs, fruits (trees or vines), ornamentals (such as flowers), nuts, California native plants and wildlife habitat. Of these, vegetables and herbs were found to be the most commonly grown plants. Respondents also reported growing a variety of theme gardens including three sisters gardens, pollinator gardens, butterfly gardens, and beds with culinary themes such as: pizza, soup, salsa, salad and stir-fry. On the survey, 85% percent of respondents reported that edible plants are harvested for consumption and eaten during garden time. In addition, 61% stated that the edible plants are used for academic study, and 43% indicated that produce is used in tasting programs such as Harvest of the Month or cafeteria tasting.

View full report of Garden Site Information

Use of School Garden

The majority of respondents, 88%, reported that the garden is used during class instruction time, while 50% of respondents also stated that the garden is used after school. In addition, respondents reported that Kindergarten through 5th grade students most often participate in garden programing. 

View full report of Use of School Garden


The 2014 California School Garden Survey found that teachers most often teach students in the garden. 65% of respondents reported that the school garden is used for core academic content instruction. Within the areas of core academic content instruction, 75% of respondents reported using the garden to teach Math and English/Language Arts, while 54% reported using the garden to teach History/Social Sciences. Most significantly, 99.7% of respondents indicated that they use the garden to teach science. The survey also found that a number of non-core subjects are also taught using the garden. The top three non-core subjects most commonly taught using the garden were nutrition/health, environmental studies and art. 

View full report of Academics

Impacts on Students

The survey reported that 81% of respondents observed increased environmental attitudes in their school garden participants, while 67.3% reported observing improvments in health and nutrition. 

View full report of Impacts on Students

Farm to School

The California School Garden Survey asked a number of questions regarding linking school gardens to Farm to School programing. Farm to School programs connect schools with local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education, and supporting California’s farmers. The majority of survey respondents reported that they do not define their garden as part of Farm to School programing. 22.6% of respondents indicated that their cafeterias source local produce from farmers, while 28.7% reported that their school aligns garden education with marketing/promoting fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria.

View full report of Farm to School


The survey found that the top three factors/resources that would best support academic instruction in the garden are teacher training in garden-based learning instruction (65%), access to garden-based curriculum/education materials (45.8%), and lesson planning time (37.6%). In addition, 51.5% of respondents indicated that their staff has received no garden-based professional development in the past three years. Respondents indicated that the professional development topics that they would attend or like to see offered in their area are "Connecting the garden to Common Core English/Language Arts and Math" (66%), "Connecting the garden to Next Generation Science Standards" (62%), and "Garden enhanced nutrition education" (53.4%). In terms of support organizations, the majority of respondents (40.5%) indicated that non-profit support organizations have collaborated with their school garden during the last academic year. 

The survey also found that teachers do the most on-going garden site maintinence (i.e. caring for plants, watering, repairs), and take the most responsibility of management of the garden (i.e. fundraising, planning, coordination). In addition, 61.4% of respondents cited that there are no paid staff that manage the garden or teach in the garden outside of classroom teachers. The majority of respondents indicated that volunteers spend 0-3 hours on average per week in the garden. Lastly, the survey found that responsibility for summer maintinence of the garden is most often taken on by parent volunteers (40.7%) and teachers (31.9%).  

View full report of Support


In terms of school garden budgets, the survey found that total school garden budgets most often range between $0 and $499. During the last academic year, 49.8% of respondents indicated that their school garden has received funds from grants and/or foundations. 

View full report of Funding

Future Needs

School gardeners indicated that the three elements that would most benefit their school garden program overall are funding (62.7%), a garden coordinator staff position (39.9%), and time scheduled within the school day for garden instruction (34.2%). Respondents were also asked hypothetically, if their school garden was granted $10,000 for the next year, what are the top two things that they would they spend that money on? The physical site was reported to take top priority, with 74.3% of respondents indicating that they would spend the money on improving or adding features within the garden (such as gathering areas, plants, hardscape, irrigation, signage, kitchen, raised beds, garden tools, compost materials, etc.) The second priority was paid staff, for which 46.8% of respondents said that they would alot some (or all) of the money to hiring paid garden staff. 

View full report of Future Needs

Lack of School Garden

The California School Garden Survey also included questions for respondents who do not have school gardens. When asked to indicate the reasons that best describe why their school does not have a garden program, the majority of respondents, 69.1%, cited lack of funding as a reason for not having a school garden. In addition, 49.4% of respondents cited lack of staffing and lack of garden supplies as other reasons why their school is not able to have a garden program. Encouragingly, 81.3% of the schools that reported not having garden programs indicated that their school does have ambitions or plans for building a garden in the future.  

View full report of Lack of School Garden


Life Lab would like to thank the 552 survey respondents that took the time to complete the 2013-2014 California School Garden Survey.

Sarah Hendrix- Life Lab Senior Intern
John Fisher- Life Lab Program Director



Article tags:

follow us on Facebook

Teaching a Growing Classroom Workshop at @OakSpringGardenFoundation in collaboration with I feel like I’ve fallen into a small French village. This is the former estate of Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon in Virginia. Mrs. Mellon was an avid horticulturalist who designed the White House Rose Garden! I am staying in the room where Jackie Kennedy stayed when she visited here!! Sharing a weekend in this space with teachers who love kids and gardens is a truly unforgettable experience. ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Just when I thought we’d seen it all ... this is an agrophotovoltaic school garden underneath massive solar panels at @Manzo.Ecology in Tucson. The elementary school students here gather and analyze data on how the shade from the panels helps the plants grow and how the plants help cool the panels and increase their efficiency. What?!?! It’s amazing and gives me hope. Oh, and also they have a desert tortoise in their courtyard. ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program at their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

What happens when Whole Kids Foundation partners with you to bring 50+ leaders from School Garden Support Organizations from across the country together to get to talk shop, inspire each other, problem-solve around shared challenges, and eat amazing food prepared and served by happy 5th graders? MAGIC. That's what happens. #sgso2018 ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program for their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

We are so grateful to be starting 2018 with such strong support! Because of so many generous gifts from our supporters like you, we surpassed our 2017 fundraising goal of $124,000, with all campaign donations totaling $125,835.

These funds will help make Life Lab field trip and summer camp programs possible for children from families and schools that could otherwise not afford them. We believe that ALL children deserve the chance to love learning, healthy food, and nature. Thanks to your support, this year we will serve even more children in Santa Cruz County and across the nation.


#beapartofit, #startingstrong, #changinglives, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Happy almost 2018, Life Lab fans! We are only $809 dollars away from reaching our $124,000 year-end fundraising goal! Before you ring in the new year, will you help us ensure a promising 2018? 100% of the funds necessary to do this important work come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that we can continue to deepen and expand our reach, so that even more children can experience the joy of loving learning, healthy food, and nature? Your tax-deductible gift made by midnight tonight will go directly to supporting our programs.
#beapartofit, #changinglives, #optoutside, #gardenbasededucation, #happynewyear
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Watch us on Youtube

View Life Lab Channel

Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom