design grants


The California Native Garden Foundation (CNGF) is pleased to make available native garden design grants to schools, colleges, museums, and other public spaces and non-profit organizations across California. CNGF has been awarding grants to schools to design and install gardens featuring California native plants since 2004. Through the School Garden Design Grant Program, CNGF offers grants for gardens that feature California native plants, including edible plants, ornamental horticulture or both.

Along with professional design services, grant recipients will receive assistance with creation of a garden installation and maintenance time line and budget. Types of support include garden design services, in-kind donations of plants and landscape materials, volunteer assistance, and direct financial assistance.

A typical grant cycle is about 5 months. Grant amounts are limited to $1,000 for in-kind assistance, $500 in direct cash assistance, and $5,000 for design services. Grant applications are reviewed and grants are awarded by the CNGF board. In addition to design services, each grant recipient becomes a Partner School in the ELSEE Garden Project. What does a Partner School get?

  • Access to in-kind donations, such as plants and landscape materials
  • Lesson plans to use in your school native garden
  • Discounts to your teachers, students, parents, and garden committee members to attend CNGF Saturday technical and artistic workshops, twice monthly, presented by visiting artists and garden technology experts
  • Invitation to visit ELSEE at 76 Race Street to tour the gardens and observe classes in action.

What to Consider Before Applying

Teaching in the Garden
  • Do you have lesson plans that can be taught in the garden?
  • How will the garden be used?
  • Who will use the garden? Which grades?
  • How many teachers have expressed an interest in having the garden as an outdoor classroom?
  • Would you like the students to participate in an art project?
  • Will it be used after school hours? By whom?
Stewardship — now and future

We do not help with any garden project if there is not a stewardship team in place. The garden’s success depends on what happens in the years to come AFTER the day that it is planted. All garden projects receiving grants must demonstrate that there is a project stewardship team in place: several individuals who are accepting responsibility for the stewardship of your garden. Who is on your stewardship committee? Teachers? Parents? Grandparents? Grant applications must include photographs of the people who are actively involved in your garden project, their names, the length of time each individual has been involved in the project, and their anticipated period of service. We need to know that specific individuals are committed to the long-term success of your garden and that you have an established plan to have your stewardship team in place for 5 years into the future. When parents’ kids grow older and leave the school, we want to know that the garden care will be perpetuated.

Application Requirements
  • A detailed letter describing your project, why it is important to you and your team, and the help you are seeking.
  • a stewardship team plan (see above)
  • a scaled drawing of the garden space, including which direction is North
  • photographs of the site as it currently exists, including close-ups of any invasive plants or other relevant details

Do you have funds to build the garden? If not, are you willing to help build the garden or seek donations from the community?

Practical Considerations

Where is the water hook up? Are there any cables or buried pipes we should know about? Is there any possibility it will be vandalized?

Ideal Components of a School Garden
  • Native plants organized by regional plant communities.
  • Conventional foods in raised beds or containers grown organically with composting and worm bins
  • Native edibles and other useful plants used by indigenous people
  • Ethnic perennial food plants that represent the school’s diverse demographic
  • Places for active play and unstructured play
  • Original art that can be created by the children under the supervision of a local artist
  • The garden should have an economic component that will supply income for the management of the garden
  •  A small part of the garden that can be off limits to everyone and used only for observation

The next deadline is coming up soon. Apply for a Garden Grant Now!