(Reuters Health) – Planting a successful school garden requires a lot more than just soil, seeds and water, say researchers who have come up with a planning tool that can help ensure school gardens thrive and endure.

A teacher or parent may be the driving force behind getting a garden started, but once the teacher leaves the school, or the parent’s child graduates, gardens can wither away unless they have been well integrated into the school community, the study team writes in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

School gardens have a host of health and educational benefits, from getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables to boosting academic achievement in science, math and reading, they write.

To better understand what it takes to help a garden thrive, Kate Gardner Burt of Lehman College in New York City and her colleagues looked at successful gardens at 21 local elementary and middle schools, and mapped out the characteristics of gardens that played an enduring role in the life of the school.

Based on these findings, Burt and colleagues defined a four-level process toward successful school garden integration. Dubbed the GREEN Tool, it’s the first evidence-based guide to planting and nurturing sustainable school gardens, the researchers say.

Among the common themes…