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School Gardens



I’m a school garden coordinator in the Northeast, where the school calendar does not lend itself to garden activities except for at the very beginning and end of the school year, at least not outside. And in the summer, when there’s much to do, kids are on vacation. Yikes. Anybody else have thoughts about this? I see there’s “School Garden” membership category, so some of us must be in this same situation. thoughts?



Even down here in the deep south where we can grow winter crops the school calendar presents real challenges. For us, school garden success/fail is primarily a summer maintenance issue. If the garden can be in good shape when the fall semester opens we can carry through. If it’s been abandoned all summer and nobody has time to get to it for the first month of school - it’s pretty much game over.

You could check into the Captain Planet Foundation’s “Summer School Garden Support” program. CPF hires a team of summer interns to bridge the gap. I think it’s replicable on a school system-wide level. On a single school level, my daughter’s school signs up families to each take one week of garden maintenance and harvest and there is a task-master who stays in touch with them as they rotate through. That has worked really well. There is another local school here who auctions off the school garden plots at a spring fund-raiser event. The family that wins the plot gets to keep what they harvest but they have to maintain it until the kids come back.



In Galveston, we plant sweet potatoes and field peas. This protects the soil and give the kids something to harvest when we come back to school.

But there is also a cadre of community volunteers who water, and do some summer planting in the school beds for themselves.


so summer volunteers seems to be the standby. Anybody got summer interns? or summer programs that garden at the schools? And who coordinates the volunteers if that’s how you keep things going in summer?




I dropped off soybean seeds to the school garden I’m helping facilitate. Soybeans are a good summer cover crop to suppress weeds and build nitrogen in the soil. They also can handle the heat and neglect from being ignored all summer. My teacher leader at the school had planted some pumpkins and a few other things that can be harvested in the fall semester, but she doesn’t anticipate keeping them up, so the soybeans she was going to spread in the rest of the area.


super idea! I was wondering about this, now I’m definitely going to put in soybeans along with the snap bush beans I was going to put in for fall harvest. What about kale for fall harvest? I’m putting seeds in flats now to plant out, what do you think? and I’m hoping to try some season extension this fall, planting spinach in mid-August. thoughts?


Kale will be fun for a fall harvest. My school kids this year loved the “salad party” we had at the end of the spring harvest. We had kale, swiss chard, a few kinds of lettuce, spinach, and kohlrabi. Many greens do great for a fall harvest. I don’t know what zone you’re in, but it is recommended that we plant in about mid-July here in NC for fall harvesting. Our season extends longer into winter, though. Sometimes, I can grow kale here year-round.