University of Illinois Extension

Garden at School

Planning a school garden can be a lot of fun. It is a great place to learn-by-doing. Teachers, parents and students should help to plan the garden. The following are some things to think about as you plan your school garden.

Planning

Choose a Site. Of course you want a site with sun, good soil and drainage and probably most important of all, close to water. If your site is on school grounds there are probably outside faucets available. Have your school janitor check to make sure they are working.

If your school does not have any green space, you may choose a site on a nearby vacant lot. You may have to check with your local city official to get permission to garden on the lot. Finding water can be a problem for a vacant lot garden. Many towns will allow you to access a nearby fire hydrant for water. Check with your local fire department.

Involve everybody as you make decisions about the garden. Choose what flowers and vegetables to plant and where they will be planted. Remember, this is "your" garden.

Don’t get overwhelmed with things to do in the garden. Take breaks between activities.

Make sure you know what you are to do in the garden and the time required for each garden visit. Visit your garden at least one-to-two times a week to care for your plants.

Grow veggies and flowers you like. Look through garden catalogs and cut out favorite vegetables and flowers.

Start with crops that mature quickly such as: lettuce, radishes, sunflowers, spinach, bush beans and zucchini.

If your school doesn’t have space outdoors, green onions, radishes, lettuce and herbs can be grown in a sunny window in plastic pots or a heavy duty ziploc-quart or gallon freezer bag.

Everybody should have their own space in the garden. A 4 x 4 foot area is a nice size to begin with or at least have a space for your classroom.

Don’t let adults do everything for you in the garden. Direct the kids without doing. You can do most garden tasks with gentle guidance from adults. Do it yourself!

Eat the food you grow. Have a salad party or help prepare a recipe using "your" vegetables.

Create a journal of your gardening experience. A journal could contain a map of the garden; what seeds were planted; what the weather was; pictures of what flowers were grown; who visited the garden; bees, bugs, birds & butterflies that were seen in the garden; and photos of the vegetables that were harvested.

Vandalism can be a problem. It can be very discouraging to grow nice ripe, red, juicy tomatoes and then have them disappear overnight. Here are some tips to help reduce vandalism:

  • Reserve garden space in the school garden for neighbors who live around the school.
  • Hold an "Open House" and invite neighbors to see what you are growing.
  • Visit your garden as often as possible. Recruit your parents and other students to work on Saturdays in the garden with you.
  • Plant extra vegetables and flowers for the unwelcome visitors.
  • Ask nearby neighbors and local police to keep an eye on the garden.
  • Plan a gathering space in the garden for everybody to gather for gardening activities such as work days or a harvest festival.
  • Repair damage or graffiti as soon as possible.

Tools You Will Need

  • Rake
  • Hoe
  • Spade
  • Spading fork
  • Hand trowel
  • Watering can
  • Gloves
  • Ruler

Kid-size tools are available at many garden centers. The "Let’s Get Growing" catalog offers kid-size tools and other gardening resources for children. Call 1-800-408-1868 for a catalog. They are online at www.letsgetgrowing.com

Books

Sunset Best Kids Garden Book by the Sunset Editors, Sunset Publishing Corporation, Menlo Park, California

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots by Sharon Lovejoy, Workman Publishing, New York

Grown Your Own Pizza - Gardening Plants & Recipes for Kids by Constance Hardesty, Fulcrum Kids, Golden, Colorado

Better Homes & Gardens - Junior Garden Book by Felder Rushing, Meredith Books, Des Moines, Iowa

Learn and Play In the Garden - Games, Crafts & Activities for Children by Meg Herd, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

The Victory Garden Kids’ Book by Marjorie Waters, The Globe Pequot Press, Old Saybrook, Connecticut

Gardening with Children by Beth Richardson, The Taunton Press

Internet Sites

Great Plant Escape
http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/gpe/
Join Detective LePlant and his partners Bud and Sprout as they uncover the mysteries of plant life.

The Adventures of Herman the Worm
http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/worms/
Let Squirmin’ Herman the Worm teach you all about worms and how to make your own worm bin.

Kinder Garden
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/kindergarden/kinder.htm
An introduction to the many ways children can interact with plants and the outdoors.

Kids Garden
http://www.suite101.com/welcome.html/kids_gardening
Articles and links on kids’ gardening.

Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden at MSU
http://4hgarden.msu.edu/main.html
This award winning children’s garden, just a 5-6 hour drive from Chicago, will be the site of the 2001 National Youth Garden Symposium in East Lansing, Michigan, July 12-14. Michigan State’s rose, annual & perennial gardens are nearby.

National Gardening Association Kids Gardening
http://kidsgardening.com/
Gardening activities; resources; and a kids gardening newsletter

Youth Garden Grants
http://www.kidsgardening.com/grants.asp
Win gardening tools, seeds and educational materials.

Seeds of Change Garden
http://www.mnh.si.edu/garden/
Seasonal activities in your garden.

Alert: Making Pesticide Applications in School/Community Gardens

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