Planning Your Planting
- Choose the right crops for the right season
- Follow the directions on the seed package or transplant for planting depth and plant spacing.
- Sowing seed directly or transplanting seedlings? What you plant will depend on a number of factors: the local climate, time of year, desired growing time to harvest, and the type of plants you plan to grow. For example, a school garden in sunny Southern California can plant lettuce from seed in February and eat a delicious salad in May. A school in Michigan will have snow on the ground in February—they will need to start seeds indoors or buy nursery transplants for planting outside in late spring in order to eat salad in May. Again, your local nursery or an experienced gardener can help you make a plan.
- Find a theme—tie your planting to your curriculum or state standards in science, social studies, language arts and art. Plan a garden that will enrich the school curriculum.
Working in the Outdoor Classroom
- Ensure a successful planting session by setting clear direction for students BEFORE you go outside. Setting expectations in advance will ensure the experience is positive for all.
- Establish and review class rules for working in the garden. Be sure everyone knows how to work safely in the garden. In general, rules for the classroom are the same as in the garden—no yelling, climbing, running, etc.
- Review the day’s garden activities so everyone knows the plan. Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers—the more help the better! Adult supervision will be critical to getting the work done well and in a timely fashion.
Tools Needed to Get Started
- Trowels. Once the gardens are built, the only tools for a planting will be a trowel for nursery transplants. Holes for seeds can be made with little fingers.
- Hose with a spray nozzle for watering newly planted beds, spot watering as necessary, and garden cleanup.
- Have a supervising adult(s) oversee the garden maintenance if it is done by students. They need to learn when to water and what to weed (lettuce and weed seedlings can look a lot alike!).
- Assign students to the four jobs in the garden—water, groom (weeding), pest patrol and report.
- Pest patrol—One of the primary lessons of a school garden is environmental stewardship. For the health of the children and the earth, a school garden needs to be an organic garden. Your local nursery can advise you on organic methods for dealing with common garden pests and plant diseases.
- Report—Keep an ongoing record of the successes and struggles in each garden season. Use this information to improve your garden plan for the next year. Garden journaling is also a great way to teach language arts in the garden.
Celebrate Your Harvest
- Celebrate your harvest because you have all worked so hard! Be sure to celebrate the experience with a special event. Invite all the folks who helped to build the school build the garden and alert local newspapers