Tips for School Gardens
- You need at least 6 hours of sun to grow fruiting plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. With less sun, you can grow leafy greens and many herbs: basil is especially nice in part sun. See our Pesto lesson plan for how to bring the garden into the classroom.
- Test your soil through a soil testing laboratory, to check if there are any high levels of toxic metals, and to establish if the soil is poor in any of the major nutrients.
- Raised beds are ideal for controlling the soil that is used, reducing trampling, and they warm up faster in spring.
- Choose short season and perennial self-seeding early vegetables for spring crops. Use the last week of school for Salad Celebrations.
- Use row covers to extend the season in spring and fall and even winter.
- Choose late varieties for fall harvest. Choose varieties with small fruits to maximize children’s ability to taste a small portion.
- Choose easy-to-grow and child-friendly plants such as mint, sorrel, chives, and lemon balm. Calendula is a great flower to grow that will self-seed in mild climates like Toronto. See our Calendula Salve recipe – a great kid’s activity.
- Succession planting allows multiple class plantings and multiple harvests. Be sure to mark your rows!
- Perennials (plants that return every year) and fruiting shrubs or trees should be part of your garden.
Children’s Programming Tips
Book Consultation with Green Thumbs
- Keep children in small groups to encourage more hands-on opportunities and less chaos.
- Prepare lesson plans well ahead of time and always have a “plan b”.
- Never force children to taste or participate in a hands-on activity – they may prefer to observe first.
- Be open to children’s inquiry and discovery – the best programs are those that are “led” by the kids.