Tips for School Gardens

Garden Tips

  • 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

  • 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.
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