EVERYDAY HOME  | 8.5.20  |  by Gia Dolney

We love the school vegetable garden.  But this year, because of COVID-19, there might not be as many at-school gardens. It’s a great opportunity for parents to do a fall garden with their children at home.  And the whole family can get involved in this at-home school garden. Here are some ideas.

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Look up what can grow this fall

Better Homes & Garden’s recommends that you investigate when is the first average frost date for your area. Then, count backwards from there to see how many growing days you have.

Most garden centers still have a rich supply of ready to plant vegetables. Look on those labels to determine how many days it says the plant needs before harvesting. Does that fit in your window before your area’s frost? If yes, then that might be a good option.

Plants that you need to seed, like carrots and beans, will also have the number of days listed on the seed package. There will often be several varieties. Choose the varieties with the shortest number of days before harvest.

Choose fall veggies

The type of vegetable also matters. Some vegetables will grow and taste better in cooler weather.

A short list of what you might consider includes:

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green onions
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Carrots

Consider container gardening

If you don’t have a backyard space, container gardening is also an option. It’s an easy way to have an at-home school vegetable garden, even if you have a small patio.

Containers are also easy to throw a light cover on, if the overnight temperature suddenly drops.

You’ll want to make sure the container has good drainage. The Farmer’s Almanac suggests adding an inch of coarse gravel at the bottom of the pot to improve the drainage.

Connect with resources

If your child’s school will still be having a fairly regular school year, you can encourage a school garden. One of the helpful things parents can do is find garden resources for the school. Oftentimes it’s all about how to start a school garden project.

Slow Food USA, for example, has a National School Garden Program which provides guides and a seeds program.  And there is also the National Farm to School Network which has a bounty of resources.

It takes a little Googling, and maybe a few phone calls, but there’s lots more resources out there to explore.  And parents can be a big help with tracking down these resources.

Slow Food Garden Guide

Slow Food USA has a School Garden Guide for free, teaching you how to put together volunteers, fundraise, and teacher curriculum material. Image Courtesy: Slow Food USA

Offer your expertise

If you are an expert gardener, or an educated botanist or biologist, or maybe you know a lot about different types of foods and plants … schools would love to have you share!  You might be just the right person to give a special class or lecture.  Or maybe even help to volunteer heading up a science project.

Talk to your child’s teacher or school to see what might be possible.

For example, in Cape Coral, Florida the Cape Coral Charter Authority is pairing technology with its school garden.  Maybe you have technology expertise that could be paired with plants.  From the Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Students will also step outside of the box when it comes to the typical school garden.

“They will look at genetically what’s happening with the plants using technology,” Superintendent Nelson Stephenson said.

“That’s the kind of things we want to do with technology,” he added.

Look for community collaboration

Pairing the local community with a school garden often requires a volunteer parent liaison to open the possibilities and keep the pairing going.  Perhaps you can help with a farm-to-school program that coordinates your school garden and local farms in supplying fresh food for the school lunch.

Or maybe your school garden could connect with food banks to supply fresh food.

On example comes from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington which partnered with the St. Leo Food Connection.   The program took the food produced by students in their horticulture and agriculture programs and brought that produce to low-income people in their community.

As a parent, you could research more about the Lincoln High School program and duplicate the effort in your neighborhood.

Utilize Scout Troops and Eagle Projects

Creating a school gardens is a perfect project for teenagers to work toward their Eagle.  Many schools would like to have a school garden and have a space for it, but they lack the people and resources to get it off the ground.

Once you have the space identified, your teenager can talk with a landscaping expert to plan the space.  Donations of supplies — like irrigation products and plants — can be found.  Then the volunteers — your local church, the parents at the school, and older teens are usually eager to make it work on a Saturday.

Not all school gardens have to be about vegetables either.  You can consider have a native plant garden or a pollinator garden.

Spring Avenue Elementary School in LaGrange, Illinois used to have a vegetable garden but switched over to a native plant garden.  Says Jenny Hall, chairwoman of the PTO Garden Committee at mySuburbanLife.com

Originally, each class at the school would plant a crop, so the garden was a way for children to get involved with gardening and to learn more about where food comes from. But, it became difficult to maintain the crops over the summer. Now with the native plants, the children are able to learn more about the plants that were used by Native Americans.


A hummingbird garden at Jefferson Elementary School in Burbank, CA created as an Eagle project in partnership with Linda Vista Landscape Services.

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