7 February 2024
Research shows that Elementary, Middle and High schools all benefit from a school/community garden. It is beneficial to supplementing curriculum in math, science, language, history, and more. However, as good as the concept is, there are certainly barriers to these ventures.
Getting the supplies for seed starting should begin now in February. That includes deciding what to plant, ordering the seeds and purchasing the starter soil.
Read the seed packets to determine the gestation period in the starter cups and then the ideal time to repot into larger containers and then to plant outdoors. With this information, the class can calculate when the seeds need to go into the dirt in order to become viable plants.
Starter containers are one item that you can get for free. Recycling single-serving yogurt, pudding cups, K-cups etc. works quite well. Egg cartons are often used but cardboard tend to dry out quickly, which is especially difficult over weekends or snow days. Styrofoam will dry out less quickly.
Determine how many containers you will need. Realize that each container must have drainage holes. This is fine for the K-cups but other items will need to be punched through.
Give explicit and understandable instructions:
- Specify the type, size, and material composition of the containers.
- All containers must be cleaned thoroughly before bringing to class. That saves a mess in backpacks and odor in the classroom. It also evens out the work load instead of the teacher doing all the grunt work.
- Keep a tally of how many containers you have and how many more will be due.
- Clearly state the end date to bring in containers. Decide what will happen if you don’t have enough by that time.
Decide what will happen at the end of the term. Will the students take home their plants? What if a student had an epic fail and none germinated? If the intent is to create an outdoor garden on the school grounds, that will open a whole new can of worms. That project will include permissions, more supplies, and maintenance through the summer months, to mention only a few.
Often the costs of this project fall on the originator, usually the teacher. Some of the costs involve a seed-starting kit, heat mats for germination, soil, seeds, hand tools, watering cans, and grow lights.
If the educator, principal, PTA, or other involved individual formalizes the request with a donation letter, this can help local businesses partner with the garden program. It is recommended that the letter be followed up with a phone call, or better yet an in-person visit. It is more difficult to say no to a face than to throw away a piece of mail or delete an email or text. The personal touch can also be strategic if one of the class is in tow.
Check with your local or county resources for organizations like Master Gardeners. There are also probably some garden clubs that would be happy to offer suggestions or oversight. While it would be a long shot, try nurseries to see if someone would volunteer. If your location will need a grow light, you will need PVC pipe and a shop light. You will need school administration approval and space near an electrical outlet.