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Connecticut Garden Journal: Tips for starting a school garden

a teacher helps students maintain a school garden
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Research has shown that kids who garden at school learn to appreciate nature more, eat more fresh vegetables at school and at home, and score higher in science achievement tests.

As students are getting ready to head back to school, it has me thinking of gardening with kids. Many schools have integrated gardens into their classroom curriculums with great success. Research has shown that kids who garden at school learn to appreciate nature more, eat more fresh vegetables at school and at home, score higher in science achievement tests, learn to work better with other kids and generally enjoy being in school more.

While the benefits of school gardens are many, there is often a hesitation from teachers and administrators to start a program. This is understandable, especially if the teachers aren't gardeners themselves. But there are lots of resources available to help with the basics of gardening, lessons planning and finding volunteers. The Connecticut School Gardens Resource Center offers classes and information, Connecticut Master Gardeners can be a volunteer resource, and kidsgardening.org offers lesson plans.

There are some tips for starting out with a school garden program. First, get the administration, other teachers, parents, and facilities and maintenance staff on board. Including them from the beginning will help alleviate some future problems. Start small with a raised bed or some containers. Find a safe and convenient location, such as a courtyard, in full sun with a water source nearby. Work with the kids, volunteers and parents on what to grow. This fall, if you're ready, plant garlic, shallots and spring flowering bulbs in October.

Finally, be patient and realistic with your time. Take it step by step. Once you have a plan and program, you'll see the kids, and plants, will thrive in the garden.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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