What do we think of “Starting a School Garden”?


The good folks at the University of Maryland produced what we locals think is a pretty dern good video on starting a school garden, but what do you guys think?  Okay, it has a couple of government-spokesman moments at the beginning, but the star of the show is an elementary school garden in Baltimore.


  1. So impressive! I did like the idea to get the kids involved in suggesting what to plant. But the most impressive thing is the fact that they’ve hired a “Garden and Nutrition Educator” to oversee everything. We’ve had a hard time getting teachers involved – maybe one reason is because they’re afraid that it might take up too much time, and eventually all rest on them. If the educator is writing grants for them too, even better!

  2. I’m not in a school, I’m at an arboretum and we are looking into starting a garden at a local community center (right next door to an elementary school) as part of our out reach. I do have to say there are lots of grant opprotunities out there for teaching about gardening and nutrition.

    The big questions for me aren’t funding they are, “Who will take care of the garden?” and “How do we get community buy-in?”

  3. I am very interested in starting up a school garden at the high school where I teach near DC. Here’s something I feel weird about: most of the students at my school are hispanic and their families immigrated here from poor countries where most people made living through physical labor. I feel weird trying to get the kids outside to grow vegetables because it feels like pushing them back into “manual labor mode” when we’re trying to get them interested in college and advanced coursework, etc. I would love to spearhead a school garden but this has held me back up to now.

  4. Include Teachers, their needs, in the mission statement of the gardens.

    Feed the soul & body. Be selfish. Happy Teachers, Better Teachers.

    How? Gardens beautiful with flowering shrubs, groundcovers, trees throughout the year. Soul enriching environments providing a moat of grace in a Teacher’s daily life.

    Not another chore for Teacher’s to do or spend their personal funds on.

    And, beautiful landscapes can reduce HVAC costs & maintenance expense helping all taxpayers.

    Have done pro bono landscape design for schools for decades. Learned to ask, and coach, about maintenance up front. Sadly, my questions receive fairy god mother type of answers.

    Teach children they can make a good living in wholesale horticulture sales, construction, landscape architecture, landscape design, sod farming, wholesale greenhouse production, hardscape, seed genetics, & etc….

    Be creative. Landscaping is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Teach kids to tap into THAT.

    My view? Teaching kids to grow vegetables is a small view. And harmful to my profession, Landscape Design.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  5. Very good video–especially because folks all want to start a garden at their school but don’t know how to get started. Liked the ‘start small’ advice! Chrissa has been building school gardens for years, so is a natural at her new job. (Hate those “water collecting gazebos”–I saw another in a different community garden in B’more. It would never collect enough water to make any difference. I’d rather see effective use of oversized rain barrels that would actually take water from the flat roof of the building (and divert it from the storm water system), but that is my pet gripe.)

  6. Maintenance during the Summer holidays, the busiest part of the growing season, owuld be the biggest challenge I think. Maybe a community ed class or workshop could fulfill this?
    Mary,I live in a farming community and the student population of our school district is 27% hispanic (higher at certain times of the year). We have several school and community gardens that are very successful, one in particular is run through the local farmworker’s clinic. I think you will find these families very receptive to the school garden idea. A lot of times, it’s a way for the kids (who often grow up never doing the manual work their parents did) to learn about the importance of what their parents do (or have done), and actually the parents really like to participate and share their knowledge. And everyone likes to eat the fruits of their labors, share recipes, etc. You might be surprised about how such a project can get parents involved with the school, and the community from which they may otherwise feel alienated.

  7. I’m tending to agree with Tara in several respects here. In my experience, the idea of a school garden is usually pretty ‘airy fairy’ with the questions of the nitty gritty day-to-day maintenance strangely forgotten about. Parents say they’ll do it, or teach the kids to do it after school, much like ‘how hard can it be?’ and inevitably, the garden falls quickly into ruin, especially during the heat of mid-summer holiday time. So I think the questions are: how to prepare and build it to maximize growing (i.e. placement, soil, accessibility, what to grow), who is going to maintain it DAILY, ensuring a water source, composting (along with the inevitable heave-ho-ing at the end of the season), managing the harvests and ensuring the whole thing doesn’t look like a dog’s breakfast…
    That being said, it CAN be done; it just needs a lot of thought, experience and commitment.

  8. My school’s garden solves the summer caretaking dilemma by turning over each raised bed to a different family. They can plant and grow anything they like over the summer, but must ‘give it back’ to the school as soon as fall arrives. This way students can start the school year with lots of mature veggies to tend to and harvest. Your school can ‘rent’ those plots to families or hold raffles for each bed. Either way your garden fund will be replenished, and you will keep some kids involved over the summer with the garden. It’s worked out great for us.

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