Carton 2 Garden is Back!

Carton 2 Garden

Not too long ago I wrote about activities for the first day back in the school garden. It’s somewhat hard to believe, but here in Vermont I’m already starting to think about indoor activities for when our gardens are dormant! If you’re also looking for something garden-related to do with your classes during the long winter, then look no further than our Carton 2 Garden Contest (also a great option for you folks down in more southern climates—you’re just extra lucky that you can probably tackle this project outdoors).

The Carton 2 Garden Contest is presented in partnership with Evergreen Packaging and is open to all K-12 public and private schools in the United States (Pre-K classes located at schools serving additional elementary, middle, and/or high school grade levels may also enter).

What’s the objective of the contest you ask? Collect at least 100 empty milk or juice cartons from your home, community, or cafeteria, then design and construct purposeful and creative garden items or structures using them. Your school does not need a garden to participate. You can even frame your project within the context of Creative Arts, Environmental Stewardship, Health & Nutrition, and/or STEM for the opportunity to win a specialty prize, making the contest a perfect hands-on extension for classroom learning objectives.

Beyond connecting to these specific topics, the Carton to Garden Contest generally provides a great platform to discuss sustainability and renewable resources with students, and is a fantastic opportunity for a class to work collaboratively to brainstorm an innovative idea and then execute an exciting project.

Some past examples of past winning projects include:

  • The creation of “hotels” for pollinators seeking shelter and nesting space.
  • An effort to restore saltgrass habitats to a local ecosystem by propagating endangered species of marsh grass in cartons.
  • An incredible tiger sculpture that was placed in a raised bed to watch over students’ plants.
  • The installation of a vertical wall garden, with individual growing cells made of cartons
  • The development of a mobile sensory garden for use as a therapeutic resource for students with disabilities.

All of these projects, as well as many other successful ones, are the culmination of hours of student planning and work! And while the deadline for this year’s contest isn’t until April, you may find that late fall/early winter is a great time to start thinking about what you and your students might want to submit to the 2019-2020 Carton 2 Garden Contest.

Header image above is from Mildred L. Day School in Arundel, ME. Their entry, the Vertical Flower and Herb Garden by the 2nd Grade Gardeneers, was a winner in the Elementary category last year.

Root for Gardens

We're right in the middle of our back-to-school-gardens fundraiser and we need your help!

root for gardens tshirtAs a non-profit organization, we rely on support from our partners, sponsors, and friends just like you to help us fulfill our mission of creating opportunities for kids to play, learn, and grow through gardening.

This fall, we launched our Root for Gardens t-shirt to raise much needed funds to support our free original educational resources.

The shirts come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes so you're sure to find one that you'll love. There are even kid sizes! We're really excited about it, and we hope you are too.

Want a few more reasons to go ahead and hit "purchase?"

  • You'll be the best-dressed gardener at your harvest celebration, regional conference, or garden work day!
  • Look good and feel good about doing good!
  • Everyone needs a shirt with carrots. Even if you already own one, get this one to wear while the other is in the wash!
  • Your support really does make a huge difference to KidsGardening, and to the parents, educators, and families we serve.

Don't delay! The shirts are limited-edition, and there is less than a week left in the fundraiser. After you order your favorite color, share the campaign with your friends and family!

Teaching Kids to Protect Our Pollinators

Pollinator Patch

This summer at North Wind Day Camp in Canton, New York, 49 curious and intrepid campers, ages 7-12, earned the Pollinator Patch created by Cabot Creamery Cooperative and KidsGardening. The free patch program was developed to help children understand the importance of pollinators in our world and teach them practical ways they can help protect and preserve pollinator populations.

Pollinator PatchSeventh generation Cabot farmer, Allison Akin, of Five Mile Farm in Lisbon, New York led the pollinator activities. The campers worked hard to earn their patches, but also had fun learning about pollinators and their vital importance in growing food for people and animals. They learned that more than 150 of our common food crops, from avocados to zucchini, rely on pollinators to move pollen among flowers and facilitate fertilization, which leads to the development of fruits and seeds. Pollination occurs not only with bees, but also hummingbirds, moths, bats, butterflies, flies, and beetles. They all ensure the continued existence of millions of plant species. The campers learned that one of every three mouthfuls of our food depend on pollinators.

How did they learn about the work of pollinators? With fun activities and games. “Be the Bee” is a game that demonstrates how pollinators work, going from plant to plant. It was also a great way for campers to get to know one another and work cooperatively. They learned about the anatomy of flowers from those growing around them and went on to color and label each plant. And they learned about ways they could encourage pollinators to thrive in their neighborhood by planting gardens that would attract and support a healthy pollinator community.

Pollinator Patch Be the Bee Capturing the imaginations and commitment of young campers with the activities required to earn the Pollinator Patch is one more way we can encourage the health and well being of our communities and our planet. If you or your organization would like to learn more about how your group can help children earn the Pollinator Patch, go to the Cabot website’s Pollinator page for more information.

Fall Cover Crop

cover crop

As we enter the fall here in Vermont there are a few big tasks on my to-do list before putting the gardens to bed for the season: 1) Keep up with harvesting. 2) Plant garlic. 3) Plant cover crop.

I plant a fall cover crop (this year I chose winter rye) on many of our empty beds (having already harvested one-off crops such as cabbage, kohlrabi, potatoes, and carrots from them) for a variety of reasons: to prevent erosion, to reduce the growth of weeds throughout the fall, and to add organic matter (i.e. nutrients) back into the garden beds.

I try to plant cover crop sometime in late August or early September, giving the seeds over a month to germinate and grow before our first frost typically hits, usually in mid-October. The later you plant your cover crop the greater the chance of the crop dying over the winter, as opposed to going dormant. Ideally you want your cover crop to enter this period of dormancy and then resume growth come the spring.

As the spring progresses you’ll want to keep an eye on your cover crop—you’ll definitely want to mow it or cut it down before it begins to produce seed! Leave the plant material to decompose on top of the bed for a week or so, before tilling it in. Wait another week or two and then you’re ready to plant in a nutrient-rich bed!

If you’re interested in learning about specific varieties of cool-season cover crops to plant this fall you can check out this helpful article from Modern Farmer. Alternatively, if you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t have cold and snowy winters like we do in New England, you can check out our Buckwheat Growing Guide to learn about warm-season cover crops. And if you’re interested in learning more about all aspects of cover crops, I recommend SARE’s (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Cover Crop Topic Room.