We Have Ears!

Corn in a raised bed

We always try to incorporate one new thing in our school garden each season. This spring the something new was planting corn to go with our Tops and Bottoms theme (inspired by the book by Janet Stevens of the same name). The beds containing lettuce, kale (tops) and radishes (bottoms) took off quickly as I knew they would, but our corn germinated very slowly (we had a couple of late cold snaps) and even after the sprouts appeared, it did not take off at quite the growth rate I thought it would.

The kids kept asking me where was the corn and I started pondering whether I was going to need to run to the store to buy some ears of corn for the classes who planted in those beds (and if I could attach them to the plants without anyone noticing – just kidding…. okay, maybe it crossed my mind in passing).

And then one Monday we returned from a long weekend and there were tassels on top of our corn plants! Yes! I am pretty sure I was more excited than the kids. In fact, I think adding something new each season is more important for motivating the volunteers and teachers than it is for grabbing the students' interest. And then the questions started coming in and I realized my knowledge of how the corn plant works was lacking. Fortunately our friends at the National Gardening Association have an excellent resource all About Corn in their Learning Library. The tassels at the top are the male flowers that produce pollen that rains down on the female flowers which appear as threadlike silks further down the stalk in the joints of the leaves. The female silks will eventually become the ears of corn with each silk corresponds to a single kernel. Pretty cool right?

Whew! It worked. With the last day of school approaching,  I am not sure if our corn will reach full maturity, but the ears are at least getting big enough so that we can open up a few and show the students that they did in fact grow corn this spring.   Now if our cherry tomatoes would just ripen up, we will be golden. We currently have hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of very green cherry tomatoes and only 5 full days of school left—yikes! Just a reminder for me that it is always a challenge to match the school and garden calendars.

2019 National Children and Youth Garden Symposium

NCYGS

I know cold weather has over stayed its welcome in many areas of the country, but believe it or not, summer is just around the corner. I wanted to use today’s blog to encourage you to consider attending this year’s National Children and Youth Garden Symposium Conference which will be held July 10-13th in Madison, Wisconsin.

Since 1993, The American Horticultural Society’s National Children and Youth Garden Symposium has served as a catalyst for growth in the youth garden movement.  Bringing together administrators, educators, volunteers, and parents for networking and professional development, the Conference is a source of knowledge, inspiration and rejuvenation.  Each year there is a diverse line up of sessions and workshops representing youth gardening programs from all over the country.  Attendees represent public and private school gardens, community and nonprofit organizations, universities and colleges, botanical gardens and arboreta, the horticulture industry, and much more. There truly is something for everyone. As much as I enjoy the formal sessions, what I love most are the opportunities to network which are plentiful throughout the conference.

Conveniently scheduled in mid-July when school is out of session, to me it comes at the perfect time of the year too.  After a busy spring garden season, I am feeling as exhausted as the plants in my garden and getting the chance to remind myself why I do what I do, helps re-charge me for the fall. I always come away with an impressive number of new ideas and new connections.

Registration is now open and an Early Bird Rate is available until May 25th.  A wide range of travel accommodations are also listed on the website to fit every budget.  The American Horticultural Society and the local host organizations (this year that includes Community Ground Works, Environmental Design Lab and The Wisconsin School Garden Network) always do the most amazing job keeping the costs as low as possible. Full details are available on the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium site.

KidsGardening will be at this year’s conference – will we see you there? Let us know in the comments!

What Does Our Garden Grow?

what does your garden grow

This year our school garden is growing “tops,” “bottoms,” and “middles” and we have a new resident bear and hare family.

The hare

For the first time at our school, the second grade classes are taking on the role of gardeners and so we wanted to find a theme that would be engaging, fun, and a good fit for the required curriculum. After brainstorming, we decided to base the garden around the delightful book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens.  If you have not read it, the book tells the tale of a crafty Hare who tricks a lazy Bear into letting his family plant and harvest crops on Bear’s land. They split the crops into tops, bottoms, or middles and the students learn about different parts of the plant we eat (and that it does not pay to be lazy).

garden grows
The bear

We kicked off the garden season by reading the book and talking about all of the different parts of the plant and the life cycle of plants from a broad perspective. We then planted the garden with each class either planting a “top” (lettuce or kale), a “bottom” (carrots, radishes and beets), or a “middle” (corn – this is an experiment for us, I am hoping we have enough time in the school year to see the ears develop). We also planted a pollinator patch of flowers for our Bear to sun bathe in while he watches the Hare family hard at work.

We are following up our planting with a few classes to introduce our young gardeners to plant parts in a more in depth way and specifically talk about how different adaptations of the various parts help plants survive in their environment (this is our link back to the required curriculum).  So far we have talked about the differences between tap and fibrous roots and woody and herbaceous stems.  Future lesson plans include exploring how flowers characteristics help attract pollinators and how fruits and seeds are adapted to allow plants to spread their populations.

As with any new venture, we are learning as we go, but so far so good.  In addition to our Tops and Bottoms garden, we also planted a larger pollinator garden, a rainbow garden with our Head Start classes, and our traditional tomato recipe gardens with our third grade classes.  Whew! It has been a busy spring and with the to do list a mile long, I try to frequently remember that in our school garden the plants are not really the stars of the show.  One of my favorite school garden mantras is “The most important thing we can grow in the garden is our kids.”  Although our garden certainly won’t land on any magazine covers and our harvest will probably be small, it is the smiles on the faces of the kids, the new knowledge in their heads, and the joy in their hearts that I am hoping to reap from our spring garden season.

So what do you grow in your garden?

April is Kids Garden Month, and to celebrate we’re encouraging kids to share what grows in their garden! From beans to zinnias, love to cooperation, or food for a hungry friend; kid gardeners, we want to know what grows in your garden!  Each week an entry will be chosen to win a prize. We can't wait to see what your kids come up with.

Getting a Head Start in the Garden

This year, KidsGardening entered into an exciting new initiative with the National Head Start Association and The Scotts Miracle–Gro Foundation to grow healthy kids through early childhood education gardens – The Gro More Garden Grant program. Designed to bring the life-enhancing benefits of youth garden programs to at-risk youth across the country, the grants will support the creation of edible gardens in Head Start Centers to teach kids and their families about the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables while also helping increase their access to fresh, local produce. What a great addition to a program that is already making incredible contributions to the education of our youngest learners and their families (check out these amazing impacts of the Head Start program).

Although the grant funding is limited to Head Start organizations, the partners are working together to create resources that can support all early childhood educators working to implement garden-based programs in their classrooms. Some of the supporting materials include:

- Quarterly Webinars. We are hosting quarterly webinars focused on creating sustainable, early childhood garden programs. Our most recent webinar on February 13th was on Creating Edible Garden Programs to Support Nutrition Education. Click here to view past webinars or sign up for future events. Our next webinar will be on May 15th on The Therapeutic Value of Gardening for Children.

- Online Resource Toolbox. We have compiled links to some of our favorite early childhood education resources on a special landing page to help ease your search for additional support. Check out our new Early Childhood Educator Resources Page.

- SEEDS Curriculum. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation and Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center have partnered to create a wonderful new curriculum just for early childhood educators with activities for Tiny Gardeners (infants and toddlers) to Garden Guides (Grades 1 to 3). This comprehensive (72 learning activities -Wow!), free resource is available at: https://scottsmiraclegro.com/foundation/seeds.

From my perspective, when it comes to planting the seed of gardening, the earlier the better. As a parent and an educator, I have always been amazed (and honestly, slightly overwhelmed from a parent perspective) at the growth and development that takes place in the first 5 years of life and the importance of providing nurturing environments, that is why I am so thrilled to be part of an effort to meaningfully help support all of the educators and parents dedicated to getting our youngest learners out into the garden.

Beyond reaching our youngest gardeners, The Gro More Garden Grant Program is part of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company’s Gro More Good initiative that is committed to helping connect 10 million children (yep, that is 10 million) to the benefits of gardens and greenspaces by 2023. With nonprofit partners Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, KidsGardening, Major League Baseball, National Farm to School Network, National Head Start Association, National Recreation and Park Association, and No Kid Hungry, the potential to grow a greener, healthier generation who loves to garden has never looked brighter.

Pennies for Plants School Garden Fundraiser

On our website we have compiled a list of ideas for raising funds for your youth garden program through garden-related fundraisers ranging from simple things like selling handmade crafts to more complex projects like starting your own farmers’ market. Wearing my garden educator hat, I love exploring all the possibilities of turning an essential activity like fundraising into a fun, hands-on, real-life learning experience.

But this week, I put on my busy PTO mom hat and we held my favorite fundraiser of the year – we call it 100 Coins for 100 Days. I am not sure how widespread this tradition is, but at our elementary school, the teachers and students celebrate the 100th day of school usually with special projects and by dressing up like they are 100 years old.  Our PTO decided to build on that event with a very simple fundraiser. On the 100th day of school we put buckets in each classroom and ask students to bring in 100 coins (in any combination of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters) and the class for each grade level who has the highest percentage of students participate (not based on actually money brought in by the class– the teachers just record how many students dropped money in the bucket because we want to make it as easy as possible) gets as small prize (a prize for all students in the class regardless of whether or not they participated).

Promotion of the event includes a ½ sheet flyer and electronic communications. The buckets were donated and are reused every year. The prizes are also either donated or leftover from other events  (this year for example they are 3-D bookmarks donated by a parent). Our very generous bank allows us to use their coin counting machine without a fee if we load it up ourselves (I learned to bring gloves – the coins are icky).  All together, there are no direct expenses and it takes about 4-5 hours of volunteer time from start to finish. It truly is the easiest fundraiser ever!

What kind of results do we get? This year we raised $1141.76.  This one event pays for our entire garden budget ($800) with some to spare. I realize this is not a huge amount of money necessarily, but for our Title I school that has a lot of challenges with parent engagement, this fundraiser is definitely a win and the funds raised to effort expended ratio is excellent. From my perspective, connecting the coin drive to an existing tradition and also making it a one-day, annual event are important factors for getting everyone excited about it. I am not sure it would be as successful if we tried to do it on a more regular basis.

I know this is a bit of a different ‘green’ suggestion than I normally share, but I can tell you that as we kick off our garden season this Friday by planting tomato seeds under grow lights, we will definitely be thankful for our successful 100 Days fundraiser that has ensured we will have plenty of funds for both this spring and next fall’s garden.

Flower Arranging with Kids

flower arranging with kids

One week into December and whew the holiday race is on. The number of special activities and events for kids crammed into the month of December is really quite ridiculous these days.  I wonder, will they even remember it all? Or will they even remember any of it?

flower arranging with kids
First-grade Abby and her flower arrangement

That being said, I wanted to share with you one of my very favorite holiday activities of all times and one that I am really looking forward to this year.  When my daughter was in first grade, they had a craft day organized by parents and I had the chance to teach her class how to make small flower arrangements.  You can see the results in the above right photo.  It was so much fun!  The kids loved it and they were so proud of their arrangements.  I did not realize until later, but Abby placed her candy canes so that they looked like a heart.  I love this picture so much with her front tooth missing and wearing a cute outfit that there is no way I could get her to wear now. Priceless memories.

My son is in first grade this year and when the email to sign up for craft day came out, I dropped everything and hopped on to my computer to make sure I had the chance to do this activity again.   Fortunately I had written down instructions so I could easily remember how I had organized everything (thank goodness since my memory is not what it use to be). I thought I would share those with you guys in case you might like to try it:

Here is what I did:

  1. To prepare for the activity, I placed wet floral foam in small, plastic cups and added one strip of anchor tape across the top to make sure the arrangements would stay in the cups on the bus ride home. (See above left photo.) I divided up the flowers (red and white mini carnations and baby’s breaths) ahead of time and placed them in disposable drinking cups to make sure that each child got the same number of flowers. As an added decoration, I taped candy canes to floral stakes to be placed in after they arranged the flowers.If you were doing this at home, you could easily have your kids help with all of these prep steps.  I was limited by space and time and I wanted to make sure everyone got equal supplies which is why I had to do this organization ahead of time.
  2. Once in the classroom, I made sure to explain the steps before handing out any of the supplies through a quick demonstration. The basic tips I shared included:
  • I explained how the floral foam helps keep the flowers in place and provides water so they can stay fresh longer.  I emphasized that they did not want to crush it and to try and only place the flowers once so that the flowers could get plenty of water and stay secure.
  • I showed them how to cut the ends of the stems at an angle and remove any leaves as the bottom so the tips slide into the foam cleanly.
  • I demonstrated how to cut leather leaf fern into smaller pieces and then place it on the foam to cover up the mechanics of the design before adding in flowers.
  • I also showed them how to create a skeleton for a basic round design with one flower upright in the middle and another four facing out like a clock at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.  Then I explained how to go back and fill in around the structure with the remaining flowers.
  1. After the demonstration, we handed out the cups of flowers, the containers, and two pieces of leather leaf fern saving the baby’s breath and candy canes for the end. The first time I did this activity, I thought some of students might rush and place the flowers haphazardly, but every single one of them took their time in considering where to place the flowers. Much to my surprise, some of the arrangements turned out so well that they looked like they came from a florist.* A special note - the kids finished at different times and so we grabbed some paper for the kids who finished quickly to make cards to go with arrangements.  This time around I will ready for card making ahead of time.
  2. After they were done, we carefully placed the arrangements in large lunch bags for the trip home.

An alternative if you don’t want to spend money on cut flowers, you can also harvest evergreen leaves (or even just save the scraps from trimming your tree) and stems with berries on them to make some very festive centerpieces.  Just make sure to check on the toxicity of the plants if you have kids or pets that might be tempted to graze on your arrangements.

So hopefully in a couple of weeks I will have some new pictures and stories to share.  Happy holidays everyone!

Meet Emma Biggs

meet emma biggs

On October 3, I had the chance to chat with the father/daughter duo Emma and Steven Biggs about Gardening with Kids on their weekly radio show Garage Gardeners.  You can listen to a podcast of the show online or download it as an Apple Podcast or from Google Play.  It was such a pleasure to learn more about their gardening experiences over the years and the unique bond they have formed through gardening together.  It was also so very cool to hear the excitement in thirteen-year-old Emma’s voice as she talked about her garden. I am pretty sure she was born with a green thumb. 

Below you will find an amazing interview with Emma by our KidsGardening Advisory Board Member James Baggett providing you with great garden ideas and tips from the heart and mind of a young gardener.  Enjoy!

Meet Emma Biggs

Thirteen-year-old Emma Biggs is nothing if not passionate about gardening and eager to share her passion with other kids. Emma lives in Canada and posts garden how-to videos on her father’s blog (StevenBiggs.ca), which led to her sharing her advice in a cool new garden book for kids. Gardening with Emma (Storey Books) is a kid-to-kid guide to growing healthy food and raising the coolest, most awesome plants while making sure there’s plenty of fun. With plants that tickle and make noise, tips for how to grow a flower stand garden, and suggestions for veggies from tiny to colossal, Emma offers a range of original, practical, and entertaining advice and inspiration. She provides lots of useful know-how about soil, sowing, and caring for a garden throughout the seasons, along with ways to make play spaces among the plants. Emma’s own writing (with some help from her gardening dad, Steve) capture the authentic creativity of a kid who loves to be outdoors, digging in the dirt. KidsGardening.org caught up with her recently to find out more.

Tell us about your earliest garden memories. 

One of my earliest memories of gardening is making what I called 'Cabander Stew'. It was a mixture I made of whatever I could find in the garden - carrots, chives, radishes - water, and of course - mud, all mixed together in a pail. I also remember doing a lot of watering, as it is the perfect activity to get kids gardening - all you need is a watering can, a place to fill it up, and something to water.

Top three plants that belong in a kid’s garden?

The top plant that belongs in every kid's garden (and adults) is the 'Mouse Melon", also called 'cucamelon', or 'Mexican Sour Gherkin'. My younger cousin Daphne loved them, always asking if we could go out and pick them, and when I gave some to my neighbour, her response was "Omg watermelon cucumbers!!!!!" They are easy to grow, plentiful, and a lot of fun to search for and pick. My next plant that belongs in every kid's garden is the Ground Cherry. It's such a sweet treat! You peel away the papery 'wrapper' or husk to reveal a cherry-sized sweet and tropical flavoured fruit. I can't get enough of them. Easy to grow, and totally worth it - probably my favourite fruit ever! My last kid's garden plant is beans. They are super easy to grow, productive, and can be stunning. My favourite bean is a purple and yellow striped one called "Dragon's Tongue". Beans are crunchy and delicious, easy to save seeds from, and fun and easy to plant. There are so many great things out there for kids to grow. So many great things. So choose one, or two, or 10 things you want to grow - and grow them!

What makes you happiest in the garden?

In the garden, it makes me happiest to see that my plants are growing well, to see that the squirrels aren't eating all of my tomatoes, and to harvest what I have put lots of time and effort into growing.

Favorite music to listen to in the garden?

I enjoy listening to music that is fun and jumpy, the kind of songs that get stuck in your head and make you want to dance. They make me want to garden more!

Describe your garden for us.

My garden is bigger than most peoples, but still not big enough for me. I always want more garden space, and keep stealing Dad's. My garden consists of one big veggie garden, three raised wicking beds for growing tomatoes, a container garden on my garage rooftop, and a few more in-ground beds closer to the house. That excludes my brother Keaton's melon house, my dad's front yard garden, and the three raised beds I am using in my neighbour's yard. If I keep stealing more garden though, it may all be mine in the end.

Quinn, with a bean. (Not a tomato!)

Most kids don’t like fresh tomatoes…how did you come to be such a big fan?

I can't believe how many kids (including my younger brother Quinn) don't like fresh tomatoes. To me, they're such a treat. And my brother Quinn won't even touch them. I think I just ate lots of tomatoes when I was younger and eat even more now. I can't imagine not liking tomatoes - but I can't image liking yogurt or cereal either.

Best advice anyone’s ever given you?

Lots of advice has been given to me over the years. And I try to take in all of it (there's a lot!). My Portuguese neighbour tells me to start my tomatoes a little bit earlier, and Donna Balzer advises me to not grow tomatoes beside anything in the cabbage family. I just try to take it all in, and then, someday, I might be giving other people advice.

What are some of your favorite garden apps?

I don't use technology in the garden, other than the latest backhoe, or watering can, but when I'm planning the garden, I love to listen to music. I also like to use Seedvoyage, an app that lets you sell your extra garden produce, and Instagram to see what other people are doing in their gardens, and to share what I'm doing.

The biggest mistake you’ve made in the garden?

I have made so many mistakes in the garden that I don't even know where to start. I like to try things and do experiments in the garden because, why not? That has led to lots of things, but also a busy life, and forgetting or not having enough time for watering, and that leads to dead plants.

 The coolest part of working on your book?

The coolest part of working on my new book is meeting and talking to experts on gardening. Writing a book gives you permission to call anyone you want to and to talk about gardening. I've met so many great people through writing this book, and I'm excited to meet more in the future.

What’s your next project? 

I always have something on my mind to do next. Whether it's selling my produce, writing a book on tomatoes, or attempting tomato breeding, I can't wait. I know it'll be fun.

It’s Garden Grant Season!

garden grant

It’s garden grant season! This week I wanted to take a quick minute to point out all the garden grants open right now because many have quickly approaching deadlines.

At KidsGardening, our open grants include: Budding Botanist (due November 19), Youth Garden Grant (due December 17) and Carton 2 Garden Contest (due March 25, but accepting entries on a rolling basis).

Whole Kids Foundation’s Garden Grant and Bee Grant Programs are now accepting applications (due October 15). Captain Planet has a number of different grants programs open for environmental programming and gardening (many due on January 15).  Wild Ones Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Fund is also currently accepting applications (due date October 15). The soonest deadline, Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere Grant is open and due this Friday, October 5. Lastly, Annie’s Grants for Gardens application is now available (due November 1).

Just FYI, whenever we locate a garden grant opportunity, we post it on our Grant Opportunities page. (And if you know of any we do not have listed, please send them my way).

Let me also mention two organizations whose programs are designed to help you raise money by providing you with crowd fundraising tools – Seed Money and Annie’s Garden Funder.

As someone who has read a lot of grant applications over the years and also written a lot of applications too, I want to leave you with one thought.  The number of amazing applications is always greater than the number of grants available. Both at work and in my volunteer life, I have applied for a lot (a lot) of grants and only gotten a small handful of them. I always have to remind myself that not getting a grant I have applied for is not a statement of the value of my program – just a sign that there was a lot of competition and that I need to keep looking for the best funding match. So even though I am sharing these grant opportunities with you today, I just wanted to mention that I know some times grants are a long shot (and a time consuming one at that), but keep in mind that having a strong proposal in your arsenal can also help you solicit local donations too. KidsGardening offers some additional grant writing tips if you're looking for help.

Life Lessons from the Garden

life lessons from the garden

One thing a gardener quickly learns is that more is not always better. For example, if you over fertilize your plants, they will end up growing too fast and that new growth will be weak and more susceptible to insects and disease. Ideally you want to provide just the right amount of fertilizer for healthy growth. You also learn that different plants have different nutrients needs. If you try to treat them all the same, some may end up being over fertilized and others may not have enough.

Why have I been thinking about this lately? Well, school started back for us about 3 weeks ago and I feel like I am back on the crazy train of raising children in today’s society. My fifth grader has 2+ hours of math homework a night working on concepts I learned in 7th grade and her extra-curricular activities feel like they are trying to teach her to go Pro rather than have fun. As a parent I am feeling a lot of pressure to provide these opportunities for her to be successful, but honestly, I am afraid we are now over fertilizing.

There is much talk today about the rising anxiety levels of our children and we are quick to blame technology. But is technology really the reason we have increased the complexity levels of the content taught at each grade level? Back when I was in kindergarten if you knew your letters and numbers by the end of the year you were golden. Now, kindergartners are expected to leave already reading and completing basic math equations. Does it really make our society better for kids to master concepts at an earlier age? What’s the rush? Are all those extra activities really that beneficial? What does "success" really even mean?

Back to thinking in terms of the garden, I try to imagine what would happen if I tried to grow a diverse group of plants all in the same garden with the same environmental conditions and fertilizer treatments. I know some would thrive, some would survive and others would fail. So as a gardener would I be happy with those results? Would I keep doing the same thing knowing 2/3 of my plants were not thriving? No! I would be trying to find a way to provide them with the right growing conditions so that they could all reach their maximum potential and I would definitely let them grow at their own pace. So maybe we need a new book titled “All I Need to Know I Learned in the Garden” that encourages us to look to nature for tips on how to provide nurturing environments for growing healthy and happy kids. Let me just add that to my to do list.

Whew, it is only September and life already feels like a garden where the vines and weeds are growing out of control (like the picture of one of our butterfly garden containers above). I know I need to get in and weed, prune and transplant to get things back into shape, but it is a slightly overwhelming task and I am not even quite sure where to start. I can definitely tell you my family is some need of some unstructured outdoor time and a strong dose of gardening to combat the beginning of the year stress.

New Beginnings for School Gardens

Planting seedlings at a school garden

My mantra for the 2018 – 2019 school year: “It’s worth it.”

I have been the parent volunteer garden coordinator at my kids’ school for the last five years. That first year, parents and fourth grade teachers sat down together in true garden team style and brainstormed plans for the garden. We tried a couple of different approaches, but then landed on a system that really seemed to work and take hold. Three years ago, we used the same approach to add on a third grade garden area. Last year was the first year I felt we had kind of found our groove. The students, teachers and parent volunteers had the process down.

It’s worth it.

Due to a number of different reasons, this year 4 of our 6 fourth grade teachers are new to our school and 4 of our 7 third grade teachers are new to third grade. All of the teachers that were part of our original garden committee have either retired or moved to new schools. I am happy to say that many of our dedicated parent garden volunteers are back for another year though (and in fact we had a few dedicated families and Scouts who bravely tackled the weeds in the Texas heat to get everything ready for the first day of school - it was amazing! I was so happy I almost cried!), but with 5 years under our belt, we are pretty much re-booting on the teacher side.

It’s worth it.

This summer our school was under construction. Taking inventory the first week the school opened back up, one of the shelves for the grow lights had disappeared along with our timer and power strip, the compost bin had been emptied and the water valve had been broken. I admit I was a bit discouraged by my first trip out to the school this year. I am happy to report that by the first day of school the grow light shelf reappeared and our wonderful school office administrator arranged to get the water fixed. What a motivation boost it was to have both of these things happen so quickly!

It’s worth it.

A new fence has been put up around the school. Please know I have no complaints about this as it is meant to add safety to the building, but it does mean we will need to rethink weekend and break watering schedules and probably also planting schedules too. It is yet to be determined how we will be able to access the site when the school is not open, but I am sure we will figure something out.

It’s worth it.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from a social worker from the early 20th century Grace Abbott: “Perhaps you may ask, ‘Does the road lead uphill all the way?’ And I must answer ‘Yes, to the very end.’ But if I offer you a long, hard struggle, I can also promise you great rewards.”

Hmmm… perhaps not all of you will see that as inspirational as I do. But it helps remind me to focus on 3 truths that keep me motivated:

  • Our school garden is the first time many of our students ever see how fruits and vegetables are grown.
  • Our school garden has inspired a number of homes gardens resulting in more families growing their own fresh food and decreasing kids screen time while increasing their experiences in nature.
  • Our school garden may be the only gardening opportunity for many of our students until they are adults.

So is it going to be a challenging year? Likely, yes. But, I can already feel the support gathering from parents and administrators. Also, I am excited about the opportunity to work with the new teachers and think it is a great time to evaluate the garden and how we use it.  I know it is going to take a little bit of extra energy and enthusiasm to get things moving this year and I am going to be honest with you, even with 20 + years of youth gardening experience under my belt, the task seems a bit daunting. But, is it worth it? Hands down yes.

It’s worth it.

At KidsGardening it is our goal to try and provide the know-how and inspiration teachers and parents need to grow new and keep existing garden programs going. We know first hand it isn’t easy, but we want you to know it is worth it. We want gardening educators every where to know how much we appreciate and support their efforts and that their blood, sweat and tears are making a difference. A school garden is not a curriculum in a box, it is a living lab and an engaging tool that provides students with a connection to nature and our food system and our environment that lasts a life time.

Do you agree that it’s worth it? Do you want to help us inspire and motivate new and current garden educators?

If so, please consider giving to our Back to School Gardens Campaign. The money will go to support our foundational programs including our monthly Kids Garden News, the development of our online resources (lesson plans, garden activities, how-to articles and garden guides), creation of new curriculum materials (like our most recent Digging into Soil Guide) and our grant programs like our Youth Garden Grant that has been providing seed money and supplies to youth gardens since 1982.

Our goal is to raise $8,000. We need your help to keep doing what we do! Visit Back to School Gardens to learn more.