The other week we asked our Facebook followers if they had any gardening questions and for my blog today I’m tackling some of those queries.
Q1: We have a school garden that includes 14 raised garden beds filled with fruits, veggies and herbs... We would like to post a list of garden chores/activities for classes to go by when visiting the garden. What are some ideas of what to include on this list?
- Chores: Watering, weeding, and harvesting are always tasks that students can help with in the garden. But you might want to add some extra directions when it comes to harvesting; it’s always a bummer when a class is planning a big tasting or cooking activity only to find out that the produce they were going to use has been harvested by someone else unknowingly. Having something that folks can easily write notes on, like a chalkboard or whiteboard attached to a garden fence or shed, can be a great way to effectively communicate these tasks.
- Activities: Scavenger hunts are a great option for a class to explore a garden, not to mention they’re easy to coordinate. Create a whole series of themed lists (ex: garden insects, things you can eat, various colors, etc.) and laminate them to help prevent any wear and tear. Alternatively collect a bunch of egg cartons for students to use as collection containers. I like to label each container and challenge students to find multiple examples of the thing they’re looking for (ex: something soft, something hard, something smooth, something colorful, something alive, something dead, etc.)
Q2: Where can we make or find signs to post in the garden that teach about the different garden areas so that each area can provide a self-guided garden lesson for anyone that visits the garden?
- Rather than buying signs, I’d try getting a class to create informative signs themselves. (See the multilingual example in the header image.)
- But if you’re dead set on having custom signs made I’d try finding and working with a local business or checking out MyPlantLabel; I personally have never purchased signs from them, but they seem to have a variety of options that seem aligned with what you’re looking for.
- I’d also caution against permanent signage and encourage you to pursue signs that can easily be moved, especially if they highlight information about annual crops you’ve planted in beds. I once worked with a school that had a handful of beautiful signs permanently installed next to each of their garden beds. Each sign has a lot of really great information about what was growing in the bed that season. Unfortunately growing the same variety in the same bed year after year isn’t very good for soil health, so the school was faced with the decision to either replant in the same location to the detriment of that bed’s soil health, or rotate their crops though the garden space, but have signs that incorrectly identified the contents of every single garden bed.
Q3: What are different ways to incorporate technology in the garden for different grade levels? Engineering?
- Related to the previous question/answer, I’ve seen some schools install very small signs that simply have QR codes that, when scanned, link to a website with content generated by students. This could be a way to both incorporate technology into the garden and communicate information about the different garden areas for the purpose of a self-guided tour or lesson.
- Weather stations can also be a great way to integrate technology into a garden space. You can work with students to research weather instruments and create a custom built weather station (an engineering project perhaps), or simply buy an all-in-one wireless weather station that can stream data to a display system in your classroom (Ex: an AcuRite system)
- Trellises are a simpler (and less expensive) engineering project, not to mention an often essential garden feature, that you can challenge students to design and create from a mix of store bought and found materials (ex: twine and large sturdy sticks).
If I didn’t respond to your question this week, be on the lookout for answers in future blog posts! I welcome your additional questions in the comment section below.