school garden questions answered

In my last blog I answered some questions submitted by our Facebook followers. Today, I’ll tackle a handful of additional queries...

Q1: Are there seed companies that sell children's garden seed mixes? They're seed packets with a variety of garden seeds that the children can sort and plant to make a complete garden.           

seed mixes for kidsI’ve never seen a seed company combine assorted vegetable seeds in a single seed packet, with the exception of a lettuce blend. However, many seed companies will create and sell pollinator mixes. These packets often have a whole assortment of flower seeds in them that could be sorted if you wanted, though they’re designed specifically so that all the varieties planted together (ie. via broadcasting) complement one another (sequential blooming, diverse nutrients, etc.). If you’re interesting in these, look to Botanical Interest, who is donating 10% of their proceeds September 1-3, 2018, to KidsGardening!

Companies might also create and package seed collections, these are an assortment of seed packets often grouped by a theme. Some examples from High Mowing, a company local to us in Vermont, are their Container Garden Collection, their Garden Starter Collection and their Kids Garden Collection! In each of these cases, you receive a diverse assortment of seeds, 5-10 packets, each of a different variety. There isn’t much seed sorting to do, other than figuring out what you want to plant and where!

Q2: My school in New Jersey runs from September to June. I would like to plant some things that students can harvest in the fall. Any ideas?

Immediately when you get back to school in September you can plant radishes and various micro or baby greens outdoors with students; these are fast growing crops that you can harvest after only a few weeks. As it begins to get cooler, you can cover the greens with reemay/fabric row cover, to extend the growing season.

With some forethought, you can also plant some veggies come the end of the school year that will be harvestable next fall (though you will also have to create a plan for maintaining the garden over the summer). Various winter squashes, peppers and eggplants are three crops that require relatively little care over the summer and will produce a bountiful harvest come the start of the school year (especially if you hold off planting them until June). Similarly, plant a whole bed of carrots during the last week of school and they should be ready to go once classes start back up.

Over the summer you can also strategically time the planting of various crops so that they reach maturity around the time school begins (ex: kale, beets, potatoes, etc.), but these will also require weeding and watering during the summer months..

Q3: Do you have models or plans for self-watering, rolling garden beds? What reasons would people choose a rolling garden bed over a permanent garden bed? We may have some construction at our school and we did not want to risk putting up new garden beds that might need to be removed, so we are considering getting more portable rolling garden beds.

I personally have never built nor used a rolling garden bed, though I have seen my fair share of portable beds. Most of the time these are smaller growing units that folks choose to use because of somewhat adverse sunlight conditions, limited space, or restrictions on installing a permanent structure. Moveable beds (depending on their size) can also be brought inside during the winter months, allowing you to extend the growing season.

Moveable garden beds can take many different shapes. They can be everything from a wide pot-shape fabric container, such as Smart Pots’ Big Bag Bed (pictured in the main blog image, above), to an elevated raised bed or planter, like this one from Eartheasy. If you’re specifically looking for something with wheels and you’re interested in a self-watering system, I’d recommend checking out the Rolling U-Garden Planter from Gardener’s Supply. (Did you know Gardener’s Supply generously offers a 25% discount to schools and educational institutions? Call Holly-Ruth Stocking at 888-560-1037 to place your order, and mention code KGO2018.)

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