School Gardens: Lets Get Them Growing

There are so many schools these days growing some kind of grub, or making plans for a garden in the future. It’s so wonderful to see parents, teachers and students alike get all excited over a school yard garden space and the benefits to learning, health and happiness are significant.

This post will gather all the school garden resources I know of. Please send it along to your favorite parent, teenager, principle, teacher or community health worker to help spread the word, the funding and the resources. If you have any knowledge to add please leave us a comment.

Support for School Gardens in Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture has a School Garden Project, which includes a small funding program (up to $500) for new school gardens and a School Garden Resource Guide.

Garden Funding

In addition to the Department of Agriculture’s school garden funding there are a few other funding sources. These include:

Evergreen: School Ground Greening Project

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Wellness Funds: You can apply through your local Community Health Board

Local Food Fund: They are not currently open for applications but check back in the summer 2012.Inglis Street Elementary School's new garden.

In addition to applying for grants you can talk to your principal to brainstorm funding options and also bring the idea to your community at large. Some local businesses may be interested in sponsoring your project.

Learning More

The internet has endless amounts of information on school gardens, so much so that sometimes it’s helpful to have a curated list. Here is ours.

This school garden grows some serious food!Local Information:

Edible Schoolyard: Video produced by Slow Food Nova Scotia telling the story of a very successful school garden program and Arthur Hines Elementary in Hants County. This dvd is available at a public library near you.

SPEC’s School Garden Start-up Guide: Another school garden resource guide, put out by a group in B.C. Has a great list of tools, some helpful advice and a month-by-month break down of what to think about when.

School Food Gardens- Challenges, Barriers and How to Overcome Them. A great short article on what to do about summer maintenance, vandalism, and engagement.

Sample Garden Budget: To give you an idea of start-up costs.

School Resource List: An extensive list of local and international resources in case you haven’t found what you are looking for here.

You can also get in touch with a school near you that already has a garden. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at this school garden list to see if someone down the road might have some advice to offer.

Look to your community for knowledge you posses collectively. Farmers are experts at growing grub here in Nova Scotia. Get in touch with an Atlantic Master Gardener, whose role is to offer their gardening know-how to the general public as part of the program. You can email the President to ask for a volunteer to teach you and your school more about growing food.

Saving Tomato Seeds For Next Year. Here are 3 amazing web resources from projects in the USA:

California School Garden Network

Kids Gardening

The Edible Schoolyard

Rubber boots to share.

Well that’s what I have, I hope it is helpful. Of course you are always welcome to give us a call here at the Urban Garden Project (902.442.1077) and we’ll do our best to help you out and point you in the right direction.

Written by: Garity Chapman

Announcing: Native Plant Talk Series

Grow Your Greens: Micro-greens in the Window

This is about the time of year that I start to miss fresh greens. I like to put them on top of my soup, or a big bowl of rice, or just snack on them. They’re hard to come by in January, and at times can be pretty pricey. It is also so easy to grow micro-greens in a sunny window at home. They may be small but geez are they tasty. In this post I’ll show you how.

First Get A Tray Or Two

Trays tend to work better than traditional pots as they  have more surface area and greens don’t need much in the way of soil depth. This year I bought these great heavy-duty plastic trays, they are more expensive (closer to $20 than $5), but they will last me forever, no more cracked and leaky trays and I feel better buying a plastic item once rather than every year.

If you don’t want to invest or want to try to recycle what you have try out other kinds of  containers. I have been known to use cake pans, old whiskey boxes, baskets lined with fabric among other things to grow my greens in. Some work better than others but try them out and write it down so you remember next year.

Good Potting Mix

As usual with container gardening, you want something with good drainage, and lots of nutrients. I usually use a basic store-bought potting mixture with my own compost added in. Make sure its well moistened before you plant your seeds in there. Seed Varieties

By far my favorite window green are pea shoots. They are simply normal peas, grown for their shoots rather than their pods. They taste just like peas, grow so fast and happily keep growing after being trimmed. To plant them simply soak the pea seeds in water overnight to help them start to sprout and plant them in your trays very closely together (really jam them in there, they don’t mind). Within 3-4 weeks they should be well on their way and you can start to trim them back once they reach about 6″. Simply use your scissors to trim them down to about 1 or 2″ and voila! Winter salad.

You don’t need to stop at peas, almost any green will grow in your window. Try out arugula, spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro, broccoli, swiss chard, mizuna, tatsoi, or whatever else you can think of. Remember these will be grown as micro-greens. They will be 2 or 3″ tall when it’s time to eat them so you can grow varieties that would be so tasty at full size (like the broccoli or sunflower greens). Yum. These varieties will all take longer to grow than pea shoots.

You can plant the smaller seeds about 1/8″ apart (or simply use your own judgment). Then cover them up with a thin layer of soil.

It’s a good idea to stagger your planting. Plant one tray than wait two weeks and plant another etc. This way you should have a continuous supply to last you through the winter.

Germination

Try and use fresh seeds, or if you want to use seeds that have been around for a while, plant them at double the density so that if half of the seeds don’t germinate, the other half will.

Soak your pea seeds before planting, all the other greens can simply be scattered over your soil surface. Keep them moist (but not soaked!) and warm. Within a week or two you should see them popping up (it can be up to a month before parsley sprouts so give them time).

Care

Put your trays in the sunniest window you have. It doesn’t have to be a super warm spot as most greens don’t mind a bit of cold, but try not to let them freeze. Give them water regularly, checking the soil with your finger first. Simply push your finger 1/2″ into the soil to check the moisture. You don’t want it to be bone dry, or sopping wet. Look for a slight dampness as an indication to water them again.

Every other week give them a weak dose of organic fertilizer. I like to use a water-soluble fertilizer like Neptune’s Harvest Fish or Seaweed Fertilizer.

Don’t forget to eat them! It helps keep you happy and healthy through the long winter months. Enjoy them on sandwiches, on top of soup (maybe with a bit of feta cheese), or as a mid-day snack. So good.

Written by: Garity Chapman