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5 Great Plants for School Gardens

5 Great Plants for School Gardens
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NOTE: This post was written by Chelsey Simpson, who is the membership and communications associate for the National Farm to School Network and an advocate for local food systems and community gardening.

Do you remember when you first discovered the magic of seeds–endosperms and embryos, a tiny beansprout uncurling on your classroom’s windowsill? You can share that magic by volunteering for a school garden, even if that means starting one from scratch. School gardens bring science to life every day, feeding kids’ natural curiosity and connecting them to their food in a deeper, more meaningful way. Studies show that students who are exposed to gardens and other Farm to School activities are more likely to make healthy food choices and try new foods.

Schools present special challenges for new and experienced gardeners alike. Working around summer vacation, creating relevant teaching opportunities and selecting low-maintenance plants are all important considerations in school garden projects. There are no wrong answers–and a lot depends on your climate and soil conditions–but some plants fit the needs of school gardens better than others. Here are five of our favorites.

Radishes

Radishes are fast. Some varieties are ready to eat just three weeks after the seeds are sown, making them a satisfying first plant for beginners. Radishes are also easy to harvest, and kids will have fun pulling the whole plant out of the ground while learning about root systems. Like all of the plants on this list, they are easy to eat raw. Their sharp flavor can be toned down by grating them into a slaw or pairing them with a dipping sauce.

Rainbow Chard

Many greens and lettuce varieties work well in school gardens because they are less frost-sensitive and can be planted in the spring and fall. Rainbow chard is an especially nice choice because a single seed pack will yield a neon display in shades of yellow, pink, green and orange. It is also very hearty and will continue to produce through the summer and fall if it is harvested regularly. The seeds are relatively large, making them easy for small fingers to handle. Mature leaves usually taste best sautéed, but small, young leaves are good in a salad.

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All photos courtesy of Stock.XCHNG.

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11:59AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

Consider growing kids' Favorite plant the TickleMe Plant. The TickleMe Plant is quickly replacing the lima bean and as a must grow plant for kids and school gardens. The TickleMe Plant will close its leaves and lowers its branches when you Tickle It!. See video
http://www.ticklemeplant.com

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

This is a fabulous way to teach children about food and healthy eating. Nothing more delightful than to watch a garden grow from scratch and then be able to feast on the veggies later on when they are ready to be harvested.

7:18AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

FANTASTIC

6:10AM PDT on May 14, 2012

Glad to have read this article Obtenir le rio orange ou bien le rio orange pour quitter mon opérateur telecom sans probleme & sans frais

5:12PM PDT on May 2, 2012

Great info -- wish my children's school would do this ...

9:07AM PDT on May 2, 2012

I wish all schools would do this!

9:02AM PDT on May 2, 2012

Baby beets, corn, sunflowers, rhubarb and leeks also thrive in schoolgardens. Not to mention pumpkins :)

6:02AM PDT on May 2, 2012

The solution for watermelons is like that for tomatoes--choice varieties with small fruit and fairly fast growth to harvest and find either volunteers or a summer school program to care for plants over the summer so kids get to harvest watermelons when they return to school in the fall. I really like the idea of having school children grow edible plants so they can eat them as part of lunch and see where at least some food comes from.

5:32PM PDT on May 1, 2012

I can see blacks complaining now because they are not growing Watermelons but hey what's new?

10:12AM PDT on May 1, 2012

Kids love their garden plant they grow in school. It's a great feature of their school years and I remember mine way back when.

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