In our last post we explored some of the reasons a school might embark on a school garden project. In this post we will discuss the ‘turn-key’ gardens we created for the Green Education Foundation Garden as a Teaching Tool program and expansion possibilities above and beyond the basics presented here. Here is a link to the GEF webpage: http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=199&Itemid=569. These simple garden sketches are meant to introduce a basic, scalable, edible garden and are in part based on the principles of ‘square foot gardening’ by Mel Bartholomew. What is square foot gardening? Basically, it is building 6″ high wooden (or other materials) raised beds that are then filled with a suitable soil / peatmoss / compost mix. These intensely planted 4′x4′ boxes are easy to maintain(easy to reach across), and you are only watering and weeding the growing area. Believe it or not, one box can grow enough food for an adult to eat a fully stocked salad every day for the growing season!
- Consists of 4- 4′x8′ raised beds made of untreated wood (or rocks, cobbles, or other repurposed materials.)
- A ‘compost area’ for a small, portable composting unit
- Rain barrels to catch roof runoff and reuse for watering
- A small native plant garden to provide habitat value
- Pollinator plantings in pots (Milkweed, Echinacea, Monarda, etc….)
- A small gathering space for children and teachers featuring repurposed seating: strawbales and sawn tree trunks
- A small shed for tools or potting area
This garden expands upon the features of garden #1 to include:
- Additional 4′x8′ raised planting beds
- A medium sized tool shed or potting area
- A larger gathering space
This garden expands upon the features of garden #2 to include:
- Enlarged native plant bed
- Small pond for enhanced habitat value
- Use of a 3 bin compost system
- Reclaimed wood pergola for shade and structure. See an example here: http://ub-la.com/projects/residential/penn_brook_house
Beyond the Basics:
Beyond the basics, there are enormous possibilities for the ‘Garden as a Teaching Tool’ to be further developed into a full scale School Garden. Please see our recent blog post about the ‘Importance of School Gardens’ for how a project like this can become the heart and soul of a school, creating a strong community bond: http://ub-la.com/blog/2011/03/04/the-importance-of-school-gardens-ubla-blog-series/
Some things to think about before embarking on a project like this:
- Is there appropriate space for a project? This includes size requirements, topography, sunlight, location, etc…
- Who are the users?
- What will the curriculum components be?
- Age of children involved?
- Are there users with accessibility issues?
- Is the space also going to function as an outdoor classroom?
- Are there people in place to take a leadership role in the project?
- Funds available?
These are just starting questions. UBLA works hand in hand with 2 life long educators, Shirley Walker and Robin O’neill. Since retirement, these foodies have become actively involved in the education component of Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton. They are able to combine their strong teaching abilities with their knowledge of organic farming. Shirley and Robin are integral team members of UBLA, helping to identify the stakeholders and integrate the curriculum component with school parents and faculty. School Gardens can flourish, but the involvement of all stakeholders (including design team, curriculum advisors, parents, teachers, faculty and other staff) at the inception of the project will help guarantee success.
UBLA is now offering presentations for little to no cost for schools interested in embarking on a Schoolyard Garden project. Contact us to learn more!