Spring crop planning for the school garden: Part I

There is a lot of fun and educational mileage in creating a garden plan.

Photo credit: Michelle Lavra, MSU
Photo credit: Michelle Lavra, MSU

Spring is imminent and everybody is excited to get out in the garden. One of the best activities you can do with your students at this time is to make a plan of which crops you are going to grow and where to locate them in the bed. This is a great activity that can teach many transferable skills like measurement, calculation of area and long range planning. A distinct advantage to mapping a plan on paper is that it becomes a record of past activities and becomes a resource for future garden planning.

Another advantage is to help you in your lesson planning. For example, if you and your students decide to see how a layer of mulch affects the growth rate of beans in the spring, you can allocate the appropriate space for that experiment

First and foremost, you and the students need to decide what crops you will plant. It helps to know whether you will be planting cool weather crops or warm weather crops, if you want to harvest before school is done in June, or if the garden will be maintained over the summer. For example, we do not have summer maintenance in the school garden where I participate, so, we only plant cool weather crops that we will be able to harvest in June just before the summer break.

An early spring garden with cool weather crops is often an educational experience for all. Many people are only familiar with the summer favorite crops that flourish during the warm summer months such as corn, peppers, tomatoes and beans. Growing cool weather crops exposes students to different crops that grow better in our cooler spring temperatures such as spinach, peas and leafy greens. And research shows that if students grow vegetables, they are much more likely to try them.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension and the staff in the Community Food Systems workgroup who support farm to school activities including school gardens. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Additional articles in this series:

Spring crop planning for the school garden: Part II

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