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School Garden

Brad Edwards
10 years ago

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An image is worth 1000 words.

So I am taking over the school garden this yard and have many ideas, but wanted to see what yall thought first, the budget will be around 200 but will have a lot of volunteer help and maybe even a Lowes grant.

On the left is three large 5 foot thorned overgrown blackberries, to be moved, and 3 blueberry bushes, then the three overgrown beds, on the right is in the far back a red maple to be moved, and lavender in the back right.

I plan on keeping the lavender, the three blueberries and starting from scratch, moving and widening all 3 beds to be parallel maybe 3x8 for kids, adding about 10-13 #20 bags of sand for a walkable surface with the stone, and planting heirlooms/going organic as possible.

I may add 3-5 different varieties of blueberry on the left and a couple of strawberry underneath at the front so I can get the ph to around 4.5-5 for the blueberry wo affecting the strawberries.

The rest is a big ? mark, I am thinking spring and fall tomatoes, indeterminate heirlooms for the chain link, pole beans, etc.

Ideally the harvest would be before the end of may and again around late Nov early Dec with winter and summer fert programs.

I have it thought out, was just wondering if anybody has any quick and cheap ideas, especially for the weeds etc. Vertical would be nice as its about 20x35 "slightly bigger than the picture suggests". Its also zone 8 east texas.

I also plan on adding aged manure and compost in early august right before planting. And then using heirloom seed from my greenhouse.

I was thinking vermiculture, "worm casings/tea" might be a good way to have all the fertilizer I would need in the future, with occasional starbucks coffee ground run and fall pinestraw for mulch.

Maybe some sort of sign to take away from the chain link, or sphagnums moss hanging baskets with flowers DIY with chicken wire?

The irrigation system is pretty good.

Comments (15)

  • nc_crn
    10 years ago

    The weed pressure is going to be a nightmare for a while there. You can tackle a bulk of it with a treatment (various ones, various results) before you plant anything, but it's going to persist for a while and you may never really get rid of the grass in the paths.

    Hopefully you can get a hold of some good/thick mulch for your annual veggie beds. I'm a huge fan of straw (not hay, which has seed heads), but that's area restrictive and thanks to lower-mid-West drought it's not that cheap in some areas the past couple of years.

    Even if you go at the garden with RoundUp or all the manual labor in the world...you're going to have weed pressure there for a while.

    Enjoy your production, but don't expect it to look immaculate every single week.

  • socks
    10 years ago

    My comments are simple things you have thought about, but here goes...

    Watering. At my school, that's always the problem: proximity to water and someone willing to do it on a regular basis. Maybe a volunteer schedule?

    As for the hanging baskets, they often require a lot of water in the summer, so that could be a problem. The fence doesn't bother me. It will keep critters out and others from helping themselves to the produce without permission. We've had people dig up whole plants at my school.

    The weeds. Ugh. Those look real stubborn! You said you have volunteers, but don't forget that often youth groups such as Boy or Girl Scouts need "service hours." It would be a good way to involve kids. You could give them a call to help with anything including weeding. Loosen the weeds (shovel, pitch fork?) and have the helpers remove them and as many of the roots as possible. Of course, the older the kids, the better their help.

    Mulch is very helpful against weeds. You'll need those volunteers to be diligent about keeping after the ones that sprout.

    Looks like you have room there for a compost heap or some sort of composter (NOT the weeds, of course...lol). Maybe the kids could contribute their lunch scraps to the pile as well.

    This is a truly wonderful thing for you to take on, Oceandweller. The students will love it. If I were a parent at your school, I would be so grateful and love to help you. Good luck, and you could keep a scrapbook of the progress as well as letting us here know how it goes.

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  • jean001a
    10 years ago

    Understand that many veggies are a poor match with the school year. Volunteers are often scarce during the non-school months.

  • Brad Edwards
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Great idea socks, the school has two compost drums, but its 1/10 of what it could be. Great idea about having the kids compost their lunch, I really like that idea. I will probably be teaching a class about once every other week for a couple of hours, the kids volunteer for weed control "I just hope they don't rip out things like new vegtables lol".

    I was thinking the same thing nc. The boy scouts removed the stone path last week, didn't know if they were going to or not. I am planning on getting some black cow and bonemeal, I am hoping if I cook the beds for two months in this 100 degree heat that should kill a lot of weed seed. I am sure it wont smell good, don't do summer school here maybe reinforcing being good lol.

    I know what you mean jean, I was thinking winter might be pretty good for a couple heads of cabbage, some carrots, and onion. I am leaning towards cinder block and using the holes in the cinder block for herbs and flowers. I do think going the traditional 4x8 will give more room. I also plan on making crosses with 1" rebar for the tomatoes :) and using grill paint on them :). I think that might look really cool be kind of neat. I know I have a lot of work to do the next couple of months, they can get treated mulch for practically free so I will probably be using that for the paths "hopefully that doesn't change"

    There is a pretty good irrigation system in the on the schools timmer and its adjustable which is nice, also a spiquet, if need be I will get a drip irrigaton system going as I am not going to water early like many good veggies need.

    How many blueberries do you think I could fit on the left if crammed in? There are 3 there that don't have the right PH I might have to take out, but I was thinking of doing 4 early very early varities, maybe Austin or climax with the current 3. The tomatoes in the background picture are really sad, I feel bad for the kids, they planted groups of 5 in a single spot, they should be the size of the bushes on the left if not taller. The garden is so heavily fertilized I bet I don't need much fertilizer for the next two years...

    One good thing, is that the soil is really good, drains well, and holds water well.

    Maybe some of the kids could make a cool rain gauge or sun dial, that might be kind of cool. I am going to try and keep it all organic so it can be eaten fresh off the vine. What about a grape variety such as scuppernog?

    I made a bed out in front of the gate for the three large blackberries and will move them come August right before I get ready to plant. If anybody thinks of anything hit me up, I am more ? what to plant, they also are trying to grow corn and there really isn't enough room, but I was thinking of running pole beans up them in the fall with possibly pumpkin and having the three sisters. Its a christian school so :). Thanks for the ideas and help.

  • lgteacher
    10 years ago

    We grew radishes (for quick results), carrots, lettuce, peas, and broccoli at my school garden. All irrigation was by hand, so we didn't grow anything over the summer. We hoped to have tomatoes, but didn't have that many mature before school got out. We had some good salads and students ate broccoli right off the plant.
    The students loved having the garden, it seemed to be a good outlet for students who didn't know how to use their recess time. They really enjoyed it.

  • howelbama
    10 years ago

    Just curious, what sun exposure does the garden get? Are your fences on the east and west sides, giving it all day exposure? That should probably play a big part in your overall design plan.

  • nancyjane_gardener
    10 years ago

    I started a few raised beds that were right outside my spec ed classroom this spring. I did spring for a truckload of good soil from the dump, cause the last time I tried anything in these beds they were rock hard and nothing grew.
    I got strawberries from something similar to freecycle (but for gardens in this area), llama poop and horse poop from freecycle, seeds from Sonoma Co seed exchange (free seed bank), several plants from a local start up organic farm donated.I have a Bakers Creek store a few miles away that I'm going to hit up soon, and I'm also going to hit up the heirloom festival in Sept for as many donations as I can!
    We planted just hoping things would live through our week long break (I came back and watered once and we put gal milk jugs with 1 pin prick right next to the plants)Almost everything lived!
    We get a whole new crew of students for summer school, so after that week off, the new guys got to see the plants starting to actually grow and produce! We've pulled some carrots, strawberries and 1 zucchini! The tomato plant is full of small tomatoes and we should get our first ripe one this week!
    Another exciting thing is that there are these 3x6 boxes all over the pretty much abandoned school and the janitor has offered to help me move more to our back yard where there is the most sun!
    I LOVE the thought of school gardens, and would like to do that as a retirement "job" if I can in a few years!
    Oh my! I ramble ON!
    GOOD LUCK and have fun! Nancy

  • Brad Edwards
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Nancy,

    Thank you so much for the kind words and for making me feel optimistic about it. I will have to check out freecycle and craigslist, somebody might have free cinderblock or brick that would be perfect for the edging and for other things.

    The exposure is east west with the gate, basically it gets about 80 full sun exposure and the 20% near the wall gets a good amount of sun as well. One thing is that its been running 100+ here in the summer, so I probably would have withheld a summer garden of okra and peppers anyway, not to mention having to water and them not being the easiest things to pick/eat.

    The really good news is that the fall planting dates for 90% of vegetables here are August 1st so I will just have to do a lot of work over the next couple of weeks to get the beds ready.

  • oliveoyl3
    10 years ago

    oceandweller - consider sheet mulching and starting off with transplants through the mulch. Make sure the mulch is weed free! Then apply more mulch after harvest. The spring garden will be much easier if you keep the weeds at bay with mulch.

    I volunteer at a summer camp nature center with a children's garden, so perhaps my experience has some helpful suggestions.

    The weeds were prolific last year and increased by mulch that contained weed seeds. Then in April we double dug it with llama manure because it is suppose to be weed free. Despite diligent frequent shallow scraping all during May the weed seeds were still sprouting. In June I altered my plans of an intermingled garden and planting seeds to rows along soaker hoses using landscape cloth over the top & planting through holes. After a few weeks we covered the cloth with spoiled hay from the bottom of the hay storage. I will remove landscape cloth after harvest and apply more mulch for an easier planting next year for our summer season.

    So far the kids are more attracted to our petting farm animals, but when the garden has filled out by midsummer it will be more interesting. I've planted a pizza garden with vegetables and herbs that are pizza ingredients, a winter squash jungle, a strawberry and tea garden with herbal tea plants, and a large teepee with bean & sunflower plants.

    Some kids look at it and just say oh and move on. Others have questions. Some want to kick or pick at leaves, so need to be closely supervised while near the garden.

    We don't have a plan for the kids actually maintaining the garden as they just visit for up to 50 minutes at a time as part of their rotation recreation schedule. In your situation you could have groups responsible for certain areas of the garden once you get it under control. Perhaps, your adult volunteers would supervise them organized into clubs for sections. Ownership of a crop or a section worked with my own children in our gardens. We had great strawberries when my daughter was in charge of a small planting.

    I was surprised how much my kids got into the composting at first wanting to turn it or bury scraps for worms in the worm bin. After awhile it was just a way of gardening and they didn't get excited it about it anymore. I learned to keep tasks simple and not jump from one thing to another out in the garden. They got thirsty or frightened by bees and would want to give up. It takes a very motivated child to spend a lot of time in a garden actually gardening.

    Hope that helps~Corrine

  • allhaileris
    10 years ago

    What about planting grapes? They'll ripen after school starts and don't need constant maintenance during the summer. The vines are decent looking even when bare. They'll just need a lot of water until the roots get deep enough to reach the water table.

  • feijoas
    10 years ago

    Using the chain-link fences to grow vining crops up would be great.
    Apologies if I missed it, but is your soil very acidic? If not, I'd avoid more blueberries or the pH will need to be continuously lowered for ever...
    Three sisters gardens are quite difficult to get right and generally modern interpretations of green beans, sweetcorn and zucchini don't work. +kids sounds like a potential nightmare!
    Getting the kids to help select appropriate traditional drying cultivars would be a great learning opportunity.
    the school garden I was involved with didn't have irrigation. Not good, especially over the summer holidays!
    I think jean001a means that many plants' main growth and fruiting time is in school holidays, although with irrigation and the right cultivars, I don't see that as much of an issue.
    I found the kids loved seed saving. Watching the biggest, healthiest carrot turn into a six-foot tall plant, grow flowers, attract insects and eventually set seed is cool. If nothing else, it's a lesson in patience!

  • Brad Edwards
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    So far we have removed the stone and will be replacing it with stone and sand, I think that will help a lot with weeds.

    I have moved 2 of the 3 beds in the middle, and placed an order on ebay for heirloom tomato seed. I just started purple top, basil, onion, lettuce from seed in the greenhouse. Its been a ton of work so far, but I'll get some more pictures up eventually.

    I am thinking about painting the fence with this,

    http://www.lowes.com/pd_219201-90-207000_4294729373__?productId=3111185&Ntt=rustoleum

    White oil marine paint to match the white stone, and using cinder block raised beds and painting them white as well.

    I also just ordered some copper flashing so I can make DIY copper name tags :). I am happy with where its going so far.

  • Brad Edwards
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Thanks for the idea on seed saving, I didn't know how the kids would take to it, so heirlooms sound like a great idea.

    I am going to be bringing in a lot of soil, mostly composted manure, but some loam and compost as well.

    I plan on adding pine bark mulch to the blueberry bed, along with sulfur and mulching with pine straw. I will probably plant 3-4 more blueberries this upcoming spring and try and grow turnips in it this fall.

    I also added a T to the faucet and found a hose, picked up a couple of cheap spraying heads, and ran it to the garden that way I can spot water.

    The full exposure is actually a blessing in disguise as I should be able to grow about anything I want to in there.

    I found an old composting bin that will work, and am going to add a couple of pallets outside of the greenhouse for the larger stuff like tomatoes when its time to rip them out.

  • Brad Edwards
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    I took yall advice and have decided to move the blueberries as they would take up too much prime real estate and require a special bed and plant them next to some azaleas. I also wanted to have some pictures taken in October, the basil, tomatoes, and pole beans have doubled in size. On the right side its mostly shaded so I am thinking 5 thornless blackberry. Weeds amazingly haven't been too much of an issue due to tilling, a heavy weed barrier, new soil, and mulch. Thanks for all of the advice, I love this site.
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    Just trying to give some other people ideas, it cost about 350 and about 35 hours of time. We had the plastic 2x4 and pea gravel already. We have 4 different kinds of cherry tomato, yard long red pole beans, purple pole beans, garlic, onion, brocolli, cauliflower, basil, rosemary, chives, dill, parsney and mint, and three large thorned blackberry on the side in the front out of the way.

  • nancyjane_gardener
    10 years ago

    Very pretty! Nancy