Blog Archive

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June Michigan School Garden newsletter

Happy Summer School Gardeners -

Welcome to our second Michigan School Garden newsletter!  We hope this information is useful to you and we encourage you to send us your comments and suggestions to make it as applicable as possible.

Enjoy your summer, but don't forget to make plans for your cool crops and a Fall/Winter cover crop.  We'll have an article in next month's newsletter to familiarize you with cool crops and cover crops for use in a school garden. 

Best Regards,

Kristine Hahn

Michigan State University Extension Educator

Community Food Systems


Kaitlin Koch
Michigan State University Extension Educator
Community Food Systems


June 2015




Selling your crop to Michigan institutions this summer

by Kaitlin Koch, Extension Educator

Community Foods Systems


Connect the dots between the three pillars of Farm to School by encouraging local producers to sell their produce to summer food service programs.  Click on the title/link to read the entire article.



Summer Maintenance of the School Garden

by Kristine Hahn, Extension Educator

Community Foods Systems


Even though summer is usually the most productive time in a garden, it can be a big challenge for schools that have the typical "summer vacation".  The goal of this article is to offer some tips on how to successfully maintain the school garden when school is not in session.  Obviously, there is no "one size fits all" for every school garden summer maintenance schedule, but hopefully we can provide you with some useful ideas that can assist you in making your garden operate smoothly year round.


The first suggestion is to completely skip the summer gardening season and plant only spring and fall crops.  This option often works well for newer school gardens that still need to establish a consistent volunteer team and maintenance plan.  The garden can then regenerate during the summer months much like the teachers and students, if the spring crops are harvested and a cover crop is established before the end of school.  Most people are only aware of the "hot crops" of summer such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash.  This "Fall and Spring Crops Only Plan" is very useful for expanding students and teachers knowledge of the wide variety of healthy crops that are grow best during the cool spring and fall temperatures, such as greens, kale, lettuces and broccoli.  Be sure that you allow for plenty of time for the crops to grow to maturity- crops such as radishes, lettuces and peas are often ready to harvest within 6 weeks of planting the seed.


Having a solid planting plan that is implemented within the first week of September is essential to making a fall garden successful in Michigan schools.  It is also helpful to send out "save the date" reminders of the fall planting date to fellow garden teachers and volunteers before the end of school in the late spring, and again during the flurry of the first week of school in September.


While planting fall and spring crops only may work for some schools, summer crops are tried and true favorites.  If you have a well-established school garden team, coordinating summer care and maintenance of the school garden through volunteers may be a good option.  Recruitment of summer maintenance volunteers typically starts the previous fall by being visible within the school community and getting to know the school families and community members.  You can have a table at PTA meetings and at the Kindergarten Roundup, and advertise in the school newsletter and through email listservs.  Ask the teachers you work with to recommend parents who they think might be interested.  The Easter vacation can be a good trial run to see which volunteers are the most reliable and work out best in the school garden. 


Once you've identified your summer maintenance team there are a few things you can do to make sure things run efficiently.  Try to schedule work days and times around the days and times your volunteers prefer.  Consider the volunteers' desired method of communication, and adapt for those that do not have internet or smart phones.  Be sure to offer orientation and training to volunteers and encourage questions.  Schedule the training at a few different days or times if necessary to get everyone to participate.  Be sure to let all volunteers know what your summer availability is and the best way to contact you.  Remind volunteers both verbally and in writing to bring any problems, ideas or concerns to your attention.  Lay out and negotiate if necessary your expectations from the very beginning in terms of commitment level, what to do if they can't make their scheduled work day/assignment and the garden ground rules.  Host garden drop-in hours when volunteers can come in unscheduled and have access to the garden, tools, and most importantly, YOU.  Providing working lessons during these drop in hours are an effective way to train volunteers and get work done at the same time.


A committed and experienced garden volunteer is worth their weight in gold, so be sure to always follow up and demonstrate your appreciation for their efforts.  There are many effective ways to show how much you value their time.  Checking in with the volunteer at the end of their shift to see how things went; if they needed anything; discuss with them how to improve their experience, or how to make it more fun.  At the end of the season, be sure to print out certificates of appreciation and present them at a Garden Volunteer Recognition Celebration.  Following these practices regularly should keep those volunteers coming back both in the summer and during school for years to come.    



School Garden Grant Information


American Honda Foundation


Due dates quarterly, next one is August 1


Schools, nonprofits classified as 501(c) (3) s and private or public schools (elementary and secondary) are eligible.


Award range: $20,000 - $75,000 for one year


Apply online at this link


 Captain Planet Foundation


Due date: September 30th


Schools, nonprofits and other organizations are eligible, as long as they are exempt from federal taxation. Proposals must include three considerations: be project-based, be performed by youth and have real environmental outcomes.


Apply online at this link


The Home Depot Foundation


Community Impact Grants currently open


Schools and 501(c) (3) organizations are eligible.


Awards are up to $5,000


Apply online at this link


The Home Depot also has opportunities to match donations from local stores with nonprofits. Follow this link for more information on how to request a match.


Jamba Juice "It's all about the Fruits and Veggies" Garden Grant


Open date: 6/1/15


Due date: 10/2/15


Schools, nonprofits and community organizations are eligible with at least 15 children between the ages of 3-18. Proposed projects must be within a 50 mile radius of a Jamba Juice store. Awards consist of $100 in soil amendments and plants and $400 in gardening supplies. Apply online at this link


Sow it Forward Garden Grants


2016 Grant currently open


Due date: January 8, 2016


Nonprofit organizations, schools, 501(c) (3) organizations, food banks, community gardens (and more!) are eligible.


Projects are to focus on food garden projects that benefit their community.


Awards are full or partial. Full grants are $300-400 in cash and remainder in seeds and garden supplies. Partial grants are $300 cash and $25 one year subscription to Kitchen Gardeners International garden planner.


Apply online at this link.













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