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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Michigan School Garden newsletter March 2017


March 2017


THANK GOODNESS FOR SPRING School Gardeners !!   The calendar says Spring is here, but I am currently watching snow fly outside my window.  No matter – its melting as soon as it hits the ground –doomed!- and this is Michigan, where weird weather is the norm but Spring Rules!  Hope you are in the process of planning your gardens with your students and getting ready for the big planting day along with all the great educational garden experiences - Woot!!




Creating a multicultural school garden program

by Kaitlin Koch


School gardens are touted as experiential learning labs for students of all ages. However, it is important to design and implement culturally appropriate garden programming that benefits all students. School gardens can be most impactful for students of all cultures when you intentionally plan an inclusive, multicultural garden program. This is especially important in diverse school districts, and beneficial regardless of the area demographics.


To build an authentic multicultural school garden program, try following these recommendations. Understand that some of these recommendations may take some time, and some may need to be revisited as your program and/or student body grows and evolves.


  • Work to understand the participants in your school garden program. What are their cultural backgrounds? Do you have any students that have moved from other countries or other parts of the US? These cultural identities have a lot of significance in the lives of your students. One way to talk and learn about culture is through food.
  • If the school garden program is optional, take note of who is participating and who is not with regard to cultural background. Work to build a connection with some of the students that are not participating, with food and the garden as a platform. Offer opportunities for them to connect with the garden, as outlined below.
  • Once you have a sense of the cultural backgrounds and identities of your students, it is time to explore the cultural foods that have significance to your students. This is an excellent opportunity for students to share about foods and food culture that is important to them and their families. Inviting parents and relatives to share more, or perhaps cook and eat food together is a great way to begin or deepen relationships with the family members of your students. It is also an opportunity for students of different cultural backgrounds to learn about the cultural lineage that the family members represent.
  • Explore with your students what foods are possible to grow in your area from the dishes that were featured or discussed. This is a great way to plan a portion of the garden with the students and encourage involvement and buy-in. Again, family members, if they have gardening experience, can be a great resource to assist with planning or explore new gardening techniques.
  • Continue to explore ways to integrate the various cultures that are represented in your school garden program. Honoring the wide array of experiences that students have in relation to food is essential to keeping the garden an inclusive space. Implementing this in an authentic way can be challenging, so reflection on the process and continued effort will be helpful. Experiencing the significance of food from various cultures will be most authentic when it is represented by someone from that culture. Making the space for representative voices from a variety of cultures is a great step towards making your garden program inclusive.


For further inspiration see below for a few other examples:

  • Read more about a garden that is working towards equity and inclusion here.
  • Read this article for ideas about activities that aim to increase inclusion and reflection among your students.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).


Spring Crop Planning for the School Garden

by Kristine Hahn


There is a lot of fun and educational mileage in planning a school garden with your students.


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 on paper 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 such as measurement, calculation of area and long range planning. A distinct advantage to mapping a plan out on paper is that it becomes a record of past activities and becomes a resource for future garden planning.  


Another advantage is that it can 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 (and adults!) 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. 


When choosing which crops to plant, I would highly encourage you to get as much student input as possible. I ask students what vegetables they like to eat, and they vote on which cool season crops to grow.  I also encourage them to plant things they might like to try.  Just for kicks, I always exert my executive privilege to insist on planting peas.  I love fresh peas, and despite all the students' objections about how nasty peas taste, I generally have a few converts come harvest time when they get to experience fresh peas – not canned or frozen.


It is always a good idea to have your students measure the perimeter and calculate the area of the beds to determine the total amount of space available.  Next you can decide on the format of your garden – will you have the traditional straight rows or maybe a square foot garden layout?  Square foot garden planting is a method popularized by the Square Foot Gardening book by Mel Bartholomew where you mark off each square foot in the garden with string and each crop will fit so many plants per square foot.  This is a good method for students to learn what area really means when they see that 16 radishes can grow in one square foot, but only 1 cabbage will fit in the same space.  Mistakes can be made into learning opportunities and students can easily see the consequences of planting seeds too close together. 


At this point in the planning process it is important to determine with your students which direction is north and the mature height of your crops.  The tallest plants will need to be planted at the north end of the garden bed so that they will not shade out the shorter plants.  Vining crops such as peas will need to be placed next to a trellis that, again, should be placed in the north end of the bed.


Most of the specific information needed to correctly plant, grow and harvest a vegetable crop is printed on the back of the seed packet.  An excellent learning experience is to have students read the information on the back of the seed packets to make sure that this crop can grow in the garden.  Will there be enough sun, do you have the correct soil type, do you have enough space? 


Another good exercise is to have the students create a harvest plan according to the days to maturity listed on the seed packet.  They can use calendar to count forward to see when their crops may be ready to harvest.  Another very important point is for students to learn the proper harvesting method.  Novice gardeners often harvest by pulling the entire plant out of the ground, when they could have removed the lower leaves and doubled their yield – and tasty meals!  They can also calculate the potential yield, or how much edible plant material they can expect.  Many students will be amazed at how much food they can grow in such a small space and in such a short time. And your students can get all this hands-on education before they start digging in the soil!



School Garden Grant Information

  • American Honda Foundation - Due dates three times per year, 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
  • Carton 2 Garden ContestDue April 12, 2017
    • All K-12 public and private schools in the United States are eligible to apply.
    • Contest winners will be selected based on their implementation of an innovative garden creating featuring creative and sustainable uses for repurposed milk and juice cartons.
    • Get started by collecting at least 100 empty cartons.
    • Awards up to $5,000
    • To learn more, follow this link for more information.
  • The Home Depot FoundationCommunity Impact Grants currently open
    • Schools and 501(c) (3) organizations are eligible.
    • Awards are up to $5,000
    • 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. 
  • Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation
    • Public schools are eligible
    • Awards from $5,000 - $25,000
    • Visit this link to answer preliminary questions and learn more.
  • Project Produce Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schoolsdistributed on a rolling basis
    • Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible.
    • Must be submitted by district food service director.
    • These grants are $2,500 and can assist with offering educational activities in the lunchroom, encouraging students to try new veggies and fruits.
  • Salad Bars to School Grant
    • Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible to apply. To qualify for a Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools grant, applicants must offer the salad bar as part of the reimbursable meal served in your district.
    • Schools use the award (approximately $2,955 value) to implement salad bars as part of their daily meal program
    • For more information and to apply, follow this link.
  • Youth Micro-grants through Karma for Cara FoundationRolling deadline
    • Youth under age 18 who are working on a community service project (including school and community gardens).
    • Awards are between $250 - $1,000.


School Garden Educational Opportunities


  • STARTING AND SUSTAINING A SCHOOL GARDEN happens on Thursday, April 13, 2017 (the day before Good Friday) at Charles L Bowers School Farm located at 1219 E Square Lake Rd, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304.  Online registration is available at  Payment can be made by credit card or check.    Registration deadline is Friday, April 7, 2017 Questions?  Contact Kristine Hahn at 248-802-4590 or
  • Lawn Care: Learn about proper care and maintenance of our lawns. Date: April 4, 2017  Location: 21885 Dunham Road, Entrance E, Clinton Township, MI 48036

·         The Spring Garden:  Learn what plants will grow in the cooler weather of spring and fall.  Date: April 4, 2017
Location: Max Thompson Family Resource Center, 11370 Hupp, Warren, MI 48089

 Junior Master Gardener - Teacher and Volunteer Training Come ready to learn about how gardens and plant science can enhance what you are already doing. Kids, dirt and fun. We will focus on the Learn Grow Eat and Go curriculum.  Date: April 5, 2017 - April 6, 2017
Location: Michigan State University Extension, Alger County Office, E9526 Prospect Street, Munising, MI 49862

Location: Ruth Butler Building, UP State Fairgrounds, 2401 12th Ave. N, Escanaba, MI 49829

·         2017 Kent Pruning Workshop  Master the science of pruning through this hands-on workshop.   Date: April 15, 2017
Location: Kent/MSU Extension, 775 Ball Avenue, NE, Grand Rapids 49503

  • Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition Professional Development:  Partners in place-based education
  • Slow Food USA's "Growing Leaders in the Garden" is a Professional Development series that brings Slow Food staff and curriculum leaders to schools to help connect the school garden to classroom subject areas. For more information, please contact Andrew Nowak, Director, National School Garden Program:





Kristine Hahn

Michigan State University Extension Educator

Community Food Systems

Eastern Market Office

1445 Adelaide

Detroit, MI 48207


248-802-4590 (CELL)

313-567-8726 (FAX)

MSU is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer.  Michigan State University programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status.

"Always be humble and kind." - Tim McGraw


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