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Friday, December 15, 2017

Dec. 2017 Michigan School Garden newsletter


December 2017


Happy Holidays Gardeners

Hope all your Christmas dreams come true.  I've included an article with a list of garden tools for school gardens in case you need some help – have a safe and joyous holiday season. 


Happy Tidings – Kaitlin her husband had twin baby boys Declan and Theodore on Dec. 5th – Congrats!!!




School Garden Start-Up Tool List

by Kristine Hahn


One of the most important steps in starting a school garden is creating a budget.  Some of the most crucial tools (pun intended) to budget for are garden tools.  How many tools are necessary to get started?  What type of tools are best suited for children in a school garden setting?  Which tools are the most durable and best for educational purposes?  The following list is a good starting point for those establishing a new school garden:


•           Hand trowels

  1. Garden hose

•           1 small wheelbarrow

•           Gloves

•           4 Shovels with a pointed spade

•           4 Rakes

•           Box of popsicle sticks for plant/row markers

•           5-10 permanent fine point markers for making plant/row markers

•           Clipboards


At least 30-40 hand trowels (or one for each student in a class and teaching staff) are needed for important planting and weeding activities.  The heavy plastic trowels resist bending better than the metal ones.


Only one small wheelbarrow is needed for beginning school gardens.  A small wheelbarrow is better for encouraging student use than a big one.  Filling up the wheelbarrow only half to three-quarters full is also a good damage prevention measure when self-sufficient students (especially younger or inexperienced ones) want to operate the cart themselves.


Small, child size gloves are helpful for protecting young hands from the potential hazards in the soil. They also reduce the "ick" factor for those averse to getting their hands dirty. Thirty to forty child-size pairs for each student in a class and 4-5 pairs of adult sized for the teaching staff and volunteers are adequate.


Three to four pointed spade shovels are sufficient for school gardens.  Have both 3-4 smaller child size shovels and1-2 adult size.  Even though there may be enough work in the garden for more shovels, you rarely want more than three students using a shovel at one time for safety reasons.


Popsicle sticks are often the least expensive and easiest to find source of plant markers.  You will need some permanent markers to make them, but you should only distribute those only 2-3 at a time as they have a tendency to disappear.


Last but certainly not least you should have at least one clipboard and pencil for each student in a class (30-40) and for all adult staff.  Most content based activities in the garden will involve writing or drawing, and clipboards make that easy, and enjoyable. 


These tools are the bare minimum to get your school garden started – so get growing!  

Grow Herbs Indoors for a Winter School Garden

by Kristine Hahn


Many students (and teachers) miss the school garden during the winter months.  For a triple bonus of good looks, good flavors and good scents, consider growing herbs inside the classroom to chase away the winter doldrums and get your winter garden fix.  Even just a few pots of herbs indoors can supply you and your students with wonderful scents and flavors while its cold and snowy outside.

There are some caveats to growing herbs indoors in the winter.  They are sun-lovers, and will need a good south-facing window with at least 4 hours of direct sun per day to do well.  If you don't have a window with these specifications, try growing your herbs under lights.

Some herbs are better suited for indoor winter cultivation than others.  Below are a few tried and true performers with consistent and compact growth:

'Grolau' chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Strong flavor and thick, dark green leaves. Developed for forcing, 8 to 12 inches tall. Seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days at 60° to 68°F.

'Fernleaf' dill (Anethum graveolens): Dwarf form of dill only 18 inches tall. Ideal for dill weed indoors. Standard varieties grow too tall and bolt too soon. Easy from seeds, germinating in 7 to 14 days at 60° to 68°F.

'English' mint (Mentha spicata): Perhaps the best-behaved spearmint variety (not as invasive as others, and the leaves are broader and deeper green).

'Spicy Globe' basil (Ocimum basilicum minimum): Dense, compact form of basil, 8 to 10 inches tall. Good flavor. Grow from seed; germinates in 6 to 12 days at 68° to 77°F.

Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum): The true oregano for Mediterranean cooking, with excellent flavor and white flowers. Watch out for the imposter (called wild marjoram) with pink flowers and no flavor. Greek oregano grows well in pots, reaching 8 to 12 inches. Grows easily from seed in 7 to 21 days at room temperature.

Broadleaf thyme (Plectranthus amboinicus or Coleus amboinicus): Also known as Spanish thyme and Cuban oregano, this plant has broad, fleshy leaves unlike those of ordinary thyme.  Never goes dormant, and reaches 10 to 12 inches tall.

Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum): Not true coriander, but a good substitute. Regrows after cutting, unlike true coriander, which must be reseeded after harvest. Grows 4 to 8 inches tall.

'Blue Boy' rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): More compact and diminutive than regular rosemary, reaching only 24 inches. Flowers freely and has excellent flavor.

Dwarf garden sage (Salvia officinalis 'Compacta'): Smaller leaves and more compact habit than regular sage, growing only 10 inches high with the same sage flavor.

Creeping savory (Satureja repandra or S. spicigera): Flavor identical to that of winter savory, but easier and faster to grow indoors. Reaches only 2 to 4 inches in height, but fills the pot with a dense mat of foliage.

Other herbs that are not good candidates for winter indoor growing include full size cilantro (coriander), dill and garden cress; these herbs do not regrow when cut for harvest.  You can grow parsley from seed indoors, but don't expect it to get as big as when you grow it outdoors.

Growing herbs indoors can reap the benefits of hands-on, interdisciplinary horticulture experiments and projects as well.  Try growing herb plants in pots within a window box with soil filled up to the top of the pots.  Compare this growing method with normal growing conditions (just pots) and have your students come up with hypotheses about the results. 

Besides all those benefits, growing herbs in the winter can help keep students' and school staff spirits up for spring – just crushing a basil leaf under my nose on the coldest, dreariest winter day can bring on a sense of well-being and internal sunshine. 


School Garden Grant Information

  • American Honda Foundation - Due dates three times per year
    • 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
  • Captain Planet Foundation
    • Schools, nonprofits and other organizations classified as 501(c) (3) are eligible
    • Projects must: be project-based; performed by youth; have real environmental outcomes; be based in the United States.
    • Award range is between $500 - $2500. At least 50% matching or in-kind funding for projects is preferred.
  • The Home Depot Foundation
    • Schools and 501(c) (3) organizations are eligible.

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.
  1. 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.


School Garden Educational Opportunities


  • SAVE THE DATE:  APRIL 20, 2018


Starting and Sustaining a School Garden at Tollgate in Novi, MI

MSU Extension's Annual School Garden Conference

Stay tuned for more information - Hope to see you there!

·       SAVE THE DATE:  JULY 27-29, 2018

2018 Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) Conference + Hoʻōla ʻĀina O Māʻilikūkahi Youth Food Sovereignty Congress

The University of Hawai'i – West Oahu Sustainable Community Food Systems Program, the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association, the University of Hawai'i System Office of Sustainability and key community partners will host the 2018 Sustainable Agriculture Education Association Conference and the Hoʻōla ʻĀina O Māʻilikūkahi Youth Food Sovereignty Congress on the island of Oʻahu from July 27-29, 2018.


Themes: Indigenous knowledge, decolonization and socio-ecological resiliency in agroecology and sustainable food systems education.

  1. Save the Date: 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
    April 26-27, 2018 // Cincinnati, OH
    Save the date for the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
    coming to Cincinnati, Ohio, April 26-27, 2018! Hosted by the National Farm
    to School Network, The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is the only national gathering of
    stakeholders from across this movement, making it the premiere opportunity
    to learn, network and collaborate with likeminded leaders from across the
    country. Learn more and sign-up for updates at
  1. MOFFA (Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance) Educational Opportunities
  • North American Association of Environmental Educators Professional Development






Kristine Hahn

Michigan State University Extension Educator

Community Food Systems

Oakland County Office

1200 Telegraph Rd. #26E

Pontiac, MI 48341


*Please note my new office location

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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