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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Michigan School Garden newsletter April 2019


April 2019

Yippee Gardeners!  Spring has sprung!


Starting and Sustaining a School Garden Conference 2019

Come to Starting and Sustaining a School Garden Conference to get your garden off to a great start and keep it on track.

By Kristine Hahn

As the arrival of seed catalogues turn your thoughts towards spring, be sure to save the date of May 10, 2019 for the Starting and Sustaining a School Garden conference!  Online registration is available at:


School gardens can spring up anywhere – a schoolyard, an empty lot, a rooftop, even a parking lot.  They are a powerful tool to connect youth to the natural world and beyond, regardless of setting, demographics or learning style.  Be prepared to help make those connections by attending the 2019 Starting and Sustaining a School Garden conference.     

Seasonal Learning in the Garden will be the theme for the conference to assist educators in coordinating their curriculum with what is going on in the garden.  There will be break-out sessions by season and by grade level, and all the different activities will be connected to the Next Generation Science Standards or NGSS. 

We have a content-packed and hands-on fun day planned for all.  Dr. Norm Lownds, Director of the 4-H Children's Garden will return to the conference this year with a session on Technology in the Garden.  There will also be break-out sessions on Seed Starting, Garden Planning, Indoor Growing and much more!

The conference will be at the beautiful Michigan State University Tollgate Education Center and Farm, located at 28115 Meadowbrook Road, Novi, MI 48377.  A limited number of partial scholarships are available.  Contact Kristine Hahn at 248-802-4590 or for a scholarship application, any questions about Starting and Sustaining a School Garden Conference, or to schedule your own school garden site visit or a professional development session at your school.  Hope you can join us for lots of fun and learning on May 10, 2019 at Tollgate!

Use the winter and early spring to plan for a school garden project

Considerations in planning a school garden.

By Michele Walk, Kathryn Jacques, Kaitlin Wojciak

Winter and early spring is the best time to plan for a school garden. Get your garden project started by forming a team, gathering input, and developing a plan that works for how you intend to use your garden. There are many grants and resources available to help start school garden projects, but be sure to plan for sustainability by thinking of strategies to maintain and fund the project beyond the start-up phase, as this is where many projects struggle. This article will share considerations to include in your garden planning process.

Start by forming a garden team to help with the planning process. Your team should include teachers and staff interested in using the garden or those expected to help with maintenance. This includes school or early care and education administration, teachers, food service staff and maintenance staff. Also consider including parents and community volunteers that have gardening experience or an interest in supporting the project in other ways. Depending on the ages or grade levels that will be involved, this is also a great opportunity to engage youth in the planning process.

Determine how you plan to use your garden. Is it intended to be an exploration activity for young kids, connected to science lessons where experiments might be included, or do you plan on using a majority of what is grown for taste testing or cafeteria use? This is important as it may impact the layout of your garden, the supplies you need and training for specific practices, such as food safety. School gardens can easily serve multiple grades and multiple uses if proper planning occurs in the design stage.

Determine when you plan to use your garden. Will it only be during the school year? Do you have a summer program that could also utilize the garden? Is there a community group that could utilize the garden during the summer or volunteers (including Master Gardeners) that would help maintain it? There are methods to properly put a garden to bed during times it won't be used (winter or summer) to minimize weed build up and make it easier to get the garden back into production when you are ready to use it.

Understanding siting and construction considerations is critical in making the growing season as productive as possible. Items to consider include access to potable water, sun exposure, wind, and soil conditions. Raised beds and small hoop house structures are always an option as well. If looking at a hoop house structure you have the additional consideration of winter maintenance and snow removal.

Lastly, now that you have your plans in place for how you will use your garden, develop a budget for what is needed. In addition to any building materials you will want to include items such as seeds, harvesting tools, containers for plant starts, soil and soil amendments, like compost. Be sure to plan for a soil test if you are planning to grow in the on-site soil.

Special thanks to Kathryn Jacques, Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program Instructor, for her role in developing the materials used in this article.


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 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.

  • 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 $3,147 value) to implement salad bars as part of their daily meal program
    • For more information and to apply, follow this link.
    • The top five program awards will be a grant package worth $2,100. An additional 20 grant packages worth $500 will be awarded.
    • Learn more and apply here
  • 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 at Tollgate

in Novi, MI

MSU Extension's Annual School Garden Conference May 10, 2019

Online registration is available at:

          Keynote Speaker:  Hanifa Adjuman, Education and Outreach Director, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

  • 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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