Planting and Planning for Pollinators

Most gardeners know that encouraging pollinators is good for their growing plants, but not everyone knows that increased diversity of pollinators can mean more vegetables to harvest.

One of the best ways to ensure that your garden thrives every year is by taking the time to plan before you plant.

While deciding which varieties of peppers to grow is an important choice, choosing which plants to encourage native pollinators can be just as vital to creating a flourishing garden.

Factors to Consider

Seasonality–When deciding what to plant to nurture native pollinators in your garden, considering when various plants will bloom is of the utmost importance. Bees and other native pollinators need sources of nectar and/or pollen during the time that they are foraging and creating nests. To provide these sources of fuel, be sure to select plants that will bloom throughout the growing season.

Gateway Greening’s Strategy: In our Demonstration Garden, there is a wide variety of native flowers. When first planted, these plants were designed to bloom throughout the growing season, but more aggressive fall flowering plants have crowded out the spring flowering. Luckily, there are other parts of the Demonstration Garden that have only spring flowering

Native Yarrow thrives near the fence of the Demonstration Garden.

plants, ensuring that pollinators always have resources to utilize.

Plant Placement–To maximize the benefit that native plants offer in your garden, placement can be an important consideration. When plants are grouped in large patches, instead of being by themselves, they can offer more resources to pollinators.

Bordering your edible plants with native flowering plants can also improve pollination of your edible plants as well as provide pollinators with even more resources to thrive, leading to more vegetables being produced.

Gateway Greening’s Strategy: In both the native pollinator area and wildlife garden in the Demonstration Garden, native plants are grouped in large patches. Gateway Greening tries to plant native plants directly into the ground in order to save space in raised beds, especially since native plants thrive in Missouri’s clay-filled soil. Otherwise unused space is also used strategically in other parts of the garden such as the small area next to the roadside fence, where ornamental plantings bloom throughout the season.

Pollinators love the purple blooms of chives.

Plant Varieties to Consider

Native Yarrow–Though some consider it to be a weed, yarrow is a native, flowering perennial that attracts butterflies with its white flowers and long bloom time.

Anise Hyssop–This herbaceous perennial is attractive to a variety of native pollinators. Its fragrant, purple blossoms stick around from June to September, making it a beautiful and edible addition to any garden.

Chives–Another edible that attracts native pollinators, chives bloom in the late spring and early summer to ensure that pollinators stick around all season.

Garlic Chives–Though similar to chives, garlic chives bloom in the late summer and early fall, which can be a time when other plants are not flowering.

Aster–In addition to having large, purple flowers, aster is notable for its late bloom time, which stretches into October.

Witch Hazel–Though you might know it from the first aid aisle, witch hazel is unique for both its interesting blooms and very early bloom time, which can begin as early as January.

Native Passionflower (Maypop)–Related to the tropical passion fruit, this unusual flower has a long bloom time and is much loved by bumblebees.

Other great choices to encourage native pollinators in your garden include perennial edibles that flower such as selvatica, oregano, thyme, chives, garlic chives, lemon balm, and mint.

Gateway Greening’s Strategy: Last year, garlic chives, chives, and thyme were planted at the ends of raised beds that contained vegetables. These pollinator attracting perennials are edible and flower beautifully.

Though many of these native plants make St. Louis gardens more efficient, they also can add beauty to their surroundings. Many of them produce gorgeous, colorful blooms that can

Witch Hazel has unique blooms.

light up a neighborhood.

To see all the strategies that Gateway Greening utilizes to encourage pollinators, come take a tour of the Demonstration Garden on Saturday, March 17, 10am – 11am or just stop by at 3841 Bell Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. Check out even more opportunities to visit the space here.

For more information on which native plants thrive in Missouri, check out these resources!

Winter Planning: Exciting Plants to Try Next Spring

Though the 2017 growing season may be over, winter is no time to sleep on preparing for your garden. One of the most important aspects of planning for spring is deciding which plants to grow. Below we provide recommendations from knowledgeable Gateway Greening staff so that your garden can thrive!


Perennial Produce

Asparagus is a great choice for a St. Louis garden.

If you have not heard about the many benefits of perennial plants, consider this your wake up call. Perennials can reduce the amount of time spent planting in the spring and are often quite hardy.

Some great choices for St. Louis, according to our Garden Program Manager, Dean Gunderson, are: 

Sorrel –A tangy green that kids love, sorrel is a perennial that thrives in the St. Louis region. It can be used as either an herb or green and is ready to harvest in early spring, making it a great way to start the growing season.

Asparagus –Though asparagus can take a year or two to establish, once it does it will produce delicious food for years to come.

Read more about edible perennials that grow well in St. Louis here.


Varieties That Thrive in St. Louis

Missouri Pink Love Apple Tomatoes

Jackson Hambrick, Garden Project Manager at Gateway Greening, has a lot of experience finding varieties of common vegetables that thrive in St. Louis. Through trial and error, he has found that the examples below embrace the extreme temperatures and unreliable precipitation of the region.

Malabar Spinach –Though the name suggests otherwise, this plant is not actually a spinach. Unlike classic spinach, malabar spinach does quite well with the humidity and heat of summer in St. Louis.

Lettuce ‘Muir’ –“This is the most heat tolerant lettuce I have come across. It can easily handle the large temperature swings of St. Louis springs and can be grown under cover during the early summer,” Jackson said.

Missouri Pink Love Apple Tomato –If you are looking for a gorgeous tomato to add color to your garden, this variety is a great choice. It is a Missouri heirloom and when taken care of, it will thrive in the St. Louis region.


Try Something New

Roselle –Roselle is a species of hibiscus that is native to West Africa. It is used to make hibiscus beverages and preserves. While a perennial in warmer climates, in the St. Louis area it is

Okra thrives during hot Missouri summers.

cultivated as an annual.

Storage Tomatoes –If you ever wish for home grown tomatoes long after the growing season, storage tomatoes are a perfect choice. When they are picked green, they will ripen over the course of weeks and can stay delicious for weeks beyond that, depending on the specific variety.

Okra –Though okra is a widely recognized vegetable, it is not always common in community gardens. It is a great choice for St. Louis because it loves our hot summers! It also produces beautiful flowers that can be used in arrangements.

Ground Cherries –If you are looking for a slightly sweet and low maintenance choice for your garden, ground cherries will fit the bill. They are in the same genus as tomatillos and could be mistaken for them because of the papery husks that they are covered in. They are great to mix in salsas and pies and also make a delicious jam.


Do you have a favorite plant that does not get enough love in the St. Louis region? Or have you been meaning to try something new but have not been able to plant it yet? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter or email! We would love to hear about your garden experiments and plans.

Experiments in the Demonstration Garden: Potato Towers

This blog is the third of a three-part series.

Potato Tower Experiment
Garden Intern Clara and Demonstration Garden Volunteer Theresa preparing to fill potato towers with soil and compost. Potato tower experiement, spring 2017.


Building from Blogs

After reading several gardening blogs which enthusiastically endorsed potato towers in spring but never followed up to share how the towers had performed post-harvest time, the staff of Gateway Greening decided to put this technique to the test. Our goal was to see if potato towers are an effective method of vertically growing sweet potatoes as a way to maximize growing space in the home or community garden.


Limited Resources, Limited Testing

Although our staff originally planned to test this method using three towers of various heights and widths, we scaled the experiment back to create just one tower due to soil availability. (At Potato Tower Experimentthe end of the day, expanding school and community gardens comes first. Experiments in the Demonstration Garden come second.)

The potato tower we constructed is close to six feet tall. Built around an irrigation tube (PVC pipe with holes drilled into it) and lined with burlap, Demonstration Garden intern Clara and volunteer Theresa filled the tower with thin, alternating layers of topsoil and compost. Next, small holes were cut into the sides of the tower at regular intervals for sweet potato slips to be tucked in.

Over the course of the summer, volunteers and staff carefully watered the tower by spraying down the burlap sides and also by using a hose to run water through the irrigation tube. Little by little, the slips began to flush out into vines and flourish.


Did it Work?

Although several sweet potatoes were harvested from the tower this fall, Garden Program Manager Dean Gunderson has decided to repeat this experiment again next summer. Technically the experiment was a success – but there was definite room for improvement.


Potato Tower Experiment
Volunteers from Nike, and Eco Constructors helped to harvest sweet potatoes from our experimental growing towers. The harvest may only have been 30 pounds, but it was certainly fun!


When we constructed our potato towers, we made a fundamental mistake: we planted the tower with sweet potato slips shortly after it was constructed. Throughout the summer the layers of soil and compost settled significantly, damaging the delicate sweet potato slips and their root structures.

As a result, we harvested few sweet potatoes and they seemed to be quite small, as though stunted early on. Our volunteers also observed that all of slips planted in the lower half of the tower died, and suggested that the sheer weight of the soil above prevented the potatoes from establishing below.


Potato Tower Experiment Planning for 2018

In 2018, Demonstration Garden staff and volunteers will be repeating the potato tower experiment with the original (now settled) tower and a second tower that will be shorter in size for comparison. Keep an eye out for photos and updates next spring!


To learn more about experiments that happened in the Demonstration Garden in 2017, please check out our Garden Soxx Experiment and 45 Degree Angle Trellis Experiment blogs.

Experiments in the Demonstration Garden: Garden Soxx

This blog is part of a three-part series. 

Joe Maddox of Eco Constructors and local artist Steve Ingraham spent a morning helping to set up our two of our 2017 experiments: Garden Soxx and Potato Towers.


“I wish I could garden at home but…”

One of the most common phrases I hear from volunteers helping in the Demonstration Garden on Saturdays is: “I wish I could garden at home, but I live in an apartment.” On the other hand, we have several older individuals who tell us they “miss gardening but I just can’t bend over to pull weeds anymore.”

At Gateway Greening, we believe that gardening should be accessible to everyone so when an opportunity to test a new container gardening product came up, we took it!


Beginning the Garden Soxx Experiment

Thanks to a donation by Eco Constructors, a local business that specializes in sustainable, low-impact erosion control products, Gateway Greening received several Garden Soxx to test. These short tubes are made using a special mesh filled with organic growing medium from St. Louis Composting, and weigh about 30 pounds each when dry. Our goal was to see if Garden Soxx could be an effective method for container gardening in urban spaces.


Pole beans sprouting during the Garden Soxx Experiment at the Demonstration Garden in Summer of 2017.


For our Garden Soxx experiment, we placed several tubes along the edge of a brick patio in the Demonstration Garden. By doing so, we hoped to create conditions similar to an apartment balcony or concrete patio. One placed, staff and volunteers planted a small variety of crops commonly found in both home and community gardens: chives, purple basil, three different varieties of hot peppers, pole beans, and radishes.

Planting was a breeze. Using a small pocket knife, we made holes in the mesh fabric that were just big enough for our seeds and seedlings to fit inside. For the seedlings, we scooped out a small amount of growing medium to make space for the root systems. The extra medium was gently packed around and over the seedling’s roots to stabilize and protect the plant while it got established.

Throughout the summer volunteers and staff vigilantly watered the plants several times a week using a garden hose or watering can. Thanks to the mesh tube, we saw very little soil run-off and overwatering was impossible. Excess water simply ran out!

Before long, we started harvesting a small amount of produce from the chives, basil, and each of the hot pepper plants. Unfortunately, the resident rabbits made a feast of our pole beans shortly after germination, and our fall crop of radishes did not germinate – likely due to dry conditions.


A mix of basil, hot pepper varieties, and poles beans in Garden Soxx on the Demonstration Garden Patio in Spring of 2017.


Did it Work?

Overall, the Garden Soxx were an effective method for container gardening in an urban space, but they did present a few challenges as the season wore on.

Firstly, that the Garden Soxx needed almost constant watering during dry spells and the height of summer heat. With their sunny location and lack of wind protection on the edge of the patio, the Garden Soxx were prone to drying out quickly which stressed the plants. The second challenge was that the Garden Soxx needed a few applications of organic fertilizer throughout the summer to support ongoing food production.


Our Recommendation:

Garden Soxx would be ideal for someone looking to grow annual vegetables or flowers with shallow root systems on a balcony or raised patio. Gardeners using Garden Soxx should be prepared to water regularly, and add small amounts of fertilizer as needed. Want to check out Garden Soxx first hand? Stop by the Carriage House during the growing season in 2018!

To learn more about experiments that happened in the Demonstration Garden in 2017, please check out our 45 Degree Angle Trellis Experiment and Potato Tower Experiment blogs.

Edible Perennials: A 101

Every spring, farmers and gardeners alike begin to grow their plants. While some planting and a lot of planning happens during the winter months, the bulk of the work of growing begins in early spring. But what if you could plant edible plants that come back year after year with less work?


Benefits of Edible Perennials

Annuals, plants that live only one year and must be replaced, make up the majority of edibles grown in Missouri. Perennials can provide relief from some the work that annuals involve, but their low maintenance characteristics aren’t the only benefit they provide.

Edible Perennials - Rubarb
Rubarb, a local favorite in pies and other baked goods.

Edible perennials are great for soil. Bare soil quickly dries out and washes away in the winter without the help of roots to hold it in place. And so growing something is vital. Also, perennials don’t require tilling which can kill beneficial components of soil. Perennials allow soil to thrive by adding organic matter to it and letting worms mix all the beneficial components together.

Perennials, including trees, help catch water and nutrients that might otherwise run into storm water drains without nurturing anything. One of the biggest issues in cities is the proliferation of impervious surfaces such as concrete and asphalt that do not catch storm water, leading to overburdened and overflowing sewer systems. Perennials help to divert storm water by catching it in their root systems, something that grass, with its small roots, just can’t do.

These plants also create nurturing and permanent habitats for animals, fungus, and more. These are vital as people continue to destroy existing habitats to put up buildings and roads.

Perennials help extend the harvest season. Some edible perennials are ready in early spring, which means you have plants to harvest and eat during a period that usually isn’t high yield. This is especially beneficial for school gardens that want to harvest some edible plants before summer arrives.

These plants can also help to improve your garden. Some perennials fix nitrogen in the soil, providing themselves and neighboring crops with fertilizer. Others help to prevent erosion on hills or work as hedges or ground cover. And several can help pollinators while others can climb trellises to provide shade for other plants.


Examples of Perennial Edibles that Grow Well In Missouri:

Walking Onion
Walking Onion is a hardy and delicious member of the onion family.

Thyme, oregano, sage, and tarragon

Raspberry, blueberries, and blackberries

Elderberries and Aronia (chokeberries)


Shrub cherries




Anise Hyssop


Walking onion


Garlic Chives



Further Considerations:

Anise Hyssop
Anise Hyssop is a perennial herb that tastes great in salads, pastas, and soups.

However, perennials have their drawbacks. Some perennial vegetables, like asparagus, take a few years to establish. Other perennials are only edible for short periods as they become bitter when they flower. A few perennials can choke other plants by taking over parts of your garden. And some perennials have issues with disease and pest management as a result of the lack of crop rotation.

Edible perennials are a great addition to your current selection of annuals. They work together and can create a thriving and delicious garden!


To read more on this subject, check out these links:

Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work

Edible Spring Perennials You Need To Grow




The Process, Pros, and Cons of No-Till Farming

This is the first year that Gateway Greening has offered a high school internship program, in addition to our summer teen employment program. Through the internship, local high school students explore environmental issues, the St. Louis food system, and local urban agriculture projects, all while earning school credit.


Dig It STL Interns ask: “Why are you tilling the Farm beds?”

Blog - No Till 2017 Img 02

In October 2016, high school seniors Adam and Anna started their internships with Gateway Greening through the Dig It STL program, spending a large portion of each week throughout the fall and spring semesters of their senior year working on the Gateway Greening Urban Farm. From researching and creating a crop rotation plan for the coming year, to getting outside and performing hands-on tasks, they were an incredible help.

As Adam and Anna learned about soil structure and different soil management practices during their internship, they asked Teen Program Coordinator Carolyn Cosgrove-Payne: “why do we till the vegetable beds on the Gateway Greening Urban Farm?” As an urban agriculture organization, Gateway Greening teaches about no-till practices in our curriculum and discuss the benefits of no-till for microbial activity, soil fertility, and carbon sequestration. 

However, we have never tried using no-till soil management practices on our own urban farm. When challenged with the question, the staff thought about it and realized the main reason we haven’t tried no-till is… inertia. Gateway Greening has never directly used no-till and things seemed to be working fine, so it never entered our minds. 

As part of the Dig It school-year program, interns are required to complete a culminating project that demonstrates some of the knowledge they gained during their time with Gateway Greening this spring. Adam and Anna chose to put forth a No-Till Proposal for the Gateway Greening Urban Farm as their culminating project. The rest this article shares Adam and Anna’s findings and research, in their own words. 


The Process, Pros, and Cons of No-Till Farming

by Adam Mancuso & Anna Dotson

Traditional farming practices utilize tilling when preparing to plant new seeds in the ground. This is done in several ways, from large machinery to handheld tools, but the goal is the same: to loosen and aerate the soil in order to make it easier to plant and introduce nutrients. However, this process not only interrupts the natural soil building process that is occurring during the growing season, but also is not effective at reaching its goal, on account of smoothing over, crusting, and loss of the soil that occurs after heavy rainfall. This is why some farmers choose to instead use no-till practices on their farms, to maintain and boost the natural processes present, depending in part on what kind of soil is present on their farm. While till farming builds up the soil (using compost, pesticides, fertilizers, etc), tears it down, and builds it up again, no-till farmers instead continuously build up the soil throughout the year.

Blog | No Till 2 June 2017 02
In 2017, Hen bit and Chamomile did their best to invade raised berms on the urban farm.

There are a few things that go into a no-till bed or field. The first thing that needs to be done when preparing a no-till bed is to plant cover crops over the winter then use a roller or crimping tool to kill the cover crops once the growing season is 1-2 weeks away. After this is done, tarps should be put over the beds to cover them until planting time. If a roller or crimper is not used, then this process should be started 2-3 weeks in advance rather than 1-2. Once it is time to plant crops, add in about 4 inches of mulch during the initial seeding along with compost around the plants, making sure to pull the mulch away from the stems of young plants as they start sprouting. If there are perennial roots from other plants present in the soil, be sure to remove these from the areas being planted in so they do not come up and disrupt the growing of the plant that is supposed to be growing. Minimal watering through drip irrigation is the best way to water no-till spaces, and an important thing to keep in mind during the entire process is to compact the soil as little as possible. Compacting the soil is counterproductive as one of the goals of no-till farming is to build up the soil structure, however there is preliminary research that shows that soil in no-till systems are better at recovering on its own from compaction than soil in systems that use tillage. Growers also need to be mindful of any small weeds that may start to grow and to gently pull them out before they form large root systems.

Pros of No-till Farming

There are several pros when it comes to no-till farming over till farming. One of the main positives cited is very good erosion control, along with conservation of soil moisture and a buildup of organic material within the soil. No-till helps with erosion because the bulk of soil erosion in till farming comes from the tilling action itself, and because in no-till farming plant residue is left on the beds, the organic material builds up and helps with holding soil moisture and naturally promotes aeration and earthworm population increases (along with beneficial microbial life). Because in no-till the soil remains undisturbed, this also reduces the chances of accidentally bringing dormant weed seeds to the top of the soil (where they will then sprout), along with helping the soil to hold more carbon than it releases. No-till farming also has a hand in reducing loss of phosphorus in the soil. On larger farms, cutting out tillage also helps to cut out large amounts of fuel cost from the budget. In the long term, no-till helps provide larger yields during years without much rain while also helping farms save on water costs.

Blog | No Till 2 June 2017 01
Left: No-till bed. Right: Till bed planted with the same crop.

Cons of No-till Farming

Because building up soil structure is a slow process, there are certain benefits that can take up to 6 years for the effects to be seen at all. Another con to no-till is that there is no incorporation within the soil, meaning that compost added to the top of a bed stays on the top and the materials in it do not go far beyond that layer if root systems and/or microbial life do not transport them. In addition to the lack of incorporation, a con of having high organic matter content is that the organic matter ends up holding the soil together, which, if there is a poor earthworm count (or other microbial life), will not be broken up which can result in packing in of the soil and that could make it harder for plants to thrive in the soil. The increased ability for the beds to hold water is a bit of a double-edged sword as well, meaning that while holding more water is useful in terms of water costs and plant survival in dry years, in wet years the beds can end up over-saturated which then can result in slow warming in the soil if there is poor drainage. Poor drainage in no-till areas are typically caused by compaction of the soil. This can be solved by minimal use of “vertical tillage” to break up small areas of the soil that were previously compacted.

Project Conclusion

Two major parts to the no-till farming system is incorporating crop rotation and cover crop into the farming schedule, two things that are already being done at Gateway Greening. The main aspects that need to be increased are the amount of mulch and compost used. No-till farming increases soil structure, ability to hold water, and reduces soil erosion over time and is therefore a positive system for Gateway Greening to adopt.


Sources Cited

5 Steps For Successful No-Tilling. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from

Duiker, S. W., & Myers, J. C. (n.d.). Better Soils With the No-Till System. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from

Eartheasy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from

No-till agriculture offers vast sustainability benefits. So why do many organic farmers reject it? (2016, June 02). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from

No-Till Pros Outweigh Cons For Growers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from

Pros and Cons of No-Tillage Farming. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2017, from

University of Nebraska-Lincoln | Web Developer Network. (n.d.). Advantages and Disadvantages. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from

What is No-Till? (2013, April 26). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from


Discover more about the Dig It STL Program: 

April on the Urban Farm with Dig It STL
A Semester in the Dig It STL Internship Program
No-Till Proposal by Dig It STL
USDA Awards Grant to Support Green Jobs for St. Louis Teens

April Showers in School Gardens

Blog April Showers Apr 2017
Second graders of Clay Elementary learning about Ecosystem Connections in the School Garden with Gateway Greening Youth Educator Lucy Herleth on a rainy April morning.

It has been a rainy April, but the Clay Elementary second graders are still out in the school garden. Rain often keeps students inside, just as the seeds need to be planted. Instead of stressing about a ruined planting plan, we’ll throw on an extra layer and head outside!


Ecosystem Connections

Second graders discover wiggling worms in the school garden, learning ecosystem connections on a rainy April day.


The second graders are currently learning about ecosystems and a rainy day is the perfect chance to see ecosystem connections. Luckily, Gateway Greening’s Clay Elementary program recently received a donation of rain coats from Frogg Toggs. After quickly dressing in the new rain gear and grabbing science notebooks, the second graders were able to visit the garden on a recent rainy afternoon. First, the second graders met in the gazebo to discuss how springtime is such a special season for the garden. Gardeners may not like all the rainy days, but it keeps the plants very happy.

Now comfortable getting a little wet in their raincoats, the second graders grabbed trowels and created a trench to plant seed potatoes. It took everyone working together to create a trench the entire length of the garden bed. While digging in the wet soil, students observed the soil and the worms wiggling throughout – another ecosystem connection. As they finished creating the trench, the second graders brought out rulers to practice their measuring skills. They double checked that the holes were deep enough and that the seed potato pieces were far enough apart. Tools and hands were a little muddy but potatoes were planted!

The Clay Elementary second graders were excellent gardeners, even in less than ideal conditions. They helped to plant seed potatoes that had to get in the ground and learned that rain does not have to stop the outdoor fun. They got a little damp post Seed-to-STEM lesson but were more energized than ever to get out in the garden.


The Takeaway

Don’t let a little rain stop you from getting out in the school garden. Encourage students (and teachers) to wear clothes that can get muddy and get outside, even if it is just for a little bit.

Written by Gateway Greening Youth Educator Lucy Herleth. For questions about this article or the Seed to STEM program, please contact Lucy at 314-588-9600 ext 106, or send her an email at [email protected]


Discover more about what is happening in St. Louis school gardens this spring:

Weather won’t stop us! (Autistic Classroom at Clay Elementary)

VermiComposting at Gateway Elementary

Students Planning School Garden Crops

Compost Challenge at Mallinckrodt Academy

Second Graders at Clay Elementary heading back inside after a lesson in ecosystem connections in the school garden – despite April showers!

Looking for more ways to incorporate the school garden into your lesson plan? Stop by:

  • Gateway Greening’s Workshops for Educators page to explore monthly workshops that address the challenges and opportunities represented by teaching in school gardens
  • The Gateway Greening Educators Facebook group to connect with other teachers throughout St. Louis with similar interests in school gardens
  • Check out our In the School Garden Youtube playlist for short, actionable how-to videos that are seasonally relevant.

Students Planning School Garden Crops

In preparation for the fast approaching growing season, 2nd and 3rd graders at Mallinckrodt Academy have been making some important decisions about what they want to grow in their school garden this year.

Gateway Greening has an excellent planting calendar to show a when different varieties of vegetables can be started indoors, transplanted or directly sown into the garden, their grow time and even when students should harvest.

The second graders formed groups, and were offered a selection of pictures of vegetables cut from old seed catalogs. The students needed to work together to come to an agreement as to what crop they would grow. Next came locating the plant on the planting calendar and discovering necessary information for growing the crop they chose by utilizing the key. “The key unlocks it all!” explained one student.

Each group will have a chance to share their findings and tape the picture of their chosen veggie to the month when we need to start planting.

Planning School Garden Crops

Students at Mallinckrodt Academy using a planting calendar to plan their 2017 crops for the school garden.

The third graders took this a step further, deciding how they would make the most of their available garden space based on the information from the graph. The students applied what they learned about sequential planting to choose three vegetables that will be able to grow in the same space based on the time they are planted and harvested. In this way, the students will be able to grow 3 separate crops in the garden this year.

In addition to being a great way to involve the Mallinckrodt Academy students in the ownership of their garden, this lesson encourages students to learn and practice: interpreting information from graphs, collaborating with group members, public speaking, and decision making. The school garden is a great place to learn and practice these skills which are all transferable to other areas in the classroom and everyday life.

Written by Meg Holmes, Gateway Greening Youth Educator